I was brought up as a Catholic but like so many people drifted away from the faith when I left home. Initially sheer laziness was to blame, but over time I simply stopped believing.
A second year lecture course at University shook me out of my complacency. For the first time I began to critically examine the assumptions on which I based my life and an uncomfortable thought lodged itself in the back of my mind: Why lead a good life? Why not lead a bad one? It occurred to me that if God did not exist then, to borrow an idea from Dostoyevsky, everything is permitted. If God did not exist, then the morality society presented seemed to me to be just someone else’s opinion, an opinion that I was free to reject. This got me thinking: How should I live? And beyond that I found a deeper question: What do I want?
Fortunately I was at this time living with some Christians. Through a combination of their embodiment of gospel values and my own thought and reflection I slowly realized that deep down what I really wanted was to love, to love people but also (to my surprise) to love God. I realized that I had been lying to myself and that in fact I did believe. I uncovered a craving for a relationship with Christ, but all I seemed to have at this time was a cold intellectual assent to the ‘God hypothesis’ and a sense of incompleteness. On the advice of my Christian friends I began to pray for faith. For nine months I prayed the rosary everyday: nothing happened. I was beginning to get frustrated when someone suggested that what I really needed was a retreat so I booked myself in for a young adults weekend at Worth Abbey.
That weekend at Worth had a profound effect on me. I was deeply impressed by the monks, by the totality of their commitment to Christ, by the peace and stillness of their monastery. Towards the end of the retreat I went to confession and after I received absolution something inside me changed. My abstract belief in God moved from my head to my heart and became a living faith.
From this point onwards I was seriously entertaining the prospect of joining a religious order. Initially I was drawn to monasticism and after graduating from university I joined a lay Benedictine community in Brighton for a year with a view to perhaps entering a monastery at the end of it. However, over the course of that year the many pastoral projects that I became involved in demonstrated that, for me at least, God was to be found in engaging with the world rather than fleeing from it. A monastic vocation is a beautiful gift, but it was not the gift that God was offering me.
I turned my attention to the Dominicans whom I had met as a student and whose spirituality seemed to be an attractive blend of prayer, community life, study, and mission. I visited some of the priories in England and felt at home. This encouraged me to talk seriously with the vocations director about joining the Order. He suggested that I spend some time living and working as a volunteer in a Dominican house in the Philippines to try and absorb something of the spirit of the institution. Here I grew to love the Order and I returned to England bursting with enthusiasm and eager to sign up. The English Province accepted my application, and I was clothed in the habit in September 2008. So far I have been very happy, I pray that God will give me the grace to continue in this life to final vows and beyond.
Fr. Nicholas made his Solemn Profession in September 2012.