Jennifer Tan Hooi Peng is a 54-year-old Catholic who found her way back to the Church eight years ago. She lives in Penang with her husband and two children but currently she is in Ipoh with her elderly family members in this Covid-19 lockdown. She shares her journey back to the Lord in a series of articles. This is her third article. Here are the first and second ones.
By Jennifer Tan AUG 6, 2021
Although I resumed attending mass regularly from July 2013, staying away for 29 years, and my husband followed me, his heart was not fully with God. We were late for mass for the first two years and fought over this. I could hear bells ringing when driving into the church compound. The entrance hymn would have started, or parishioners seated when we walked inside. Being a punctual person, I became really irritated and more so because mass is for our spiritual needs. Accompanying me to church was a sudden and unexpected change for my husband having not attended mass regularly for the past 37 years. Unfortunately, I was not appreciative of his efforts in regularly attending mass with me then.
After I joined the choir in 2015, the choir master asked us to come in early every Sunday for a quick run through of hymns. This made me worry because we had the habit of arriving just in time for mass. In the same year, I attended my first church retreat with a friend and expressed my concern to her. She reassured me that Christ would somehow work this out and so I continued with the choir.
After a choir practice while driving home one evening in 2015, I suddenly received a clear message from Christ saying, “I am the Father of All Man; Leave All things to Me”. As I switched off my car engine, the greatest peace ever known entered my heart. All thoughts of worry, concern, anger, unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, divorce, negative emotions, and bad intentions for my husband left me. The feeling was just too incredible to describe. Since that beautiful day, the thought of divorce never re-entered my mind. A strong reminder came from God that it was I who chose my husband for the sole reason of love despite disagreements, hostility, and negativity from my family due to our different backgrounds.
From that day onwards, I followed God’s instructions and never argued with my husband on being late for church or any faith-related matter. I just concentrated on developing my personal relationship with Christ.
I started to observe a change in my husband towards the end of 2015 which became distinctly noticeable in 2016. He began joining a choir master in visiting Little Sisters of the Poor weekly, and then he attended the Little Rock Studies with me from November 2015, Catholic Charismatic Renewal with me in May/ June 2016 and attended Gospel Sharing every Friday afternoon. Our return journey to Christ together was unfolding as what God had promised me. Thank you so much, Jesus! Praise the Lord! Alleluia!
Many years later, my husband explained his turning point in encountering Christ started when he prayed in front of an exposed Blessed Sacrament at the back of a hall in a Focolare camp at the Stella Maris Retreat Centre on Aug 30, 2015.
On that day a young and highly excited boy of around eight to nine years of age came up to my husband and insisted twice that he go and see the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Not fully understanding the reason for following this instruction, my husband obeyed and then knelt humbly to ask God to give him back his spiritual life. At that time, he had been far from Christ for 39 years although had started accompanying me to church in 2013 after being away for 37 years. From that day, my husband started to develop a personal relationship with God.
Healing by Christ
My husband always experienced pain in some parts of his body intensifying as he got older. There was a time he had difficulties sitting, sleeping, walking, driving, and doing any physical activities due to pain. This was in addition to sinusitis where he lost his sense of smell due to blocked nose for many years, way before marriage. Although he had an operation in his nose to remove a growth, it grew back. He had always refused to have the pain checked by doctors. Perhaps he was afraid of knowing the gravity of the situation, the restrictions and lifestyle changes needed for recovery.
After mid-2016, I began noticing that he was able to do a lot more movement without pain, especially after joining daily mass in addition to Sunday masses. He explained that each time during consecration when the bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Christ, he would ask for healing that he or other people needed. Over time he felt his body getting better and knew he was being healed gradually. Praise the Lord! Thank you to Our Almighty Healer!In 2015, I also remembered my husband being furious because I asked him to lower his voice outside the church entrance after attending a healing mass by priests from India. He cursed and shouted that he would never attend such sessions again. From 30 Aug 2015 onwards after my husband’s encounter with Christ at the exposed Blessed Sacrament, he signed up for healing sessions way ahead of me! Praise God!
Unlike myself, my husband’s return to Christ was fast after his encounter. He volunteered distributing items to refugees, provided transportation when a group of people travelled to homes of the sick to pray for them, fundraising over the years for Little Sisters of the Poor and churches, distributing rations for the needy, coin counting in church, joined the choir, reading during daily mass and helped in numerous activities in St Anne’s Novena feasts. He told me that these were things he would never even dream of considering, let alone participate! Praise God!
God brought those with strong faith and leaders into our lives and they were priests, pastors, deacons, liturgical leaders, choir masters, heads of gospel sharing and bible studies, heads of RCIA, readers, cantors, spiritual directors, and nuns – so we could learn and be guided in our return journey. Thank you, Our Teacher and Master in Heaven!
I am very grateful to God that we are journeying together to return to Christ. We both place God first in our lives and knew when this happens, everything else would fall in place although we must wait for God’s timing! Truly thank you, Lord! All Glory and Honour to you!
Never too Late
We want to reassure our brothers and sisters in Christ’s family that it is never too late to return as I was a lapsed Catholic for 29 and my spouse 39 years. We did not know anyone in church when we started our spiritual journey but, it really did not matter because God’s Grace provided all that was needed at the right time. Our Father seeks us constantly. We just need to say “Yes”. When we fail, we just keep trying as such trials bring joy to Him.
In the past eight years, I have come to realise that whenever I make changes to walk closer in my personal relationship with God, the greater are His Graces, Blessings and Miracles (both personally and as a witness) that I experience and these help me overcome difficulties and challenges. Transformation included praying, scripture reading, attending daily masses, praise and worshiping Him, fasting, many repeated efforts trying to correct sins, and making reparations, helping, and loving people unconditionally, sharing testimonies and obeying His Holy Will. My return journey to Christ is truly a most beautiful and meaningful one! Thank you, Jesus! Alleluia! All Glory to God!