One of the earliest reflections of my father was walking with him and mother to Mass. We were going to the Sacred Heart Church along Oxley Rise and he stopped to pluck some flowers for me.
While he was a boy in school, he would win prizes for Bible knowledge and for Catechism. I loved looking at lavishly illustrated Bible he won as a prize, full of line drawings of Biblical figures.
He learned his faith to some depth - knowing doctrine, the bible and some of the encyclicals and Thomistic philosophy. He loved teasing us questions like, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" Like all good Catholics, there was a time when he seriously considered a religious vocation, he told me he wanted to be a Christian brother.
His humility was such that I had some vague idea that he was fairly brilliant as a scholar, but didn't know that he topped Malaya for his Senior Cambridge. His old classmate Br Michael of the La Salle Brothers told me about it only three years back when he came down from Kuala Lumpur on a visit to Singapore.
He was scrupulous about attendance at Sunday Mass. If arrived late, he'd stand at the door and say, " It's after the Gospel. Let's go to another Church." And so we would - just to be on time for a later Mass. He was equally scrupulous about being in the state of grace before receiving Communion.
In my teens, I joined the Legion of Mary. When he became the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, I wrote to Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion, about it. Frank Duff would be interested, I knew, because he himself gave up a high post in the Finance Ministry in Ireland to give full time to the Legion.
Br Duff replied, saying, "Tell your father that Our Lady has chosen him to aid her son in looking after the welfare of your country." I remember he read the letter and smiled. Unlike Frank Duff, he stayed in his job, while his wife and four daughters joined the Legion. Mrs Hon (my mother) and I are still in the Legion. (As I type this, she is at her Legion meeting, despite the fact he had barely left us for one week).
He was at the World Bank when I wrote to him, asking him for a dowry to enter the convent. He was taken aback. He told me I was too young -at 16 - and advised me to wait a while to test myself. I could make up my mind later - and it would be a much more mature mind then, so he wrote in reply.
He missed the Latin Mass tremendously - he had learned Latin in school and understood it - and the use of "thee" and "Thou" in prayers which were words meant only for God.
On the other hand he considered meatless Fridays archaic and would joke while we happily ate laksa and crabs on Fridays. "Trust the Fishermen's Union to think of this rule!" (St Peter was a fisherman.)
Of late, I had been arguing with him at length over the changes in the Church especially in the attitude towards sin and guilt. He could not believe that anything which was considered wrong in his day could ever be right in mine. Before he died, I was much inclined to agree with him.
I was having trouble drafting out this account of him, sitting on his bed, trying to capture the essence of his faith. He never spoke much about it but it was a visible thing. He was always at peace with himself and others, the Prime Minister had said to us after he passed away, and it was true. But there was something more to it than that.
It was then that my mother handed me a letter from Fr H.A. Myers of the Novena Church, whom my father asked for before he died. Fr Myers had heard his confession, given him the Sacrament of the Sick and then the Eucharist.
What Father wrote supplied very well the words I could not find to sum up what his faith was. I would like to share it with you:
Dear Mrs Hon and Family,
I am writing these few lines, hoping they will find you and your family at peace.
Looking back over the past few days, there is one thought that has been particularly on my mind, which I would like to share with you all.
I am sure you noticed when you were all present during the Sacrament of the Sick and Holy Communion, the great spirit of faith shown by your late husband and father.
It was a deep, intense, childlike faith - a faith that recognised the presence of Christ, the Comforter of the Sick, and Christ, the Divine Food of the Soul. It was a faith that recognised and welcomed Christ as he came to him.
I experienced the presence of that faith very clearly that evening, and the memory of it has been with me ever since, and will be for a long time yet to come. And I am grateful to God for giving me such a soul-lifting experience.
Need I assure you of my prayers, and 1 know I will share in yours.
May God grant him peace, and may the Mother of Sorrows comfort those from whom he has been taken.
H. A. Myers
It moved me greatly to know that Fr Myers was moved by my father's faith. He expressed what I saw and felt too when my father received his last Sacraments.
Our thanks to all of you who have been praying for him and who have supported us all so greatly by doing so. Please continue to remember him and us in your prayers.
By Joan, Daughter Of Benedict Hon Sui Sen
The Catholic News, Sunday, October 20, 1983 (page 3)