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Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Religious Epiphany at Huyen Sy Church, Ho Chi Minh

Sometimes, in our efforts to not let the time simply pass by, we feel the urgent need to keep moving forward at a dizzying pace, seldom stopping to think, relax, be at peace for a moment, and enjoy life around us.

I am very much guilty of this. Further and further I go because I want to accomplish a lot of things quickly, never even bothering to take a moment and look back and enjoy the things I achieve.

But during a frantic, on the clock trip to Ho Chi Minh, I experienced a rare epiphany that actually made me stop and appreciate the beauty of life, for once.

Tired from a whole day of crisscrossing Districts1-3 of Saigon,I stumbled upon Huyen Sy church, a quaint Catholic church at the corner of Ton That Thung and Nguyen Trai in District, a few blocks away from my hostel.

An online check showed that it was built in the 1900s and is the oldest and second biggest Catholic Church in the city. It was named after Huyen Sy,the grandfather of Queen Nam Phuong, the wife of Vietnam’s last king, King Bao Dai. 


It was 5pm and the yellow sunset made the church seem glowing. The church was closed and the entire courtyard was empty except for a woman laying flowers at a grotto replica of Our Lady of Lourdes located at the left side of the compound. She was praying intently and was wiping a cloth around the image.

Around her, there were hundreds of testimonials from people who have witnessed or experienced miracles through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. There were also benches for the faithful churchgoers to visit the grotto.

Now, let me make a confession. I am no longer a practicing Catholic.

Yes, I used to be a church choir member before but the evil deeds of the human race and the politicking of the Roman catholic church has swayed my belief and religious dedication. Education on religious history has increased my skepticism.

What do you believe in? People would ask me. Only myself, I would answer. I make my own decisions, I make my own destiny.

Before I set foot in the churches of Ho Chi Minh, (I visited Notre Dame earlier in the day), I have not set my foot on any church to pray for the past eight years. And I haven't felt guilty about it.

But as I sat on one of the benches and watched the woman fervently pray, something in me stirred.

The sunset cast a yellow glow around the church, the wind was making the trees dance and the image of hundreds of people praying for their loved ones, making testimonies about the goodness of God suddenly made me weep.

In fact, I actually cried a little.

There are around 6 billion people on this planet and millions believe that there is indeed a Higher Power. An omnipotent, and omnipresent being that binds us all. And many of these people testify to the fact.

How can  they all be wrong?

Could it be that it was I who's acting like a fool all along?

Could it be, that I haven't felt God's presence because I just never opened my doors? and my heart?

I just sat there contemplating the meaning of life, and religion, not minding the passing of time.

I could feel some of the pain inside my heart, melt away. I was just in a peaceful place that I was completely oblivious of the cars honking around as the night sets.

In fact, it was only after I stepped out of the church's confined did I notice the loud noises of everyday Saigon.

As I leave Huyen Sy church, I can't say that I have fully reverted to my old belief. But I knew, that something in me has changed.

Before finally passing through the gates, I said a short but sincere prayer. My first, in a long, long while.





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