I was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and lived there until a week after I turned 17.
There I was raised as what you might call a ‘Cultural Catholic,’ or someone who is born into the Roman Catholic faith, and was preceded by many generations of Roman Catholics.
I went to a Catholic primary school and attended Mass every Sunday with my family, and even when I began to question God and church teaching, as I believe most religious teenagers in the post-modern world do.
Skeptics of the Catholic Church would call my experience of Catholicism ‘lucky’. I was lucky that I was never exposed to the influence of dissident clergy. I was lucky that even in South Africa, where there was plenty of danger surrounding me, I managed to stay safe.
I was lucky that after immigrating to the Gold Coast of all places, I was compelled to trust God when everything else seemed to be falling apart around me. I was lucky that He answered my prayer and changed my life. And as a Catholic I don’t believe in luck; I believe in Grace.
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” (John 15:18). That’s what Jesus said to His disciples, and it is one scripture that consoles me when I look upon a world, which has found itself consumed by what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ in his opening homily as Pope in 2005.
When I say relativism, I’m talking about the common view of my generation – if it feels good, do it! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when this attitude is adopted, society will begin to self-destruct, but that is a topic for another day.
It may appear that I’ve adopted a depressing mentality here, but I promise you, ever since I discovered it was possible to enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my life has been more joy-filled than words can describe.
What I mean is that it can be very tempting and challenging to live in a society that is constantly trying to get me to do things against my beliefs: fornication, debauchery, selfishness, and political-correctness are just some examples. I drank from that fountain as a teenager, and was left thirstier than ever.
Conversely, I have found that attending Mass several times a week, frequenting the Sacrament of Confession, praying the Rosary and reading the Bible daily, as well as sharing my faith with my friends and others, fills me with joy, purpose and dignity like nothing else ever could.
These are the ways I nourish my soul with “living water” (John 4: 14), and am compelled to love and serve others in a way I never knew possible.
The love I have felt, and regularly experience, for the Holy Trinity, is deeper and more intense than anything I have ever felt. Through it, God has called me to spend two years on mission, encouraging youth to love Jesus and embrace the Catholic Church in all her richness and fullness.
He has also called me to be a voice for the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, so much so that I have walked from Brisbane to Melbourne to defend life, and will soon be walking through some the United States of America for the same reason.
If I know anything about my life, it is that my Father in heaven is calling me to be a saint. That doesn’t necessarily mean I will someday appear on stained-glass windows or prayer cards, but it does mean that I’m called to use the gift of grace that God has given me to love Him firstly, and secondly to love others.
In Latin, the language of Roman Catholicism, ‘caritas’ means both love and charity; love is not a feeling, but a choice that takes action.
In Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is love), the former Pope explains that social justice, or charity, in its highest form, takes shape in one person sharing their personal experience of God’s love with another, and inviting (but not forcing) that person to consider that God wants the same for them too. I was made to spend my life doing this.
From my experience, and believe me, I’m in the thick of it; the Catholic Church is beginning to slowly become more popular among young people in Australia.
It may be easier to worship a god of consumerism and relativism, but it is a heck of a lot less fulfilling than worshipping the one true God, who is, I believe revealed most fully in the Catholic Church. I am blessed to know of this truth, and to see others coming to know it as well.
This is part of a megastory on religion in Australia today. Visit the megastory here.
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