TO TELL THE TALE OF GOD’S LOVE DOWN THE AGES (12) – Taking the step

– Sr Judith Yuen, FMM

As the time to enter the FMM life drew near, my worry was how to disclose the news to my parents in China. For sure they could not understand the meaning of religious life, the news would make them worry, not only about my future but my financial support to the family, especially the care of my father who was quite sick. After reflection and prayer, I decided not to tell my parents about my plan. I also asked my grandmother and uncle not to say anything to them and tell them the consequences of breaking the news to my parents.

My heart was hanging when there was great silence from my parents. No letters came from my mother, she usually wrote every month to put me up to speed on the condition of my father and the family. There was no word from grandmother, uncle or aunt. The atmosphere was as heavy as the moment before a big thunderstorm. Nothing could be done, I doubled my prayer and trust in God. The big thunder storm came in full blast: I saw a letter from my mother on my desk after school. Sensing the content might need special attention and strength to tackle, I dared not open it at home. I brought it with me and went to teach in the evening school. It was nine o’clock in the evening after class. I went into the church near the school (my parish church), prayed for strength and courage before I opened the letter and read it in the dim light in the presence of my Lord.

As I feared, my uncle, out of his responsibility to bring me up and be responsible to my family about any decision of mine, told my parents about my plan. It was a great shock to my parents. My mother pleaded me to enter religious life later since my family still needed my support. She understood it was my ideal to serve in the Church but could not understand why I insisted to enter when the family was in great need. My father was very upset, thinking that it must be his sickness, demanding my support that made me take the decision to leave the family, to be free from my heavy responsibility. He thought I would stop the ‘silly’ plan if I would not need to care for him. He tried to end his life quietly with a pair of scissors. Luckily my younger sister saw him and stopped him on time. I nearly broke down after reading the letter. With tears streaming down, I looked up and asked the Lord in the tabernacle, “Lord what should I do? You know I love you, but I cannot bear the name of killing my father because of my entry into religious life.” 

The church was dead quiet. Not a sound could be heard, neither any reply from my Lord. Had my Lord abandoned me, to let me tackle my problem alone? I didn’t know how long I sat and cried in the church, until I was very tired. I sensed it must be very late, I needed to go home. I picked up my courage again, dried my tears and got out of the church. Still feeling at a loss, I walked among the plants at the courtyard beside the church, touching the plants as I walked by (I love plants and often glorify God for his love for creation). The Lord spoke to me in a soft tender voice, “Judith, see how I care for the plants. Do you think I love you and your family less than the plants? I love you and I also love your family, your father and care for them. Tell me, who can care for your father in a better way. You or I?” I got stunned and stood still, suddenly all my doubts and worries were blown away, I answered, “It is You Lord!” I hopped down the stairs and ran home. When I arrived home, my grandmother, uncle and aunt were astonished to see me in light spirit, they expected me crying and worried. Nothing was asked or said, I kept silent and went to bed in peace. All my concerns were put into God’s hands, no fear!

The next step was how to leave home on the date I planned to enter. To go from my house was difficult, grandmother was always watching me. It would break her heart to see me go. I arranged the date on a Sunday so that Fr Mark Chen would be in St Lawrence Church, he and some of my ‘idiot’ brothers and sisters would accompany me to the aspirant house in Ma On Shan. I chose that Sunday purposely because it was the graduation day of one of my little cousins in kindergarten. Since I had been taking care of my three little cousins (children of my uncle), I took the other two to attend the graduation ceremony. I gave a vague idea to grandmother I would leave for the convent after.

After the ceremony, I brought my cousins out for meal with one ‘idiot’ brother they knew well, explaining to them I was going away, that the brother would bring them home. It was hard for me to say very clearly to them I was not returning home, they could not understand for they were only little children. I only told them I need to be away to do something meaningful and important. The parting meal imparted emotion on me that I needed to overcome with the grace of God. After meal, I went to the parish directly and departed for the FMM convent as soon as possible for fear that my grandmother might come to search for me. Escorted by my beloved spiritual director and good brothers and sisters, I started the first big step to follow Christ with peace, joy and confidence. Upon arrival, Fr Chen, known by our sisters, explained to the superior of the aspirant house about my story and my relationship with the group of young people, to ease any doubt from the FMM sisters why I was escorted to enter by a big group and with boys! After some happy time together, it was time to say goodbye to them, to my past life, to start a new phase in my life in the love of God. (To be continued.) 

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