Yielding to God

Every now and then God shakes us out of our comfort zone and moves us into new and challenging situations. Our plans get thwarted and our lives get disrupted. Why does He do this?

Sometimes He wants to take us to the next level in our interior life and help us grow in maturity and strength.

Father Gerard Theraviam, our 6-footer parish priest, has been through one too many “disruptions”.

“I’ve always struggle with this,” he says.

He is referring to the divine call to join the priesthood while studying to become an accountant in the England. Years later, as a parish priest, he was asked to uproot and further his studies in Sacred Scripture in Rome. Another tough calling was to take on a new position as formator and later rector of College General, Penang.

He says although he is a big guy, in a game of tug-and-war with God, God always wins.

This realisation brought him to use “Thy Will Be done” as his theme during his ordination. And, Fr Gerard says, over the years it has been getting easier to put aside his plans, trust in God and walk in the path God chooses for him.

“If I have to do it all over again I would, hopefully, with less mistakes. Maybe I’m growing up! God has been good.”

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Focus areas

Father Gerard became CDM’s fourth parish priest on January 1. The last few months saw him meeting with various ministry leaders and groups to get to know the people and their plans for the ministries.

Father says there are many areas in CDM that he sees as key, namely the BM-speaking segment, the young people, vocation promotion, the BEC, ecumenical dialog and spiritual direction.

“I don’t want to start too many things in one go. In the first six months on my time here my attention will be spent listening, learning and growing,” he says.

“The BM-speaking segment is large yet hidden. I would like to focus my energies here.

“In our parish there is also a huge number of young people – not just the youth. The young adults, are not that active in church. With my scripture background, I want to share the Word with this group.” Where Catechism classes are concerned Father has made it compulsory for every student as well as teacher to carry a copy of the Bible for class.

Another focus area for Father is vocation promotion. Being a formator and later rector of College General in Penang, he says vocation promotion is crucial, and would like to put his efforts here as well.

Father is also very convinced on the role the BEC plays. It is, he says, his “top priority”. A BEC is essentially a home parish that can help shape the faithful. He wants to see BECs growing stronger to take on roles that can support faith development and making a difference in society at large.

Beyond the BEC is society. There is a need for the catholics “to be the light and salt” in society, he says. Catholics must answer the call to go to places and take Christ outside the church.

“Besides taking the faith to the margins, this can help Catholics grow in their faith by making their faith active and alive.

We need to ‘Take Christ to the last, the lost, little and the least, as our Archbishop Julian Leow put it.

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Prayer life

Over the years Father says his prayer life has evolved from the vitality of the charismatic type of prayer in his youth to a more contemplative form today.

“Charismatic prayer is not my only love now. I feel called to a quieter meditative way of communicating with God.”

Father Gerard is the national spiritual director of the World Community for Christian Meditation.

The many forms of prayers, such as the Rosary, Lectio Divina, Eucharistic adoration, all helps us to know God better, and Father encourages us simply do what works for us.

“If you have 10 minutes, then pray for 10 minutes. Pray on the bus, while on your way to school. You can say the Rosary while commuting. You may not be able to finish the Rosary but you can always come back to it.

“Another form of prayer is to write out your words. Keep a journal, write poetry,” he says.

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Bible expert

Father is also a bible expert, having studied Sacred Scripture in Rome. Parishioners of CDM have come to look forward to his homilies. The recorded versions have a steady following on a weekly basis.

His sermons, parishioners say, are honest, frank, sincere and display a deep love for the Good News.

How does one maintain a deep love and enthusiasm for a verse or text that one has likely pondered and contemplated over many times during one’s life?

“It may be the same text being read and studied over and over again, but my life is changing. And when I apply scripture to my life different things pop up. It is always new. It is not a dead story book but the story of life that speaks to me,” he explains.

Father has a number of favourite Bible verses. “Thy will be done” from the Lord’s prayer was used during his ordination. “Often I have struggled with God’s demands on me but He provides me with the grace and strength to say: Your will be done!”

Isaiah 43:1 “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are mine” is reassuring. God used these words to comfort him when the call to the priesthood became stronger and tug-of-war ensued.

Another of his favourite verse is the blessing from Numbers 6, 24-26 “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace”.

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Favourite saint

His favourite saint is Thérèse of the Child Jesus. He was introduced to her in primary school.

“A La Salle brotherwho taught me catechism had a copy of her autobiography ‘A Story of a Soul’ and he read it out in parts every week. I found the story intriguing, and on a trip to KL I went to the then famous Antonian Book Store in Brickfields and bought a copy for myself.

Father Gerard says he sees himself in St Thérèse.

 “What I mean is I love her as a saint. She was very human with her imperfections, yet grew towards perfection. I love her declaration, ‘My Vocation is Love’. She is the only saint I have read about so thoroughly. I was ordained on her feast day [October 1 1993].”

Besides taking on the role of parish priest of CDM, 2018 also marks a major milestone for Father. He celebrates his 25th sacerdotal anniversary as a priest.

Does God have something special up His sleeves for him?

Fr, Gerard Theraviam will be installed as the 4th Parish Priest of CDM on Saturday, 9th of June 2018 @ 5.00pm