Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
I grew up in a Catholic family, in a country where most people are Catholic. My route as a Catholic boy was, at the end of the day, very classic: baptised as a baby, holy communion at the age of seven, confirmed at twelve. I was educated in a Catholic primary school: not very different from most other schools, simply with religion classes and nuns in an adjacent building. I usually went to Mass on Sundays, with my family.
For a long time, thus, being Catholic was a habit, a social practice more than a spiritual activity. Did I believe in God? I think I did not even asked myself this question: I just went to Mass because this is what we had always done.
I think it changed at the age of eighteen, in Italy, where I was alone for more than a month, working in an hotel during the Summer holidays. One night, I felt I needed to go back to a church, though there was no one to force me. I went to an evening mass, without anyone knowing I was there, and without anyone knowing me who I was amongst the parishioners. It was good.
A month later, I started university, in a different country from where I was born, and thus independent again. I was free to go to Mass or not, free to believe or not, and I chose to do so, freely. I don’t think there was a magnificent moment of grace or revelation; just a shift of mindset, which translated into a real and genuine openness to God.
Today in Oxford, the situation is a bit different, as I am in a country where Anglicanism is the norm. I believe very much in the reunification of our divided Church; I am also involved in my college’s chapel. But, it also means that it creates closer ties with my fellow Roman Catholic friends.
This year, what I have tried to do is not to do any work on Sundays. I would go to Mass in the morning, have lunch, then play sport and relax in the afternoon. At first, I thought it would be complicated to achieve because of the massive amount of work we all have. But no: I just work a bit more on Saturday, and this is enough. And it creates a big difference: it helps me recharge my batteries (which is eventually beneficial to my studies) and, above all, gives more spirituality to my life and helps give sense to what I’m doing.
Charlie Amonte, BA French