Growing up in Ireland my Catholic Faith was very prominent in every aspect of my life. I felt it was woven into the very fabric of who I was as a human being and couldn't imagine a Sunday without Mass; a meal without prayer; an evening without the rosary or an Easter without fasting for forty days prior. I loved my Catholic Faith, and I was surrounded by family and friends who thought alike.
It was in my last year of High School at our year end retreat when the priest spoke about Jesus dying for our sins and clothing ourselves with the new self, that I had an epiphany. I realized, I had been living my life following the doctrines and obeying Church teachings without ever really experiencing what it was like to truly be living my Faith. I had never heard "Clothe yourself with the new self" or "The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus, from the dead, lives in you" and I was transfixed. I sought out reading material in the local Christian bookstore but found there were no Catholic books available as all Christian shops in Northern Ireland, at the time, were protestant. I read and listened to everything that was available. Billy Graham, Rev David Wilkerson, I joined a Charismatic group and a local prayer group, and I was on fire.
I was only 17 years of age and everything in my life had suddenly changed. I was so alive, my life had meaning and I imagined that others would see me differently because I no longer was my old self. I felt that even my very heartbeat sounded different and with this new self everything was magnified in such a way that I could no longer recognize my old self. I had a taste of 'New life' and it seemed my world had changed forever. I thought I would stay in that place, the place where the sun was brighter, where the leaves were greener, and everything had such an intense zeal for God and Love and openness that I could not quite grasp.
A year later, I had convinced myself that I needed to be a missionary. My parents received monthly magazines from 2 or 3 different missionary groups and it was through those magazines that I found The Frontier Apostolate in Prince George, BC and applied. Three times I went for an interview in Dublin and three times I was told that this was not to be my vocation. I was disappointed, greatly disappointed. I lost my new life, everything in me felt a little less and my zeal for 'Repenting from my sins and accepting Jesus Christ into my life' was somehow changed and I slipped back to my old ways.
A couple of years later I married and we immigrated to Canada. He was 19 years of age and I was 20. Of course, by then I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be joining the Missions. I had my new life; four children, a happy husband, a new business, and a good parish. I embraced it, and I loved it. I had it made and yet I still had that sinking feeling that there should be more and I never forgot the spirited priests at my high school retreat or the fiery Evangelists that moved me to change.
It wasn't until I attended a three day silent retreat 20 years later that I once again gave my life to Christ. I remembered "The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in me" and I was called to immediate change. With the help of a spiritual director, a good confession and an unabandoned love for Christ, I was able to live the life I was supposed to live. I have tripped and fallen at times but always managed to get back up. I finally did get to go on missions; going to Mexico to help build houses for the Church, leading youth to two World Youth Days, and assisting with youth development in the Church. Blessings came from attending two Eucharistic Conferences, walking the Camino de Santiago twice in Spain, visiting the Holy Land, and walking in the steps of St Paul in Turkey. I was also able to meet the Holy Father in Rome. From all of this I found my mission.
My mission is the very people who cross my path daily and how I extend Christ's love to them. With this mission in mind I feel that every day is my new life and I am grateful to the priest in Dublin who refused to accept my application to The Frontier Apostolate.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers