Monday, April 9, 2012
I hope you are well and at peace.
Recently I had the joy to visit Houston in Texas where
I was doing some talks. From the moment I arrived at
the airport I was made to feel totally at home, I was
met by a man called Phil who showed me around and
gave me my first taste of Texas hospitality, when you
travel as much as I do you really appreciate when
people go out of their way to make you feel so welcome.
After my first talk a 14 year old girl came up to me and
said that she had never felt God’s love for her and she
doubted his existence. I asked her would she like me to
say a prayer over her and she said yes. Whilst I was
praying I sensed that she had suffered a lot in her
childhood and I said to her that God had never wanted
her to suffer. She began to weep and then turned to me
and said “He’s real isn’t He?” For the first time in her life
she knew that God loved her.
The person who invited me over was called Steve Bollman
who is the founder of a program called "That man is You!"
which is transforming men and teaching them what it is
to be an authentic Man of God. I must say it was a great
privilege to spend time with him and his wife. Both of them
are living their lives completely for God and not holding
anything back, you can see the joy in them because of that.
Whilst I was there I spoke in a Parish, a university and at
women's prayer breakfast which was a first for me.
As I got chatting to the different folks at these events they
were so open it was like being with family members, time
and again people shared their struggles and difficulties of
everyday life and I shared my own, but in it all there was
incredible grace. None of us are perfect but God uses us
to bring healing to one another when we come together
in his name.
Next I travelled to Bridgeport, Connecticut where I was
running a Parish mission for Fr Peter Towsley. Before
becoming a Diocesan Priest Fr Peter had spent many
years with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.
Usually when I do missions there are five of us on the
team, so it was a new experience to do one on my own.
It was great to hear at the end of my time there that many
people had come back to the Sacrament of confession after
I went to meet one particular family who had seven children
and both the mother and father were working full time for
God. The mother in natural family planning and the Dad
for the Knights of Columbus. Once again I felt part of the
family straight away and enjoyed showing the lads that an
Englishman could beat them at pool.
At the end of my time in Bridgeport my old mate Br Francis
came and picked me up and drove me to New York where
he had arranged a few talks. I had first met Br Francis twenty
years previously when we were both newly converted to our
faith and we had some great adventures together as God taught
us his ways. At one point he read the story of St Francis of Asissi
and how he had given away all of his riches for love of God,
and the next day inspired by this he literally gave away everything
he owned and decided he wanted to follow in his footsteps. Not
long after he joined the Franciscans of the Renewal where he
has been for the last sixteen years.
The first talk I did was for a community called the Bruderhof in
upstate New York. They are an amazing group who live a very
simple life just trying to follow the Gospel as closely as they can.
They are a great example to me of charity and hospitality and every
time I have visited them I always come away enriched in some way.
Then I spoke at a place called Children's village in New York city,
most of the teenagers who live there are either orphans or no longer
able to live with their parents. All of them have suffered in their young
lives. As I was speaking to them I knew that God was reaching into
their pain and showing them that they are precious to him and very
important in his plans, the scripture came to me "Even if your father
and mother forget you, I will never forget you."
On St Patricks day I spoke at the associates day of one of the Franciscan
houses, the associates are like third order Franciscans, who help out
with the various ministry's to the poor and young people and they all
come together once a month for a day of prayer. It was a real blessing
to me to meet some of my old friends from the time I had spent as friar
myself years earlier. Once again it felt like being with family and I had
some beautiful grace filled conversations.
Next I went to run a Parish mission in Hamilton, Ontario with a great
priest called Fr William Trusz. One man came up to me and shared
that he had been to confession for the first time in thirty five years and
it had changed his life, and I knew that the whole trip would have been
worth it just for him.
I got back to Ireland on the Wednesday of Holy week and myself and
Niall who is in community with me, went into one of the local pubs for
a pint of Guinness and a game of pool, after having gone to confession at
our Parish reconciliation service. The barmaid asked us if we were in
Ireland on holiday, so we told her that we actually live here and run
missions in parishes and schools, as we told her this tears began to
well up in her eyes and she said that when she was younger she wanted
to join the nuns and she actually helped run retreats for young people
but she had become an alcoholic and had stopped going to Mass a long
time ago. I told her that Jesus misses her and she said she knew it was
true. I gave her one of my books and she said she was definitely going
to read it. Unbeknown to me one of the men sitting at the bar had
overheard the entire conversation and had asked the barmaid if he could
look at my book, then he came over to me and told me that he had spent
a lot of his life in prison for various crimes and he was so happy to hear
that people could change, he said he wasn't a religious man but the
barmaid had promised to lend him copy of the book and he was looking
forward to reading how I'd changed. I thought I was going in the pub
just for a pint of Guinness but God had other plans. At every moment
of our lives he wants to bring his healing and his gentle mercy to all
those we meet and often it is through our very weakness.
I pray that you have a truly Blessed and joyful Easter Season.
You are very much in my heart and prayers.
God bless you in his deep love
Posted by John Pridmore