Stirrings From My “Sabbatical”

My staying away from church was meant to be time away from the church so that the new pastor of the English congregation could establish his leadership and bond with the people in peace. For me this has become a blessing partly because this separation was not painful or stressful. Not painful because I was unseen in church but present in spirit through the online services. I also did not have to plan in which church to hide myself. It has become a sabbatical of sorts for me. I could not travel out of the country. I stayed home most of the time, which suited me fine, as I am a homebody. Interestingly, while the ground was “fallow” during the past year, something was stirring deep within my soul – at least three stirrings I can discern thus far.


One was the stirring to write. Straight after my official retirement, it was prophesied over me that I should write.  God has given me the enablement, inspiration and desire to write. I have organized ideas for two booklets, and I have more or less collated material for one and now have to learn how convert my material into an e-book. I have begun work on my second book idea but I can see it will take some time as I am working at a leisurely pace without any deadline pressures. Pray for me please.

Evangelistic Preaching

Another stirring has to do with an amazing shift in interest and desire from teaching God’s Word to preaching/proclaiming the Good News. During forty years of pastoral ministry my main focus was explaining and teaching scriptures to God’s people, making truths understood in clear, simple words and without jargon. I always shunned from evangelistic preaching. It was not my gift. Or so I thought. Now I found myself preaching with an evangelistic zeal and intention I never had before. Even though I knew that I was preaching to the saved and converted, I would include evangelistic content and appeals. God is stirring my heart to pray for an anointing for preaching the Gospel and for the salvation of souls. I saw this develop in my past few sermons. They all had an evangelistic thrust and passion. I believe God is up to something exciting because that is how I feel about this shift. I feel motivated to retool myself and I am praying for an anointing to do this work. Pray for me.

Spiritual Direction

The third stirring is a desire to be formed and trained for spiritual direction. Since it was in silent retreats and through the ministry of spiritual direction that I was saved after experiencing two burnouts, I feel indebted and enthusiastic about making this ministry available to more people. I have tried on two occasions to attend such formation courses but both timings were not right. Then during the recent months an opportunity arose with an ecumenical group of experienced spiritual directors feeling led of the Lord to run a course in Singapore. I nearly did not sign up, but for an anonymous donor who generously offered to pay for half of the fees of the course. I saw this as the Lord’s intervention and invitation to me. Starting in the new year, I begin my twenty one months formation course in spiritual direction. Pray for me please. 

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Sabbatical reflection

It has been a month since my sabbatical began. I feel better rested physically and psychologically. Longer hours of sleep, exercise, and disengagement from pastoral duties does wonders. Being overseas helped too because you became unavailable physically.

I also feel thankful for the many blessings of God. Never thought of touring Spain, never was interested. But in pursuing the kingdom, in seeking rest and restoration, I ended up in Spain, beginning in San Sebastian and ending in Barcelona, staying at many towns and cities along the way, in Basque and Catalonia regions, often walking in the streets and countryside. I love silent retreats, silence and solitude. I love hiking. And I was blessed by Ignatius Spiritual Exercises and spirituality. All these three elements that nourishes me were present in this sabbatical program. What a blessed trinity!

This was followed by a vacation and catch up time with Mike and Amy in Bolton. They were very gracious and availed themselves to us for five days. We had significant time catching up usually over meals – restaurant, home-cooked and takeaways. It was around 7 to 18 degree centigrade with gloomy clouds and rain on quite a few days. This restricted our plans but it meant more rest, early to bed and late to rise. It was a contrast to the Camino Ignaciano– late to bed, early to rise.

Now I am glad to be back home. I feel relieved. Spanish and English food and weather are good – for a while, usually tolerable for two weeks or so, in my experience. I like Singapore. I like the smells, tastes, sights of home.

I don’t like the haze though. This morning, I saw the haze and told my wife, “Thank God that in the last three weeks, we were away overseas breathing fresh mountain and countryside air”.

I had an inspired thought this morning as I reflected on how to use the rest of my sabbatical wisely: treat each day as you would a sabbath day with an eye on REMEMBRANCE (spiritual nourishment), REST (physical and emotional self-care), RELISH (life-giving engagement and activities).

“Lord, help me do this and experience more of your love.”


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Barcelona: ending our Camino Ignaciano

It took an hour by bus from Manresa to Barcelona. We stayed in Denit Hotel near the Plaza Catalunya, where protests were taking place. We were there to trace St Ignatius presence there during his grammar studies and labour of love.

We were reviewing and remembering and sharing to conclude the retreat and camino.

Tireless Fr Jose steadfastly diligently conducts his final pilgrimage sharing about St Ignatius

A wefie with St Ignatius

Barcelona has its quirky art in many public places

Graffiti can also be found in side streets and alleys

We had visited various places where Ignatius gave help and received help and hospitality while in Barcelona. Nothing has remained after nearly 500 years.  They could locate the sites, but other buildings have been built over them.

Wefie with the Sagrada Familia in the background

The Passion facade was stark yet striking

The inside of the Sagrada Familia is a fit dwelling place for God and worshippers to meet

We also visited the world famous Catholic minor basilica called Sagrada Familia. It had been under construction since 1882 and is estimated to be completed in 2026- 100 years after Gaudi, the chief architects death. The tour kept me in awe throughout the hour and was worth every cent.

The last supper…this is starters only!

On the final day, we sat outside a cafe in lovely weather, ordered our drinks, and shared where we were and what God has been doing and saying during the retreat before closing in prayer.

Last faith sharing session over coffee (photo by Lance)

After the camino officially ended, we walked around on Sunday afternoon. Over the two days I have witnessed three peaceful demonstrations: one by catalans protesting the jailing of their “independence” leaders; one that supported a unified Spain, and one near the cruise center with Lebanese protesting against mismanagement by their nation’s elected government.

Our hotel was located near Plaza Catalyuna so we had to skirt the protestors on our way home from dinner(photo by Juliana)

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Falling in love with Jesus

I feel very privileged and grateful. This camino experience had been made possible because my leadership wanted my sabbatical to be in the last quarter, and Lance Ng my spiritual director invited me to this spiritual exercise cum pilgrimage. I originally had signed up for an Olleh Kyushu hike but had to withdraw from it in order to give this priority. I received a kind of additional divine confirmation that I made a good choice to do this.

Gathering in front of the Basalica of Loyola

My retreat room for two nights

The sabbatical graces that I have been asking of God are threefold: 1) to have good physical and soul rest, 2) to be present and attentive to life-giving and delightful things, 3) to fall more deeply in love with Jesus.

Interestingly, in the notes handed to us, I read this insightful saying of Arrupe, a prominent leader of the Jesuits. It filled me with joy and amazement! I took a picture so its in my phone and I can reflect on it more.

Saying of Arrupe in notes given for the Camino Ignaciano

It expresses my desire during this sabbatical. I ask the Lord to light a fire of love for Jesus in my soul. This is what I desire and pray for.

It will decide everything.

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Relish and rest

Today I felt happy taking a long leisurely morning walking by the sea front. The smell of the sea breeze and its caress is invigorating. I savored the moment. I am in Spain. Never thought of visiting Spain, but here I am because of God’s blessing and invitation to the camino.

Beautiful bay of San Sebastian

We also walked to the old town with its charming, beautiful old buldings, churches and food streets. I saw many tapas restaurants, cafes and shops. We visited one St Vincent church but could only peep inside as I was unwilling to pay three euros to enter. However I had a reminder that I am in God’s hands.

There were many shops and restaurants but they were scattered all over

In God’s hands at St Vincent’s, San Sebastian

Another of God’s surprises was how we unkowingly stumbled into  michelin tapas restaurant and enjoyed an inexpensive late lunch.

Micelin starred tapas restaurant

We followed this up with a hike up a steep hill to where the huge statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart stood. There I took some time to be in silence and prayed the Jesus Prayer.

Jesus of the Sacred Heart atop the peak

After the walk back to the apartment I was tired and had a few hours siesta. I needed this so much. More siestas please!


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