Jiri Buzek's Story
Jiri is a student at the Czech College in Rome. He received a grant from the Church in Central and Eastern Europe
I was born in 1971 and thus I have spent exactly the first half of my life in the Communist Czechoslovakia. As a child, I was baptized. My grandmother was the only active Catholic in our family, and I still remember how she tried to teach me some prayers or to bring me, from time to time, to the church--much later, after my conversion, she liked to tell me (with a gentle sense of irony) how reluctant I had been in these matters by then. But such trials of my grandmother were limited to the periods I was with her, i.e. during the holidays. Otherwise, most of the time, I grew up almost without any reference to religion, like most of my peers.
My parents, both physicians, had almost no contact to the Church, but neither they were members of the Communist party. My father was seriously considering a possibility to immigrate, but died young of acute myeloid leukemia, when I was about five.
I had a couple of Catholic schoolmates at the high school (later, one of my classmates became a religious sister). I liked them and somehow I perceived that they were different than the others, less competitive, more polite and ready to help. Sometimes, at a Communist school, they had problems connected with the fact that they were religious, and also this is something that evoked sympathy. Nevertheless, I didn't absolutely understand why they still do believe in God. Already at highschool, I was very much attracted to science, and it seemed to me that it has the only right key to the understanding of the world. I considered Christianity to be something irrational, obsolete, petrified, unable to develop and even hostile to any progress. In any case, I believed that it would find itself in the final phase of existence.
After the highschool I began to study biology at the Faculty of Science in my home town, Brno. It was in the year 1989, when the Communist regime collapsed and Czechoslovakia became a democratic country. At that time, maybe a little bit later, I began to question my worldviews--although I was still fond of doing and studying science, serious problems with myself and with my relations to others emerged. Soon, I understood that there are some important questions about the life, that no science can resolve. In that period of my life, I started to read philosophy, and I also began to reconsider my attitude to the Christian faith.
Since 1994 I worked on my PhD thesis at the Institute of Biophysics at the Czech Academy of Sciences, which I finished three years later. (In the meantime, the former Czechoslovakia divided into two independent states, Czech and Slovak Republic). Approximately at that time, my elder brother converted to Christianity and re-entered actively in the Catholic Church. He married soon thereafter, and his family became kind of a shelter for me. In 1996, my brother introduced me to a priest in one of the Brno's parishes, and soon I began to prepare myself (together with circa ten catechumens) to receive the other Sacraments. During the Easter Vigil in 1998, I received the Confirmation and the First Communion.
I believed, at that time, that my vocation would be to remain where I already was, i.e. to do science and to testimony that there is not a contradiction between being a scientist and a Catholic Christian at the same time. In 1999, I initiated a postdoc stay at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Here, I progressively realized that doing science does not give me satisfaction anymore. I began to ask and pray, what significance this crisis can have, what does Our Lord want me to tell. Very close to our institute there was one of only two Catholic churches in Helsinki, Assumption of Our Lady (Finland, like the rest of Scandinavia, is predominantly Lutheran, but now very secular). It had been built in the sixties by the Dutch Dehonian Fathers, and was always open. I used to come and pray there, whenever the pauses between the laboratory experiments permitted. It was probably the most intense and profound prayer I've done ever since. At the end of my postdoc stay, I was decided to enter the seminary. In 2001, I returned to the Czech Republic. I worked one more year at the Institute of Biophysics, because I needed to finish and publish some previous work from Finland.
In 2002, I entered the interdiocesan seminary in Olomouc for the diocese of Brno, and in 2005, my bishop sent me to finish my basic Theology studies here in Rome. My diaconal ordiantion is planned for this July.
The most important and decisive moment in this whole story was probably that one in which I understood what 1 Corinthians 13:2 says, "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." The mere scientific knowledge, the calculating reason can never be the key to the world, because behind all the reality there is a mystery of the Love of God, which came to us in Jesus Christ, and which we are all called to live in.