Collette is a Law student from Birmingham. She helps lead 2nd Friday, an informal movement for young adults which focuses on discipleship and evangelisation.
At the time of the Papal Visit I was living a life so very distant from Christ and His Church. Despite being given the Faith through my baptism, I lived as if God did not exist. I sought my happiness in the things of the world and the only truth that mattered was my truth. I thought this was freedom. I didn’t realize that this was a false notion of freedom and that by building my life on the relativistic truths and ideals of this world I would lose sight of who I really was, I would betray the very core of my being, my identity and my dignity consequently leaving me deeply unhappy.
The Papal Visit to the UK was the catalyst for my conversion.
I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord and of yourselves… Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as Children of God.
The love with which the Holy Father spoke these words was genuine and through these words the powerful Truth of the Gospel message crashed into my life. Looking back it was like a moment from Acts of the Apostles, for upon hearing his message, I too was cut to the heart. Like the crowds in Jerusalem, I asked the question, “What must I do?” Through the ministry of Peter’s successor and in the subsequent messages of his UK visit, I found the answer to this question and began an incredible journey back into a living relationship with Christ and His Holy Church.
The following days I was glued to the television as the Papal Visit unfolded. I recognized in Pope Benedict a man who know Christ and also a man who knew how to address the deepest desires of my heart. His words highlighted how far I had come away from Christ, the Church and ultimately my true self but with this came the gentle invitation to restore all 3 of these things. I was at a point in my life where I longed for something greater from life, I longed for true and lasting happiness. I had become trapped and was slowly suffocating in the “glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society”. Pope Benedict cut right through this mire with a simplicity typical of his papacy and gave me the answer to my desires: ”true happiness is to be found in God, only He can satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.” That simple!!
What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
St Mary’s, Twickenham
Tears flowed down my face as these words spoken at St Mary’s, Twickenham touched my heart. Wow!! In these 3 lines, I learned the greatest Truth of my life: that I AM LOVED BY GOD! I also learned of my vocation to holiness, I was called to be holy and become a Saint!! I shivered at the thought of such a heroic task but this message of divine Love and the call to Holiness corresponded with the deepest aching of my soul.
The Holy Father continually reminds us that an encounter with Christ demands a response on our part, and one that is made with the courage and generosity that befits our young hearts. By Providence I had acquired a ticket for the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park and it was here that I made that response with all my heart after Holy Communion:
“Dear Jesus I know you are Lord, I know you came to save me and you love me so much more than I can ever begin to imagine. Today I give you my heart, my life, my past, my present, my future. Some of it isn’t very pretty but I want you to take it and heal it and restore it. Take me as I am. I place my life into your hands and trust you know what is best for me. I am your beloved child and today I am running back into your arms.”
After my confession of faith at Cofton Park, my life has changed beyond recognition. With the help of a wonderful Parish Priest and good friends, I very slowly found my feet in the Catholic Church and came to know and love the Lord more and more. Many parts of my life needed a massive overhaul everything but Christ is gentle and it has been a slow and grace-filled journey. He never asked more than I could give at a particular moment. Holy Mass, regular Confession, Adoration and the Word of God became my essentials. I also read a lot of Pope Benedict’s teachings and speeches and this helped me to deepen my relationship with Christ, opening my heart to the beautiful Gospel Truths in a simple yet profound way.
A year later I attended World Youth Day in Madrid and it was here that I discovered my vocation, though I wouldn’t realize that until many months later. The deep joy, happiness, wholeness and peace that were now mine, thanks to an invitation into a life changing relationship with Christ and His Holy Catholic Church was given a new direction in Madrid. At the final Mass the Holy Father spoke these words:
We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God.
Final Mass, Madrid World Youth Day
These words filled my heart with a great missionary zeal and a desire to share the great gift of faith with those around me. I feel I am called to the lay vocation and whilst I still discern the details of this, it was in Madrid that the Holy Father gave me “the extraordinary task of being a disciple and a missionary of Christ in lands filled with young people who are looking for something greater”. There is a whole world on our doorstep longing to be turned to God and awaiting an invitation to encounter Christ. The great mission fields and lands the Lord calls me to evangelize aren’t a million miles away rather they are my university, my workplace, my town, and even my parish and diocese. I am tasked with the mission to courageously invite people into the fullness of a life lived with and for Christ in the heart of the Church. Our priests and bishops can’t penetrate this missionary territory in the same way a lay person can, but they encourage and equip us for this great task through their friendship, the Sacraments and their preaching.
In communion with the whole Church, Pope Benedict encouraged us to become the apostles and saints of the 21st Century. I am trying with all my heart to take up this challenge, to know Christ intimately, to put my talents and gifts at the service of the Gospel and to give bold witness to this Truth in a world that so desperately needs Christ. It all sounds so simple and obvious doesn’t it?? More often than not we over-complicate things and miss the point but our Holy Father had the great gift of bringing us back to the basics and preaching the gospel with a simplicity and conviction that changed hearts and lives. Thank you Holy Father!!!