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Rescued by Jesus

Fr.Thady Doyle

I grew up in a loving home and went to a really good Primary School. I have hardly a negative memory from my first thirteen years. So a good foundation was laid.

 

But secondary school was a disaster. When I was just three weeks there, I got blamed for something which I hadn't done and got a very severe beating for it. Because I kept insisting on my innocence, the beating went on and on, as the teacher was determined to get me to admit doing it. Worse still, I had a row with the two blokes who were responsible. Within a couple of months they had become members of a gang of bullies that caused immense hurt to many students. I was already in conflict with them, and, as a result, became their number one victim.

 

At the time, though I was an innocent victim, I took all the blame and shame upon myself. Deep down I really came to believe that it was I who had the problem. I was very angry with and bitter towards those who caused the hurt, but deep down it was myself I blamed.

It destroyed me from within; destroyed my sense of self-worth; destroyed my ability to concentrate; left me feeling deeply inadequate, different, and very isolated; not to speak of the effects of living in ongoing fear I ended up a very broken person.

 

Despite my brokenness, I still felt called to the priesthood. Thankfully I was sent to St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, which gave me the chance of a new beginning. There was a great atmosphere there and the nobleness of my fellow seminarians absolutely amazed me. There was just one problem:- I had brought myself with me! The years of living in the valley of darkness had taken its toll and left many problems and compulsions.

 

I felt a complete fraud; felt that if the others knew the hidden me that I would be rejected. I was also full of anger and crippled by feelings of being inferior, of being different. I really gave it a big big try. But after five years I could go no further. I was desolate, even dangerously desolate. I just wanted to be no more. There were times when I was close to suicide. The one thing that saved me during this time of great darkness, was that I didn't wish to bring hurt to my family.

 

I was then so desolate that I could not visualise how I could be happy anywhere; not even in heaven. Yes, even heaven seemed a terribly desolate place and worse still, a desolate place that would just go on and on for ever

In the Gospels I read Jesus' claim to be the Bread of Life. I cried out to Him, "If you really are the Bread of Life why am I experiencing such inner emptiness?"

 

That for me was a burning question; either He was who He claimed to be or there was something terribly wrong with the whole thing. He said that He was the Bread of Life, yet I had prayed daily, gone to Mass daily and there I was full of emptiness. There was for me a contradiction in all this.

 

I felt that I could no longer continue going for the priesthood given my inner desolation, and so I told both my family and the appropriate authorities that I was quitting, and started serious job hunting.

 

Then another student handed me a copy of "The Cross and the Switchblade" which describes how David Wilkerson had felt called by God to travel to New York and to start ministering to the street gangs. He had nothing except the Gospels and the power of the Holy Spirit to bring to them, yet some of the toughest of the gang leaders had their whole lives transformed. They were taken from the streets, from the brutal violence, the robberies, the drug addiction, the promiscuity and given a whole new life. Some went on to become ministers themselves.

 

It was like reading the Acts of the Apostles all over again - only now it was taking place today. My whole being was gripped with faith as I read that book. I knew that there was a power that could transform my life.

I had never travelled abroad, indeed my insecurity made travel an ordeal, but I was determined that I was going to get to New York, to get to where the power of the Gospel to transform lives was being preached. Everything within me said that this was the answer. Then about a week or so later, Benny McHale, now Fr Benny, a priest in the Tuam diocese, invited me to a Prayer Meeting in Maynooth. I thought it was marvellous:- those taking part seemed to be really experiencing Jesus as the Bread of Life, walking in a living relationship with Jesus.

 

Needless to say, given the interior crisis I was then undergoing, many things had become spiritually dry, spiritually empty for me. Even the Mass had lost its meaning, had lost its appeal, become empty. There appeared so much joy by comparison at the Prayer Meeting. The members had something that I so badly needed.

 

A few days later, I was walking down the corridor in Maynooth, when I met Benny, accompanied by Kevin Lanigan, later Fr Kevin, a priest in Cork who died suddenly some years back. They were on their way to a big Prayer Meeting in Eustace Street in Dublin and had one seat left in the minibus - if I was interested. I dropped everything and joined them.

 

Arriving in Eustace Street I was amazed by the crowds and took it for granted that everybody present had come into this mighty power. Some of their ways of praying, hand clapping, hands in the air, tongues etc., didn't come natural to me. But I didn't care. I really wanted what was behind it all, the power of the Holy Spirit.

There was an Presbyterian minister from Belfast there that night. After the meeting I had the opportunity to be prayed with by him. I just mentioned my inner loneliness and he prayed, placing his hands on my head. Nothing happened while he was praying over me. In fact, I remember feeling a sense of disappointment.

 

Then some 15 to 30 seconds after I moved away from him, it started. Where deep within my chest I had previously experienced the centre of the great inner emptiness, inner vacuum, I now felt a bubbling heat beginning to rise; bubbling and swirling and filling out, like clouds billowing in the sky.

 

I had believed that it would be the Holy Spirit that would transform me. The Prayer Meeting had centred very much on the Holy Spirit. Yet, as I experienced the bubbling, billowing sensations of heat moving within me as a living force, I also experienced a great conviction that it was the Risen Jesus who was present to me. I neither understood nor analysed it then. I just knew that I was feeling heat where previously I had experienced the emptiness, and somehow I knew I was being touched by Jesus.

 

The heat continued all the way back to Maynooth. I went to sleep with it that night. I woke up with it the next morning and went right through the day with it, and so indeed for several days, I now cannot remember how many. I do remember that about 10 days to two weeks later, I experienced a sense of panic for about 5 minutes. I suddenly realised that the heat was gone, but even as I panicked, I realised that there was something equally valuable in its place, a sense of calm and the continued and ongoing sense of the presence of Jesus.

 

Meanwhile I was telling my friends something of what had happened - though I found sharing very difficult. Some warned of emotional experiences, of the danger of coming down off off cloud nine as they called it, and of being worse off than ever when I hit the ground. That was in 1972. Praise God, I still haven't hit the ground. Indeed while the heat has gone, the totality of the experience has never left me and indeed, especially in the last 20 years, has grown stronger and stronger and stronger. In an inner but yet very definite way, I have met the Risen Jesus.

Jesus said, "Whoever believes in Me, streams of life-giving water will pour out from His heart" John 7:37 (GN).

"Whoever drinks the water that I will give Him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14, (ON)

That is what I experienced and that is what I am continuing to experience, now more than ever. Jesus has given me this spring of life-giving water and it is now indeed becoming a stream. My experience of it continues to grow.

 

Some people can testify that when Jesus came upon them, their every problem was removed, that they were cleansed of whatever bad habits they had built up in their hours of darkness and that all the hurt and anger was taken away. It was the total opposite with me. I experienced the power of the Risen Christ. Where previously there had been an ongoing sensation of inner emptiness, there was now an ongoing sensation of the presence and love of Jesus. But I was left to face every other compulsion, every other problem, every other area of difficulty that had built up in my life over the years.

 

I was still very far from being ready to even consider forgiving the people who had hurt me. I was carrying all the anger and bitterness and hadn't even begun to realise that, not merely was this contrary to the teaching of Jesus, but that it would delay my inner healing, and spill over in all sorts of ways in my life.

 

It was in October 1972 that Jesus touched my life. As a result I recommitted myself to going for the priesthood. But it still was by no means all plain sailing. I suffered deep feelings of inferiority, intense shyness, was full of anger, and despite Jesus having filled the emptiness, I still experienced some loneliness and even more so, a real fear of ending up tonely. I also found difficulties in coping sexually. Around this time, I had a very frank discussion with my spiritual director during which I outlined very candidly my difficulties with celibacy, and asked if he felt I should leave the Seminary. He acknowledged the extent of my difficulties, but said that he felt that I could make it.

 

Just one and a half years later, in June 1974, I was ordained, and begun my priestly ministry full of enthusiasm, but also still needing much healing. On the one hand I was working out of a very deep faith experience. On the other, there was still so much to be faced in my own life, so much healing required.

 

I can now see that for the first 13-14 years of my ministry, I was a divided person:- partly walking in the power of Jesus, yet still having to grapple with, face up to and even be delivered from all the knock-on effects of the years that I had spent in darkness, the damage that my whole person had suffered as a result of those traumatic teenage years. When there is both anger and insecurity within a person, it spills over. It leaves one sensitive, causes one to be judgemental, makes it difficult to cope with criticism or even differences of opinion. Small things are taken too seriously.

 

Not being able to cope, one lashes back and then divisions are formed. I must admit that I was guilty of this. May I express my apologies to those I hurt or let down during those years. The sad truth is that when one is hurt oneself and hasn't dealt with the hurt, one in turn hurts others. I was doing the best I was capable of, but I needed much inner healing. I still hadn't begun to forgive either the teacher or the bullies. Indeed, I must sadly confess that I would have rejoiced at their destruction. I totally avoided the teacher so that I wouldn't have to speak to him. My heart was still a long way from being open to the message of Jesus,

"If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done" Matthew 6:15, (GN).

 

I now thank God for the day I found the grace to begin to forgive, and regret that that day didn't come sooner. It now greatly pleases me also that I never sought anything from those who brought the hurt into my life, never demanded retribution or justice, never even asked for an apology or an explanation.

 

What happened in my own life brought me to my knees, led to great personal brokenness, led me to the verge of suicide, led to years of desolation, greatly affected my personality and my ministry for many years, but I give thanks to God for finding the grace to forgive without seeking to bring any form of hurt into the lives of those responsible.

 

I thank God for the wonderful ongoing healing that Jesus brings. Strange to say, I also now thank God for all that happened to me. I now have a truly wonderful experience of Jesus as the bread of my life. I have learned so much through my own struggles, grown so much as I sought personal healing. My life is tilled with an intense ongoing joy. One can never put back the clock. One can never be the same person that one would have been if these things had never happened. But one can, with the help of Jesus, become a better person. I believe that I am. It is from my own journey into healing that all my booklets are derived, and that I am able to offer help to others.

 

My one and only regret is that, while I was still a divided person, I brought hurt into the lives of others. For that I sincerely apologise.

 

During the period when I was still struggling, celibacy and sexuality were also extremely difficult for me. It is not easy to write about such things. They are very personal. I do so for one reason only - to hold out hope to others. Jesus is interested in helping us in the sexual side of our being also. What is more, it is possible to experience sexual healing, to even be delivered from sexual compulsions. I can testify to that.

 

When one has suffered great hurt, it inevitably has a knock-on affect on one's sexuality. It is one of the consequences. In my case there was an extra factor. Sadly I had been led to believe that celibacy wasn't God's will and had been given the falsified version of its history which so many trot out to this day. This made it even harder still, much harder.

 

Then in 1987 I spent some days in a mobile at Ballinesker by the sea. While there, I had a brief spiritual experience. While feeling a bit bored, I picked up a spiritual book by Jean Vanier, opened it and read, "Celibacy is a gift". The words absolutely lit up. As the words "Celibacy is a gift" lit up, a flow of gentle energy seemed to pass through me, from my head to my feet.

 

I can't rightly describe what happened. It was too quick, too gentle for words. Yet it was as if something was washed away, as if something literally left my body. I immediately felt a new sense of freedom, freedom from sexual compulsions.

 

It was a further important turning point. I have found celibacy increasingly easy since then. I believe that the healing that started that day has been continued - especially each year at the Intercession For Priests. Around 1996, Sr. Briege Mckenna gave me a little personal prophecy concerning victory in the sexual area of my life. I felt nothing either while she was praying with me or afterwards, but I have experienced tremendous freedom since from all sexual desires..

 

Meanwhile I find it hard to find words to express the joy and happiness that is in my life. It is a truly wonderful ongoing experience. It all comes from my relationship with Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the love of the Father.

 

The above is a significant extract from the opening chapter of my book "Answering God's Call and having one's life transformed"

I am writing this footnote to the above in 2006. During the last six months I believe that I have been led into some wonderful new insights, and into a deeper experience of union with Jesus. These are to be found in my prayer booklet "To Pray With The Voice Of Jesus" and in the outline of "Living in Jesus Association".

 

 

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