BROTHER LOARNE FERGUSON, OFMCap.
I thought about God quite a bit when I was in the Sixth Form. – Not that I was particularly devout, though I had been brought up in an Anglican family. The differences between religions fascinated me and I wondered whether I would have been a Christian if I had been brought up on some other continent by a family with a different religious background or with none. My thoughts overflowed into action when I decided to take my questions seriously, and so I embarked on a journey which eventually led me into the Catholic Church.
It is strange how sometimes the mind plays tricks. After a bit of intellectual effort (none too high powered) lasting a couple of years and taking me through various religious viewpoints, I had not made any major religious commitment. Perhaps I wasn’t consciously looking for life to change. But change it did when my mother was invited to a Catholic group and came back from her meeting as if there were a light bulb over her head. Week after week I observed and openly questioned the change I saw in her, until she challenged me to go to the group myself.
I did go to the group. The warmth and humility I found among the people there came as more of a shock than a surprise. Of themselves, those admirable qualities were not enough to convince me that what the Catholics there believed was true, but they gave me room to explore my questions in a safe spiritual environment. My attitude was not always terribly respectful, but I found acceptance and challenge in equal measure. Eventually one of the men in the group asked if my mother and I had ever been to a Catholic Mass, and on learning that we had not, he invited us to try it. So we plucked up the courage to go to a Mass the next Sunday.
Going in to that church I met the same warmth I had found in the group – slightly more diffused perhaps – but real to me nevertheless. There seemed nothing extraordinary about the actions I saw performed by the priest, and the people there were a mixed bunch. What struck me was a single moment in the Mass when the priest lifted up the bread he had on the altar. At that moment, an old lady in the congregation bowed, and suddenly I believed that this bread was the real body of Christ. For some reason it was not an intellectual puzzle any more, but simply a reality present before me.
My mother and I came out of the church asking the priest if we could become Catholics. Received into the Church a few months later we soon both discovered that the step we had taken did not mean that our spiritual journeys had come to a sudden conclusion. My own journey has since taken me into religious life as a follower of St. Francis where I have discovered my own poverty and need of God’s help. But it has been a journey made more joyful by the gift of the Catholic faith, and I have found in it the type of comfort which gives meaning in the darker times of life.