Sunday, 11 October 2009

First Post

Well, at last, a Blog!

I'm not quite sure where this is going, but it seems that I usually have a lot to say, so we shall see if I also have a lot to write.

A little bit of history to start with seems appropriate, although I don't plan to start at the beginning, if you want that go to my CV on my webpage.

I started writing about my faith a couple of years ago, and then as it developed, so did my writing.  I am a bit of mixed-up-kid when it comes to faith, but I am trying to sort that out, as you'll see.

My father was brought up in a staunch Roman Catholic family in England's county Durham.  We suspect that, at least on his mother's side, there was a strong dose of Irish genes.  Father's mother wanted him to become a priest, and sent him to a Marist School, which he hated.  In rebellion, he became an Industrial Chemist, and in due course met my mother.

Mother's family were green-grocers from Hatfield, about 20 miles north of London, and she was an Anglican, who sang in the local church choir.  As was necessary in those days, she formally converted to Catholicism to marry father, and in due course when I was born early in 1950, I was baptised by the Catholic priest at St Bonaventure's Church in Welwyn Garden City.

Soon after this my father took the next step in his revolution and stopped all contact with the Catholic Church.  Since that day, he is 89 as I write, he has professed himself an atheist.  Mother brought my younger brother and me up as Anglicans, and in about 1958 she was formally received back into the Church of England.

In the fullness of time, in about 1965, I went to confirmation classes, and was duly confirmed by the Bishop of St Albans in the Parish Church at Baldock in Hertfordshire.  It didn't take!

Soon after I left home in 1968 to go to University (Kent at Canterbury), I met and became close friends (platonic) with a catholic girl, and became quite interested in Catholicism.  One of the local churches was on my way to college from my digs, and I would drop in to hear the 8am Mass (Tridentine - in Latin).  Eventually I asked the University Catholic Chaplain, Fr Francis Moncrieff, for instruction, and formally converted later that year, being re-confirmed at Westminster Cathedral by the then Archbishop.

Then I met the Franciscan friars who had a house on campus, and was very enamoured of their simple life and easy-going manner.  This seemed to be what God was calling me to, and I made preliminary steps with a view to joining the Order of Friars Minor when I graduated.

But then I met Rosalinde, and suddenly the celibate life of a Poor Friar didn't seem at all the right direction.  Ros was, and is, an Anglican - firm and unshakable in her faith.  A couple of years after graduation we were married.  I didn't even ask her if she would mind a Catholic wedding, we were married in the Parish Church of St James, Weybridge, by Canon Buckley.  It was as Anglican as it gets.

My faith faded away.  I have to say in retrospect that I did very little to foster it.  At first I'd go to Mass on my own, and then I'd go to Church with Ros, and eventually I became agnostic and stopped going all together.  I read a lot, and found myself in what today would be the Dawkins camp.  A proselytising atheist.

This history has reached about 1976.  From then until about 2004 - 28 years - not one little glimmer of religious zeal was to be seen.  Oh, I did flirt with Buddhism, but that was never religious, it was much more philosophical, and I did read the Koran, well, I read everything - I still do!

When we retired to Cumbria we worried that we wouldn't know anyone, so we decided that we would go to the local village church as a way to meet people and get involved.  I have to say I was complete fraud - I'd sit through the service, maybe mumble the hymns a bit, but I was there for Ros really.  But the people were open, loving, and friendly, the sermons were good, very very good.  And gradually I noticed that I was listening with interest.  God bless the Reverend Ian, a gifted preacher, teacher, and learned biblical scholar - and a troubled soul.

One night, as I lay awake in the depths of the dark, I just felt I had to ask the question: "Do you really exist?", and as clearly as if it had been shouted in my ear, I knew the answer was "YES".  There was not, in fact, any sound, no loud voice, no Pauline flash of light.  I wasn't blinded, but I was convinced.

I told Ros at breakfast.  Next Sunday I took communion.  Everything changed.

No comments: