Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
This beautiful passage from Augustine’s Confessions was the key in my embrace of Christ. I picked up Augustine’s Confessions in my second year at university. I remember this was a troubling time in my life. As is often the case at that age, there were many different distractions that occupied my mind. I didn’t know my faith well then. I didn’t even own an English bible. I learned my faith as a child in another language. When I came to Canada my religious education stalled. For most of my teens my faith didn’t grow, doubts sept in, and few times my faith was challenged by non Catholics. I attended church each week and went through the motions of a Christian life.
One day on a trip to university book store I noticed a copy of this wonderful book. I don’t know what drew me to it. I picked it up and bought it. At this point I didn’t know who Augustine was. I didn’t read the book right away. It laid in my room for several months. I now believe that it was God’s grace that made me buy this book. That it was God preparing me for an encounter that would change my life.
That encounter came on a beautiful August Sunday, when my family and I went to an annual pilgrimage at the Martyr’s Shrine in Midland Ontario. It was there during the Mass that for the first time God’s word has broken through me. Something changed there. I can’t explain it but in an instant my entire world view has shifted. I started to feel this great internal hunger for God. After returning home, alone in my room I prayed for the first time in a long time. I also said my Rosary for the first time in a very long time. All the sudden everything started to fit in place. This Jesus that I’ve been meditating on during the Rosary came alive to me. I felt this profound love coming from Him. I felt loved by Love itself and peace filled my soul. My hunger for God just increased, and Augustine’s Confession was on my desk.
In Augustine’s work I recognized my own story. The beautiful way he expressed his love for the Lord was the way my soul felt. The next day I went out and bought my first English bible. It was a NIV translation. I didn’t know at the time that it was missing books. I read it every day. The Gospels were my favourite books right away. I wanted to know Jesus, I wanted to know the person who my heart burned with love for.
Over the next few years, I’ve read everything that I could get my hands on that spoke about Jesus. I’ve read theology books, apologetic books, bible commentaries, conversion stories and the catechisms. I also read the bible a lot. By that time I’ve learned the differences between Catholic and Protestant scripture. I abandoned my incomplete NIV translation and settled finally for the RSV CE. My protestant friends tried to convince me of the errors of the Church. I always found their arguments to be weak and none of them bothered to actually see what the Church teaches. Protestantism never appealed to me. Protestantism’s central doctrines are not biblical. They were created by men with no connection to the apostolic faith. The were created to justify their separation from Christ’s church. Their theology sounds like lawyer speak to me. Which makes sense since their doctrines were created by a lawyer.
In Christ’s Church I found what I was hungry for. I found Jesus. There is no greater gift that God gave us then the Eucharist. Every time I go to communion, I am united with my Love. Nothing else satisfies. Not the books, not the theology, not any creature. Only Jesus satisfies the hunger that burns in the heart of every disciple.