Towards the end of my 3rd year in France I went to speak to a priest near the Paris area! I spoke to him of my interest in the Holy Spirit and spiritual healing and of the various difficulties i had in finding a spiritual home in France! Humbly and rather quickly he told me that I should leave France, that the frenchies were far too rational!! In a way I was sad, but after 3 years I knew he was right.
‘Pourqoui pas aller a un pays en developpement comme l’Inde ou l’Afrique’ (Why not go to a developping country such as India or Africa) he said.
I looked at him, ready to explode on the inside and said to him..
In our irish language we have a phrase…
‘is fearr beagan cabhair no moran trua’ (a bit of help is better than a lot of pity)
And looking straight into his eyes I said that I have no money, a family who doesn’t understand me, how on earth am i going to get to India or Africa?!!
Now a door was going to open or slam shut in my face…it opened!! He organised to ring his religious brother in India and it was arranged that I would arrive over 2 weeks later!!! I had no real time for vaccinations so the Holy Spirit just told me he’d look after me… which by the way he did as I wrecklessly ate everything I got over there, drank water bla bla bla…..God is above all that when he wants to be!!
I cried as I left France, I hadn’t seen any family for 3 years despite constantlly praying that one day they’d come to accept me…and now what was God doing? Sending me to India of all places where I knew absolutley nobody!! Trust, trust, trust….God was asking me to trust!
Arriving in Chennai some half a day later after a sleepless flight with Euro 30 in my pocket I got my bag and exited the airport! A swarm of taxi men surrounded me dressed in a sort of yellow colour, bumble bees! They would bring me to my destination some 3 hours away for 2500 rupee (about 25 euro). However I knew that there was a bus for just under 60 rupee and I was rather annoyed that they wouldn’t tell me where to get it!!!
Eventually I got angry and walked off to find the bus which ironically was only 20 metres away! At this stage I had changed my money and had 3000 rupee in 3 notes of 1000 each. When the busdriver asked my for the fare and I handed him a 1000 rupee bill he shouted at me ‘get off’!!! Welcome to India i thought!! Anway, I’m used to my faith being tested so I wasn’t going to let this bother me and saying a quick prayer another man jumped up and offered to pay for me!! Thank you God!!
There was now only one problem, because there were no seats I was invited to sit beside the busdriver on the gearbox looking straight out the window. Now for anybody that doubts the existance of God, may I suggest that you visit India and take a bus there! The rule is that there are no rules! Buses overtake buses when there are buses coming, people, cars, motorbikes, cows on the road….for the european chaos….especially after a really long flight with no sleep when you are the only white person sitting on the gearbox of the bus thinking ‘you guys probably think i’m rich and I bet you’ve got more money than me’
3 hours later and after the best rosary of my life I reached my stop. It was now after 9.30 pm and I still needed to find the monastery where I would be staying outside the town of Pondicherry. I asked somebody if they knew where it was…nope….another guy…bingo, he offered to drive me there on one of those bikes that look half like a motorbike and half like a pushbike! I was so thankful for his kind heart until he stretched out his hand for a tip!!! Emmm, the world is the same all over!! It was now 10 pm and all the lights were off and the gates closed….dear Jesus I thought, I can take no more…I knocked on the door of an adjacent house and they let me in!!
I was warmly welcomed by a french priest who showed me my room, there were lizard running along the wall but they were harmless so I was to take no notice!! I asked for the chapel where I was to spend the next 3 hours….
The next day I was still a Zombie. I was shown around the monastery and orphanage where I would be teaching english and making myself useful in any other way possible! All the orphan kids were HIV+ and yet radiated such peace and joy, it really made me think of life and the deeper meaning and how empty life in the west can be.
But the greatest challenge was yet to come…teaching english to Indian brothers! Now little did I know how hard that would be. Despite english being my native language, I hadn’t used it for 3 years and so had become accustumed to thinking and speaking in french. I found it quite a challenge switching back (something that i did not expect) and it took me 5 months to begin to think in english once again. Furthermore, I liked maths in school, not english so I did not have a clue of english grammer and thank God for spellcheck when it comes to spelling……..So when I had all these indians asking me about past participles and future perfects and infinitives and conjugasing verbs I felt that I’d have a better chance teaching them chinese! But years of experience have taught me how to handle such situations in a way that I came away looking no less stupid and they came away no wiser!!
After a few weeks I was into the swing of things, up at 6 each morning for morning prayer, adoration and mass with the monks, teaching english mid moring and then working 3 afternoons per week in one of mother Theresa’s orpahanages.
It was here where I saw the miracle of Sophia who miraculously walked as I prayed for her.
Four months in and 2 to go I began to get itchy feet….what was i going to do when I came back to Europe?! I hadn’t exactly found what i was looking for in France and I had no real contact with Ireland and certainly no spiritual support! Anyway, faith wouldn’t be faith if we had all the answers to it was yet another call to trusing in Jesus Christ!
One Sunday after mass the Lord came through dramatically! A profound supernatural experience came over me in which Jesus told me to pack my bags, to leave the monastery, to travel about 12 hours accross India to a catholic retreat centre and that he’d send me somewhere else in the world from there! It is hard to describe such experiences, even now as I write about it, it seems surreal but yet I know that it is true!
I said my goodbyes and the monks (worried) thanked me for all my help and said their farewells. Our Lady gave me a profound peace on that bus journey, I felt her presence together with my guardian angel who comforted me! Despite the utter uncertaintly all i could feel was peace, joy and that childlike sense of adventure! Later I arrived at the largest Catholic Retreat Centre in the World………The Divine Retreat Centre! They welcomed thousand of retreatants each week and were very very gifted in the whole area of inner healing and the workings of the Holy Spirit! Finally I was with fellow crazy people!! “If the frenchies and my family could see this i thought, they may see that there is method to my madness”!!
A few days later I was introduced to the superiour of the retreat centre who welcomed me to stay for the remaining 2 months and who organised for me to get to Australia.
During this period I was shown around the entire retreat centre by brother Anthony who was later to come to Australia. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of the Indian people utterly amazed me as did their faith and spirituality. Us westerns may have more money but money isn’t everything!
I do hope to visit India again! I also hope that more of the Indian missionaries will visit our countries and help us renew our faith and bring the healing power of Jesus to our shores!
Anyway, thank you India for everying! I had fun! Pray for me! Biggest lesson that this taught me…trust…trust in God for absolutely everything and never ever give up!