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A message from someone who has recently returned to practising their faith.

Here you are at Mass for Christmas. If you are anything like I used to be this will be one of your rare visits even though in the past you may have attended Mass and Confession regularly. I spent decades in this lapsed state. I wonder what brings you back today. Is it the momentum of your Catholic upbringing, a desire to maintain some sort of contact with the faith in which you were born or some other motivation?

There are many reasons why lapsed Catholics return to the Church; each individual will have his or her own personal set. I imagine mine is a very common one, namely the passage of time and the realization of the imminence of death which so many of us spend our time trying to avoid thinking about.

I had a very happy and loving catholic childhood in a very catholic environment. In my home village the Catholic church was and still is the biggest with the Methodists a close second. I must have reached my teens before I realised that we were a minority. Catholic primary school was followed by a Catholic grammar run by Jesuits who were never as fierce or severe as their reputation indicated. At University studying science there was the Catholic chaplaincy and it was only when immersed in an absorbing steady job in a totally agnostic environment with little interest in any form of religion that attitude to and practice of my faith slowly drained away.

There was never any conscious decision to leave the Church. I simply and very gradually grew away from it. A very common story I imagine.

In this age of modern medicine we are perhaps luckier than our forebears in often getting much more notice of the inevitable. In my case family illness set me thinking deeply of how I should spend the time remaining. This was the start of my reconciliation. I also had the example of a respected work colleague also a cradle catholic who returned a couple of years before I did. In addition there was the gentle encouragement of catholic friends and the welcoming attitude of the neighbourhood Catholic churches which I started to use. This meant that I was able relatively easily and painlessly to return to the good habits of the past.

Some short time after my return I had a tiny miracle, or so it seemed. I was faced with an intractable problem from which there seemed no way out. I had worried at the problem for many weeks turning it over in my mind from all angles and I could find escape. Then completely out of the blue I received totally unexpected help and information. It didn’t solve the problem by any means but made it did make it just about manageable.  As a trained scientist I can in retrospect think of lots of explanations but at the time I could not envisage any solution although I had examined the issue in exhaustive detail. This is why I call it a tiny little miracle.

So my friend I hope you can leave the Mass with a firm intention to give some quiet thought to your future. As my Jesuit teachers used to say you have only one soul to save.