Warning! Possibly this will be a long, boring story so read at your peril!
I was brought up in Scotland attending the local Presbyterian Church of Scotland until at the age of twelve the Minister visited my home to say that because I had not been baptised I must now be baptised otherwise I would not be allowed to attend Bible Class. This was the first I had heard of it, my older brother had been baptised as a baby but my mother had refused to have me baptised, and said I should be allowed to choose for myself. For the next year or so, with the assistance of my Religious Studies teacher at my school I visited many different religious groups, the ones I liked most being the Quakers for the silent meetings, and the High Anglicans for all the bells and smells (incense and flashy garb worn by the priests and assistants). The place that brought me closest to where I wanted to be was the Roman Catholic Church where I was counselled by a Benedictine monk for months and finally I was baptised and then confirmed, to the horror of my parents. On leaving school at 17 I entered an enclosed, silent Benedictine monastery, the Abbey was built in the year 1230 and was semi-ruined and being restored. The community chanted the Office seven times a day and the Mass in Latin, Gregorian plainchant. I had been visiting the monastery on retreat each year since I was 14, and the community had watched me grow up, and when I asked to be admitted as a Postulant the Abbot looked at me and said "Well we have been waiting for you, get on with it."
As a teenager I had tried to commit suicide three times because I could not cope with being gay. Converting to the Catholic Church gave me a focus and a community who welcomed me. I am quite sure the community was aware that I was gay, but nothing was ever said. And there was no mucking about, this was a good community of dedicated monks. After time as a Postulant, then a Novice, I asked to be allowed to take my first vows, called Simple Profession, the vows lasting three years, and then you would make Solemn Profession, vows for life. As the Bendictine Rule required, I was presented to the community by the Novice Master, then left as they debated my fitness to be allowed to remain and take my vows, then a secret vote is taken, each monk holding a white ball and a black ball and putting their hands into a wooden box so their vote is hidden from view. You need a two thirds plus one vote to be allowed to take your vows. When I was summoned to the Abbot's study, kneeling on the stone floor, I was convinced that I would have to leave, but after a long silence the Abbot said I had received the vote to stay and that as it was the 1500th centenary of St Benedict's birth I would be given the name Benedict. Then after an even longer silence the Abbot looked at me and said, "We never discuss the vote, but you need to hear this, your vote was unanimous." I was stunned, and that was the moment in my life that I finally realised there was nothing wrong with me, if these good, holy men could welcome me into their community then I could accept myself. I stayed for another three years to get the courage to leave and start to live my life.
On leaving I continued to have a deep faith, attending Mass every day and praying daily. I chose to train to be a nurse, and after three years when I qualified there were no jobs in my home town and I ended up moving to London and working in Charing Cross Hospital and then moving to St Stephen's Hospital in Fulham to work in one of the largest HIV/AIDS wards. This was 1987 when thigs were really bad. Every day we saw half our patients die, nine or ten mostly young gay men in their teens and early twenties. Many of their families disowned them, though many others came to support them. After a couple of years of this, losing friends and colleagues to AIDS, too many to count, my faith finally died. I tried really hard to hold on to may faith in God, but so matter how hard I tried my faith was gone. To this day I miss my faith, but it is gone.