I hope you are well and at peace.
As the new year began I embarked upon a speaking
tour of secondary schools in England. I spoke in 15
schools across the country to around 5,000 students.
It started with two schools arranged by my old
friend Fr John Mckenna who is now based in a parish
in Barnet, North London. It was great to spend some
time with Fr John and to see him flourishing as a
Parish Priest. When I first knew him he was a lay
Man like myself and we worked together running
youth retreats all around the London area. I watched
as his calling in life became clear to him, and now I
can see how he is using all his gifts to serve God’s
people in his role as Parish priest. It reminded me
that no matter what God calls us to do, if we say
yes to that plan we can find a joy and fulfilment
that the world cannot give. Fr John said to me that
the most important part of his day was spending
time with the Lord in prayer where he would hand
over everything to God and receive all the grace
and strength he needed, he said he couldn’t survive
without that time with the Lord.
It struck me as we visited the different schools how
important the role of head teacher is when trying to
make God be the centre of a school. We all know the
pressures that teachers are under now, so that the
students get the results that are expected of them.
Because of this, faith can fall by the wayside and be
seen as unimportant. But on this tour I met some
incredible head teachers and spent a good deal of
time speaking with them. One head teacher in
Birmingham said that she would begin each day
and make each decision through prayer. She
quoted St Francis de Sales who recommended
starting the day with half an hour of prayer. But
if you were too busy you should make it an hour.
I could see the difference this made to the students,
there was a great openness to God with dozens of
them emailing me afterwards to say how God had
touched their lives.
In another school, after my talk had finished the
head teacher took most of the morning away from
what must be a busy schedule to bring me to visit
one of his students who had got in trouble with the
police. He was taking part in a scheme outside the
school and the headmaster thought that it would help
the young lad to speak with me. Because of this
teachers influence (he also took the lad to Our lady’s
shrine in Lourdes to look after the sick where he
had a beautiful experience of God’s love for him)
the boy’s life is literally being transformed. It
reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd
who leaves the ninety nine sheep in the pasture to
go searching for the missing sheep. During this year
of mercy that is what we are all called to do!
After a couple of weeks had passed of the new year
One of my friends asked me had I picked a saint to
help me throughout the year. I realised I hadn’t so
I prayed asking if there was a particular saint who
wanted to help me this year. The one that came to
me was Saint Martin de Porres, as things turned
out it didn’t take him long to get working. After
completing a morning talk in one school I managed
to get to a local lunchtime Mass. During the Mass
after receiving Holy communion the priest came up
to me and asked me if I was John Pridmore? So
after Mass I went to have a cup of tea and a chat
with the priest who it turns out had met me years
earlier when he was a seminarian. We had a really
blessed conversation with loads of little miracles
taking place and I knew that God had arranged all
this. The priest mentioned that he was supposed
to be doing a talk to an assembly at the local
secondary school that afternoon and he wasn’t too
sure what to speak about. So I asked would he like
me to speak, and he said that would be great. So we
went to the school and I ended up sharing my story
with hundreds of students. The headmaster was
another man of God who told us that every
morning he prayed that the Holy Spirit
would sweep down on his students and guide and
protect his school. What great hope there is for
our young people with men like him guiding them.
And after all that, what was the name of the school?
St Martin de Porres School!! The saints are very real
and are there to help each of us in the mission that
God has entrusted to us.
While I was in the North of England My friend Fr
Frankie Mulgrew invited me to a special ceremony
where his dad was receiving a papal knighthood for
all the amazing work he has done for the Church and
many charities through the years. Fr Frankie’s dad
is the comedian Jimmy Cricket and he is a great man
of faith and full of love for all those he meets. The
Bishop John Arnold said the Mass and awarded him
the papal knighthood. After communion Jimmy got
up to say a few words and he said above all he wanted
to thank God because he remembers when he first
arrived in England from Northern Ireland as a young
man, he was all alone and he owned nothing. But
went into a chapel in Liverpool and he knelt down
and asked God to guide his life. Not long after he
got a very good job in entertainment, met his lovely
wife May and the Lord has blessed and
guided them and their family all through the years.
We truly serve a truly faithful God.
I just wanted to thank you for praying for me and all
those I speak to. So many young people emailed me
to say how they hadn’t believed that God existed but
during my talk they had experienced the power of
God’s presence and his love and mercy and it had
changed their lives. I know that this can only come
about when people are praying and interceding, so
please keep it up!
You will remain very much in my prayers.
God bless you in his deep love