My Spiritual Journey
I was brought up a devout and believing Catholic, despite my experience of the Catholic Education System. What makes me different, well when all the other boys were watching transformers, Winny the poo and Paddington Bear I was reading about eschatology & the Chastisement of the World. My initiation came through the "The Thunder of Justice", a very comprehensive compilation and narration of some of the most important signs and messages of 'The Last Times'. With my faith challenged and intellect perplexed I had to learn more, I couldn't believe the good God I'd been taught to believe in could possibly reign terror and death down on his own people, no matter how sinful they were.
Well this part of the story pauses for a while, as something else came along. (Besides pubity) I became involved in a prayer group at the ripe old age of 12. This was no ordinary prayer group, it prayed a strange new foreign form of worship called the Rosary. This experience opened my mind to new possibilities that I had never considered before, Church wasn't always like it is today. This revelation lead me down the path of discovering the past of the religion of my forefathers, a religion of incense, cassocks and Latin, and almost lead to a total rejection of the form of worship and belief I had always accepted without question. I had discovered Traditionalism.
Although I still think of myself as a traditionalist, in retrospect I can see the great danger in focusing on the wrong things. With the discovery of the Second Vatican council and all its reforms, my faith was shaken to its roots. I did not doubt the action of the magisterium, but the reforms after the council at the parish level seemed to be, for the most part not in the True spirit of the council. It wasn't till Uni that I finally realised that God simply wouldn't let his Church fall apart. I simply didn't know what God had in mind for his Church, which wasn't hard to accept since all my life I'd accepted concepts that I could neither prove nor disprove. Faith in God I realised was the most important thing.
At Uni I quickly saw the need to focus on the basics, the essentials and not on the peripherals like whether Mass should be said in Latin or the Vernacular, and whether we should have Altar girls, there simply was more important issues to be dealt with, the faith needed to be consolidated and strengthened. Why fight amongst ourselves when people disbelieved, and even fought to destroy the basic precepts of faith; the Divinity of Jesus, the Real Presence, and the need for personal virtue and piety. Thus The cause of Traditional Catholics became less of a focus in my life.
During this time my search for the meaning of the Book of revelation and the many messages of our time took a more subdued role. More reading of Father Gobbie, a priest who receives interior locutions from the mother of God and other texts about the end times lead to a change in focus, I still believed essentially in the historic importance of the times we live in but began to see them with a new hope for the future. I realised that depression and doom and gloom about the end of the world was unfaithful to our creator and master. God loves us above all, but by having fear we are showing our distrust and faithlessness, I knew that God certainly knew what he was doing, so I should let him get on with it. Basically I should try to do what Christians of all ages have strived to do, live a good life. This conclusion along with my new found insight into the role of Traditionalism led to a kind of peace I've never really experienced before. Concerned by this new feeling, I wondered whether I was truly at peace, or was I becoming complacent and uninterested. But this didn't last long as the challenge of living for the first time in a predominantly non catholic environment, in fact one which is openly hostile, set in. Mum had always joked about the uni being an unholy land, I knew someone who had gone up whilst a new section of the uni was being built and buried a saint Benedict medal under one of the foundations. The challenge wasn't gone, it had just changed, instead of exploring the faith, and sometimes defending it against my school friends, I now had the challenge of just being able to keep my own faith in tact. It had never been before so challenged. However after adjusting, I felt more comfortable with the directness of the attacks, for once I could see the enemy.
Although a certain dullness may have set in over the past year, I start 1998 with a new desire to learn again, and find certainty in this world of ours.
When God Knocked
A couple of times through my life I've felt God knocking at the door, like he was right next to me. When I first received holy communion, of cause God was just there, but it was different the first time wasn't it. When I was in primary school I looked through the bottom of a glass and swore that I could see the mother of God as she appears on the Miraculous medal, arms outstretched, upon the world with 12 stars around her head, most probably an over active imagination. The most profound experience however occurred when I was 17.
Although changing now & again, I had always been certain about my beliefs and convictions. But one day everything was changed when something happened that left a profound mark on me. Under coercion from a friend I found myself at a very Charismatic Gathering, awaiting the arrival of Fr. Rookie, a priest that apparently could heal people of all sorts of afflictions. I was, to say the least sceptical, not so much of the reports of the man, but of the company he kept. I had always regarded Charismatics with a kind of spiritual superiority. This day however I was told by a priest that on my Eighteenth Birthday I would discover my vocation to the priesthood, suffice to say it didn't happen. But Fr. Rookie was a different matter. He went around praying over people and I watched with fascination, and a little bit of humour as people dropped like flies onto their backs.
When it came my turn I didn't expect anything special, but as the Eucharist was held in front of me & the strange prayer was sung over me the world suddenly left, and I awoke a few seconds later on my back sobbing like a child, I don't even remember the fall, or felt the person catch me. I've never understood what happened to me that day, only that I'd come closer to God than I'd ever been before, or have since. I find it ironic that God presented himself to me in a way I would never have anticipated, and amongst people I had dismissed as simple. Was God trying to Humble me? It worked. Though my life wasn't changed dramatically, in fact I'd forgotten about it a few days later, I never could really get over it.
CONTINUED: 1998 IN REVIEW
We'll, its been a year since I wrote this, and I don't quite know how I managed to write all that stuff a year ago!?!? What can I say, God help me!
The first half of the year wasn't so good, but the second half picked up really well. I'm involved in a prayer group that is a bit Charismatic I must admit, but is a very joy filled, and more importantly a God filled experience. I'm saying the office reqularly, and even singing it occasionally! I would recommend it to anyone trying to get closer to God. I've discovered, be it slowly and painfully, that I need to trust in God more and not be so discouraged and disappointed in my weaknesses and ability to sin. I've also been trying to develop a relationship with the lord that is based as much on friendship and informality as it is on lordship and service.
It constantly amazes me how God can be so talkative, some days he just dosen't shut-up!! Equally amazing is the fact that so many people do not believe in God. I find it impossible to look at nature, flowers, trees, kind people, birds, and creatures of all sorts and not see God. I've discovered in a very real way that prayer will literally solve heaps of your problems, and if not will alow you to realise that they were not that important anyway.
As for where I am going in my life in the long term, I'm not that much enlightened than this time last year. I'm a slow learner, and an even worse listener, sorry God!!! I have discovered though that life needs to be filled with joy. I find my self more and more drawn to Matthew 6: 25-34: Trust in Providence. That reminds me, the Bible has finally found its niche in my life. I've been persavering with the Good News Bible for so long, now I've got a Jerusalem, Woooooo, Hoooooo!!!!!! Thanks be to God!!!!
Another priest told me that I am going to do great things, I'm beginning to believe them!! I won't bore you with the details at this time, but maybe in the future...
I'd also recommend psalm 42 and 43 for the person who is a naturalist at heart, its a very image inspiring psalm. 139 is of cause the old favourite!!! Lord you search me and you know me! Its hard to refect on the whole year at once. I think this is all I will write for the time being, maybe something more later...
Greg Bellamy 1998