Who am I?
The short version is that I am a Catholic wife, mother, writer and theology student at the Dominican Institute. I am also consecrated to Mother Mary and an ardent Marian devotee.
The longer version is that I am a cradle Roman Catholic, of Chinese ancestry, born and raised in Singapore. I am currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia; to support my husband’s Ph.D. pursuit.
My husband left Singapore for the U.S. months after our marriage and we maintained a long-distance marriage as I was pursuing my Ph.D. in Singapore.
I was struggling on both fronts (marriage and studies) so I welcomed my parent-in-law’s invitation to attend the Conversion Experience Retreat led by the Archbishop of Singapore in July 2015.
True to its name, I experienced an intense spiritual conversion which reignited my desire for God. I made a thorough examination of conscience before the Blessed Sacrament and cried through my “deathbed confession” (where you confess every venial or mortal sin that you have ever committed)! When Archbishop prayed over me with the monstrance in hand; I was healed, rested in the Spirit and given the gift of tongues.
I flew to the U.S. the very next day.
Soon after our reunion, we prayed for and welcomed a beautiful child. The prospect of becoming parents fueled our desire to understand and impart our childhood faith to our offspring. By God’s grace, YouTube prompted my husband to watch a video on the channel, Sensus Fidelium. Listening to Father Chad Ripperger’s podcasts was his conversion experience.
The Georgia Tech Catholic Center (GTCC), and in particular, our chaplain, Father Joshua Allen (FJA), played an instrumental part in our faith formation. It helped that the GTCC offers daily mass, daily confession, bible studies for graduate students and young professionals, amongst others. FJA even started a couples group with a few of us married couples, with/ without children.
FJA exposed us to the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass. We attend the Ordinary Form Latin Mass on Sundays and the Extraordinary Form High Mass on solemnities. I was intrigued by, researched and shyly donned the veil for the first time in 2015.
We even got to venerate the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima in April 2017 and FJA enrolled me in the brown scapular that the Carmelites distributed for free.
FJA’ powerful annual women’s silent retreat also taught me to listen to God amidst the busy.
Raising our child, Catholic
These grace-filled experiences laid the foundation for us to raise our child in an intentional, Spirit-led way to build the strong Catholic family culture that we desire.
Witnessing our child’s milestones together has brought us closer. It teaches us more about God’s love for us. On heavy-going days, I look at my child and I know that God loves me for He has given me a precious gift from up above.
Why I created this website
Blessed and grateful as we are, it was a difficult post-partum recovery period which spurred me to make a decision to close a painful chapter of my life. Long story short, I quit my Ph.D. after 5 years and am pursuing a career as a freelance writer. You can support me by subscribing to this website where I will post regular updates on my reflections of the faith.
I hope to share more about the beauty of Catholicism through this blog/ website. Documenting moments of God’s grace in my life is also a source of healing and accountability for me.
I hope that reading my writing will encourage and inspire you in your journey of Life! Feel free to get in touch.
On being a Catholic Writer
My motto in life is… struggling sinner; an aspiring saint.
I am a fallible creature who receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly for habitual sins. During my Conversion Experience Retreat, someone gave a testimony that resonated with me. He shared that no one would be his friend anymore if they knew the full extent of his sins. That touched me as I feel the exact same way. I have the veneer of a good, holy Catholic girl but few know that I have been to really, REALLY, dark places in my life. Some day, I hope to have the courage to share this with others if it can benefit any soul out there! Despite my self-doubt, which is basically a form of resistance egged on by the Devil, I am reminded of the following:
1. My favorite bible verse which struck me when I became the president of the Catholic Students Society’ publication arm, Candle, in university:
“Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
– 1 Corinthians 26-29
2. Throughout history, Mother Mary appeared to and delivered her messages through the meek and humble, the lowly and the outcasts. In Lourdes, she appeared to a 14-year old child. In Fatima, she appeared to three shepherd children. At Medjugorje, she appeared to six children.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.“
– Matthew 5:5
3. God calls sinners to become saints.
“Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
– Luke 5:32
God chose Saul, who went from persecuting Christians to proclaiming His Kingdom, as Paul, Jesus’ apostle.
Another saint that I identify with is Saint Augustine. His mother, Saint Monica, prayed for him all through his worldly, sinful years; until he finally repented and is one of the greatest theologians today.
“You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
– Confessions, Late have I loved you
4. No one is perfect and God permits my imperfections so that I can remain humble and become holy.
“God sometimes permits men to retain certain defects and imperfections, blind-spots and eccentricities, even after they have reached a high degree of sanctity, and because of this their sanctity is hidden from them and from other men.
If the holiness of all the saints had been plainly evident to them and everyone, they would never have been polished and perfected by trial, criticism, humiliation, and opposition from the people they lived with”
– Thomas Merton’s, “New Seeds of Contemplation”
5. I believe that I have the charism of sharing my faith through writing. I was listening to Angie Neumann from the Saint Catherine of Siena Institute share with Jennifer Fulwiler about identifying charisms that are gifted at Baptism. She listed three criteria:
a) It brings you great joy and sense of purpose.
b) As a result of supernatural grace, your return on investment is way more than the effort you put in.
c) Others affirm you about your gift.
Based on these three criteria, I believe that I am called to share about God through the written word!
In this autobiography, I detail my journey in the Catholic faith and how God has been real and present in my life.
Why I am Catholic
I am a cradle Catholic, born into an extended family of Catholics. Although I did not ‘choose’ to be born into this faith, I have come to fully embrace my faith in adulthood.
How we became Catholic
Legend has it that my grandmother converted from another faith because she wanted a seat in the front pews at her place of worship, but was advised that priority seating belonged to the well-heeled.
Gungho grandma heard this, stormed off angrily, and promptly converted to Roman Catholicism. Four generations later, our entire extended family is Roman Catholic.
Family Prayer: Sunday Mass
“The family that prays together stays together.” – Father Patrick Peyton
Our extended family attends Sunday mass together, followed by brunch. I have to caveat that I was not faithful in abiding by this family tradition during my younger days due to personal issues. I apologized to the family during my wedding speech and they understood. Despite my absence, they have always loved and prayed for me.
Family prayer: Rosary and Adoration
Dad used to make us pray the rosary en-route to school and work. We would recite the rosary groggily and grudgingly.
Friday nights were reserved for quiet time in the adoration room. Being kids, it was a torture to be quiet for an extended period so dad told us that it was a game of who-can-keep-quiet-for-the-longest-wins. It was boring yet I was always drawn to it. Something about the mysterious silence intrigued me. Despite my lack of awareness of God’s real presence, I always left Adoration, slighter calmer and more peaceful than before.
On occasion, we would undertake family prayer. We would light the otherwise untouched candles at the altar, which glowed and flickered in the dark. We were utterly mesmerized.
Family prayer: Family Altar
The cluttered family altar was not a place of prayer. It was the site where we were meted out our punishment! Whenever we did anything wrong, we were forced to kneel or stand at the altar to reflect on our mistakes. All we could think of was the humiliation and how much our knees hurt. Nonetheless, the altar was fascinating, especially the bottles of Holy Water.
Family traditions: Maundy Thursday
The most memorable family tradition is Maundy Thursday church visitation. It is a somber day which kick starts Holy Week. For us kids, however, it is a time of family bonding that we look forward to with glee. Our aunt who works as a school principal would hire a bus conductor to drive us around several Catholic churches.
Each family contributes to the food and drinks which we consume while the bus makes its way between churches. While it is proper decorum to be meditative and silent; we were a riotous bunch of kids who shared jokes which were at times, off-color, and laughed raucously. Although we made it a point to pray when we actually entered each Church, the mood was in general, a bit too jovial.
Family traditions: Christmas
The same aunt (God bless her!) organizes our annual Christmas Eve dinner at her place. This consists of a buffet dinner, Christmas caroling, and our cousins’ gift exchange. When younger, our uncle would dress up as Santa Claus and we would retort that it was not Santa Claus! We would taunt him by poking his belly which was essentially a pillow hidden beneath his costume. The pillow would drop after all our teasing and it resulted in even more laughter.
It ended with Christmas midnight mass at Church and it was an occasion for everyone to dress up and exchange presents with family friends and friends alike.
When younger, mom would bring my sister and I Christmas shopping at the defunct Metro (departmental store). We had a long list of people to buy presents for. We started off purposeful and excited, only to end up cranky and tired. The highlight was the soft toy we could redeem once we purchased goods over a certain limit.
We totally bought into the consumerist mentality but at least, we enjoyed a lot of family time during Christmas!
Our father was the leader of the Catholic Neighborhood Group which met on a weekly basis. We would rotate turns to play host. The adults would pray as the kids would play. I have faint but fond memories of my childhood friends, some of whom I still see serving faithfully at Church.
The activity that stands out the most for me is when we welcomed Our Lady’s statue for the nine day novena, as prayers would be followed by feasting!
Grandma attended daily mass and prayed fervently for her offspring to join the religious orders. Although we have not as yet been blessed in that regard, the faith is flourishing within the family. The sacraments are celebrated with pomp!
First Holy Communion was huge for my cousins and I. It meant that we could don pretty dresses and receive Holy Communion – that elusive white wafer that only grown-ups were allowed to consume! We would practice with Hawthorne flakes or colorful wafers. One of us would act as a priest and the rest would line up and consume the wafer after saying ‘thank you’ instead of ‘amen’!
Don’t they look like Holy Communion hosts?
First Holy Communion (1993)
Grandma volunteered at the Canossian Home for the aged so our family developed close ties with the Children’s Liturgy head, Sister Angela, of the Canossian order. As a result, we were given prime roles during the First Holy Communion procession. Crowned with flowers and a basket, in a resplendent white dress, with my cousin by my side; we walked down the aisle, with our entire class behind us, beaming with pride.
After the ceremony, we had a family tradition of photo taking in front of the Mother Mary grotto which housed… a lizard. And a feast at a restaurant to celebrate the occasion after.
My godmother used to head the Lectors Ministry at our church. Last we spoke, she was apologetic about not being a present godmother. I was happy that we could converse as adults about our (spiritual) lives and that inspires me to be a life-giving godmother to my godchildren.
Catechism Class and Children’s Liturgy
I attended compulsory Sunday Catechism classes at church until I received my Sacrament of Confirmation.
As a child, my catechism book was a chance for my cousins and I to practice our creativity. We would fill up the empty spaces with doodles and coloring. I do not think I absorbed very much, unfortunately.
Sunday mornings meant that my sister and I would troop to church together by bus and hope that my aunt would drive by and fetch us for the last leg of the journey. My sister and I would dilly dally so more often than not, we would be panting as we dashed from the bus stop to Church!
After Catechism lessons; my sister, cousins and I were forced to attend Children’s and Youth Liturgy. We were forced to perform hand actions to songs which we felt were lame but complied lest we were told off by the strict adult leader.
At least we could indulge in the famous, delectable chicken wings that our church canteen was famous for in-between Catechism class and Children’s Liturgy.
My memory fails me but I recall church camps at Pasir Ris or East Coast Park where we would cook instant noodles over a makeshift fire. The other highlight is to swing on a rubber tire which is tied from one end to the other. at the playground.
There was one camp that stands out. It was organized by Youth Alive Ministry and we were taught actions to praise and worship songs such as ‘Pharaoh, Pharaoh.’
I enjoyed the camps where we would all sleep in a school hall – the boys at one end and the girls at the other. It was a chance to use our sleeping bags and enjoy ‘sleepovers.’
My parents were heavily involved in Church and this gave us ample opportunities to perform in church. One memorable event was a Chinese dance that my sister and I performed for Lunar New Year mass. We donned traditional costumes, wore pigtails and danced with the hand drums. It was a pretty proud moment except that we were disappointed that we could not keep the costume and hand drum.
My sister and I were also roped into dressing up as angels for the annual Novena procession and we resented it because they tied our wings so tightly that we could hardly breathe!
Another time my grandmother asked us, cousins, to perform for retreatants. The nuns taught us how to sing and dance to ‘deep down in my heart’ and till this day, I can remember the hand actions and our awkwardness.
Youth Liturgy (1997 to 2000)
We graduated from Children’s Liturgy to Youth Liturgy. The idea is that children and youth are not able to follow the mass so they invite us to attend a specially prepared session where the adults would break down the Liturgy of the Word in a way that our young minds can appreciate. We would rejoin the congregation during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
This may be good in principle but it was poorly implemented. We were led to the upper deck of Church. We could not see the priest or lectors and we were so removed that we ended up checking out boys and being self-conscious around them.
Catechism in Secondary Two/ Grade 9 (1999)
A particularly significant year was in Secondary 2 when Sister Elaine and Sandra Seow from Verbum Dei were our catechists. I recall us out in the field, singing along to the Sisters strumming the guitar and hosting us at their house for a day of recollection. Sister Sandra Seow would later form a significant part of my adulthood as my first spiritual director.
Confirmation year was the first time we took Catechism lessons seriously. The highlight was the Confirmation Camp where we would be baptized in the Spirit. Being an emotional person; I enjoyed praise and worship, and all the euphoria of jumping around and feeling uplifted emotionally.
Confirmation camp was a disappointing experience however. I had fun with my clique of friends (Agnes, Cynthia etc.) but I was not slain and did not receive the gift of tongues that so many bore testimony to. In my immature understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I could not fathom that Confirmation in itself resulted in an outpouring of sanctifying grace. I focused on the externals, not realizing that the work that the Holy Spirit began in me at my Baptism was starting to take shape. Nonetheless, it was a confirmation that I had chosen to continue believing in the Catholic faith as an “adult”.
The gift of tongues
The following year, my cousin and I signed up as Confirmation Camp facilitators as our younger cousin would be undergoing her Confirmation. I enjoyed the role as there was a booklet to guide us and help us along as facilitators.
It was at my cousin’s confirmation camp that I received my first intense spiritual experience. As facilitators, our role is to pray over the participants during the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I felt inadequate as I did not have the gift of tongues.
During benediction before the Blessed Sacrament (just before praying over), one of the leaders tapped me on my shoulder and told me that he received a prompting to pray over me along with the rest of the facilitators. I was clueless and went along with the plan. They took me to a corner and started praying over me in tongues. They asked me to repeat, “Alleluia”, over and over again. I did as told and my tongue loosened and before I knew it, I started praying in tongues! I wanted to scream and burst from the excitement and they had to hush me as all the confirmands were bowed in prayer.
Adoration room in middle school
Despite the Charismatic aspect and my enjoyment of praise and worship songs, there was also the quiet moments spent in the adoration room that I relished. Church was only a short bus ride away and I would make my way to the adoration room after school on occasion, to spend time journaling and praying or simply, doing nothing. It was a practice that my father started in my childhood that continues with me in my teenage years. On hindsight, this could be why I did not fall prey to the vices and was cloaked in innocence. Sure, I struggled with self-esteem issues and was quite a lost kid who did not put in effort into studies and floated through Life. But at least my soul at that point of time had not been stained the way it would be in my adulthood.
Catholic Students Society: Community (2003-2007)
I did not fit into any youth group and gradually fell to becoming a Sunday Catholic all through middle and high school. It was in university that I truly felt a sense of community, the way the first apostles did.
I attended the university’ freshmen orientation camp and was welcomed into my faculty’s social outings before school even begun. They introduced me to our Catholic corner in the canteen where we would gather for meals and informal brainstorming sessions. From having a fixed class size of forty in high school to being one of the thousands in a faceless crowd was alienating so it helped to have familiar faces around.
We had Friday masses followed by supper sessions, weekly cell group sessions, semester retreats etc. I was blessed that the year I joined was when the different faculties would come together in cross-faculty initiatives and this allowed me to meet and work with people in diverse fields.
Catholic Students Society: Candle President (2003-2004)
In my first year, I was elected President of Candle, its publication arm, and I was not confident and did not do as good a job as I wished I had done. Nonetheless, it was a good learning experience of taking up a leadership role and understanding the process of how a publication works. I got to sit in the Executive Committee which made me closer to the spiritual director, Monsignor Ambrose Vaz, who later married my husband and I.
Catholic Students Society: Cell Group Leader (2004-2005)
The following year, I became a cell group leader. By then, I grew in confidence socially and spiritually so I was more excited than nervous. We were given a curriculum to follow, and I enjoyed the companionship of my fellow cell group leader (Charlene Kwa). And I looked forward to investing and nurturing the spiritual lives of the flock that I could tend to.
Catholic Students Society: Befriender (2004 and 2005)
I enjoyed my role as a befriender during the Catholic Awareness Week. We had billboards just outside the library or at the entrance of the canteen which shared the tenets of our faith and our role was to approach people to share with them our faith. Being a socially confident person, I had no qualms sharing what little I knew!
Catholic Students Society: Remaining Activities
Some other less memorable roles I took up was being in the administration team of the freshmen orientation camp (although I loved working with my co-lead, Maurice), choreographer for the mass dance (I totally screwed up), doing stage props for a musical of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi (I bonded with my team but I did not really feel much for the end product) etc.
Living Stones Campus Ministry: a Charismatic group (2003)
Parallel to this was my introduction to the Living Stones ministry. The founding members of this now defunct/ revamped ministry were from the charismatic group in my university. I classified them as mature in their faith and mentality as they were my eldest sister’s friends and were in that same era.
I joined their small group leaders training course, SALT, to equip me to lead the publication arm in university. One mentor, Stella Soon, stood out in particular. During the final session, she affirmed me that I had simple faith. For some strange reason, I took it as an insult as I desired to be known as intelligent or wise and that stung. It took me a decade to realize that having child-like faith was a gift, as Saint Therese of Lisieux would agree :).
I attended a few of their prayer meetings but I was never truly comfortable as I felt self-conscious despite my familiarity with the Charismatic renewal in middle school.
“Am I raising my hands high enough? Is the Holy Spirit prompting me? Why is everyone receiving a word or a vision but my mind is completely blank and it’s been 10 minutes?!”
I always felt like I was playing along rather than being authentic.
Living Stones Campus Ministry: Life in the Spirit Seminars
I attended a couple of these and went in with the wrong expectations. That God SHOULD and WILL give me spiritual gifts that have outward manifestations. Tongues! Visions! Prophesies! I ended up more disillusioned and disheartened than ever, as I was chasing the gifts for all the wrong reasons. Spiritual pride! Which by the way is the fastest way to Hell…
Choice Retreat (2006 and 2009)
I attended Choice Retreat twice, once in 2006 with my university Catholic friends. And the second one in 2009, when I was having difficulties in my career and had just ended a lengthy and broken relationship.
Although it is a much-lauded program, I did not benefit much from it both times. Perhaps it was because I was not at a crossroad in Life and till then, had little life experience as I led a very sheltered life growing up. I appreciated the heartfelt sharings and I bonded with my all girls group in the second retreat.
One poignant moment was when my the best friend, Ying, came by on the last day to celebrate our “graduation” mass.
University of California, Santa Cruz Newman Center (2005)
I went on an exchange program to the UCSC during the fall of 2015 and attended mass at the Newman Center. I remember interactions with the priest but barely making it for mass, or being really fatigued, as my weekends were packed with backpacking trips! Not proud.
A particular talk during a Living Stones meeting struck a chord with me. Christopher Ow shared about the need for a spiritual director and an accountability partner. Over the years, I searched for spiritual directors whenever I had a decision to make.
When I was 14/15, I asked a Cenacle sisters nun if I could date a boy and she told me flatly, no.
When I was 19, I enquired with a Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood on whether I could date a boy of a different religion. She also said, no.
When I was 26 and struggling in my studies and life direction, I was reacquainted with Sister Sandra Seow, who was one of those who turned my life around although I must admit that I still committed some of the most regrettable sins since knowing her. There were deep-seated weeds that needed time to root out. Such are the manifold lies of the Devil.
I currently see a spiritual director in who is a lay Carmelite and is affiliated with the Jesuit House but I am discerning if I should continue meeting with her as I associate myself with the Traditionalist movement but she is rather… liberal. Having said that, she has recommended me some of the best Catholic books that I have come into contact with such as “The Sacrament of the Present Moment”, “New Seeds of Contemplation” and “Fully Human, Fully Divine” that I have yet to devour.
Verbum Dei: School of the Word (2011-2015)
I attended a few spiritual direction sessions with Sister Sandra Seow and she invited me to their Thursday School of the Word sessions. It starts off with a member playing an opening song on the guitar. A disciple would then share his/her reflections about that Sunday’s Gospel, followed by a handout of questions pertaining to the Gospel. We would enjoy quiet time journaling and praying, before closing in Thanksgiving for our insights and continue with our petitions and closing song. Some fellowship would ensue but it would be brief as the sisters needed to rest and it was a weekday after all.
Verbum Dei: Community
What I enjoy about the sisters, disciples and their community is that they are down-to-earth, friendly and wise. All my prior interactions with religious have formed my image of them as strict and stern but the sisters in this community have a great sense of humor while maintaining lives of sanctity! Perhaps it is their month long annual silent retreat where they draw strength from the Divine Physician.
The few sisters-in-Christ that I journeyed with informally have been a great source of inspiration. In particular, Desiree Hwang, whom I idolize! Her sharings are deep and reveal her intimate relationship with the Lord. Another person who inspired me is Monika, who went on to discern to be a Verbum Dei sister. Her simple prayers and child-like joy never fail to touch me.
Verbum Dei: Sessions and Retreats (2011-2013)
I thoroughly enjoy the sisters and disciples programs such as, “Traveling Light”, and I recall an Advent activity where we had pit stops in the Botanical Gardens at night to reflect on our Advent journey.
I enjoyed attending their retreats so much that a sister joked that I was a “seasoned retreater” because I turned up for most of them even though I was unable to commit to their Thursday School of the Word or Friday’s disciple group.
I enjoyed their Lenten and Advent retreat, and even more so when my then-boyfriend, now-husband attended them with me. It was at one retreat that I learned of the sacrificial love of Saint Maximilian Kolbe.
Verbum Dei: Prayer For Living (2014-2017)
Sister Sandra Seow followed her prompting to write daily gospel reflections and we use it for then-couple and now-family prayer for four years running. It is also a quick way for me to follow the liturgical calendar and remember the solemnities, feast days etc. Instagram has since taken over its place as I consciously follow only Catholic accounts, other than that of my friends.
Archdiocesan Biblical Apostolate (2014-2015)
It was at one such retreat in April 2015 where they shared about the parable of the sower that it struck me that I was sick of trying to pursue holiness only to fall into struggle and despair over my life situations (the long-distance marriage and studies). I was trying so hard to stay afloat then.
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
– Matthew 8:3-9
Engaged Encounter (April 2013)
Silent Retreat at Marymount (July 2013)
Daily Mass (Jan 2015)
Marian Consecration (APril 2015)
CER (July 2015)
Womans silent retreat with FJA (Feb 2016)
Latin Mass (2015 to 2016)
Sickness (August 2016 to Feb 2017)
Catholic spam/ organizations I support (2016-17)