AT the age of 23, Carlton Sinn has taken the big step of becoming a Catholic and this will be his first Christmas receiving Holy Communion.
When he sits down to talk about his decision he jokes that “Sinn” is “an ironic surname for a Christian fella, but it’s two n’s – an important distinction, I think”.
And there’s a story to his first name as well.
“My old man’s a big Carlton Football Club supporter so I am actually named after the football team,” he said.
“Of all the football teams, Carlton’s probably the best one to be named after. I wouldn’t want to be called Hawthorn or something like that.”
Being named Carlton meant he had no choice about which team would be his.
“Well, I kind of have to be (a Carlton fan),” he said.
“Once you’re a fan … if you’re on the train, you’re on the train. You can’t chop and change.”
With that being the story to his name, you’d expect he could have a Melbourne background but Carlton’s a Brisbane boy “born and bred”.
“Dad was from Brisbane too but, back when he was a kid, there was no Brisbane Lions (AFL team), so he sort of picked a team and Carlton was a good side back then,” Carlton said.
“And then Dad’s pretty big on loyalty, so staying with the team’s pretty big.
“That’s one of the reasons he’s a little disappointed, I guess, in me becoming a Catholic.
“He almost felt a little bit betrayed that I was leaving the Baptist family and moving into Catholicism. It was a little bit foreign.
“He’s very loyal and that’s something deeply instilled in myself, I like to think. So, I stuck with the footy team and I’m sticking with Christianity.”
Carlton’s also passionate about seeking the truth and that’s been a big part of his faith journey.
“I was burnt when I was a little kid (seven months old), almost died, had a lot of surgeries, had some tough times going forward,” he said.
“I was very lucky to have been born into a Christian family I think.
“It was one of those things where I was prayed over and definitely looked after by the family, and it was quite a strong point of unity and we all came together.
“I took that Christianity for granted, I’d say, for the most part, because you sort of grow up in a Christian family and you dot all the i’s and cross the t’s without really giving it too much thought.
“So I went to church, pretty well had to, until I was 18.”
But, typical of others in the teenage years, there was an element of rebellion – “never necessarily denying or walking away from the faith but not really practising, in a sense”.
“You’re a Christian but you’re not really doing anything about it or living the lifestyle,” Carlton said.
“I never turned away entirely but wasn’t really living the life or subscribed to the values necessarily, and I was challenged a little bit to get a bit more serious by some friends, and took that with a grain of salt.”
That changed when Carlton was at university doing an Arts degree and studying History and Philosophy, among other things.
It happened that he read How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity, by Rodney Stark, an American Christian and sociologist of religion.
“It was a book about Western civilisation, and, as it happens, it was built on the back of really Christian ideas – Judeo-Christian ideas – so that got me more interested in Catholicism because it was something that I hadn’t really been exposed to,” Carlton said.
“That book was very well sourced, so it had a lot of writing from St Augustine and Aquinas in particular and so I had a bit of a read of those fellas.
“And then I thought, ‘I’ve got a couple of Catholic friends’, so I had a chat to a couple of them and went to a few Masses on a Monday night.”
Carlton joined his friends in a Frassati group, described as “a movement or association of young Catholics, assisting especially younger Catholic men to authentically live the Catholic faith”.
“It was sort of like a study session (and it) would be taking topics and exploring them a bit more, which was quite exciting,” he said.
“And I met one of the priests there (at Annerley Ekibin parish) – and then I ended up meeting him pretty well weekly for about 18 months and I had a lot of discussions with him, initially probably more to try and – not disprove anything – but validate my own opinions about faith and what it represented and why I was right, sort of thing – why this Catholic thing seemed a bit weird.
“And, as it happens, the more you do, the more history you read, the more Catholic you tend to become.
“It was early in this year that I decided I think this Catholic thing might be for me.
“It still took me about nine months from that decision to finally get baptised but it was quite a long journey.
“The big questions had all been answered … It was all the small nuances and cultural distinctions that took a long time to work through.
“I don’t know if you ever really stop learning or get your head around these things fully but it was something that I certainly enjoyed exploring and enjoyed discussing, but it was quite a gradual process to get your head around the faith, because I hadn’t really had any exposure to Catholicism my entire life.
“That was the last 18 months, almost two years, of going to Mass regularly and enquiring on the faith, and I think I’m a much stronger Christian now and certainly living – definitely endeavouring – to live the life and the values, probably more effectively than I was a couple of years ago anyway, which is quite enjoyable for me.
“I’m pretty happy where that’s going.”
He’s particularly happy having been baptised and confirmed at Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley, on November 17 and making his First Holy Communion there the following day.
And he’s pleased that his family and friends were there supporting him and celebrating with him.
It was the culmination of a time of intense searching and discernment
“‘Seek truth and you’ll find it’, and that’s sort of how I felt the last six or seven months (have been) I’ve just been chasing down the truth and I definitely feel it’s been a good decision …,” Carlton said.
“It’s been a very wonderful time and I feel quite enlightened … It’s been very lovely, very charming.”
Now he wants to live what he’s proclaimed.
“I’m very outspoken with what I believe if people ask me,” he said.
“(But) I’m not particularly preachy. I like the idea that you preach the Gospel every day, and, if you have to, speak.”
Carlton said he’d been “pretty solid (intellectually) on the ideas mostly my whole life, but very solidly the last year”.
“It still took me eight or nine months from deciding that I wanted to be a Catholic to bridging the gap between the head and the heart,” he said.
The community at Annerley Ekibin and a growing appreciation of the Latin Mass are helping with that.
“How you measure success has changed for me,” Carlton said.
“It’s not necessarily about the material, or the status, the rank; it’s more about the wholesome way that you can live.
“It’s more trying to be better than I was yesterday.
“I’m quite happy with life at the moment.”