After 10 years away from the faith in his teens and 20s, it was just seven months after Fr Bradley Rafter began praying to ask God for guidance that he entered the seminary, reports The Catholic Weekly.
As he marked the six-month anniversary of his April ordination for the Wagga diocese, Fr Rafter reflected on how he fell away from the faith and what brought him back to the Church.
Fr Rafter and his two older sisters were raised in the faith by their Catholic mother with the support of their non-Catholic father. It was a “Catholic culture” of Sunday Mass and education at the local Catholic schools. “But when I got to the age of 17 I was playing footy and I was in a band, and I just had no time for God anymore,” he says.
Mass, and even God, was “getting in the way”, he recalls. “I broke my mother’s heart when I told her at the age of 17 I wasn’t going to Mass anymore.” She pleaded with him to reconsider but his mind was made up, and he kept his word for the next 10 years, only attending the odd Christmas or Easter Mass.
But his mother persisted in praying for him, and late in 2003 he returned to Mass. “The more I started coming back to Mass, I surpassed everything that she expected,” he says. “I came back to Mass and just kept going; I discovered the richness of the Catholic faith and I just couldn’t stop.”
In the lead up to World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne in 2005, Bradley Rafter spent a great deal of time praying for guidance as he began discerning his priestly vocation. “I prayed for my vocation and the Lord made it pretty clear that he wanted me to be a priest.”
The clincher came at Mass at his home parish of Lavington in Albury one Saturday morning just days before WYD.
Photo: Fr Rafter at the WYD Vigil Mass at Copacabana Beach