Post your stories of conversion here. The seer Ivan says that conversion is a lifelong process.

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By padraig
To honor Mary, the Mother of God, I thought I'd share my story with you about how I met Our Lady in prison and how she taught me how to pray and how I ended up in a monastery. Many years have passed since most of the events of which I write occurred, yet it all seems like yesterday to me now as I write.. Especially I'd like to talk about the ways of prayer, of which I'll have a great deal to say.

I come from a large Catholic family from Belfast in the North of Ireland. There were seven boys and three girls. Both my parents were very devout Catholics and from childhood I was very prayerful myself, wanting to be a priest from I was about five years old. When I was fifteen years old I went away to the junior seminary, which was run by the Passionist Fathers about sixteen miles from Belfast, in the country.

The long thirty year war against British rule in Ireland broke out and my father and elder brother were interned...imprisoned without trial, without court, judge or jury in indefinite internment in Long Kesh Camp.

One morning in the monastery I got a very bad feeling about what might be going on at home. I jumped on a cycle and cycled back to Belfast. This wasn't like me as I was breaking serious rules and could have been expelled. When I reached home the front door was lying wide open and I walked into an empty house. My mother walked in shortly afterwards and let out a cry of surprise, 'Padraig', she said, 'How did you know?'. My heart sank for I knew something bad had happened. My eldest brother, Ciaran, had been arrested and badly beaten by the British Parachute Regiment. My mother had been to visit him on the British Prison Ship the 'Maidstone'. She was very, very angry and said, 'If I had a gun I would have shot them' [the British soldiers].

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By RosaryChica
Please continnue if there is any more!
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By padraig
No sooner said, than done, Rosary!!

At that moment a terrible hatred entered my heart and I know now my faith began to die. For as St John tells us, 'Any man who says he loves God is a liar and the truth is not in him'. JN 2;4.
But maybe I am rushing onwards with my story too quickly. My main purpose in this is to talk about prayer and to do this I should go back further. As I said both my parents were devout Catholics. Devout in a way we rarely see today. For them their faith was as rock solid as the Irish earth they walked on. My mother, for instance, suffered from a crippling heart ailment for much of her life. When she was dying of cancer a couple of years ago I asked her if through her suffering she ever doubted the existence of God. She looked at me, amazed. 'But how could I? If there were no God sure everything would be just stupid'.

They both taught me, more by example than what they said to love God. I remember when I was about four year old pedalling my bike. There had always been a voice talking in my head. A friend, a companion. As such a part of me as my own thoughts. Suddenly it occurred to me that this was a real person and I asked it who it was. The voice spoke that day.
' I am Jesus".
I stopped the bike amazed.
'But Jesus is God and He is in heaven!!'
'Yes Jesus said I am in heaven, here in your heart'.
JOHN 14:23 ‘Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he would obey my teaching.
My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home
with him.’
From that day I new consciously Jesus as a friend. This indwelling of Christ is at the very centre of our faith. That the triune God rests within us as in a tabernacle. The power of the Holy Spirit transforming us from one degree of glory into the image of Christ as sons of the Eternal Father. Praise be God!!
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By mcikath
Dear Padraig, welcome to the forum, hope you enjoy visiting here, i think it is wonderful to be able to discuss Faith matters, i know since i came here on forum, my faith has grown stronger, by the caring and sharing and all the prayers said.
So glad you have peace in your heart, love mcikath xxx
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By padraig
Thanks for the welcome, Mc!!!

think when Christians looses touch with this they loose touch with everything. As Jesus warned us when He spoke to Niccodemus,
’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." John 3:5
This living relationship is I believe what Jesus was speaking of here, the very heart of prayer, the very centre of our faith. Our hearts are tabernacles for the triune God. This is the great truth that St Paul speaks of in Colossians 3:4:
’When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory’
In his letter to the Galatians (2:20), Paul writes:
"...I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God’
In John's Gospel (15:1)
’Christ is the vine, and we are the branches.’
I also remember the brothers in school telling us that Jesus actually lived in the tabernacle in our Churches. I was amazed. On my way home from school I walked into the awesome surroundings of Clonard Monastery Church. In my opinion one of the holiest places in Ireland and the home of the peace process here. I remember how I genuflected with genuine awe as I looked at the altar, which housed Christ. I sat and talked a while, a habit that I kept up for many years until I lost my faith.
”My House shall be called a house of prayer for all Peoples." (Isaiah 56:7)

. I decided to become a priest when I was five. We used to collect for the African missions and when I saw a photo of a priest in white, the 'White Fathers' my heart was set on nothing else.

I was very popular at school, but I time came when I lost all my friends through a variety of circumstances. This caused me to be on my own praying a lot, walking on my own or in the many chapels that dot Belfast. There was no accident now in loosing my friends for it forced me to turn to God and Our Lady for company and as Paul tells us Romans 8:28
”And we have known that to those loving God all things do work together for good, to those who are called according to purpose”
I had a very deep devotion to Our Lady, as how could I not with such a good and a holy mother? My reasoning was simple, if my own mother could be so good and loving, what then could the Mother of God Himself be like?
Song of Solomon 6:9-10;”"Who is she who comes, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?”
So that brings me up until I was 15 and went away to be a priest. Next I'll talk of the terrible 30 year war here that broke out in 1969 and how it effect both myself and my family and how I lost my faith and turned away from God.

I've talked about myself and my families Faith, but in order to understand the story I am about to tell you, I'll have to share a little of Ireland’s history.

Ireland is a tiny island that lies of the West Coast of Europe. At the time of the Roman Empire it was inhabited by a proud Celtic peoples and was one of the few countries in Europe not to be made part of the Roman Empire. Perhaps the Latin tag for Ireland 'Hibernia'...'winter explains a little why they never occupied us!
In the fifth century St Patrick and the first Catholic missionaries arrived on the island and the Irish took to the religion with zeal and speed. The Irish especially embraced monasticism and soon the island was dotted with little and not so little monasteries.

The downfall of the Roman Empire led to the downfall of civilization and the onslaught of the Dark Ages in Europe. But in the little island the Faith stayed strong. Irish missionaries spread the faith through the introduction of monasteries throughout Europe. Scholars travelled to Ireland from all over the known world to be educated bringing Ireland the proud title of 'Island of Saints and Scholars'.

Adrian IV the first and only English Pope disgracefully ceded Ireland to the English Normans who began a long history of invasion and conquest in 1170 the echoes of which peel down to our present day.

During the Protestant Reformation England became Protestant, while the Irish stayed loyal to the Faith. Intense persecution of Catholics was undertaken under the notorious Penal Laws. This led to the martyrdom of many thousands of Irish Martyrs, but the Catholics through it all said the mass in the hills in secrecy, at risk of death if discovered.

In almost every generation the Irish rose against their English overlords, but were always defeated by their much stronger power. In 1916, during the First World War the Irish rose in Rebellion yet again. Though the leaders were executed and the rising failed it led to the Irish War of Independence and the freeing of the lower 26 counties of Ireland. My granduncles fought in this war in the IRA, the Irish Republican Army.

The north eastern six counties remained under British Rule. British Protestant settlers who formed the majority of the population had forcibly settled this part of Ireland. The Catholic minority from 1922 onwards suffered discrimination, civil rights abuses, murder and imprisonment.

Now I bring you up to virtually modern times and the start of my own story. In 1969 word of the Civil Rights Protests by African Americans and their allies in the USA reached Ireland. The Catholic Irish in the North, suffering from similar bigotry launched a Civil Rights campaign of their own. The parades were attacked and the marches savagely beaten while the British police assisted, joined on or stood by and did nothing.

Adrian IV whose home name was Nicholas Breakspeare ceded Ireland to the English, under Henry II in 1154 may God forgive him for it. He did so in these terms:

’Thou hast signified to us, indeed, most beloved son in Christ, that thou dost desire to enter into the island of Ireland, in order to subject the people to the laws and to extirpate the vices that have there taken root, and that thou art willing to pay an annual pension to St. Peter of one penny from every house, and to preserve the rights of the churches in that land inviolate and entire. We, therefore, seconding with the favour it deserves thy pious and laudable desire, and granting a benignant assent to thy petition, are well pleased that, for the enlargement of the bounds of the church. for the restraint of vice, for the correction of morals and the introduction of virtues, for the advancement of the Christian religion, thou shouldst enter that island, and carry out there the things that look to the honour of God and to its own salvation. And may the people of that land receive thee with honour, and venerate thee as their master;’

However in fairness to the English Pope many scholars dispute the authenticity this Bull.

When the Loyalists attacked the Civil Rights protests here in 1969 they also launched a series of pogroms against Catholic areas in the north, aided by the almost exclusively Protestant/British police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The native Irish went into open rebellion and the British Army was called in as 'Peace Keepers'. The IRA the Irish Republican Army was reformed and a long guerrilla war of some thirty years began.

My own family as I've already mentioned had a long tradition of Irish Republicanism. My father had been vice President of the main Republican Party Sinn Fein and was editor of their newspaper the Republican News. He was also a businessman who owed a number of shops. The British introduced Internment of Catholics on the 9th August 1971. This meant that the British could put who ever they liked in prison without charge, jury or court for an indefinite period.

My father and elder brother were both interned while I was in the monastery. The British told my family that when I reached 18 they would come down to the monastery and intern me too. At 16 years old I was now the breadwinner for the family and wished to leave my studies for the priesthood and return home to help out. But my father from the Internment camp insisted I stay where I was. Like most Catholic parents of the period they were inordinately proud of a son who had a vocation.

It’s difficult for me to convey the atmosphere of the period. I witnessed a lot when I came home from holidays and on the media, so I'll describe what I saw and why my hatred for the British grew ever more deep.

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By Hopper
This is most interesting Padriag,

I must confess, though I've heard of the problems in Ireland - I have not read thoroughly the history of this period. Got to get a book on this. Any good suggestions?

My roots are Irish, English, German and French.

Waiting to hear more of your story.

P.S. May I ask about your Icon? Who is this?

Hopper :D
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By bluecross
deleted by bluecross :)
Last edited by bluecross on Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
By darrell
I remember seeing footage of the fighting and bombings on the evening news when I was in high school. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. The newscasters used to say it was the Protestants fighting the Catholics. I grew up Protestant myself, but I had cousins who were Catholic and we all got along just fine. I couldn’t understand why the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland had such a hard time. I guess the wounds of a history of hatred run deep.

I suspect there were many wrongdoings from both sides over the years. I don’t think the point of Padraig’s story to this point is to paint a picture of “the evil Brits”. Rather, what I’m hearing is the story of a young man from a devout Catholic family, a young man who had a very real relationship with the Lord, a young man hoping to dedicate his life to serve God in the priesthood, and then his world was shattered in the upheaval of his time, and he learned to hate and began to lose his faith.

Please, let’s not let this thread degenerate into some Irish versus British argument over perspectives of who was right and who was wrong. So Padraig, please continue with your story. And I suggest the rest of us let the man tell it.

Peace be unto this community,
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By padraig
It is an angel I think Hopper. I will take your advice Darrell.
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By padraig
My mother used to visit the internment camp to see my father and the prison ship to see my elder brother Ciaran. It was the first time I'd ever been in a prison and it seemed weird, so different from the monastery were I usually lived. But then the whole world in my native City of Belfast had changed to war. Riots, bomb explosions, gun battles constant death, everywhere hate and fear.

On another level life went on as usual, daily mass and the rosary, prayer and study. Were I lived was in the country and was little affected by the surrounding trouble. But still news of what was happening was constantly around me. I was still very devout and I suppose may have been thought religious, but hatred was continually eating at my heart like a canker. My Spiritual Director Fr Bernard O'Donnell tried to challenge me in my greater and greater hate, but it was no use. My house at home was constantly being raided by armed troops. My mother was impoverished by my father’s internment and my fathers business's were lost. Over and above all it was what happened to my family that made me rage. Seeing my mother crying after my brother had been beaten was just too much.

When I was 19 I moved to the Novitiate, which was just outside Enniskillen about 60 miles from Belfast in the beautiful lake lands. Hatred is a terrible thing and it was beginning to have open effects on me. Hatred is like an acid that we pick up in our bare hands to throw into the face of another but find it burning to my homes. In terms of maturity I remained deeply stunted, very selfish and more and more unspiritual and bitter. Inevitably I left the monastery after a few months and returned home to go to university..

When I left the Novitiate and returned to Belfast I at once joined the IRA of which I was a member for the next six years. I was very active and my one intent was to hit the British as hard as I could. I didn't really care about dying too much. From our own perspective dying in such circumstances would have made me a martyr. I was so full of rage, incandescent, in fact, that I would have gladly given my right arm for a chance to hit back at the British. Hit back I most certainly did , I lived and breathed the IRA and enjoyed the excitement of it all.

At the same time I enrolled at Queens University where I stayed a few months. I was growing to unstable to last at college and anyway everything there seemed tame and unreal to what I was doing on the outside.

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By bluecross
deleted by bluecross :)
Last edited by bluecross on Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
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By bluecross
deleted by bluecross :)
Last edited by bluecross on Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
By darrell
So why the prominent photo of the armed British soldier
Well, look beyond the soldier. He is standing in front of a church. Perhaps there is a symbolism here? Perhaps representing the conflict between two worlds?

So far Padraig has shared how this conflict in his homeland tore apart his family and filled him with hate and how this consumed him. He is telling his story. He can only do this from the perspective he had at the time. Why not give him a chance and see where this is going?

For someone questioning others motives, you are being very defensive Bluecross.

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By bluecross
deleted by bluecross :)
Last edited by bluecross on Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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By LittleRed
I feel this thread is getting too sensitive and almost too personal to continue.....

Bluecross, Thank you very much for removing the photos you originally posted.....

Padraig, If you are going to continue with all this talk about your former hatred regarding the British I will delete this entire thread.....I do not see the need for you to go on and on about how much hatred you had in your heart...If you are truly a changed man you would not go on and on about it......

I FULLY understand that there was/is hurt and deep sorrow on both sides(Irish and British)of the fence.....Some of the wounds run very deep.....I understand that.....Look at us in the USA...We still have the Blacks vs. the Whites issue....I have seen it with my very own eyes even today.....Hatred runs deep....But lets put a stop to it NOW......

BLess, Sharon
By Gael
Can I say (as someone who grew up an Irish Catholic through the "Troubles") I have not got involved in this "discussion" until now. I have had enough of politics and war to last a lifetime, and I have seen more than enough armed soldiers in my daily life. God has blessed us with peace these past few years and I really don't see the need for photos of this nature without good reason.

Padraig, perhaps you could tell us of your spiritual conversion without so much of the politics and the history? Also if you must post so many photos could you make them smaller as there width makes the threads very difficult to read?

Bluecross, perhaps you and Padraig could debate your points without stooping to the level of insulting each other?

Our Lady Queen of Peace Pray for us, for our homes, our hearts, our countries and the world.
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By padraig
....Now I move to the crux of my story. For myself I see know that a few minutes of my life in Crumlin Road Jail changed my life radically forever. That all I did previously moved towards those moments and that all I did subsequently hinged on the watershed of those brief moments. I find. Even though the event I speak of happened some 25 years ago cause tears to spring to my eyes as I recall what happened. Some of you will believe. Some won't. I can only say that I swear what happened is the truth. Believe it or not as you will.

My unhappiness desperate and dark led me to actively plan my suicide while I was in jail. The only thing stopping me was the unhappiness it might cause me family. However I hoped to carry it out in such a way that people would believe it to be an accident.

One evening in May I returned to my prison cell and saw lying on the cell floor a newspaper cutting, a photograph of Padre Pio (now canonized} lying on the cell floor. How it got there is a bit of a mystery in itself. Neither my cellmates nor I were believers. I starred at the picture of Padre Pio and was disturbed. It showed him with the stigmata, the marks of Christ on his hands. 'The old fool,' I thought he must have done that with a screwdriver. But I was puzzled. I knew Padre Pio had the marks for many, many years. How then did he not get blood poisoning in the hot climate of Southern Italy? He could only perpetrate such a fraud with the assistance of all his brothers in the monastery. Also how come he seemed to fool all the doctors and never get caught on ? It was a puzzle I couldn't unravel. The lights were turned out in my cell and I lay there still trying to figure it out. Finally I gave up. 'If you're there Padre Pio', I aid prove to me there is a God. If not I'll know for sure He does not exist and I will go ahead and kill myself'
Last edited by padraig on Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By padraig
Suddenly, as quickly as that Our Blessed Lady was standing there looking at me at the foot of my bed. To say I was astounded is an understatement. Tears ran at once down my cheeks like rivers. People I have told this too have been quick to ask me what she looked like. The important thing about Mary is not what she looked like but what she was she is astoundingly holy. When the archangel Gabriel, he who came from the very presence of God, saw her, he immediately said

Luke 1:28 ‘And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women’

She is astonishingly awesomely HOLY. I have had the great privilege to meet some very holy people in my life but Mary is incandescent with holiness. She shines with it. It is impossible to describe.
Yes Our Lady shines with holiness, blazes with it. In the Song of Solomon he refers to her as bright as the sun and fair as the moon. In this is indicated how like the moon Mary reflects the light of God and as the sun how she blazes with it. There are no words to describe it, stunning. Marvellous, awesome, wonderful, entrancing... This is the very light the fire of the Holy Spirit. In scripture we see such an apparition described by St Luke and its effects on the onlookers in the Transfiguration:

Luke 9:28-36 ‘ 28And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
29And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
30And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
31Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
32But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
34While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
36And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
This was how Our Lady seemed to me, bright as a flash of lightning. In glorious splendour. I can understand too why poor St Peter wanted to build a tent there and stay forever. The joy, the elation you get at seeing such a thing.

I go to mass every day and one of my greatest joys is to look at some of the holy folk I see there. They as St Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians;

18’But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit’.

But the light of holiness people around us is pleasing it is only a shadow, of a shadow of a shadow of the light of the Holy Spirit, the light of heaven, the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, the angels and the saints. As Dante Alighiera said, 'Our poor tainted nature's solitary boast'.
I must have looked a sight staring, with two rivers running down my cheeks and my big foolish mouth lying wide opened, totally dumbstruck. One minute Mr. Knowing everything, next minute Mr. Realizing He Knew Nothing!!

Our Lady spoke first.
‘Now do you believe?’
I could only nod and say a sobbing,
For how could I not? She was standing there in front of me. It sounded like a stupid question in a way. Like do you believe there's a sky above you? But Our Lady was simply underlining the great grace I'd been given. To make me understand and appreciate the grace.
She spoke like no one I ever heard before, with the greatest simplicity. Yet without emphasis you understood that everything she said was TRUTH. Utter truth and Spirit filled.
The Mother of God spoke again.
'Now you have faith, but faith without love is vain. Now you must forgive'
Before my eyes came a kaleidoscope of people I hated and with each one came the simple question.
'Do you forgive?'
Each time I did easily and completely.
At the end Mary spoke again.
'Now is there anyone at all you still hate, whom you do not love?'
I thought. Suddenly the vast weight of the ages fell from my shoulders. For I realized that there was no one I hated no one who I did not love. What joy! What freedom ! What release! I shook my head.
'No, there is no one, I love them all'
For the first time the Lady smiled.
'Now you have the gift of faith and love. But these require the bread of prayer. You must pray. Pray the rosary'
And she held a pair of rosary beads before me.
But I was embarrassed and put out. For I had for gotten how to say the rosary and, being in prison I had no rosary beads and no way to get any quickly. I stammered.
'I've forgotten how to say it"
Our Lady looked at me, then very solemnly and with great emphasize she said,

Last edited by padraig on Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By padraig
I myself will teach you'
Which she did over the years, as I will tell you later. Then she was gone and my life was changed forever.

What blows my mind is people like yourself who believe, even though you may not have seen. Especially at the time of the great sifting and apostasy when Satan's time is at its height and when if not for God's direct intervention, 'even the good might be lost'.

John 20;29
’29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed."

So, Mary if my poor story is mind blowing yours thrills the angels in heaven, as indeed you shall see for yourself one day when it is recounted from the golden book at the throne of God.

Ah well I'm away to Italy were Our Lady is appearing near Monte (censored). I'll be back in a few days to finish this of.
When Our Lady went away I was left alone, lying in the dark in my cell. Well not alone because my cellmate was sleeping soundly. It felt like the weight of centuries had been lifted from my shoulders. It was only when it had been removed that I knew what a huge burden my bitter hates had been. In my heart there was an intense joy and peace constantly welling up, a peace and joy, which has remained with me now for over a quarter of a century.

John 14.27 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid.’

‘Thou dost show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, in Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore’. Psalm 16.11
Years later when I was released from prison one of the prisoners commented on how I kept the whole prison wing laughing, I was so happy. In some sense I was drunk with happiness, a little like the disciples must have seemed when the Holy Spirit descended in them in prayer.

When the Jews saw them, they thought within themselves that they had been drinking new wine and were drunk, and that their minds were depraved

However I didn't at all forget Our Lady's exhortation to say the rosary and although I had no rosary beads determined to say it every night in my cell before going to sleep. At first it seemed such a chore to me. It had been so long since I said it that it was a real task to remember the mysteries. Nevertheless I felt drawn not only to say the rosary but also to say it in a much different way than I did when I was young. I was drawn to say it very, very slowly and prayerfully, carefully thinking of and meaning every word, opening myself careful to each mystery. I'm afraid that in the past I had rattled of the rosary in a quick mechanical fashion, now I sunk into it and let it flood me. In either case it was a great help to me to recall Our Lady of the vision and this spurred me on.

Eventually I began to look forward greatly to my evening rosary as a time of great blessing, peace and joy at the end of the say. In a real sense I was revisiting the Lady who had visited me. Then, one day, I decided to say the rosary in the morning as well! Not as a task, as before but as a very real joy, as something to look forward too!

Joy is prayer - Joy is strength - Joy is love - Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
Mother Teresa

Eventually before I left prison I suppose I was saying the rosary perhaps 50 or 60 times a day. I suppose that this all seems impossible to you. But it’s as if my soul’s feet had taken wings. Maybe it was that my years of not praying had released a great dam of graces within me. Maybe too it was that Mary was keeping her firm promise and teaching me to pray. Maybe to it was the memory of the vision that burnt like a fire in my heart.

’On the day I called you answered me;
you increased the strength of my soul. "( Ps 138 )

This may seem difficult in prison, but my other had brought me up a set of beads, which I held secretly in my pocket. For me my conversion was an intensely personal experience I did not tell the other prisoners of my change. Not I believe that I was afraid of being mocked but simply that I did not feel drawn to. One person I did tell, though, was my old Spiritual Director Father Bernard. He of course was delighted. I was particularly pleased that he was so accepting of the vision I had. He was the first I ever told and I was nervous in case he would reject it. His letters of direction were a great help to me at the time.

Happy or not I was still in prison and facing a sentence, my lawyer told me of some 15 years. This of course still concerned me but much, much less than it once might have. I knew now my saviour lived.

Jeremiah 17:7-8, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit’

I was transferred, still on remand to Long Kesh the biggest and most heavily guarded prison in western Europe. I remember shortly after arriving being dragged out of my cell one night by a large group of heavily armoured guards who gave me a very heavy beating. Covered in blood and wearing only a tee shirt and jeans I was thrown into an unfurnished, unheated cell, with no blankets in the depth of winter. They let me out in the dark to exercise. It was snowing heavily and the bright lights and barking dogs shone and sounded around me. I had to run round the yard to stop from freezing. Then one of the guards walked up to me and handed me a lit cigarette. This touched me. I still remember and pray for him. Shortly afterwards my father visited me in prison, he was deeply moved by seeing the marks on my face where they had beaten me.

Yet I can only say I was always deeply, deeply happy and at peace and forgave those who beat me completely and at once even praying for them.
Forgiveness, it seems to me is not simply a one off action. We must constantly return to the wells of grace of the heart of God begging Him to fill our hearts from the wellspring of His own great love.

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."
Therefore the kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, the lord ordered him to be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
Matthew 18.21-35

So forgiveness is not an option for a Christian it is a demand. If we do not forgive others we do not make it possible for God to forgive us. When we lock our brothers from our hearts we lock God from them. For these who are our enemies are God's children.

Last edited by padraig on Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By padraig
First Steps in Prayer
I’d better not run to far ahead of myself. My main intention in this was to write on prayer and what was happening in my life at this time was only incidental to this. So first of all I'd like to say a few words on prayer itself. Then on the first steps in prayer. After that on the great prayer of the Church, the Rosary. Following that the prayer of recollection or the beginnings of contemplative prayer. Finally on that great Doctor of the Church Saint Teresa of Avila and what exactly mystical prayer and mysticism is. This all fits in well alongside my time in jail up until my release..

Prayer is basically talking to or communicating with God. Prayer is not a bolt on extra or alternative for the Christian it lies at the very centre of our spiritual life. Take a husband and wife, for instance say they did not talk, did not make love, did not even touch and avoided each other’s company. Would we say that they were in love? Would we even say that they were truly married? It’s the same with ourselves in prayer. If we love God we'll talk to Him. As Mary told me prayer is the bread of faith. Without it we starve, we die. Like a tree without earth, a fish without water a plant without the sun.
Now God is mad with love for us. He loves us so much He gave His only Son, Jesus to die on a cross for us. We might think the decision to pray to God is ours and ours alone. No, not at all. We pray because God calls us first to pray. Because He is so insane for love for us He cannot bear to stay away from us. So He sends the Holy Spirit to us to give us tongue to pray.

Because you are sons and daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father! So through God you are no longer slaves but sons and daughters and if sons and daughters, then heirs” (Gal 4:6-7}

This is the great essential Trinitarian mystery of faith. The Spirit of God is sent upon us, causing us to be;

'….transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”2 Corinthians 3:18

St. Athanasius of Alexandria expresses this beautifully, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God."

So the Holy Spirit transforms us into the very image of Jesus as Sons of our Heavenly Father. Stunning! Amazing! Stupendous! How does he do this? By grace. By sharing Himself with us by pouring His Holy Spirit upon us. And the great gateway to this sharing is prayer. If we keep this inner gateway closed then how shall this transformation take place?

This desire to pray is the quickening, the movement of the Spirit within us of which Paul speaks:

{Eph 2:1} 'And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins'.
So as you see we did not initiate this great phone call, this great transformation, it was the Holy Spirit who first rang our bell, as it were.

Prayer, like life itself is not static. That which is static dies, that which is dynamic shows life. But when I was in prison I took those first vital steps and now wish to draw some lessons from them.
When St Paul was struck down by his great vision of Christ on the Road to Tarsus Jesus said to him,

’It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 8:5,28:14.[/color]

Which shows that the Holy Spirit was acting on him even before his vision. So we kneel in response to this goading of the Spirit. But at the end of the day we must choose to respond, God does not, cannot force us. For if he forced us it would not be love. That which is not freely given is not love. But at the start it can feel a little forced somewhat like a chore. God’s arrow of love, the Holy Spirit may have pierced our hearts but we still have to get up and do some work to make it happen. Of course the great grace that God will have given us to draw us to Him in the first place will be a great drawing force, but if we don't open ourselves to receive it, its not going to happen.
When we look at older married couples we see a good analogy into contemplative prayer.. They can just BE THERE with each other, that’s enough, This is a good analogy for contemplative prayer. Words fail.....just being there is enough. Did you ever notice how alike older couples get...even physically? We're like that with Jesus, growing in His image. I'm pretty sure that Mary and Jesus are the image of each other. Love does that to you.

This reminds me of a story told by the Cure of Ars, St John Vianney, and the Patron Saint of Parish Priests. There was an old peasant used to come to mass every morning and left his spade at the door of the Church whilst going in to morning mass. He came back one evening an there was the old mans spade still standing there. Worried about the old man he went in to check he was all right. It turned out the wonderful old man had been sitting there all day with the Lord.

’What do you find to talk with Him about?'.
asked the Cure, surprised.

'I look at him, 'the old saintly peasant replied, 'and he looks at me.’

Classic. You could write a book on contemplative prayer and mysticism and not say more or better.

I was talking about first steps in prayer.....

We pray, we love because God first loved us, we pray because God calls us to. But we must choose to respond.

1Jo 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

In some ways, starting to pray is like any other activity, like say learning to play the guitar. We must commit to spend half an hour a day to prayer, just as we commit to practise on the guitar for half an hour. The time we give Him should be quality time, for some this might be morning. for others the evening. When the Hebrews made offering at the Temple they always gave the very best of their flocks, so, too we should give of God our best. If you like commit only for a period say six months and review your commitment in terms of the results at the end of the period. I guarantee that you will be amazed and delighted at the results. For the graces that outflow from prayer are enormous. You will become more loving, kind, balanced, fulfilled, happy, enjoying deeper warmer relationships. No facet of yourself or your life will be untouched or unchanged for the better as you turn more and more deeply to the Lord.

Galatians 5:22-23 Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. ‘

As to where you pray, I would recommend as an ideal prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. But if the Church is too far or too awkward perhaps a quiet room, or a walk with the dog, but try as very far as possible to free yourself from any possibility of distractions. Some people use aids such as statues, pictures, sacred music or incense. In all this it’s important to maintain freedom of Spirit. Each person is different everyone has there own spirit and thus their own spirituality.

Matthew 6:5-18 "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. {6} "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
For this part I am going to use saying the rosary as the great example, but much of what I say here can be applied to beginning prayer, no matter what particular form it takes. You will be talking to God. In many ways this is just like entering into a conversation with another human being. Still in other ways it is not. In human terms God cannot be seen, nor heard, nor touched. The God we approach we approach with the footsteps of faith. So here we need assistance and structures to centre our imagination, our thoughts, our hearts, to place ourselves at the very feet of the Most High. In the Rosary we do so through the Mysteries, which are themselves a setting forth of the Word of God in Scripture. We kneel with Mary as she meets Gabriel. We stand with Jesus before Pilate, we gaze with awe at the Resurrected Christ. And we talk and as we talk we enter more and more into the Mystery which is God Himself. We sink into the waters of the Spirit and so our prayer deepens.

Much of our life is cyclical in nature. Day follows day, season, season, breath follows breath, heart beat, heartbeat. So with the rosary. At first glance merely repetitive and mechanistic in nature, but in reality an image of the great cycles of life itself. So we breath, so our hearts beat, so the seasons of our spiritual life deepens and so we grow like the little acorn as the seasons of prayer past to become a strong oak in the Lord.

’All of us, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:1}

My favourite writer on prayer is Saint Teresa of Avila. Her best book, perhaps the best book on prayer ever written is "The Interior Castle' which talks of seven stages of prayer. Teresa speaks of the soul as a garden. At first as gardener you have to run about getting and carrying buckets of water to water your garden. But as time goes on springs of water well up from the Spirit to freely water your soul. But here prayer is highly conceptual, very structured, with much work. Later it will change. I don't want to imply it is necessarily arduous. Nevertheless its at this stage, I believe most folks will give up, for it does require effort and commitment, but believe me its worth it.
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By padraig
Contemplative Prayer

If there’s anyone out there reading any of this, you're very welcome to say so, I would be afraid I was writing to the air, but if one person's reading, them its worthwhile!!

Prayer, like life itself, does not, nor should not sit still but like a river turns and grows as it pulls us to the source and sea of love and life, the Eternal God. In the Western Church we talk of stages of prayer, in the East they look at thinks more holistically. Here I'll talk of stages, but I emphasise that I do not mean an immediate change from one prayer form to another, rather like moving from a bedroom to a bathroom. The change is gradual, usually and we wouldn't usually see it in our day-to-day life as it happens. Also though I speak of such stages in a particular sequence it doesn't have to happen that way, necessarily. Nothing quite sets my teeth on edge as writers on mysticism and mystical prayer being definite and positive about things that are fluid and full of mystery. A pseudo scientific approach to such things can, it seems to me be rather like trying to catch the wind in a test tube. Not that’s its not good to classify in order to understand, but to recognise that a Reductionist, Scientific approach to such things has its limits. Saint Thomas Aquinas is some claim, the greatest of Catholic Theologians. Yet before he died he had a mystical vision that caused him to describe all his brilliant theology, so much hay.

If there's one thing I would recommend to any Catholic or Westerner interested in mysticism or prayer and that’s to read the spiritual teachers of the East. Similarly those of the East could do nothing better than to read from the West. It’s a bit like having two lungs, or legs or eyes; East and West need each other in a similar way in order to give balance and insight.

Another thing about writers on this subject is that often they are writing about prayer forms they have never experienced themselves. I do not say this is wrong, I'm just saying its limited. Saint Teresa of Avila one time commented that she would rather have a learned Spiritual Director than a holy one. But given a choice the best thing of all would be a learned, wise and holy one, if providence can bless you with such a thing; remembering that wise and learned isn’t always the same thing.

I’d like to talk about the start of Contemplative Prayer. Earlier we talked of us going to collect water of the Spirit to water the garden of our soul. So we do in conceptual prayer when we imagine scenes from Our Lord and Our Ladies lives. But now the prayer, the water begins to well up a little of its own accord. How do we know this is happening to us? Well there is a much greater attraction to prayer; we more and more look forward to our times of prayer, as a real oasis in our busy lives. There is a deepening joy and peace in the presence of the Lord. Perhaps a greater quietness, a tendency not to feel the need to talk so much but to listen more.

Compare our prayer at the start as a radio transmitter, at first the messages we are receiving are garbled and full of static, but now the message we're receiving is clearer and less garbles. Like a couple who have been married a while we no longer feel the hectic need for constant talk and exchange of ideas but are content for silences to break out. Not silences of non-communication but silences of intense non-verbal communication.

This essentially is contemplative prayer in its beginnings. If we were to listen to two vast super computers talking to each other we might hear nothing but the sound of silence. For they might be exchanging information so quickly and at such a pitch we simply couldn't comprehend it. So with contemplative prayer. It is the Holy Spirit taking over the controls if you like and flying the aircraft of your soul Himself. Let Him do so, trust Him, let go the controls.

For a changing prayer like this can be challenging, even threatening to the person experiencing it. Sometimes older folks can go to the priest and complain that they're not able to pray anymore. When the priest asks them what they mean they explain that when they try to say the rosary they can't get beyond the first couple of words and then there minds fly away. What’s happening is they have after good and holy Christian lives raising their families as they move into the Autumn time of their lives their move into the rich, fruitful harvest time of prayer, contemplation.

Dark Night

I’d like to talk next about how I got sentenced in court and a bit about happened when I was released and more about prayer at this time.
Saint John of the Cross not only puts forward the idea of the Night of the Soul, but I kind of a night within a Night, or a prison within a prison, a kind of spiritual rock bottom as it were. I think Jesus touches upon this when He tells the parable of the house built on sand. When the great storms came the house on sand collapsed. The house built on stone however, stood. So with Job, these black winds that blow are purifying and intense and we have to ask ourselves questions about the very nature of our faith.
After leaving the monastery I continued to pray constantly and to go to mass every day. But it was a bit like someone who walked through very dark deep waters. However our love for God, our prayers don’t depend on our emotions. As I suppose anyone who has ever been married will say, love is about a whole lot more than hugs and kisses.
A year or two after my brother Colm died aged 26 of Hepatitis caught during a heart operation. Colm was always the complete atheist and laughed at even the mention of the word ‘God’ or an afterlife. I know I tried to argue with him about it a few times, to his amusement.
However the morning after he died he came to me in a park were I was walking, smiled and said, ‘You were right and I was wrong’ He paused and laughed, ‘But don’t get too proud about it, I know a lot more than you do about these things now!’ He laughed and faded into the sky.

I was foolish enough to tell folks about what I had seen and had to put up with a great deal of scorn and mocking about attention seeking. This upset me, a lot more than it would no and I went down to see my Spiritual Director Father Bernard who assured me that seeing the souls of the departed especially the recently departed was really quite common. However, unlike me most people have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about it. I’m glad to say that I had the last laugh, When my mother died a couple of years ago several people told me they had seen her. One of them one who had mocked me about it. Times have changed I suppose and people nowadays are more open to these things.

A couple of years after this my other brother Cormac, again 26, his wife Teresa and their two year old daughter Shona were all killed in a car accident and I had to go to the mortuary to identify them. When they pulled back the rubber sheets it was like the De Profoundis sounding in my heart. Saint Teresa of Avila had a vision one time of Our Lady holding Our Lords body down from the Cross. She said Our Lady didn’t cry, that she was frozen like a statue with grief/ I can sympathies with this as I was frozen too and said the De Profundis;

Psalm 130
130:1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 130:2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 130:4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 130:6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 130:7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 130:8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

After this my brother in law Brian died aged 32 leaving my sister, Eithne with four small children to care for. Sometimes I think prayer pilgrims are like camels and we store up the graces of prayer for the bad times ahead. Thus people who pray indeed build their houses on foundations of stone.
However I don’t believe that our greatest trials in prayer really come through the great trials that life leaves at our doors. The greatest trial lies in the ordinary million things that each day brings us, loosing our car keys, forgetting the groceries, an intemperate boss, and a nosey neighbour. In a way life is like some great whirling sandstone wheel fashioning in beauty the soft wood of our hearts. But only if we accept truly and deeply that for those who love God all things work together unto the good. The person who does not love God, who does not pray is perpetually neurotic and at war with the lived reality in which he finds himself. The prayer pilgrim, on the other hand goes with the grain of life’s wood, knowing in prayer that all has reason and purpose and wonderful end.

One of the things that hurt me most in those dark days was that although I very much still felt called to be a priest I was constantly rejected, by Bishops and Cardinals. They all said I had a vocation but each passed me on to someone else each thinking, I suspect that I, being an ex-prisoner would be better planted in someone else’s diocesan garden. Eventually I went to Our Lady and left matters in her hands. If she wanted me in the priesthood she could arrange it herself, I felt I tried often enough and endured enough disappointments.

The greatest trial of my faith came after four years just before the end of the Dark Night. The Loyalists had already tried to kill me while I was driving the taxi. They often killed Catholic taxi drivers because they were easy to murder. The graveyards in Belfast have many gravestones marked, ‘Died for his faith’. Bad enough that they killed people simply because they were Catholic but they often tortured them to death, sometimes over a lengthy period before granting them the release of death. One night two of them got into my taxi and pointed guns and the side and back of my head attempted to kidnap me. I knew they wanted to take me away to find out I was a Catholic to some remote spot before giving me a very, very bad death. Miraculously I escaped, while they were attempting to put me in the back seat I dropped down threw the taxi into reverse and sped away at high speed. I felt no bitterness or hatred of them for this and have prayed and will continue to pray for them. I only stood in danger of death, those poor people stand in danger of eternal death.

The great trial came later. When I was in bed one morning the Loyalists came to the front door of my family home to try to shoot me. They broke down the front door with a sledgehammer and entered with guns drawn. However my brother who was down the stairs threw a cup of steaming hot coffee in one of their faces and a couple of Rottweilers we had as pets attacked them. One a bitch was in pup and was particularly savage. They ran out of the house burnt and bitten to their car, but people going to mass saw them and threw stones and milk bottles at their car. Again I felt no bitterness or hate, but worse was to come. I found out through the grapevine the names of the gunmen and that they intended to attack my home again. Of course there was no good going to the so-called police since these killer squads operated on behalf of the British Government. Nor was I concerned at them killing me. I had no real fear of death; I bore no hate if they had to kill me it was in God’s hands. However what truly tormented me was that when they returned they might easily kill other members of my family as well. This I could not stomach. In a real torment of conscience I decided that I had to kill these people before they killed my family. However I went to a priest friend in confession and begged his advice, He told me I could not kill these people as it was not self defence and would be murder.
Tears streamed down my face. I was in an impossible dilemma. If I let them live, my family might die. On the other hand if I killed them first I would be guilty of murder. I could not go for help as the so-called police were employing these ruthless killers. I simply fell down on the ground in my bedroom and begged God to show me some way out of this impossible dilemma. God had taught me not to kill, not to hate, and I felt no hate. Yet if I did not kill my family would die. What could I do? All at once I heard the Lords voice speaking with very great firmness; even anger. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay. DO nothing, I will deal with these men myself’ Spoken with great strength and, yes, anger.
The next week I heard that one of them men had been shot dead by the British Army whilst on a bombing mission and the other critically injured. My family and I were safe. I think that its true as Scripture teaches us that none of us are tried beyond our means; but sometimes it can feel very, very much like It!!
When I entered the Dark Night one of the first questions I asked Father Bernard was how long it might go for. He quoted someone who had been in it for over twenty years, which, as you can imagine really cheered me up. Bernard thought that maybe the longer the Night lasted the closer you climb the prayer mountain. I’m not sure how possible it is to quantify mystical things in this way. For me anyway it lasted for about four years. I thought maybe I might wake up some day and it’d be suddenly gone. It didn’t work out like that. The way I’d describe it is that the darkness becomes somehow luminescent. A shinning darkness, almost as though you’ve learnt to speak a new prayer language, Saint Paul talks about putting aside childish things and the day star dawning on our minds and some times I suspect he is talking of the Dark Night when he talks like this. In another sense I suppose you might say the Dark Night never ends; it’s simply that you become used to perpetual night and welcome it.
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By padraig
In any case I’ve come pretty well to the end of talking about the prayer pilgrimage. But before doing so I’d like to tell the story of my one and only pilgrimage to the great Marian pilgrimage site, Medugorje in Bosnia Hercovina and what happened there. I suppose it sums up for me in many ways the great Prayer Pilgrimage on which we are all embarked.

A couple of years ago my mother died of cancer. She had been the mother of ten children and numerous grandchildren. In many ways both her and my father were the epitome of that Irish generation, now fast dying out for whom their faith was a very solid rock. A faith so much a part of the wove and weft of life that it is inseparable from the ‘reality’ of life itself. While she was dying, quite painfully I asked her if her suffering ever made her doubt her faith. She answered, quite simply that without a faith life was simply empty and meaningless. But she said it in such a tone that you couldn’t doubt that she was shocked at the very idea of lost faith, that it was as incredible as doubting the very reality of her family itself. That’s faith. I remember discussing with her what heaven might be like. We both had a hard time getting our head round the notion as Isaiah promises us that ‘Every tear will be wiped away’. SO deeply is suffering embedded in the everyday of life here, down below that Paradise seems an impossible dream. Heaven is so hard to conceive in some ways an everlasting sleep of darkness and unknowing would seem preferable to even heaven. We both agreed that as Saint Paul says, ‘Eye has not seen nor tongue told’ the treasures stored up for us by our Eternal Father.
When she was on her deathbed I had dislocated my shoulder and sat beside her with my arms swathed in bandages. My mother when she looked at me started from her bed in sympathy and concern when she saw me, even though she could not speak, even though she herself was dying and in great pain. Her own love for her child drove her out of her own pain and suffering and drove her to reach out to someone else in love. And that’s what love is isn’t it? A reaching out to others. By doing this she taught me a great lesson as indeed her life had been a great lesson to all her knew her.

Anyway after she died, poor woman with me singing hymns in her ear I felt the need to travel to Medugorje. I first heard of Our Lady’s apparition there in 1981. They began just a couple of months after Our Lady had paid me her prison visit and so I felt a strong natural affinity with the place.
So we set out, myself and Jim and Gerry the two members of our very small rosary prayer group and a busload of others from this little part of Ireland. I suppose some people go to Medugorje looking for great signs and wonders. I didn’t really. I just wanted to prayer and come spiritually to terms with my mother’s death. A time of prayer and healing. Anyway we arrived at Medugorje, that small wonderful village in the mountains at about two in the morning. Myself Jim and Gerry immediately headed down the main street, determined to have a look around us before going to sleep.
It was about three o’clock in the morning dark and there was no one of course about. My friend Jim who had been in the village several times before told us that it was about a ten minute walk to the chapel from our neat little hostel. Suddenly as we walked down the main street a car pulled up beside us and with several very rough, dangerous looking men in it. The doors opened and a couple of them got out. We knew immediately that we were in some danger as they growled at us in some foreign tongue. You don’t live in a place like Belfast for all your life without developing a sixth sense to danger, these folks were looking for danger and my swift impression was that they were carrying concealed weapons of some kind. We tried to answer them but they spoke no English, we moved to the side of the road and headed off quickly on down us, the men laughed at us jumped back in the car and drove of. They did a u-turn and drove back past us out of the village. I’m aware of the fact that Medugorje is an oasis of peace in a country that has torn itself apart and that such a happening was very unusual, but there you are, we all had a sense of evil and menace from these men and when you think of it, what could they have been up to at that hour of the morning, what was the meaning of their strange behaviour?
I walked on praying about this and as I looked up to the beautiful starlit shy I had a spiritual vision. I saw, round Medugorje thirteen great princes of hell, in great circle chained to old style great Roman pillars looking with great wrath at Medugorje. In this I came to understand that Medugorje has become Our Lady’s home on Earth for the great battle that is taking place between heaven and hell. Hell badly wishes to destroy Medugorje and what is being accomplished there, but that they are forbidden or very limited in the scale of the forces they can bring against it. Our Lady is not alone in this as she travels the Earth with the whole court of heaven, just as Satan travels too, with his court, the demons that have been released from hell for this great final conflict. Satan who has come to the Earth in a great wrath for he knows his time is very short against Mary, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array.
As I reached the beautiful parish Church of Medugorje, Saint James I came to realize that this pilgrimage site had become the holiest and most blessed place on the Earth in these latter days, I have been to Rome, to the graves of many saints, to many monasteries and travelled the Holy Land but nowhere compares to this little village in the mountains. It is a doorway to heaven, the battle camp of Mary, the army camp of many angels. Here the impossible becomes natural and for those with eyes to see the very light of heaven surrounds and comforts, strengthens and leads the pilgrim soul. If you haven’t been there, go. Medugorje is the great spiritual light of our times; you shall come away loaded with mountains of graces and understanding of the Great Spiritual War of our times.

My own intentions in Medugorje were very simple, just to have a retreat, to spend as much time as I could in simple prayer in the feet of Mary and I hoped for nothing extraordinary apart from some spiritual renewal. However one of the most extraordinary things I met in this blessed village e was my fellow pilgrim. It was as though everyone’s hearts where opened to each other in that heavenly atmosphere. People told you their stories and by doing so knocked again and again on the door of my own heart to ensure it, too were opened. I’d just like to briefly mention five such stories I encountered in our pilgrimage group alone. At that time there where 1800 pilgrims from Ireland there, a bigger national group than anywhere else in the world, though we are a tiny island, but I met folks from every all over the world, many who had travelled huge distances to be there. SO the little I witnessed in my short time there could be multiplied a thousand, ten thousand times over and this has been going on since 1981!!

Firstly there was a young priest in our company I will call Father John. Father John had been having deep problems with his faith, although I didn’t hear this specifically till much later. But it was becoming increasingly obvious that Medugorje was melting his heart. One evening he came back to the hostel quite agitated and told us a why. He had been to a concert in the hall behind the Church when he was asked by a couple of the locals if he would help out at an exorcism the Franciscans were doing in the graveyard behind the Church. Exorcisms in the village are quite common there and the Franciscans use the graveyard because it has been sanctified, is remote and the noise and disruption will not disturb or frighten the pilgrims. What he saw at the exorcism profoundly moved Father John; he had witnessed the poor woman levitating off the ground and witnessed other phenomena. Satanists, especially from Italy who are trying to escape the clutches of Satan regularly travel to this village for healing. Father \John experienced great healing in Medugorje; you could see it happening almost before your eyes. When he had told us about this we left the restaurant as a group and I strolled on ahead down the main street, as I like being on my own a lot. However I heard raised voices and saw father John and a fellow priest confronting a very strange woman. She was young, very dirty and had the strangest staring eyes. It became obvious to me at once that the devil was very strongly present in her. Father John was praying aloud with another priest and it was obvious that our little pilgrim group was frightened as she had been following them, staring hard and refused all appeals to leave them alone. I took the lady to one side and gave her a few euros, thinking perhaps that she would leave us alone. I then went of home to the hostel to bed, very tired. However the next day I was told that although she had left she later returned. They were all in the garden below when they heard the sound of several dogs barking in the area around and the woman walking into our hostile garden were everyone was talking. They had a terrible time getting rid of her The lady who owned the hostel owned a dear little dog it was run over by a car in front of the hostel that morning. I believe that this was no true accident. Father John’s faith was greatly bolstered in Medugorje even though it took a good fright to help him.

The second pilgrim was Mary who was dying in cancer. Her son had died the year before and it had truly broken Mary’s heart. She was very, very brave going on the pilgrimage as she was expected to die at pretty well any moment. She was desperately looking for some sign, not just about her cancer but also about the death of her. Son .I spoke to her about this on our way back to Ireland. Eventually I heard she lived several months longer when she got back home, much longer than expected and that there had been a great healing in her heart.

A third pilgrim was Father Kevin. Kevin was a very holy man but was struggling hard against great loneliness in his life. Priests can become very isolated in their lives and I saw him crying as he experiences the solidarity and fellowship of the family of pilgrims. He joined a very large prayer group he met out there when he returned so the fellowship continues.

The third pilgrim was Robert. Robert came with his beautiful wife Roberta. They both had a wonderful home, very good jobs, a great young family and apparently the whole world at their feet. The fly in the ointment was that Robert was an alcoholic. Robert stopped drinking in Medugorje and hasn’t touched a drop since. For anyone who knows and alcoholic a miracle indeed. God bless Medugorje for it.

Now my strangest story of all involves the fourth and fifth pilgrims John and Emelda and in this particular story I became involved myself, though it is their story, rather than mine. As I mentioned before it was my wish in Medugorje to keep myself to myself. Not that I’m anti-social but I love personal prayer and well I like my own country. SO the backgrounds of John and Emelda were really unknown to me when this event happened, most of you won’t believe it and I would blame you for it, but happen it did.

Our little pilgrim group was sitting round a table in a café beside the church one night, after just having dined together in a restaurant. They were all talking away together but I was just happy sitting praying a, very happy. The urge to pray I found very, very strong out there like a great river that bursts its banks and pulls you away with it.
Anyway suddenly beside me stood this older woman. She was very well groomed, very much in charge of herself, a no nonsense I know what I’m doing with myself. What was very unusual about her was that I recognized that she had come from beyond the grave. Now I had met both my mother and my brother Colm after they had died before but I’d never had a stranger come up before and in both cases I had been alone. She told me she was Emelda and John’s mother and that she wanted to talk to them through me, she said that she knew that they had been very distressed and found it very difficult to come to terms with her deaths and that she had been giving permission to come back and console them. Naturally I was very. Very reluctant to say anything to anyone
But reluctant as I was I felt a strange peace and certainty, anyway the lady assured me should would furnish proofs that she was who she said. So I told Emelda and John that their mother was there and they looked at e with their mouths dropped open. They asked question after question and the lady answered them all correctly. As it turned out the two had come to Medugorje to come to terms with the death of their mother and as I told them how much she still loved them and how happy she was in her new home they became very consoled.

So I think I’ll end here in my story of the prayer pilgrimage. d. If it only helps one soul to walk the prayer mountain I’ll be happy. I’d also very much like to thank everyone for your very kind comments and questions, I most certainly couldn’t have written this without your encouragement. I hope to have this in book form for Christmas, revised and finished and I’ll post details on the forum when it is.

May the Mother of God walk with you on your own prayer pilgrimage. May she instruct, guide and protect you and may we meet together at the feet of Mary at her throne in heaven.

A prayer pilgrim, praying for you all.
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By bluecross
deleted by bluecross :)
Last edited by bluecross on Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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By 4HimthroughHer
Thank you padrig,

I'm glad you didn't decide to leave us and were able to finish your story (amazing!).
Welcome, I hope you will find caring friends here as I have...
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By padraig
Hugs and kisses , Bluecross :wink:

Shalom 4him

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