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Sep 29, 2021 187 CHI (SU) DOAN,
Encounter

How I Overcame Teen Angst

“Questions swirled in my head, and it was hard to talk to my mom. But one surprising revelation changed my life forever.” Chi (Su) Doan shares those astonishing moments… 

My life began in Vietnam in a loving family that set very high standards. Although we were not Catholics, they sent me to learn piano from the Sisters in the local convent. I was intrigued by their faith and their sense of purpose which I felt was lacking in my own life. One day, I wandered into the church and had a beautiful experience with Jesus Christ and God the Father which changed my life forever, but I didn’t get to discover Mother Mary until a little bit later.

Doing Big Things

It all started when I was about 13. At that age, everyone seems to struggle a little bit, trying to figure out what to do with their lives. I didn’t know what to do with my life. Looking at my brother and my cousins who were already successful in life, I felt under huge pressure to emulate their achievements. I found it hard to talk to my parents about this. Teenagers think that they can do big things without hindrance from adults like parents and teachers and I felt too nervous to bring up the questions that swirled around in my head.

However, the kind, gentle Sister who taught me piano was different. When she gently enquired into my spiritual life, hearing with interest that I was going to church and praying often, I felt comfortable opening up to her about my struggles. I told her how I wondered if there was any conflict between being prayerful and having a successful career as a doctor, teacher or businesswoman. I was full of doubts and felt so lost, but she was full of serene confidence. She advised me how important a mother can be in guiding their children along since they have cared so much for them and observed them from their earliest days.

I said, “It’s really hard to talk to my mother about it because I think I am old enough to do everything by myself without her help.” She assured me that it was okay, because if I found it hard to talk to my Mum, I had another mother I could talk to.

The Surprise

I was a little bit confused because that was a new concept to me, since I had grown up in a family without religion. “What do you mean?” I asked in surprise. She revealed the astounding news that since Mary is the one who gave birth to Jesus Christ Our Lord, she is also our mother. Jesus told us that we could call His Father, our Father, therefore we can call Him, Brother and His mother is our mother. As we read in the Bible, He entrusted Saint John and all of us to His Blessed Mother when He hung on the Cross.

This was a totally new and strange idea to me and I found it hard to get my head around it. She went on, “Just think about it like this. When you grow up a little bit more, you will realize that a mother in your life is really important. Whatever problems you have, you are going to run back to her for advice and comfort, to help you face them. She is another mother helping you to do exactly the same thing. So, if you feel that talking to your parents is challenging, at this stage in your life, you can come to Mother Mary and talk to her so that you can find some peace.”

It seemed like a good idea that was worth trying, but I did not know how to talk to her. Sister told me that I could just close my eyes and confide all my struggles, difficulties and suffering to her. I could tell her whatever I needed help with and ask her to offer me some comfort and some care. Just talking to her would help me think clearly about my future. I was not sure if it was all true, but there was no harm trying.

So, when I had some free time, I sat down quietly, closed my eyes and doubtfully said to her, “Okay, if you are really my mother, can you help me with this. I am trying to figure out what I should be doing with my life because I want to do great things when I grow up. I am feeling overwhelmed by studying, but I am trying to put myself on the right path, so that later I won’t have regrets. Please comfort me and help me to have some trust within myself to know the right thing to do with my life. Every night, I just kept saying the same thing. Whenever I was struggling with my study, I said, “If this subject’s not meant for me and I am not meant to be taking this any further, please just let me know.” Every time I said that, everything seemed a little bit better. At least I had someone to talk to about my struggles and difficulties now.

Figuring It Out

I was so intrigued that when Sister talked about Lourdes of Vietnam, I soon went for a visit. There I saw a beautiful statue of Mother Mary, high on a hill. As I gazed up at her, I felt looked after—that she was guiding me along the path that was meant for me.

When I sat down to pray, I felt awkward for a moment. Am I really putting myself in the presence of someone who is really my mother, although it took me 13 years to figure out she is there? I did not know what to say at first. Then I started mumbling my jumbled thoughts about why I had come, why it had taken so long and my gratitude for having this opportunity. I began to tell her how lost I felt. I think that everyone is lost at this age so I hoped there was nothing wrong with me. I told her that I just didn’t know what to do in my life. I didn’t know if I should stress myself out trying to get straight A’s in school or lower my sights to something more reasonable and then figure out what to do from there. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to manage my studies or my life or how to become someone successful when I grew up.

I confided how much it was all stressing me. I didn’t know who to talk to because I didn’t want to talk to people who would judge me and I didn’t want to talk to people who would think I was weak. My eyes filled with tears as I laid my soul bare and put everything into her hands hoping that she would give me some advice on what to do.

Eventually I just said, “Okay, I put all my trust in you. Please pray for me to God and then guide me along in my life because I really don’t know who to trust any more. Please can you give me the courage to talk to my parents about what I am going through, so they can offer me some advice and help?”

About once or twice a month, I came back to see her and talk to her. As time went by, I felt braver and got on top of my problems as I opened up to my Mum about what I wanted to be when I grew up and what options I’d have. I didn’t feel lost any more and I no longer struggled to talk to my parents and my teachers about how to choose schools, subjects, career and university, or other problems.

Gentle Chiding

It was strange at first because I hadn’t known that I had two mothers in my life. Who would think of it if you weren’t born into a Catholic family? When I was about 16 years old, I started talking to my Mum about the experience I had with Mother Mary and surprisingly my mother agreed with me that it was true. She also believed that Mary is a mother who’s taking care of her children. She affirmed that Mary was the one who had given me the courage to talk to her about my struggles, so that she had a chance to help me.

It was a really amazing experience. I had simply talked to Mary and tried to listen to her voice. I didn’t hear her speak to me like Saint Bernadette, but sometimes when I was asleep or day dreaming, I felt like she was there telling me to just calm down a little bit. I seemed to hear her chiding me gently, “You just need to slow down.”

In my teenage phase, I had always wanted to do everything quickly and manage everything for myself. I didn’t even want to share my feelings with my parents because I didn’t want them telling me what to do.

So, it was a tremendous help when I sensed Mother Mary saying to me, “Just slow down a little bit. I know that you want to achieve success rapidly, but nothing works like that. Just trust me then it will eventually work out.” That was so true!

Just a couple of years later, my family decided to send me to Australia. I was finally baptized and received into the Catholic Church at St. Margaret Mary’s Church, Croydon Park where I still happily attend Mass. When I am struggling, I come to her in prayer and ask her to pray for me to God our Father. I feel that she listens to me and responds to my prayers in astounding ways.

Even now that I am in my 20’s, and living independently from my parents in another country, I still sometimes ask Mother Mary for courage to talk to them about my problems and open up to others. I am ever grateful for her loving, and motherly care.

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CHI (SU) DOAN

CHI (SU) DOAN loves her faith and believes that what she has achieved is God's work. The article is based on her personal testimony shared through the Shalom World program, “Mary My Mother”. To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/show/mary-my-mother

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