Testimony Tuesdays: Oliver

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For as long as I can remember, I would go to mass every Sunday, say my prayers before every meal, and called myself a Catholic Christian. My family raised my brother and I as your typical Catholic children. It was around my sophomore year of high school, however, that I realized I was just that – your typical Catholic kid – who had no idea why he prayed the prayers he did, Who he prayed to, why he woke up to go to mass every Sunday morning (dragged to mass more like it) and whose intellectual curiosity had led him to one too many Richard Dawkins videos on YouTube. At this time, I became somewhat of a skeptic/agnostic. Underlying all of my doubts, however, was the firm belief that my own happiness and the Christian life could never work together. I thought that God with all of his rules and laws and don’t-do-this and don’t-covet-thats would never allow for me to be fully free and happy.

 

Entering my junior year of high school, my brother Chris (also a lapsed Catholic by this point) was a freshman at Baylor and was brought to a church called Antioch Community Church. He invited me to World Mandate, Antioch’s college conference, and after 2 hours of intense worship and inner conflict I decided God had to exist. I “felt” the Spirit moving in me as well to confess all of my sins and let go of all the suffering I had stored deep in my heart. I asked for prayer and that night I chose Jesus Christ as my Savior and became a Christian again. I call this point in my life my ’emotional’ conversion.

 

After two years of Jesus highs and skeptical lows, with my right brain all pumped full of the Holy Spirit telling me to “JUST BELIEVE” warring against my left brain which couldn’t reconcile science with Christianity, I entered Baylor the fall of 2012. I was going to mass at St. Peter’s only to please my Catholic parents, while at the same time caught between the influence of my lifegroup leader at Antioch and a pesky FOCUS missionary named Marcus Schoch at St. Peter’s. I remember at this time ultimately reverting back to agnosticism through frustration and depression, unable to provide any reasonable defense of my emotionally charged faith, without a foundation to base any of my beliefs in save for the belief of others around me.

 

It was then that Marcus invited me to SEEK, a FOCUS conference for college students. To put it briefly, SEEK absolutely changed my life. Intelligent people were talking about proofs from modern science for the existence of God. Scholars and professors spoke of true manhood rooted in virtue, perfected in excellence and formed in the image of God. We adored the body of Christ for two hours, and 400 priests administered the sacrament of Reconciliation to 6000 college students. The unity of mind, the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, the deep-rootedness of Catholicism in philosophy, and its complete disregard for modern science’s supposed conflict with religion, completely floored me. I finally had the foundation, the Petrus upon which to build my faith, and a church that did not receive its teaching from any one man’s theology save that of the Son of God.

 

My happiness, I discovered, was not my own to discover. For two thousand years the Church has been teaching the path to true Joy, lasting and eternal. It was as Augustine so famously said “Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in You”. Resting in the community of St. Peter’s, surrounded by brilliant minds, warm hearts, and true friends, I can say that my journey was blessed by caring individuals who had not only my temporal happiness but also my eternal salvation in mind. I recall a quote by John Paul II that I saw during SEEK, that I have cherished since: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Before, I lived according to my own will; now I understand that a good life consists in living according to the Will of God.

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