”I was baptised as an Anglican, then at school I became a ‘nothing’.
“I had some interest in Carl Jung and humanism but essentially I left school without a sense of following any religious denomination, believing that all religions had an element of truth. I returned to Anglicanism largely as a result of reading the works of CS Lewis.
“I remember, at the age of about 20, going to an Anglican church which was quite “high” and enjoying the liturgy. I recall asking the vicar if there was a church even higher nearby. He pointed down the road and said if I went a bit further I would come to a church which was Anglo-Catholic. Then he told me: ‘If you go a little further you will end up in Rome.’
“It was around then that a friend of mine in Opus Dei introduced me to Cardinal John Henry Newman. I was bowled over. I read the Apologia Pro Vita Sua in a few days and found it enthralling; but, more than that, even reading about Newman made me think that here I was, an Anglican trying to retain an Anglo-Catholic identity which someone as great as Newman couldn’t hold on to, and he had to convert. I said to myself if Newman had to do it then basically I had to follow suit.
“Conversion for Newman meant much suffering for him. My own conversion wasn’t anything like as traumatic but there were difficulties. The first Catholic priest I spoke to told me that the Catholic Church no longer ‘poached’ people from other denominations. But at that time I was attending three Anglican churches and it became apparent to me that they had three systems that were conflicting with each other. In one I was taught the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in another I was taught that Christ was only symbolically present, and in the other something in between.
“Later, I was introduced to Fr Hugh Thwaites, a wonderful Jesuit who also encouraged me to read Newman.
“I like Newman because of his understanding of the role of the papacy, and his immense respect for conscience. Another great interest for me was Newman’s interpretation of the Arian Crisis and how the laity maintained orthodoxy in the Church. Newman made it clear that the Church required a well-formed laity who understood what had been handed down in morals and doctrine. I think we are currently enduring something more profound than the Arian Crisis.”
As told to Simon Caldwell. Dr Pravin Thevathasan is a consultant psychiatrist and editor of the Catholic Medical Quarterly. He is also author of the CTS booklets Catholicism and Mental Health and The Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis
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