Day 31: A Long Search for Truth
Stuart is currently in his first year of studying for the priesthood at Oscott College, for the Archdiocese of Birmingham
When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in April 2005 I had little idea of who he was or where he would help lead me. Finishing off my A-Levels, I was intellectually open but unsure as to what I really believed or understood about life. Friends and I would spend afternoons in the pub not only avoiding Spanish but sometimes touching on those deeper questions. In retrospect, those hours spent pondering the “big things” were more useful and important than chasing exam-marks. Yet with the best I got out of Sixth Form I had a springboard into a deeper view of life, one poetic but true, impossible with man but glorious with God, a life in which all that was noble in me might flower, that is, a life of Christian conversion.
At University, a fire kindled deep inside me to live such a life. Soon enough, the Anglican Chaplain asked me whether I had thought of a vocation. The long road to seminary began there. In France, working among the poor, my prayer and reflection deepened, leading me to the remarkable Cardinal Ratzinger. In him, I found someone who made Catholicism intelligible, speaking to those deep desires. There was no bitterness between faith and reason, prayer was primary and all was held together in “the beauty of holiness”. My heart and mind began to find a home amid the altars of the Church of God.
This, of course, left me feeling not only respectful but deeply grateful. Still an Anglican, I prayed and waited for the right moment to convert. With the announcement of the Ordinariate in late 2009, I felt that time had come. The man who had led me to knowledge of the truth through his love of the truth now invited people like me, through truth in love, to enter the barque of Peter. Yet despite Benedict’s intellectual sophistication, I felt he shared that same humble Christian faith which is so attractive and so winning. Such a faith can see God’s providence in people, places and events. In my own life, the great testimony to my sharing the faith of Peter and Benedict came with his Visit. My first Sunday Mass in full communion with the Catholic Church was at Cofton Park for the beatification of John Henry Newman. On that remarkable day, a seminal moment in my life, a long search in my life for truth and the beauty of holiness came to an end when I was able to offer to God that long search in the Eucharistic Sacrifice with and through the man who, as Pope, is the meeting point between heaven and earth. Yet the pilgrim’s road never ends. The road that led me there led me very quickly too to the gates of Oscott College where, once again where the shadow of Peter had fallen, I would feel called to renewed conversion and renunciation in the service of God and His Church.