Saturday, April 21, 2018

I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS



I'm not much into country music but the first time I saw Charlie Lansborough on tv he made me cry with his song My Forever Friend”, which is about the friendship of Jesus. My tears were not of sadness but of recognition. I felt the inner conviction that Jesus is my forever friend. This conviction is better expressed for me in the song by Delirious? - “What A Friend I’ve Found”.  My life, my vocation is based on my friendship with Jesus. 

When God says to the Prophets “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.” I know what this means. I feel it! Because of it I know that I have been destined for priesthood from my mother’s womb and even before that. 

I’ve always had an instinct for God, an attraction for Him and I’ve always wanted to be a priest at the altar for as long as I can remember. During the Easter holidays of my final year in secondary school there was a vocations workshop on in the Redemptorists College down the road from home. I had planned to go but when the time came I didn’t feel like missing out on the holidays. My mother said “maybe you should go all the same”.  

So I went out of respect for her and I met Fr. Vincent Kelly the Pallottine Vocations director who made a deep and joyful impression on me and he invited me to visit the community in Thurles. I fell in love immediately with the place, the community and I knew that I had found my home. Vocation is about finding one’s home, our place and state of belonging in this world. 

I was on a high after my visit to Thurles and determined that it was there I would live. My parents were a bit frightened because no one had ever of the Pallottines and Mam was sure they might be a sect or at least a "strange crowd". She told one of the neighbours of her concern about the Pallottines. The woman told her she need not worry because two of her own neighbours  were Pallottines and that they were a lovely community. I have heard others talk about the austerity and coldness of seminary life but for me there was nothing austere in the Pallottines and there was great warmth. That’s how my vocation began and it was a very innocent, uncomplicated beginning.   

Over the next 46 years I was to learn how God shapes us and forms us through struggle, suffering and sin. As the Book of Sirach says “If you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal” (Sirach 2) - not a great way of trying to attract people to a way of life. But it is true that we cannot become anything worthwhile in life without challenge, without the cross. A vocation is like climbing a mountain, doing the Camino to Santiago - demanding, difficult, involving risk and it is thrilling.  

What has held me together in all of it is the Eucharist and the Word of God; I have learned the meaning and power of obedience from Mary at the Annunciation; I have found meaning in ministering to other people, finding Christ in them time and time again. Family, community and friends are also essential in helping us stay on the road that God has marked out for us. 

I have been chosen and, as the song says, "I have decided to follow Jesus - no turning back".  

TESTIMONY KNOCK 2014

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