Sunday, January 15, 2012
EUROPE : MEDJUGORJE : FORMER ALCOHOLIC BECOMES PRIEST
I came to Medjugorje for the first time in 1995. I was 29 of age and very lost. At that stage, I was a taxi driver, and I was financially well of. I had my own house in Dublin, but I was very lost. I was seeking something, but I couldn’t find it. There was no meaning.
My faith before I came here was very shallow. My parents were Catholics, they went to church on Sunday, but they were Catholics only by name, as many people today in Ireland. My father was in the police all his life; I have a brother in the police, and I also wanted to be a policeman, but I did four years truck driving. I enjoyed driving, and when I was 22, I began to work for myself, driving a taxi in Dublin. I worked 5 nights a week and I made good money for such a young person. But material things did not bring happiness. I drove people to drink… and at the end of the day, I went to drink. I had a big problem, but a part of that, I was seeking happiness. I saw that what the world had to offer was very shallow. I felt emptiness in myself, and I began to drink very heavily. Within my family, we all were drinking, in Ireland it is often a family problem. And when there is a problem within the family, peace is gone… my relationship with my family was very much broken.
I would work four or five nights a week, and the rest of the week I would be drinking. I thought I could control my drinking. It became a big problem and it was getting worse and worse. Every week-end, after two or three days of serious drinking, I would say: never again, but… I could not control it. I did not know where to turn.
One night in 1993 - I was 27 years of age - I was very angry and very drunk. I was driving my car and I had a very serious car accident. When they ask me how I became a priest, I answer: I met the Lord in the accident. That was the turning point. At the time I had this accident, I was seeking God very much. I was angry with myself, I was angry with life, with the family situation as well. No peace. My life was so empty. I was making so many mistakes… When I had that accident, I was asking in the depth of my heart: if there is a God, I would find him. In that accident, the car was totally written of, from front to back, I hit a tree with high speed. I ended up in the hospital for five weeks. I broke my hip very badly, I had an injury on the sciatic nerve, and I had an injury on my right foot. After a few weeks in the hospital, they said that the sciatic nerve was not healing because of the damage. After the hospital, I was going on crutches for another six months. That gave me time to slow down, to think, to realise that I had to get some control over my action and my life. It was a miracle as such that I got alive out of that car. It was a very, very bad accident…
About a year later, I got back to work. My leg was still very bad. My brother came to me one day and said, that there was a healing priest in Dublin, and as the doctor said that they could not heal the sciatic nerve, I should go to him. His name was Aidan Carroll, he comes with groups to Medjugorje. I went to his Mass, he happened to speak during the Mass about Medjugorje. I did not know anything about Medjugorje. He happened to say that if anyone wished to go to Medjugorje, he had tickets at a reduced price. Marian Pilgrimages had seats available. I went after Mass to him to the sacristy, and I said I would be free to go.
I came to Medjugorje in 1995 for the first time. I knew nothing about Medjugorje then, and I found out that I did not know much about my faith, or God, or Our Lady either until I came here. I had a very, very enjoyable week, I found a great joy and a great peace that I had been seeking for a long time and I could not find anywhere. I was seeking in wrong places. I was empty, and I did not know how to fill this huge emptiness. That week was a huge turning point in my life. I came to realise that, as the messages say, God exists. I felt after leaving here that Our Lady was a real mother, and that had a huge impact on me: the reality that my Mother cares so much for me. My family was broken at that stage. I needed the sense of coming home with Our Lady. I felt a strong bond to Our Lady, because my own mother was diagnosed as an alcoholic as well… thanks to Medjugorje, the relation with my own mother has been healed as well.
I went back home and I started going to daily Mass, trying to say the Rosary… I still struggled with the alcohol. I thought I could control it again, but I couldn’t. I thought I could drink socially, but I couldn’t. The last of my drunk was in 1996, on Christmas Eve, after working a couple of hours in my taxi. I drunk all that night. That day, I called to somebody’s house very drunk and very hurt within. I told this person that, if she would forgive me something I did, I would never drink again. She said that it was all right…
I thought that I would have no social life without drinking, but I realised that I was happier. My peace was growing, I could trust myself and I felt a sense of serenity.
Medjugorje helped me a lot on that road to sobriety because I was going to Mass every day, and I asked the Lord for the grace to stay sober one day at a time, from one Eucharist to the next. That is what I did, and Our Lady helped me through the Rosary. In Medjugorje, we were told that, when we go home, we should get involved in a prayer group. In Dublin, I looked around for a suitable group, Marial, Eucharistic and charismatic. I started going every Monday; they were very good and very helpful. I found friendship and support. It was providential.
In June 1997, that prayer group went for an annual retreat. We were about 15. About five other people joined the retreat. At a prayer meeting, there was a healing service, Mass and Blessed Sacrament exposed. Anyone who wished to come forward for a prayer for healing could come forward. I was in the back, and then I stood up, went forward and knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed in my own heart for healing, and the group prayed with me. At that stage, I was hoping for inner healing, emotional healing of my brokenness, rather then physical healing of the injury on my leg. That was the prayer of my heart. I heard somebody saying behind me: “Lift up your tired hands and straighten your trembling knees. Keep walking on the straight path, so that your lame foot may not be disabled but instead healed.” I think this was coming straight from the Lord, from the Blessed Sacrament. It spoke straight to my heart. I did not know this lady. She told me later that this was from the Bible, Hebrews 12,12. She did not know me. She did not know about my car accident and about my injury.
The following evening, I went home to my father with this good news. I was chatting to him in the kitchen for many hours. I shared my experience of the day before, I was very excited. He opened up the Bible, but his translation was different. Only the Good News Bible had the words “lame foot”. I was amazed that God was so caring. He knows me so intimately, and He knew which Bible translation to take! There is no coincidence with God. He was promising me a physical healing! I was not even asking for this! My accident was in June 1993. My conversation with my father was in June 1997. My father looked up in his diary: the accident happened precisely four years ago, at ten passed one in the morning to the very second! I had almost forgotten about my car crash when I was asking myself if God exists… He answered that prayer exactly four years later, to the second! God was saying that this was not a coincidence. He was confirming the healing, he knew every second of my life.
In Medjugorje, I came to the awareness that God exists. In Medjugorje, I found a home. After Medjugorje, my faith was becoming stronger and stronger. Daily Mass became the centre of my life.
The call to priesthood came in 1998. I was on retreat in England. I was afraid of this call, but I felt it in my heart. I knew that I had to respond to this. I knew that God was with me. Here I am now, as a priest. Holy Mass that I have celebrated in St. James in Medjugorje was one of my first Masses. Here in Medjugorje I heard my first confession and gave my first absolution. I knew that I am not worthy to hear anybody’s confessions, so I went for confession to Fr. Svetozar before I heard my first confession…
I have total trust in the message of Medjugorje. I have been here 20 times, most of the time on my own. I have learned obedience to the Catholic Church in Medjugorje. Medjugorje is a part of my spiritual and emotional formation, one of the best parts of my formation.
I am happy to be a priest.