So, here I am again! Well, I’m not quite here yet, truth be told, as I’m still at home recovering from a recent operation on my back! But after a long, exciting, and somewhat challenging year abroad, I am looking forward to being back in Oxford for my final year. Despite the impending doom of finals hanging over me (you know what I’m talking about), I feel like I’ll be coming home once again, having already returned to my home country. I’ll be coming home to an Oxford Chaplaincy community that I’ve been so blessed to know and be a part of over these last few years. Even though I know this year is going to be a tough one, I know I can rely on a multitude of good friends I’ve made and, crucially, I know that God will see me through the challenges I will face (He always seems to have a way, no matter how scary and daunting they may seem!). But, as I can certainly assure you, things weren’t the same for me at the start of my first year.
Coming to Oxford was probably the biggest and most daunting life change for me at that stage in my life, and I honestly thought I’d never get fully settled in. Finding a group of friends, getting to know the city, getting used to that Oxford rhythm of things (which I still don’t think I’ve managed yet) – all these things seemed impossible to me. I found myself constantly thinking about home, about the next time I could go back. In short, I didn’t feel at home. But little did I know that an even bigger life changed would come, one that would change my entire life forever.
I haven’t always been Catholic; I don’t come from a particularly religious family, none of whom are Catholic themselves. That doesn’t mean I’ve never been spiritual, on the contrary, I’ve always been intrigued by those deep questions about life, like what does it all mean? However, as I tried to answer these questions myself, I found myself stumbling around in darkness. Put simply, I was lost. But eventually, I discovered it. Or rather, He discovered me. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Whose life, death, and resurrection changed me and every one of us forever took the time to personally find me, and to call upon me to follow Him.
I knew it’d be hard. I knew this would change everything forever and that I’d come across resistance along the way. But I couldn’t say no, I couldn’t resist; I had to answer the call. So I decided to do something about it, to talk to someone about this newfound faith I had. That first human contact was all I needed, and as I talked to more people as well as visiting the Chaplaincy/Newman Society, I no longer felt as if this were just an idea or me going mad; this was something real. Put simply, I was home – I knew this was where I belonged and what I was always meant to do.
Ever since then, the Chaplaincy has been a second home for me, a place where I’ve made connections and friendships that will last for life, and where I’ve grown and deepened my relationship with God. I think the two must go hand in hand, after all, our Lord does say: ‘When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ (Matt. 18:20). The time I’ve spent here and all the amazing experiences I’ve had confirm that, and I’m proud to be a member of the Newman Society committee this term as well as sacristan for the Chaplaincy this year, and thereby to be giving back to such an amazing, warm, and blessed community of Catholic students.
So, if you’re an incoming fresher or Oxford newbie reading this, know that down St Aldate’s, opposite the gate to Christ Church meadow, by Café Loco, there’ll always be a home-from-home for you too.
Christian Tofte, 4th Year Modern Languages, LMH