In my third year at Sydney, two important things happened.
1. I’m not sure exactly how I came to make this decision, but I decided, for Lent that year, to go to Mass every day. I think it was because of something that had bugged me a bit for years, but it finally reared its head properly and made me choose one way or the other: if I really believe what I claim to believe about the Eucharist, and what happens at Mass, then really, how many valid excuses are there for not being there everyday? “I don’t feel like it/ can’t be bothered/ would rather sleep in/ chill with friends” just don’t cut it. So either I really believe I can meet Jesus Himself at Mass, or I don’t, and I should act accordingly. I figured committing for Lent was at least somewhat achievable, and it would help me cultivate the habit. Also I tend to try to do too many things for Lent, and get overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing. I reckoned if I was receiving Jesus everyday, then surely other good habits will follow (like praying more).
Sure enough, that Lent completely turned my life upside-down. I hadn’t realised how little I had previously considered what God might want when making life decisions. I hadn’t realised how little attention I gave Him. I hadn’t realised how little I knew Him. And I hadn’t realised how little I loved Him, both in thought and in deed. By the end of Lent, I couldn’t do without my daily Mass. Certainly it was (and is) tough sometimes, like when the only time I can make it is 7.30 or 8am in the city, which means leaving home by around 6.30. Yikes! Or at the end of a long day, which means getting home later, in the dark. But it’s always been worth it.
Since Theology is the study of God, I think it’s fairly obvious that it’s all just meaningless theory without a real relationship with that God. So if I hadn’t made that Lenten resolution, I would not be doing Theology.
2. I had quite a number of friends in the Sydney University Evangelical Union, which is the largest society at Sydney Uni (about 700 active members. The next largest would probably be 100 at most!), and consists of pretty much all the Protestants that go there (there are a few other, smaller Christian groups).
They elicited a promise from me that I would go the their annual conference, or, Ancon, that year. So at the start of third year I had a mini-freak-out, thinking, “I’m going on a conference for five days with hundreds of Protestants…. HELP!! What do they believe? What do I say when they ask me things? What do I think about our theological differences? Especially things like, where is that [insert Catholic teaching here] in the Bible?!”
So, I started going to their weekly talks (I was too scared to join a bible study until after Ancon), and staying afterwards to ask people questions. I thought through lots of stuff, and read HEAPS. In the end, the theological stuff absorbed me much more than my Maths.
Other factors- I realised I did NOT want to do honours in Pure Maths, which had been my not-very-well-thought-through plan for some time. I felt I had reached the limits of my mathematical abilities, and Honours-level Pure Maths just looked waaaay too hard. I also couldn’t think of anything that grabbed me enough to do a project on.
This meant I was in limbo for a while, wondering what I would do the next year. I didn’t feel ready to leave uni yet, full-time work did not appeal, and besides, working in what? Financial maths or stats? My least favourite types of Maths. Ugh. Teaching? Never been much of a public speaker.
Then the thought of studying Theology properly popped into my head. I had considered it briefly before, but I pretty much did Maths because I hated essays (nah, I did actually enjoy Maths, unbelievable as that may sound). Anyway, Theology means essays! Ew! I can just read lots and learn that way, can’t I? But this particular time, it suddenly felt right. I somehow thought that essays might not actually be so bad, in fact, they could even be fun! (This was a major turn-around.) And the readings will be so interesting… and the lectures… and, just, everything. And Notre Dame looks so awesome, academically, aesthetically, spiritually… After seriously considering it for the first time, it looked possible. Prayed over some weeks, and came to the point where I just knew, this was where I was meant to be. Finally, there was a real sense of peace.
I still have no idea what I’m going to do with it. People ask me about future careers in Theology all the time, but the idea of a career has never been something I’ve really obsessed over. All I know is that it’s where God wants me, for some reason. Part of the fun of doing God’s will is finding out later on why He gets you to do stuff!