In 2003, I came up to the beautiful city of Edinburgh in Scotland – where I was born – from the south west of England, to train as a music therapist. I’d trained as a Bass Clarinetist some years before, at Rotterdam conservatory. After the music therapy course, I felt a longing to experience the unconditional love of God. I’d drifted away from my Catholic faith – and I became very aware of my need to repent of the things I’d done wrong in my life.
I looked for a prayer group in Edinburgh, and started to attend one at the city’s Catholic cathedral. To this prayer group came an Augustinian priest – who has a wonderful healing ministry. He led me in a prayer of repentance for my past sins, and of giving my life to Jesus. Though I was reluctant at the time, only later did I realise that this was a huge turning point in my life – and the best thing I could ever have done! I knew that I must go to the sacrament of reconciliation now, and after 15 years of not having gone, I confessed my sins - allowing God to cleanse and heal - at the Sacred Heart Church in Edinburgh.
A young man stationed with the Augustinians – in his year of discerning whether God was calling him to the priesthood – encouraged me to start a prayer life. I can remember walking up the ancient Coburn street one day in Edinburgh. As we climbed this steep cobbled hill, he asked me: ‘How is your prayer life?’. I said, ‘I don’t have a prayer life, as when I get home from work, all I want to do is have a glass of wine, and after that, I can’t pray!’
My friend’s response to this both delighted me, and took me by surprise. He said, ‘Things will only start to happen (in your spiritual life) when you pray, ‘why don’t you pray with the glass of wine?’!!
Later, he spent half the night making a prayer stool for me. After I received this, I knew that I had no excuse not to pray: I began to pray every day. As I started to pray, and to praise God every week at a charismatic prayer group, I began to experience the reality of the presence of Jesus with me for the first time in my life. Members of the prayer group prophesied – allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them. As I heard them, I was convicted that God was truly speaking, and for the first time I knew that Jesus was real, and my faith was really real!
As I was encouraged to continuously open my Bible, and read scripture in the prayer group, I later discovered what Paul had written in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 24 – 25. Here Paul writes: ‘but if you were all prophesying and an unbeliever or uninitiated person came in, …. he would find his secret thoughts laid bare, and then fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.’ I became aware during my prayer times that Jesus was calling me to study more about my faith. So, I enrolled at ‘Our Lady’s School of Evangelisation’ – in Knock, Ireland.
In 2007, I left for Ireland in my tiny red fiat 500 car. Using the AA route planner (rather than the more sensible option of looking at a map), I finally arrived on the edge of a wild cliff top in Knock. Very pleased with myself, I looked for the shrine, and found nothing – I had arrived at the wrong Knock - in County Clare!! I found a pub in Clare, where a group of some high stools were placed in a circle near the fireplace. With the barman and his dog, I had a glass of coke, and we laughed heartily at my mistake!! To this day, I have never regretted driving to County Clare – how beautiful a place it is!!
2 and a half hours later, I arrived at Cnoc Mhaire (or Knock), in County Mayo!! On this wonderful but challenging course (no wine or any other drink of that sort allowed for the 9 months!), we learned about the many ways of prayer, scripture, sharing our faith with others, and community living.
I had given up my job to attend the course and had no job to return to in Edinburgh. So, eventually I moved to Glasgow – the ‘dear green place’ – to find work, and have continued my journey here for the last 6 years. I have been struck by the strength of people’s faith here, as well as their openness, constant kindness and laughter. I love this place!