3 July 2016
For most of May and June this year, I was graced to be granted a special leave to rest and reconnect with my spirit and soul. This rest included an unexpected pilgrimage to Fatima and Santiago de Compestela. At Fatima, the peace of such a special place “where heaven meets earth” (quoting the priest who celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation with me) filled me so profoundly that I prayed I could be a true instrument of God’s peace too. As if to confirm and affirm my prayer, I received a verse at the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace in Lisbon at the Cristo Rei shrine. It simply read “Pursue peace with everyone.” Heb 12:14
I guess it’s now a mandate too! So help me God and Mary, Queen of Peace!
At Santiago de Compestela, as I reflected on the history of the shrine, it struck me how St James, while unsuccessful in his evangelisation efforts in Spain when he was alive, is now a prolific posthumous evangliser as thousands of pilgrims continue to flock to the shrine every year. It just shows that, somehow, our seeming failures will, in God’s time, bear good fruits, even if they don’t happen in our lifetime! “Persevere with faith! Ever onward! Never look back once your hand is on the plough!” was the message I got at Compstela.
After visiting these pilgrimage sites, with peace and perseverance hopefully embedded into my spirit, I moved up north. Not as far north as the North Pole but almost. Canadaaaa! More specifically, British Columbia! More precisely, Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island! With a population of around 800 people, I was in the boonies. But I was in a beautiful haven and it is precisely in the quiet and tranquility of a place in the middle of nowhere that one can hear one’s spirit and soul. The calm waters of Fanny Bay was a healing balm to my spirit, calming the storms and mini-tsunamis of life's experiences and putting them in the right perspective. It was, in a way, a lesson in discovering a higher order in life's disorder. God's peace surrounded me and I truly rested and rested and rested – both body (as I also had caught a cold!) and soul!
I had planned to take a rest from convent life, from my congregation, just to be apart and have some space of my own, for a bit of time. But the Lord (who as usual is full of surprises and with a great sense of humour) had other plans! He graced me with a visit from one of my Sisters, who has grown to be a treasured friend. In the giftedness of her own life, she had played a pivotal role in renewing my own vocation not too long ago. So the joy of her visit can be likened to the joy of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. It was pure joy to be in the presence of a fellow sister and friend, to share on matters of the heart and spirit, to pray and reflect on the Lord’s goodness to us, and to marvel on the splendour and beauty of his creation – in us and surrounding us.
Beyond the solitude I had sought in the midst of inspiring nature, I was blessed with grace filled moments to deepen my relationships with family and friends, while at the same time, re-appreciating the consecrated life I have been called to live.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect way to spend this 2-month break, and I am so grateful to God, my mother, my loving friends and relatives, as well as my community of Sisters in Singapore, and my Superior General, who have made this break possible.