I first came to Pure in Heart after realising that it was becoming increasingly hard to grow in my faith without encouragement or anyone to talk about it with. Moving to London I found myself in a bigger struggle than ever between the worldly and the religious lifestyle. Although I’ve always had a strong faith and regularly attend Mass, I’d spend most of my time with people who were not religious and often found myself in situations and environments which were not fruitful or satisfying. Spurred finally by an encounter I had in Confession where I grumbled about living a bit of a duplicitous lifestyle, I was advised to find a Catholic community.
I remember speaking to someone after Mass at Westminster Cathedral, who told me that Pure in Heart met each Wednesday for an hour of Adoration with the Rosary, followed by a talk or discussion centred on Theology of the Body (ToB). Without the slightest idea what ToB was, and slightly anxious that I might not be pure in heart, I decided to go. In that first peaceful hour of adoration, surrounded by Catholics of a similar age, I felt it was an answer to a prayer.
I arrived during a video series of talks by Christopher West on this mysterious ToB topic, but even during the course of the first talk I began to get excited; this made sense! For those who don’t know, ToB (originally the name of a series of reflections by St. John Paul II) is the discovery of the meaning and purpose of our lives through the study of human sexuality. ToB addressed so many of the questions I had been pondering. Questions about love, lust, cohabitation, marriage, gender… you name it, and it will probably be connected to ToB. The talks provided digestible and practical guidance rooted in Catholic teaching on how to live in the ‘truth’ of who we are and why we were created (namely for our eventual union with God in Heaven). This often conflicts with the way our secular culture would have us live. The group discussions afterwards were evidence that I was not alone in my struggle, and through other people’s advice and experience I felt more heartened to try to live more faithfully.
Pure in Heart isn’t just about fellowship. St. Theresa of Avila wrote ‘Christ has no body on earth but yours’ and I think Pure in Heart is a great resource for understanding our beliefs; breaking teachings down so they can be applied to everyday life and shared with people we encounter, so that they too can come to the Truth. Sometimes these are teachings we adhere to but don’t know exactly why, or think are outdated. One example which stands out for me was a recent set of talks on Masculinity and Femininity, where for the first time I felt I understood what was meant by the dignity and gift of our respective genders; being different, but not unequal, for a reason. Something important in a world where gender-equality is such a polarising topic. Post-talk discussions (which tend to continue in some shape or form in the pub afterwards) provide an opportunity to listen and be listened to, to encourage and be encouraged; learning from each other’s strengths and weaknesses how to follow Christ.
Without being overly dramatic, I come to pure in heart because this prayerful community is helping to change my life. People come here from all over the world, from all backgrounds and with all kinds of experiences, common in their desire to live the truth. With teaching, support, challenge and encouragement it becomes a bit easier to do this. Everyone loves a good ol’ S.JP II* quote, so I’ll conclude with this: ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth’.
Oh, and the refreshments; I also come because they have really good biscuits.
*S.JP = Saint John Paul II from FIDES ET RATIO (Faith and Reason), not to be confused with popular culture acronym SJP = Sarah Jessica Parker; she did not say this.