“I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.

Fifth Sunday of Lent. 
A reading from the prophet Isaiah 43:16-21.  Ps 125 RV3.  A reading from the letter of St Paul to the Philippians 3:8-14

Good evening/morning,

My name is Brita, for those of you who don’t know me and Father Paul recently asked, if I would think of writing a testimony of my journey of faith, as I was received into the Catholic Church at Easter in 2019.

As I was preparing to read for Mass today (3rd April 2022), it struck me that the readings, especially the second one, from St. Paul writing to the community at Phillipi, were showing me how much my life had changed; so perhaps, this was the time to speak up.

Born Church of England, I was familiar with the basics of Christianity.  I went to church weekly with my family, knew I could pray to God anywhere, and I respectfully received the bread and wine at church on Sundays.

Throughout my life, I have always had a sense of being looked after from above, be that, by God or my Guardian Angel, who knows!  On more than one occasion, I was involved in near misses while driving, and I knew enough to pray to God and give thanks for miraculously avoiding the accident or crash.

During my early 20’s, tragedy occurred, when my father was killed by a drunk driver.  We lost our family home, my career in the family business, my horses, that were so much a part of my life were gone, my life was turned completely upside down.  Mum and I struggled to cope, with difficulties and traumas hitting us daily.

“Looking back, I do recall a moment when I had a powerful experience of the presence of God, but did not fully understand this at the time.  “

God hadn’t abandoned us, and today, I can see so clearly, just how much my new understanding and depth of faith, would have been invaluable during that period.

As time unfolded, I came to understand that despite the tragedy of losing dad, it didn’t mean that God wasn’t looking after my family.

God led us pretty quickly to our new home in Fleet.  I had fought for a while to be in Sussex, but that didn’t work out, so I joined Mum in Fleet!

If we hadn’t moved pretty quickly, to an area under the care of Guildford hospital, my mother would most likely have been dead. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and given only a 6 per cent chance of survival.  At that time, the top cancer specialist in the country, flew between Edinburgh and Guildford and he insisted that all 45-year-old women should have regular breast screening.  Mum was invited for a screening and within five days she had her operation.  He saved her life, saying that she was a walking miracle, the lump was the largest he had ever seen and is now in a medical laboratory.  She passed away last year at a grand age of 84, 39 years later!

It was in Fleet that I met Mike, my future husband. I knew we would be married, after only two weeks of meeting him – he didn’t, but I did!  Within a year we were married and had two wonderful children.  With Mike being a cradle Catholic, I was happy to go along with his decision to bring up the children in the Catholic faith.  We attended Mass weekly, prayed every night and celebrated the importance of the birth and resurrection of Jesus annually.  Happy days really!

Then Fr Paul came into our lives, when we started coming to Sacred Heart Church!  As you all know, Fr. Paul often starts his preaching by talking about something that, on first impression, might seem unrelated to the Gospel; maybe something from the news that week, or a reflection from his personal life or current affairs.  But then, he always makes a connection to the scriptures!  I find his way of integrating scripture and daily life really helpful and I look forward to his homilies each week as I have learnt so much.

Having been a Catholic for three years now, I can honestly say that my faith has impacted upon every facet of my life, which is what St Paul was saying today:

“I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.

“I only want the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith”.

Some of you know something of my spiritual journey, including the work I do with the Catholic charity, Caritas, supporting families in difficulties, mainly in Popley.  Some of you, have really affirmed me in my work, saying that “it is the Holy Spirit working within you”.  I also see this work as inspired by Jesus’ mother, Mary.  As Fr Paul pointed out, this makes sense, as Mary herself was selfless and always thought of others.  At the Annunciation, as soon as the Angel told Mary that her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, was also pregnant, Mary made a three-day arduous journey whilst pregnant herself, to support and help Elizabeth through her pregnancy!

My work with Caritas is also Her work, those helping me, are collaborating with Our Lady, and a Divine love has developed for each and every one of our families.  Let me share one God-incidence with you (no coincidences here!).  Last year, at Christmas time we were collecting presents for the families we were supporting, along with clothes and other household items, to give them a little extra support at what is an expensive, and stressful time, of the year.  Quite randomly someone offered to donate a Christmas tree. I didn’t want a Christmas tree, thinking what on earth could I do with that!  However, despite my reservations, I found myself saying yes to the donor.  Out of the blue, one of the mums asked me to look out for a Christmas tree!  We were able to gift her this lovely Christmas tree – she and the children were so happy. And there are so many more of those God incidences!

From the day Father Paul invited me to join the RCIA course, my life changed once again, I had no idea what was coming!  During the course, I was asked if I would consider becoming Roman Catholic, but at that point could not see any difference within the faiths, so remained Church of England.

“I can see how my old life has died and how this earthly body is temporary”

It was when Fr Paul explained to me, about the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist/Holy Communion and what happens to the bread and wine at Mass, that my life changed.  While the Church of England’s understanding is, that the bread and wine merely symbolise the Body and Blood of Christ, the Catholic Church’s understanding is much deeper.  We believe, and I now believe, that during the Mass, those elements of bread and wine brought forward at the offertory, through the action of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit, are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ!  Wow!  This had a huge impact on me and I developed a new love and respect for the Catholic faith.  Now, whenever I walk down the aisle to receive Holy Communion, I know that Jesus is really and truly present in the Communion host.  Having been a recipient myself of the Holy Spirit coming through to me, I have no doubt of God’s ability to give us the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

This testimony developed today from my heart.  As St. Paul alluded to in that second reading, I can see how my old life has died and how this earthly body is temporary. I long to develop my new spiritual life with Christ, my husband, my children and the Caritas families who have been entrusted to my care.

I constantly thank God for so many graces and blessings.  Our Catholic faith is a real treasure and we have so many aids to help us grow in our faith – the Scriptures, as the gift of God’s Word spoken to us, all the different prayers and devotions and all the various courses that are offered here at Sacred Heart.  It is wonderful to be able to share our faith and knowledge, whilst allowing each of us to go on our own journeys, at our own pace, in God’s time.

I now feel The Sacred Heart is my second home

My deep Baptismal conversion is very much a work in progress. Poor Fr Paul, he has felt the brunt of all my explosions of sudden experiences into the unknown, but I shall thank him for the rest of my life and I thank those here in the Sacred Heart who have supported me, as one family. I now feel The Sacred Heart is my second home!  Mike does say, I spend a lot of time here now!!!

My progress in this journey of faith isn’t straightforward.  Despite the many blessings, there are many days when I feel either inadequate or have an acute sense of sin.  I always feel the need for confession or deep prayer.  I’ll let St. Paul have the final word, ‘I know I am far from being perfect, but at least I know now, that I am able to strive for perfection through my faith towards Christ’. “I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me”.

Thank you so much for listening patiently, May The Holy Spirit guide you, and bring His Graces alive within you!  This may be the start of an incredible roller coaster of a journey; it will be one that you will not regret. 

Thank you, with love and Blessings,
Brita Coleman