Science, Religion and the Battle Within

I was brought up as a Catholic by two wonderful parents as one of four children.  Mum was Catholic, raising each of us children in the faith. Dad was Anglican, and decided to join the Catholic Church after I left home.

A key question I faced in my adolescence was how to reconcile creation with science. Due to the lack of formal faith formation around this time, I maintained a child’s understanding of the Bible. Unfortunately I was never told that the Church saw the creation accounts of Genesis were not to be taken literally.

The question of integrating religion and science confused me a lot. I would bounce from believing in God one day, to not believing when times got tough. At the same time, I was struggling to put together a credible HSC major artwork. My artistic inspiration had dried up after my long run of junior year winning streaks. However this time judging by the depressive quality of self-portraits I was attempting, a fail grade could only be imminent.

Then looking around the schoolyard, I realised that my supposed friends more resembled acquaintances and probably would not care if I went MIA. I generally avoided new social situations for fear of rejection.

When I was 17, one of my classmates died suddenly of a heart attack. Anthony was the type of person who could liven up the dullest moments at school with his wild antics and contagious laughter. At Christmas that year I decided to try out his old youth group, thinking perhaps I could find his source of joy.

The group, run by the Servants of Jesus Community, had a distinctive charismatic flavour. The people I discovered there were very kind and filled with joy also. It seemed unusual, perhaps even supernatural. It was clear that their joy could not have been coming from natural sources - it had to be something more.

In July 2003, I spent part of my school holidays attending a Christian young adults leadership camp. It was an opportunity to ask God if He really existed, whilst still carrying the science versus religion dilemma. What happened next would change the course of my life forever.

I received a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit after agreeing to open my heart to His graces. I was given many great signs of God’s closeness and found myself speaking to God, like one friend would speak to another.

So instead of asking for more grace, I took this opportunity to ask questions of science. It became clear that this would be superfluous. The Lord was making great gestures to woo me, yet I was keeping Him on hold, worrying about the small things. I wanted all the answers on a platter so I didn’t have to apply my faith. Luckily, the pin dropped and so did my misconceptions and I decided to take the plunge in faith.

One of the talks that really hit me was on the story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel at Penu’el. (Gen 32:22-31) Appropriating this to my own situation, I decided to wrestle with God. However, I was weighed down by all my concerns, meaning even having a chance in the ring was impossible. I needed to hand over my burdens into God’s hands so that I could be free participate fully in the match.

Persevering face to face with God – I could not dodge His eyes that burnt with love for me any longer. Then I buckled under his immense weight, and surrendered my will to His. I knew immediately that I had a loving God who was strong and willing enough to walk with me and help win my battles.

Upon returning to school, I discovered a new inspiration to advance my major artwork. I ended up scoring top marks and was preselected as a HSC finalist. I started approaching people at school who I would never normally talk to, and many became interested in what I had to say about faith. I developed many new friendships, and became more involved in Christian young adults groups.

In 2012, whilst living and working in London, I was surprised one day by a strong call in prayer to consider the priesthood. Almost 10 years to the day after that historic young adults camp, I entered a pre-seminary discernment program with the Emmanuel Community, spending a year at an international house of formation in Belgium. I am now happily studying to be a priest as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Sydney in the Emmanuel Community.