Around my teenage years I had a real sadness about me. I had everything that someone my age would want but I just had such an emptiness in my heart and I didn’t know what was causing it. My Mam was always a person of faith and she ended up going to Medugorje in 2004 with a group from north Cork. When she came back the following week I could see that there was a difference in her. She seemed very happy and had a peace about her. And she would not stop talking about Medugorje! So she asked me would I go the following year and I said I would, I think in the hope that if I agreed she might stop talking about Medugorje.
Eventually the time came for the trip, and I travelled with my Mam and Grandad as part of the group from North Cork. I was very unsure about what kind of a place Medugorje was but I was open to the experience. It took a couple of days to get into the trip. I think it was around the third or fourth night when I had a great experience. We were at a prayer meeting, a healing service and I just remember feeling so happy. I had a real experience of the love of Our Lady for me and I was on cloud nine. In Medugorje Our Lady says “if you knew how much I loved you, you’d cry for joy”, that night I knew how true that was. This experience of Our Lady’s love changed my life and I knew something inside of me had changed. The other aspect of the week that had a big effect on me was the group. I always had the impression that if you were holy, you were boring! But this group had so much joy about them. They could pray so devoutly and at the same time have the craic as well. It was a real witness for me of the words of Jesus: “I came so that you might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). When I came home from Medugorje my life had changed. I began to pray every day and the rosary became very important for me.My faith grew as I held on to the rosary every day. I also saw the Mass with new eyes and it was becoming more central in my life since the trip to Medugorje.
I started to go to youth 2000. Youth 2000 is a Catholic organisation for young people between the ages of 16-35 where young people grow in faith, centred around devotion to Our Lady and the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. One of the greatest things about youth 2000 was the witness of the priests. It was clear to see that they really loved their priesthood. I think the Lord used this to reiterate a call that I had previously felt but wasn’t ready to answer; the call to Priesthood. An authentic call to Priesthood is a gentle interior invitation from the Lord to follow Him. Medugorje again had a big impact on my vocation. One time when I was in Medugorje on retreat for Easter myself and five friends called into Vesna, a beautiful person, a friend of ours and a Medugorje local. She gave my five friends wooden rosary beads and she gave me white pearl rosary beads. I didn’t know the reason but I only found out years later that one of my friends asked Vesna why she gave me different rosary beads and Vesna replied ‘I only give them to priests’ and when my friend told Vesna I was not a priest, Vesna replied ‘he will be’.
This call wasn’t going away so I eventually decided I had to do something about it. I eventually went on a vocations weekend to the Pallottine Fathers in Thurles. I knew the Pallottines for a long time and had been to the house in Thurles many times, but it was on this vocations weekend that I felt a really deep peace and I knew the Lord was calling me to be a Pallottine Priest. Stubborn as I am though, I didn’t want to make the leap of faith even though I knew what the Lord was asking of me. I loved my life, my family, my friends, my social life and I thought that if I answered this call I would lose all that. Although we shouldn’t give him too much attention we must remember that the devil is real and he is subtle and likes to plant seeds of doubt. But he is an insect compared to the Lord and the Lords grace and it was on a 21st birthday trip to Rome that Mam got me that I would experience a great grace. I was in Rome in the apartment we were staying in and I was in the back garden reading a beautiful book called “the sorrowful Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Ann Catherine Emerich (I highly recommend it) and I remember reading about the scribes and Pharisees, men who were supposed to be signs of the love of God for their community but instead carried so much hatred for what was authentically holy, most of all the Holy One Himself, Jesus. As I read this I felt as if the Lord was saying to me ‘be my Priest, and don’t cause me this pain, be a Priest after my own heart’ (Not that I have perfected this by any means, im a sinner! But this is what us priests are called to) After such a grace, it was time now to repond to the Lord’s call. After I came home Rome from I applied to join the Pallottines and entered that September.
When I joined the Pallottines I had a deep peace, a peace which comes from knowing that you are in the place where God wants you to be. And still there was ups and downs along the way. The study was demanding and I found it difficult. I know that without the love of Jesus and Our Lady I would not have got through. Prayer was my anchor. Nearly every summer during my studies I went to Medugorje. Our Lady used this time to strengthen me and refocus me on what is important: Jesus her Son. I thank God that I was ordained a Priest earlier this year. I am forever grateful to God for everything in my life, for my family (including my biological Father who I met two years ago and am in contact with now again), friends, my community my vocation as a Priest and the amazing gift of celebrating the Holy Mass every day. God is so generous. And I am so grateful for Medugorje where I encountered Our Lady and her Son Jesus and the beauty of the Catholic faith.
The full article appears in the December edition of the Medjugorje Messenger