St. Anthony of Padua is a very popular saint, and many people ask him to intercede whenever they lose something or when they are desperate for help since he is known as “a ready helper in time of need.” He is usually shown holding a Bible, signifying his love of the Scriptures. He is often pictured with a flaming heart, showing his zeal as a preacher, or holding the infant Jesus in his arms, recalling a visit from the Infant during one of his raptures1. St. Anthony’s feast day is on June 13th; every time I attend Mass on his feast day, I would remember how God has led me on my spiritual journey, and deeply appreciate that “from my mother’s womb he had set me apart and called me through his grace” (Galatians 1:15).
My name, Tony, is a variation of Anthony. When I was 15 years old, shortly before our family emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S., I selected the name Tony from an English dictionary. I picked this name because I thought it sounded good in Chinese.
Ever since my family came to the U.S. in 1976, we have always lived in the Los Angeles area. My wife Wendar was raised as a Catholic, but I did not have much interest in the Catholic faith until about six years ago, when our older son, Brandon, started to attend kindergarten. I pursued the faith because Wendar and I thought it would be necessary to have some religious influence as the basis for our children’s moral standards.
After joining the RCIA program, we also started attending a Chinese Bible study every other Saturday. Although we had many unanswered questions, Wendar and I were both attracted to the Scriptures, and enjoyed being with our brothers and sisters in the Bible study group. This birthday happened to fall on a Bible study Saturday. Even though my family’s tradition has always been to celebrate birthdays with family and relatives, we decided to break the tradition and attend the Bible study instead. As it turned out, a visiting priest from Taiwan was giving a healing seminar that night in a town about 40 miles away, and since many in our group wished to attend, we all decided to go to the seminar together.
Frankly, the seminar was very weird to all of us. After the talk, the priest prayed for each person by gently laying his hand over the head of person being prayed for (lay-hand prayer), and people were “falling down” left and right. There were people crying, singing, and spinning around, we were shocked since none of us had seen anything like this before. Thinking back at the scene, it was no wonder that in the Bible, some unbelievers described the disciples as drunk on Pentecost [Act 2:13]. At that time, we did not realize that the Holy Spirit was present amongst us and was providing to everyone according to his and her needs.
Even though the lay-hand prayer seemed strange, all of us decided to try it anyway. We all went up with faith and opened our hearts to receive the blessing from God. Most of us did “fall down,” but many confessed that they did not feel anything. I was not sure what I felt, although I did sense a force and I just followed it to push me down. Since it was not very comfortable lying on the hard floor, I just closed my eyes and prayed for a short while and then got up. I believe now that even though I did not feel anything, the Holy Spirit had begun to work within me and work in my life from that time on. In faith, I had unknowingly received a birthday gift from our Father in Heaven.
As we were leaving the seminar, I picked up a book called “Holy Spirit and You.” I read the book three times but could not understand. The whole Bible study group drove for about 45 minutes back to my house, sang Happy Birthday to me AFTER midnight, and we shared the half-melted cake that someone bought before dinner. I truly enjoyed the very special birthday with my brothers and sisters in Christ. This special birthday was also the beginning of a series of very rapid, drastic, and miraculous changes in my life.
In less than two weeks, God surprisingly arranged a new job for me with a career change that I had been hoping for. With this job, God blessed us with a house that we couldn’t have afforded without His grace, and we moved 350 miles from Southern California to Northern California within a month. The street name of this blessed house which we still live in today is “Trinity Spring.” This journey, which He is still leading us on today, has been full of His signs and His blessings.
Shortly after we moved, we attended a Chinese Bible study near our home. This Bible study group happened to be at Joseph and Rosa Shu’s home, and Joseph was the author of “Holy Spirit and You” which I had picked up at the healing seminar! He invited us to attend the weekly charismatic prayer meetings which we began attending regularly on Saturdays.
I continued my RCIA program with the San Jose Chinese Catholic Community at St. Clare Church, and Wendar also participated as part of the confirmation process. Our children enrolled in the Chinese School before the Mass and CCD after Mass. We joyfully spent most of our Sundays at church and greatly enjoyed the weekly Friday Bible studies, Saturday prayer group meetings, Sunday Mass, and RCIA program. In a weekend Life in Spirit seminar in January 1999, Wendar and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit together. Interestingly, after we were baptized in the Holy Spirit, we do not have any problem understanding the “Holy Spirit and You” book any more.
On the Easter Vigil that same year, I was baptized into the Catholic faith. Before the baptism, the RCIA members asked me to pick a baptism name, so Wendar and I bought a Saints book to look up our special days. We were amazed to find out that my birthday, June 13, was the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, which was the same name I picked for myself from a dictionary twenty years ago. It was also the date I first received lay-hand blessings from the Holy Spirit. Wendar looked up the day that we were baptized in the Holy Spirit and, even more incredibly, it was the feast day of St. Anthony of the Desert, another saint with the same name! I decided that since God has already picked my name for me even when I was not yet a believer, there was no need for me to pick another baptism name!
I know that I am no more special than anyone else. God loves all of us, His blessings and love pour down on everyone like rain. He didn’t just begin to love me when I started RCIA; He didn’t just begin to love me when I received His blessing from the lay-hand prayer; He had loved me since the beginning of my existence. He called me from birth; from my mother’s womb he gave me my name (Is 49:1)! If we open our spiritual eyes, I know everyone would be able to see that God has prepared an incredible journey for each of us, to let us know how He loves each one of us. And I have come to realize that God has chosen each one of us even when we were in our mothers’ wombs. As we look back, we can see many signs of His wonderful deeds. In my case, my birthday, my first lay-hand blessing, my move and career change, my baptism in the Holy Spirit, and even my name were all carefully picked for me.
Thanks be to God! May He open everyone’s eyes to see His wonderful deeds in our lives. May all the glory be with God forever!
1 Lodi Enzo, “Saints of the Roman Calendar,” translated and Adapted by Jordan Aumann, OP, 1992 Fathers and Brothers of the Society of St. Paul, Staten Island, NY, pp. 148 – 150.