I was a very sincere Catholic, believing all the major teachings of my church. I never doubted what I had been taught but neither had I ever really looked into it in any depth. So, nothing of spiritual significance happened in my life until I was about nineteen. For the first time I was seriously challenged to check my religious beliefs. I had on many occasions defended my Catholic faith, in school and other places, but this was different. Now I was being asked to compare what I believed with what the Bible says. It had never even occurred to me to do this before, after all wasn’t ours the one true church which was the source of truth itself?
What happened next shocked me initially and then turned my life upside down for years to follow. I started to meet with a new religious group through working as a volunteer with the local Simon Community. I discovered several teachings in the Bible which seemed to directly contradict things I had learned in my upbringing. Some of these turned out to be nothing more than this particular religion playing with the Bible to support their own new teachings but one, in particular, had a devastating effect on me. I was shown for the first time that the Lord Jesus had brothers and sisters. There it was, on the pages of the Bible, Matthew 13: 54-56 and Mark 6:3. Even the names of His brothers, James, Joses, Judas and Simon! This was quite a problem for me. I had been taught that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had remained a virgin to her death and that this had some spiritual significance. Now I could see for myself that this was untrue. I had kept a statue of Mary in my bedroom, even into my teens. This new information brought me to question everything I had believed up to this point.
I had to decide whether the Bible should have the final say. After all, it claimed to be the very Word of God Himself. In it we find out all we know about Jesus and God the Father. Could I accept the teachings of any church that contradicted God’s Word? It only took me a couple of days to realize that I could only trust the Bible. So I left the Catholic Church, knowing that if they couldn’t be trusted on this major doctrine of theirs, then they couldn’t be trusted on any at all! My parents were stunned, in particular my mother.
Leaving my religion behind didn’t mean, however, that I was gong to abandon all I had learned from childhood. I had a very strong sense of right and wrong, of sin and punishment. (I look back at myself during those years and see how self-righteous I was, judging and looking down on people around me.) I was particularly fixed in my attitude to relationships with the opposite sex. I was sure that the only right relationship to pursue was marriage and that I was to keep myself pure for my future wife! Sadly, all my good intentions in this area only served to show just how sinful and deceitful the human heart can be!