I hope you and your families are well and at peace.
Since the last update, I have led two parish missions, one in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, and the second in Ashton-in-Makerfield, in Wigan.
During the week in Tullamore, more than 1,500 people came to the church each evening to take part in the mission, and about 500 were there for the 7 and 10 am morning mass each day. A friend of mine, Fr. Marius from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, flew from New Jersey to help hear many of the confessions that week. Some of the days, he would hear confessions for more than four hours as well as counselling those who came to him with their various problems. There were 25 priests on hand to hear confessions on the Tuesday night, where for more than two hours people continued to go to Jesus and find His loving embrace, and share their hearts and pain with Him. It never ceases to amaze me how God touches the deepest parts of our hearts and draws us to Himself. I thank God everyday for the gift of confession, and how it renews me and gives me the strength to continue to try and live like Jesus.
Each day during the week I was in three different secondary schools speaking to the young people, sharing with them my conversion, and letting them know about the love of God for them. Many of the students from those schools came along to the evening sessions and attended the early morning mass before they went off for classes.
There are so many distractions in our world today, and with the constant buzz of television, mobile phones, and computers, it is hard for us to hear the voice of God, who speaks to us in silence. I would always encourage people to make time for prayer, because it is through prayer that we come to know the one who created us, and loves us unconditionally. As soon as we take something to prayer, it begins to change. Whether we are coming to Him with our problems, our various needs, or just to say thanks, Jesus loves to hear from us.
Early on in the mission one of the priests mentioned to me that there was a gang of youths who would hang around the church at random times and had been causing trouble and making life difficult for some of the elderly of the parish. I came across them one afternoon, and after speaking to them for a few minutes, I asked them a bit about themselves, and they began to open up and share what their lives were like. Some of them said how they had dropped out of school early, others had family members in prison, and how life was difficult at home. Each of them came along to the evening sessions, and I am sure God was sowing many seeds of His love in their hearts.
Last Sunday morning I went to speak in HMP Liverpool Prison, to over 130 inmates there. Even though there can be a heavy feeling of intimidation and bravado that the prisoners try to put over, underneath it all they are like children to God, in need of the same love as each one of us. After the talk, I went up to one man and said to him
‘I have a book for you’
He looked somewhat surprised as I handed it to him, and he said,
‘Why did you pick me out from all of the others?’
I said, ‘I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to give it to you.’
By the tears in his eyes I could see that this really touched him and he went on to say,
‘Do you know this is the second time this has happened to me. Just last week there was another person in here speaking to us, and they picked me out too.’
‘That is God showing you how special you are to Him, and that He has great plans for you.' I added.
God knows each one of us in an intimate and personal way. None of us are numbers to Him, He carries each of us in His heart as if we were His only child. Scripture says ‘even the hairs of our head are counted’ and that God ‘has carved us on the palm of His hand’. It meant so much for this man to know that God understood him, accepted him, and had a plan for his life. We all need to know the gift of His love, it is something we can not earn, but we can receive it freely any time we ask for it. I know for myself, that without God’s love, life is meaningless, but with His love, every day is a miracle and my eyes can be opened to the wonder of the world He created.
This week I have been in Wigan leading a week of mission in Our Lady Immaculate Church. Each day of the week I went into St. Edmund Arrowsmith Secondary school and spoke at an assembly, to more than 1,100 students. The school was named after a local martyr who laid down his life in witness to the faith.
It was through the same blood of the martyrs in the early church that Christianity began to spread so rapidly in the Middle East and in Europe. From the 12 apostles to those who still risk their lives to proclaim the good news, our faith has been passed down by their example and sacrifice. We can pray to have the same desire and passion to love Jesus as they did and in the words of St. Teresa of Avila ‘We will set the world ablaze'
I will be sharing my story in St. Anthony’s church, in Bradford on Monday October 20th at 7:30, and will prepare to travel to Holland to speak at a youth conference there before returning to Ireland for a mission in Sligo Cathedral November 3rd- 7th at 7:30 p.m.
I thank you all for you prayers and emails, and you are in my heart and prayers.
May God bless you in His deep love, and may Mary our Mother enwrap you with her peace.