In 1975 I was fourteen years old and miserable. We lived in an attractive modern home in a middle class Sydney North Shore suburb. Materially, life was reasonably comfortable. We were fed and clothed, lived in a good area and had plenty to do. But spiritually and emotionally I felt like I was living in a black hole.
I am not going to whinge about my dear family, and they are all very dear to me. In those days, we didn't have our act together. Any one of us could look back and say, we could have done things better. We could have had more time, more understanding, more consideration and more respect for one another. I would go so far as to say that in those days we were dysfunctional. We are not now.
My father was a virulent atheist. His contempt for any expression of religious belief stifled religious enquiry. My mother was brought up a Catholic and she is a splendid Catholic nowadays. But while we were growing up she was not practising. She was nevertheless a superb mother. She and my father didn't have the warmest of relationships; they ended up separating. Other relationships in the family were similarly complicated and places of solitude and refuge were highly sought after.
Both my parents had a modern idea about freedom of choice as far as religion was concerned. For this I am grateful. They decided to give us kids a taste of religion by sending us to the local Methodist Sunday School; after that, we were going to be allowed to make up our own minds.
In those Sunday School days of the mid to late '60s we were living in a smaller home set on bush acreage, which I loved to explore. Alone among the manferns growing along the creek I began to yearn for union with the beauty and harmony that was my environment in those precious moments. I would come home from Sunday School having been asked to open my heart to Jesus, go down to the creek and the ferns, and pour my heart out to God, begging Him to come into it and make me one with Him. I don't know what I expected to happen. But I felt it ought to have been something tangible and personal. In fact, when nothing seemed to happen, I would burst into tears, go back to my bedroom and keep asking God to hear me and answer me.
This religious devotion was very short lived. One Sunday, when I was 9 years old, I refused to go to church. There were other things I would rather be doing with my time and since my parents didn't go, I didn't see why I should have to go. And I didn't have to. I very quickly forgot about my longings for God and became caught up in more material pleasures.
By the time I was 14 my main interest was football, to be precise, Rugby League. Football-wise 1975 was a good year for me. My team, the Roosters (then called Eastern Suburbs) were doing well, and that year they won the Premiership. I had a souvenir T shirt signed by every player and was photographed wearing it when my family moved to Tasmania in 1976.
I am mentioning these years and associated evidence for a reason. Something extraordinary happened to me in 1975 and it is important for me to be able to prove that it was 1975.
I already mentioned that places of solitude were highly sought after. The best place for me to be left alone was in front of theTV on a Thursday night when the Amcal Cup replay was on. This football replay was screened at 9:00pm and I was allowed to stay up and watch it. As no-one else in my family liked football, I had the whole room to myself.
One Thursday night in 1975, while waiting for the Amcal Cup replay to come on I was watching the show that came immediately before it, a show about religious controversy called, "Everyman".
Everyman was showing the BBC documentary about the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Garabandal. For those of you unfamiliar with these events, in 1961 four young Spanish girls began to receive a series of apparitions that were well filmed and documented. The documentary interviewed one of the seers, gave a synopsis of the events, showed clippage of the seers in ecstacy and displayed the messages asked to be delivered by them to the world.
Well now, I had never heard of it or anything like it and I was riveted, but I can tell you, I didn't understand a word of it. It might as well have been done in Chinese, it was such a foreign language. I'd never heard of cardinals, bishops and priests. What was the Blessed Sacrament? The Eucharist? Penance? The messages were only shown for a few seconds, not enough time to grab a pen and paper and copy them down for research in those pre-PC, pre-internet days. And I knew I would never remember the words.
And yet, I will never forget how I felt, hearing something so alien and yet so divine. And seeing those girls in ecstacy, doing their ecstatic walks and falls. I was deeply moved and deeply stirred and I badly wanted to know what it was all about and what it all meant. I'd never felt so frustrated. What could I do? To whom could I turn for help? There was just one thing to do, so I did it. I prayed. I prayed for the first time in at least five years. "Dear God, if this truly comes from you, let me see it again, and let me understand the messages, please."
Well, again, nothing seemed to happen and the BBC documentary on Garabandal was soon forgotten. The following year, my family escaped the rat race and bought a 6 acre farm on the banks of the picturesque Huon River in Southern Tasmania.
Fast forward three years and I was attending an Easter Sunday Mass with a friend, who is now my husband. We came late and St Joseph's in Hobart was packed, so we went upstairs and sat in the choir loft.
I was 18 years old and searching. For this purpose, I was enrolled in a Religious Studies course at Elizabeth Matriculation College. Our required reading for the unit on Christianity were the Gospels. I also felt it was time to subject the anti-Catholic vitriol I'd picked up from some of my various protestant encounters to critical analysis, and I had been hoping to find something that explained the Catholic Faith. Tim, my boyfriend, carried rosary beads in his shirt pocket, so I asked him if he had anything suitable. He gave me his brown and green catechisms from high school. So in conjunction with the four Gospels I was reading the Catholic Catechesim.
This all struck a major chord with me. It was so consoling to me, in fact, that in my mind I likened it to letting a chocolate melt in my mouth. There was just one thing that was not like a chocolate melting in my mouth, but rather, like a bone stuck in my throat, and that was the Catholic emphasis on Marian devotion. Like Tim's rosary. Why say such a repetitive prayer? Surely that was lacking in thought and effort? And why was Mary (St Mary as I thought of her; I had never heard her referred to as, 'Our Lady') called the Mother of God? Yes, Jesus is God, and yes, she is His Mother, but divine maternity seemed to imply she was something more than human, like she was His Mother from all eternity. I didn't like it; I couldn't gel with it, and Marian devotion did not become a feature of my prayer life.
I had also been wondering about which church to join upon becoming a Christian. I had been attending an Anglican Bible Study class but did not think of myself as actually belonging to that church. I was trying to figure out which Church was the church founded by Jesus Christ. Was it really the Catholic Church with its unbroken succession of popes from Peter to John Paul 11? If so, then how did one reconcile this awkward thing called Marian devotion?
These were the questions perplexing me as I sat alone in the choir loft while everyone else was down below receiving Holy Communion.
Just at that moment, a voice spoke to me, interiorly. I didn't hear it with my ears and I didn't see anything, but I knew it was St Mary herself speaking. She said, "Do not be afraid to do what you know to be right. I am your Mother and I will protect you."
You know what? It didn't feel extraordinary. It felt like hearing from someone who was very dear and familliar to me that I hadn't seen or heard from in a long time. It was joyous and challenging. I knew what she was telling me. She was telling me to convert.
All the long way home to the country I thought about it. On the one hand, I knew that authority from Christ was conferred upon the Catholic Church. It stood to reason. But on the other hand, there was this emphasis on Mary. And although I badly wanted to get it, I just didn't.
Walking up the long driveway I thought about it some more. Maybe I needed to stop concentrating on my problem with it and just think about Mary, since she had spoken to me. From my reading of the Gospels I knew that the Angel Gabriel had visited her and told her that she would become the mother of the Saviour. And - aha! - she asked, "But how can this be, since I am a virgin?" It suddenly occurred to me that she didn't understand everything either, but she believed and consented. In this, she was setting me a poignant example.
So I said, "OK, if everything else in the Catholic Faith is true, this must also be true since it comes from the same authority. I accept and believe." And with that, my doubt vanished. Suddenly and clearly I understood that Mary is called the Mother of God because of the union of Our Lord's divine and human natures. It is in this sense that she is called the Mother of God.
Filled with certainty, I announced my decision to become a Catholic to my amused and skeptical family.
That was 31 years ago and I often wondered how it was that such a grace came to me. Did some distant ancestor pray for it? Was it the fruit of the Prayer of the Faithful? Or did Our Lady just cast a glance my way and decide to intervene on my behalf?
With my lack of referential background I did not know what a privileged grace I had in fact received. I assumed that such experiences must be commonplace for Catholics and I even told off my Catholic friends and acquaintances for not telling me.
But more. I did not realise until last year what a privileged grace I had received by seeing the BBC documentary on Garabandal on Everyman in 1975. You see, that documentary was not even filmed until 1980.
Put yourself in my shoes. What would you make of it? Well, I will tell you what I have made of it. Seeing that documentary caused me to pray to understand the message delivered to the world by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Garabandal. Three years later the Blessed Virgin Mary herself prompted my conversion to the Catholic Church by delivering an interior message, or locution. And should you be wondering if this in fact wasn't a case of suggestion, having seen that documentary in the first place (I know I would be thinking this if I was the reader of such a story as this) I can only assure you that nothing like a locution was ever conveyed. Of such matters I was completely ignorant and made a fool of myself by disclosing it to others in the mistaken belief that such things must of course happen all the time to Catholics.
What I believe is this. We have a powerful advocate in Heaven called Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His dying wish on the cross was, "Behold your mother." As brethren of Christ we might ask why He asked us to behold HIs Mother instead of Himself at that critical time? And we can find the answer in Luke 1:47 in words spoken by Mary herself. "My soul magnifies the Lord."
Now, I have shared with you the story of my conversion to the Catholic Church, and not in the "I Am A Catholic Convert" group but in my blog. That is because the purpose of my writing this is not to present the story of my conversion nor to present apologetics for the Catholic Faith. It is to share with you what I have come to understand about the Message of Our Lady of Mt Carmel of Garabandal. And to do that I felt that it was necessary to explain how I became caught up in this story.
to be continued...
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 21: THINK ABOUT THE PASSION OF JESUS, posted December 24th, 2010, 10 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 20: YOU SHOULD MAKE MORE SACRIFICES, posted December 23rd, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 19: PRAY TO US WITH SINCERITY AND WE WILL GRANT YOUR REQUESTS, posted December 23rd, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 18: AND DO NOT WANT YOUR CONDEMNATION, posted December 20th, 2010, 4 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of GarabandalChapter 17: I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, posted December 19th, 2010, 1 comment
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 16: YOU ARE NOW RECEIVING THE LAST WARNINGS, posted December 18th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 15: I, YOUR MOTHER, THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, AM ASKING YOU TO AMEND YOUR LIFE Part 3, posted December 17th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 15: I, YOUR MOTHER, THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, AM ASKING YOU TO AMEND YOUR LIVES Part 2, posted December 16th, 2010, 1 comment
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 15: I, YOUR MOTHER, THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, AM ASKING YOU TO AMEND YOUR LIVES Part 1, posted December 15th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 14: IF YOU ASK FORGIVENESS WITH SINCERE HEARTS HE WILL PARDON YOU continued, posted December 13th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 14: IF YOU ASK FORGIVENESS WITH SINCERE HEARTS HE WILL PARDON YOU continued, posted December 12th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 14: IF YOU ASK FORGIVENESS WITH SINCERE HEARTS HE WILL PARDON YOU, posted December 11th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 13: YOU SHOULD TURN THE WRATH OF GOD AWAY FROM YOURSELVES BY YOUR EFFORTS, posted December 11th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 12: LESS AND LESS IMPORTANCE IS BEING GIVEN TO THE EUCHARIST continued, posted December 10th, 2010
Towards Understaning the Message of Garabandal Chapter 12: LESS AND LESS IMPORTANCE IS BEING GIVEN TO THE EUCHARIST continued, posted December 7th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 12: LESS AND LESS IMPORTANCE IS BEING GIVEN TO THE EUCHARIST, posted December 7th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 11: MANY CARDINALS, MANY BISHOPS AND MANY PRIESTS ARE ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION AND ARE TAKING MANY SOULS WITH THEM, posted December 6th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Mesage of Garabandal Chapter 11: MANY CARDINALS, MANY BISHOPS AND MANY PRIESTS ARE ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION AND ARE TAKING MANY SOULS WITH THEM continued, posted December 4th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 11: MANY CARDINALS, MANY BISHOPS AND MANY PRIESTS ARE ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION AND ARE TAKING MANY SOULS WITH THEM, posted December 4th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 10: BEFORE THE CUP WAS FILLING UP, NOW IT IS FLOWING OVER, posted December 2nd, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 9: I AM ADVISING YOU THAT THIS IS THE LAST ONE, posted December 2nd, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 8: AS MY MESSAGE OF OCTOBER 18TH HAS NOT BEEN COMPLIED WITH AND HAS NOT BEEN MADE KNOWN THE WORLD, posted December 1st, 2010
Towards Understaning the Message of Garabandal: THE SECOND MESSAGE, posted November 29th, 2010
AND IF WE DO NOT CHANGE, A VERY GREAT CHASTISEMENT WILL COME UPON US, posted November 29th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 6: THE CUP IS ALREADY FILLING UP, posted November 26th, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 5: IF WE DO NOT A CHASTISEMENT WILL BEFALL US, posted November 24th, 2010, 2 comments
towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 4: BUT FIRST WE MUST BE VERY GOOD, posted November 23rd, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal: BUT FIRST WE MUST BE VERY GOOD, posted November 22nd, 2010
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 3: AND VISIT THE BLESSED SACRAMENT FREQUENTLY, posted November 20th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 2: PERFORM MUCH PENANCE, posted November 19th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 1: WE MUST MAKE MANY SACRIFICES continued, posted November 19th, 2010, 2 comments
Towards Understanding the Message of Garabandal Chapter 1: WE MUST MAKE MANY SACRIFICES, posted November 18th, 2010, 2 comments
The First Message of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Delivered in Garabandal on October 18,1961, posted November 17th, 2010
Converted by Our Lady Continued, posted November 17th, 2010, 1 comment
Converted by Our Lady, posted November 16th, 2010, 6 comments
Getting to Goal Weight day 332: Getting Back On Track and I Didn't Even Know I Was Off the Track, posted November 12th, 2010
Your Cross, posted November 6th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 324: Important Muscles That Are Easily Forgotten, posted November 5th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 314: Crashing Down to Reality With a Thud, posted October 27th, 2010, 4 comments
Getting to Goal Weight day 294: Spring is Here, posted October 6th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 275: My Back, posted September 17th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 269: That Photo From Before, posted September 11th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 265: Where were you on September 11?, posted September 10th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 258: It Has Been Ages Since...., posted September 3rd, 2010, 1 comment
Gettig to Goal Weight day 251: Never Admit the Pain, posted September 1st, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 248: Adjusting the Wardrobe, posted August 27th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 241: Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat, posted August 20th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 234: Slow Progress, posted August 13th, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 223: Women Comparing Their Weight, posted August 3rd, 2010
Getting to Goal Weight day 207: Progress, posted July 16th, 2010
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