Since my last update I have given six parish missions
and a number of talks in schools, conferences and
prisons in Ireland, England, Scotland and the USA.
When I speak in a prison it is a harsh reminder of
how my freedom was taken away from me in my
younger days during my three prison sentences.
However, on my travels I meet quite a few people
who are just as imprisoned in a spiritual way.
These can be through fear, worry, anxiety, addiction,
being judgemental, being controlling and unforgiveness
to mention just a few.
In my case I had a release date knowing that my
freedom would be reestablished when I walked out,
but some of the people that I come across do not
have any release date and have battled with these
prisons for years. I am always reminded of the
story where fear, anxiety, hopelessness and misery
knocked at the door, but faith answered, and there was
no one there. We should always remember that
God’s plan for us is freedom from all these shackles.
The more we know the goodness of God’s mercy,
providence and love we see that the prisons are
just illusions that we are free to walk away from
any time we choose. Sometimes we can be
powerless to do this, but we never feel there
is no hope. In the famous poem footprints Jesus
carried the man in the greatest trials of his life.
I remember when I was addicted to gambling and
I brought this up in confession and the priest said
you are not culpable for your addiction but you are
responsible to get help for your addiction. In my
own case by allowing God’s love into the part my
heart where the addiction manifested itself I was
healed of that addiction. This was not overnight
but a constant desire in prayer to be set free.
The twelve step program AA, GA and NA is a
wonderful way to allow God’s light to penetrate
these areas. These same twelve steps can be a
blessing in many aspects of our lives.
One of the books that spoke to me deeply about
trusting God’s goodness was “The Shack”. There
is a fictitious encounter where Jesus tries to teach
a man how to walk on water. The man does not
believe that he can do this, but Jesus reassures
him that by trusting the past to his mercy, the future
to his providence and living the now immersed in
his love we can be free!
On my visit to a prison in England I had only one
book with me to show the fifty prisoners. I felt
inspired by the Holy Spirit after my talk to give
the book to one prisoner. It turned out he had
spent fifteen years in prison with no release date
coming up any time soon. That night he read my
book “From Gangland to Promised Land”. The
next morning he asked to become a Catholic and
has started his instruction. I feel sometimes even if
we are physically in prison we can be spiritually set
free. As we journey through these days of advent
we should open our hearts in real honesty and
sincerity to our humble God who comes to us as a
vulnerable helpless baby, saying to us, Do not be
afraid, Emmanuel, God is with you in every struggle
and the victory is His.
May you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas
and an abundance of God’s grace in the new year.
This coming January I will be speaking to several
thousand young people in schools so please keep
this in your prayers.
God bless you in his deep love