Listen again to Fr Nick’s testimony on moving from agnostic sport-mad young man to Dominican priest!
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.
Is it a truth universally acknowledged that PHSE is one of the most useless and boring lessons on the school curriculum? For the most part I can’t remember what we learnt in those lessons (don’t take drugs…use deodorant???) however there is one lesson that has remained with me. In year 9 we were doing Sex Ed and our school nurse came to take the lesson. She asked us to stand on the left hand side of the room if we believed sex before marriage is wrong and the right hand side if we didn’t. I remember groaning inwardly as I guessed that pretty soon I’d be standing alone. Well in fact I didn’t find myself totally alone; my Muslim friend Aisha was there standing in solidarity whilst the rest of the class looked at us in disbelief!
I remember thinking indignantly “you don’t get it” but then on reflection I didn’t “get it” either. I had the conviction that sex was something reserved for marriage but really it was a conviction that was based primarily on an obedience to God. That I believed in obedience isn’t a bad thing in itself but there comes a point, usually in your teenage years, where you have to have see why you do and believe certain things in order for those beliefs and practices to become your own rather than your parent’s hand-me-downs. Going off to university I was still clinging on to that obedience but it was increasingly becoming a less sure footing for me. I loved God and I didn’t want to disobey Him but the devil was pulling that same trick with me as he did with Eve in the garden when he convinced her that God was making her miss out on something great out of spite. Without a strong defence I was starting to wonder whether I shouldn’t just go along with the crowd. “Why are you bothering to shut yourself off from what you should be enjoying? Come on! It’s normal…don’t be one of those weird religious people!”