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Tristan struck by beauty of Church


As a financial adviser, Tristan Barnes likes to understand the assumptions he’s facing. So it’s not surprising his journey to becoming a Catholic is what he describes as “frightening”.

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But he is also excited about the “bottomless journey that lies ahead”.

“It’s fair to say I am feeling change, I don’t know what that actually means when it comes to finally stepping into this world but there is an element of excitement to it,” Tristan said.

The 44-year-old husband and father of two knew from the outset that if he was going to embark on “a journey with no end”, he needed to understand it well.

After contacting the Adelaide Cathedral parish about their Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program he quickly realised that a big commitment was required and that “hasten slowly” was his best approach.

Born and raised in Sydney, he had a fleeting involvement with the Baptist Church as a youngster and was educated at an Anglican school. Last year, some things happened in his life that “took me way down, to the point where I lost hope”, and he began exploring both Catholic and Protestant religions, including reading about some of the great saints such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.

Tristan said initially it was the intellectual side of the faith journey that interested him but then the “beauty struck me”.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be a ‘happy clappy Christian’; there’s a certain reverence and beauty to the Catholic Church that seemed to exude everywhere I looked,” he said.

“The concept of tradition, the magisterium of the church and scripture – as someone in the world of commerce and business who understands how quickly ideologies and visions can fall to pieces – made perfect sense to me.

“A few little things happened that solidified my view…I walked into St Mary’s Cathedral (in Sydney) and was simply awestruck. I was brought to tears by one of the depictions of Christ, it’s quite tortured and a very real depiction of Christ on the cross.

“Every time I go into cathedrals it seems to be a very moving event for me now, whereas at first the attraction was more intellectual.

“Was I searching for something in particular? Probably not, but once I opened up the bonnet I realised how much I was missing out on.”

In August Tristan commenced the nine-month RCIA program which culminates at the Easter Vigil Mass where he will be baptised and confirmed.

He has found the fortnightly-turned-weekly, meetings for the group of 20 RCIA participants in the Cathedral Hall to be extremely stimulating.

“If one makes a journey such as this, it makes intellectual sense to me that it should be sufficiently rigorous, and there’s so much to learn,” he said.

“Every week I go there and there’s this new element opening up…everything from Mary and Marian devotions to looking at the great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, and how the four cardinal virtues fit into the views of the Church.

“They put up beautiful pieces of artwork that help explain these concepts, so it’s not just rock up and sing Kumbaya and talk about baby Jesus, it’s a heck of a journey of discovery.”

“It has to be, because there’s complexities to the way the Catholic Church worships, the way it structures its (liturgical) years, its devotions and even what they believe compared to Protestants.”

Tristan and his wife Celine left Sydney and did a vintage in Mudgee before heading west with “all our wordly possessions in a car” and settling in the Adelaide Hills.

While Celine found Tristan’s decision to join the RCIA program difficult at first, Tristan said she had become “very supportive”.

Tristan has also been attending Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Church at Stirling but chose to join the Cathedral parish RCIA program for the convenience of being in the city where he works.

Tristan’s sponsor is Stephen Phillips, a barrister and Adelaide Hills parishioner. The men met through their daughters and their chats at social events gradually drifted into religion and faith.

“The support has been brilliant,” he said of Stephen and the local community.

As well as feeling welcomed, Tristan said he had found hope.

“It’s like the things that are difficult, you package them up and send them to Christ…the big learning for me is you’re not on your own,” he said.

“Putting your trust in someone else, someone you can’t look at across the table, is hard at first but ever since I’ve started to do that, things are better, and strange, I can’t explain it.

“I do wrestle with elements of it, but it’s in the wrestling that I find joy…I’ve always felt like it’s the right path.”

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