My Story: Called By Name

In this post I would like to give a little bit of my testimony. The full story of my faith journey is obviously quite long, so today I would just like to share with you the genesis of my walk with God.

“In The Beginning…” – Genesis 1:1

I grew up in a home with a mother who was a practising Catholic and a father of somewhat nominal Anglican background. My mother took my sister and me to Mass every week and always encouraged both of us in our faith. At our parish, my sister sang in the choir and I was an altar server. Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are of the three of us praying together at home and singing along in the car with Psalty the Singing Songbook … 🙂

As a teenager I never had any real rebellion against religion. Sure, I had some doubts at times, but on the whole I enjoyed going to Mass. I took my altar serving duties very seriously and enjoyed the stillness of the Saturday Vigil and the otherwordliness of the Sunday morning celebrations at the Abbey Church.

My “Tolle Lege”

I then went to University. Although I had been a believer up until this point and prayed pretty regularly, something was about to change…

In my second year of university I moved out of the campus accommodation into a house that was owned by, and situated next to, a Catholic church in the city. As well as having a student Mass, a prayer group was inaugurated shortly after my arrival by an Irish missionary named Maeve who played a significant role in my formation while at University. It was at one of these tiny prayer meetings, in the small back room of the church, that my faith was ignited.

The format of the prayer group was as follows. After an opening prayer, one of the Verbum Dei missionaries would give a short reflection on a particular topic, such as “The Holy Spirit” or “Faith”. Afterwards we would spend some time in silence reading a handout containing some verses of Scripture related to the topic for that week.

Called By Name

It was during one of these times of silence that my eyes came to rest upon the following passage from the prophet Jeremiah:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

– Jeremiah 1:5

This wasn’t an unfamiliar passage to me – I had taken Religious Studies at school and learned a whole bunch of Scripture by heart for my exams. However, that night, those words had special power in them. This wasn’t just something God had said to Jeremiah in Judah in ~600 BC, but it was something that He was saying to me in that little room, that night, two and a half thousand years later.

Restless Heart

That night I truly knew that I was known by God and that my life had purpose. It was like someone had turned on a homing beacon inside of me. Sixteen hundred years earlier, St. Augustine wrote in his “Confessions”:

You made us for Yourself O Lord, and our hearts will wander restless…until we rest in You”

That night I began to recognise the deep restlessness of my heart, and the space inside it that only God could fill. And so began my adult journey of faith and my love affair with Sacred Scripture. The Word is “alive” indeed…

The ideal woman!

The other day I was having lunch with a friend and, out of the blue, she asked me: “What’s the most important quality you look for in a wife?” 

Americans! Sheesh! Whatever happened to polite conversation about the weather?!

I did have to chuckle a bit though… You see, at the moment I’m spending some time reassessing and discerning again my vocation – married life, priestly life, religious life or consecrated celibacy. Therefore, questions regarding the qualities of a future wife may well be, at this point, moot.

“She is worth far more than rubies…”

But I also laughed because of the various texts which flashed through my mind when she asked this question. One such text was from the Book of Proverbs:

“Who can find a worthy woman?” – Proverbs 31:10 (ESV)

Who indeed?! 😉

I can still remember when, at university, I was asked to be a Reader one evening and I encountered this scripture for the first time. I had to read this passage at Mass without sniggering. I won’t lie, it was kinda hard…

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One good Lawrence deserves another

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Lawrence, so to mark this occasion I thought I would give a quick “tip of the hat” to another Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence Feingold.

Now, I’ve never actually met Dr. Feingold, but I have heard many of his talks and they’ve all been, without exception, brilliant. He comes across as unassuming, yet he clearly knows his stuff and is genuinely excited by the material he’s presenting.

I can’t recall exactly how it came about, but towards the end of 2009 I followed a hyperlink that took me to the website belonging to The Association of Hebrew Catholics. On that website I found the first couple of lectures by Dr. Feingold in his series “Themes of the Early Church Fathers“. I liked his tone and style immediately. At that time I had just started to discover these early Christian writers and Dr. Feingold’s series was a superb catalyst in helping familiarize me with the Early Church.

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A little bit of Basil…

My mum sent me this lovely quotation the other day from the late Cardinal Basil Hume:

Once, while preaching in a parish, I suddenly caught sight of a young mother with her child, and you could see the love between them. I was terribly tempted to say to the Congregation: ‘Forget what I am saying and look over there, and you will see what we mean to God’” – Cardinal Basil Hume.

The best monastic order

This week was the feast day of St. Dominic, so I thought I would share a rather religiously nerdy joke I came across recently…

A Dominican and a Jesuit were arguing about whether the Dominicans or the Jesuits were more favored by God. Finally, they decided that the only one who could settle the matter was God. So they prayed, the heavens opened up, and a piece of paper came fluttering down. When they picked it up, this is what it said:

My children,

Please stop quarreling about such absurd and trivial matters.

God, O.P.

(You’re welcome Jenna…)

Lectionary Resources

A few people have recently asked me where I get the material for my “Lectionary Notes” posts. Here’s the process I go through each week:

1. After we conclude our Bible Study in the JP2 Group, we all go to the church next door for adoration. In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament I read the Lectionary Scriptures for the following week and spend a little bit of time praying through them.

2. When I next have some time, I read through the texts again using my NIV Study Bible.

Regarding Bible translations, translators have to make a choice between translating from the original language word-for-word (“formal equivalence”) or providing a looser translation but which attempts to better convey the thought expressed by the original writer (“dynamic equivalence”). This essentially results in a trade-off between readability and fidelity to the original words of the text. I quite like the NIV in that it falls somewhere between formal and dynamic equivalence, but with a leaning more towards dynamic equivalence.

The NIV is not a Catholic Bible and unfortunately therefore is missing the books of Wisdom, Sirach etc. Some of the study notes also have a non-Catholic skew, but on the whole it has excellent cross-references and always at least offers an interesting point of view.

3. The next book I reach for is my Ignatius New Testament Study Bible. I can’t say how much I love this book. It’s the RSV translation, which follows the “formal equivalence” approach. I would not-so-humbly suggest that it is a far superior translation to the NAB which is used in the Lectionary. Ignatius Press have produced a superb resource here, with excellent notes, maps and word studies. Every Christian should own a copy – it’s a bargain at $16. I will wait here while you click on the link and go and order a copy from Amazon. Seriously, I’ll wait…Done? Okay, let’s continue!

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