Originally posted 09/05/2008 12:59:06
I pray that you and your loved ones are well and at peace in this time leading up to Pentecost. Over the past 3 weeks I’ve led two Parish missions, one in Dungloe, Co Donegal and the other in Oldham, Lancashire. Both were very blessed and in particular, being able to speak to the students in the local secondary schools was a high point for me. It was a very encouraging to see a lot of these young people come along to the evening sessions of the mission. I received many moving emails from them telling of how God had touched their lives.
After the week in Dungloe I had some time of prayer before the next mission and I decided to visit Our Lady’s shrine in Knock, Co Mayo. There were some things on my heart that I really felt I needed to bring to confession and to put right with God. During this confession I asked the priest for tough penance to make up for what I’d done. He replied “Our God doesn’t punish, he just loves” and it reminded me once again just how patient and gentle God is with us.
Later that week I flew to London to do some work preparing for the World Youth Day in Sydney this July where I will be speaking at various events. On my trip I spent some time with my Godson Stuart. I met him for the first time nine years ago when after doing a talk in his school, he came along to a weekend retreat that I was running. We needed special permission from social services for him to come because he was living in foster care and he was already in trouble with the police despite the fact he was only twelve years old. During the retreat Stuart went to a Priest to confess even though he wasn’t a Catholic and the Priest prayed for him that he may know Gods forgiveness and love.
Later that evening at a healing service, where Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament comes to each person individually, I was kneeling next to Stuart as Jesus came to him and tears started to roll down his face and he threw himself into my arms saying “for the first time in my life I know that I’m loved”. Six months afterwards he was baptised a Catholic and I have the honour to be his Godfather. Stuart just celebrated his twenty first birthday and he has a great heart which he shares with everyone he meets.
Last Sunday evening I went to give a talk at the SPEC centre in London, which is a place where they run retreats for young people from all over Westminster Diocese. One of the team who now runs these retreats is a young man called Will. I first came across Will four years ago when I was speaking in a Church in his home town of Glastonbury.
At that time he was taking drugs, spending most of his time on the streets and getting in trouble with the police. The day I was due to speak he saw a poster advertising the talk outside the Church that said “Come and meet the man behind the machete” he liked the sound of this and wanted to see for himself. I spoke to him after the talk and gave him one of my books and told him I would be praying for him. A few months later I received a phone call from his mum asking if I could help as he was about to be kicked out of school. I told her that for it to make a difference he would have to come and spend some time with me in Ireland.
During the two weeks he spent with me he started to open up about some of the problems in his life and I spoke to him about forgiving those who had hurt him. We said a prayer with him and he said he experienced Gods love deep in his heart. Over the next year Will continued to struggle with peer pressure especially at school and gradually fell back into trouble. Eventually Will came and spent six months on the team giving his testimony in Parishes and schools where he had a great effect on many people who heard him speak.
Last Easter Will became a Catholic and went to confession for the first time which had a profound and lasting impact on him. It’s incredible to think that this same young man who had so many struggles and difficulties is now leading others to Christ in such a powerful way. Will is looking forward to travelling to Australia for his first World Youth Day this summer.
Thinking back over all that God has done, my heart is full of gratitude and I look forward to the many miracles he is going to work in the future.
I thank you for all your prayers and I remember you in mine every day.
May God bless all of you in his deep love.