Timothy graduated from the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law in 2014. He completed his practice training at a medium-sized local law firm and continued as a litigation associate for 1.5 years. He left practice at the beginning of 2017 to enter the St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary to begin full time formation for the Roman Catholic priesthood, which is expected to last 8 years. Timothy never wanted to become a lawyer, or a priest – his childhood dream was to be a marine biologist.
This Letter is addressed to himself at the turn of his 1 year in practice (including practice training period). This was a time when he was struggling with the stressful nature of work. He was very discouraged by how he felt his work was meaningless and felt that he was not making any progress spiritually (at times, even regressing). This Letter is an invitation to himself then to recall how blessed by God his journey had been thus far, so that grace and strength can be received for the journey ahead.
Do you remember that laminated prayer card which you stuck at the right side of your office desktop? Yes, it's the one which you glance over so many times a day without pausing to read its words – words which speak so much of your journey thus far. I believe it's time to properly revisit them again, at the turn of your one year mark in the practice of litigation. Let's see where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
You were 21 then, just fresh from completing your national service. You were attending a 6 week live-in discipleship programme to “find” God after “losing” him in the army. What amazed you was that in your searching for God, you discovered that He had been searching for you first; in your trying to love God, you discovered that He had loved you first.
In a very real way, you came to know the person of Jesus Christ. God was no longer an abstract being, a man in the sky, or an ethical concept – He was a friend. For the first time, you entered into an authentic relationship with this divine person, and experienced God's unconditional love.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
You would remember how falling in love with God affected everything – it changed your life. To borrow the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, your life had a new horizon and a decisive direction. It was no longer about doing well in school and plotting that killer career path progression, or getting happily married to the girl of your dreams and starting a family. There had to be more to life than that. You therefore entered law school with the resolve of discovering God's will for your life. Who was He calling you to be for the world? What was He calling you to do in this world?
And those days in university were some of the best eh? You had the freedom, time and space to listen to God's voice in your life. Through the unabashed usage of muggers (study smart, not hard, was your motto), you always had the time to do what you felt was important – praying, reading, attending mass, and reaching out to others who felt lost or were struggling with their faith.
Love eventually did seize your imagination, so much so that the God-given dream of giving your life to bring Christ to others, and others to Christ, crystallised into a personal call to be His priest.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Unfortunately, I know that you feel like this cannot be said of your life now. In many ways, work as a litigation lawyer feels like it is, sadly, everything there is. It decides what gets out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know and what breaks your heart. What “amazes” you with joy and gratitude is instead an undisturbed weekend of rest and a temporary reprieve from all the stress. “Where did it all go?” is your current refrain – where is that love and desire to serve God which burned so deeply before?
If there is one thing you need to know, it is this. That dream to give yourself fully in service to Jesus Christ and His Church has not been lost – it has only been buried under the cares and struggles of the world. You are, as you had come to know and believe during your years in university, still called to the priesthood.
Go back to your First Love. Remember now why you are here – to experience for yourself the struggles of the grind of work, and the cross it requires all faithful disciples to bear. After all, the shepherd you wish to become needs to understand and feel with his sheep. Look around you: there are so many who are searching for meaning, for truth, for joy, for hope.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
In the final analysis – that's the call isn't it? You've fallen in love. Now stay in love, and let that decide everything. How, you ask? Fidelity. Let this season of struggle be a time where your trust in the Lord is tested and purified. Be faithful especially in the small things. Be loving in your dealings with others. You will find that many are searching for God, despite not knowing it yet. The God you love reaches out to everyone. Do not underestimate the power of a kind word, an encouraging smile, or the choice to spend that little time more with a struggling friend. Indeed, the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. As your spiritual director likes to tell you, your priesthood begins now.
Rise, let us be on our way.
N.B. The words are from a prayer titled 'Fall in Love', attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ.