Posts Tagged ‘priests’

Testimony of a Dying Catholic Girl

March 10, 2014

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“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…

but with the precious blood of Christ.”

(1Peter 1: 18-19)

 The following tract was recently sent to me by a friend and I have felt led to distribute it locally. It would appear to have been written in a much earlier era but is as relevant today as ever.  In reading it, I also thought on these words with regard to the issue of purgatory: “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) Psalm 49v6-8

 “Mother,” said a dying girl, “It is hard to die and leave this life.”

“Yes, my dear, and I would gladly give my life for yours, but you have seen the priest, and you have confessed and received absolution and you need not fear.”

“Tis true,” said the dying girl, “I confessed all the sins I could think of, and the priest gave me absolution. But with all that, I shall soon be in purgatory, and you know, dear mother, that you are so very poor that you cannot have masses said for my soul.”

The unhappy mother felt the truth of her words and said: “Yes, my dear child, I am very poor but I’ll work day and night and earn money to get your soul out of purgatory. Do you think your mother could rest until she knew you were delivered from purgatorial pains?”

“Mother, I so often think of my cousin Catherine. She was so happy before she died and she never confessed to a priest nor received absolution, and she did not believe in purgatory, yet she believed she was going straight to heaven.”

“Catherine was a heretic, my child; she was not in the true church. It is better for you to be troubled than to die in error like she did.”

“I often think of the beautiful words she said when she was dying; they were like this Mother:

“When I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

“Tell me, Mother, what did she mean? I have no rod or staff, and oh! I have nothing that comforts me, and I can only think of the flames that await me in purgatory.”

“My dear child, don’t think about it: disease is weakening your spirit. Leave all that to the priest. Try and rest, and don’t think of your cousin Catherine any more.”

“I will try for your sake dear Mother, not to think about it, but I can’t help thinking how much better it would be if we could go straight to heaven when we die, and not go to purgatory at all.”

“People like us do not go straight to heaven. We must follow the way the priest has taught us.”

“But, Mother that way is so difficult, and it frightens me to think that suppose I were there and they could not get me out.”

“Hush my dear child, for if the priest heard all you say, he would surely ask for so many masses that I could never get money enough to have them all said. But here comes your brother; he will talk to you while I go to my work.”

The brother had come some distance to see the dear sister he so much loved. He perceived there was no hope and sitting beside her, he said, “Sister, what were mother and you saying about Cousin Catherine?”

“I was saying how glad I would be if I was as happy as she was. She had not confessed to the priest or received absolution. She said that it was not necessary and that she had no fear.”

“Dear sister, it was because she loved God and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. She had no reason to fear. Jesus Himself spoke to her soul and comforted her by the assurance of His love and of forgiveness of her sins. What need had she of a priest to assure her of all this?”

“What, brother! Are you also a heretic?”

“Sister, do not alarm yourself. I do not deny the truth. I have read the Word of God for myself and I found it so full of love for poor sinners that it has become more precious to me than all the world.”

“Have you then a Bible? How did you procure it? Did you ask the priest for it? Does he know that you have it?”

“No, no! I assure you, I did not ask him for it. I met a Bible reader, and I thought I would like a Bible for myself and I asked for one, and the good man gave it to me and I read it and saw how sinners could be saved. I have found pardon and am happy.”

“Oh! My brother, why did you not come sooner to tell me this? But tell me, brother, quick, is there anything in the Bible about purgatory?”

I have searched from beginning to end of the Book and I could not find one single word about purgatory; the priest knows it is not there, and that is the reason he will not let us read it. I assure you, dear sister, there is but one thing that will make you as happy as Catherine.”

“What is it, brother?” I would give all the world to be sure that my sins are forgiven.”

“It is this,” said the brother as he drew from his pocket the Bible which had been the means of bringing salvation to his soul; and he read:

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And again he read 1Tim 1:15:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

And Chapter 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”

He also read: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”

“Those are beautiful words,” said the dying girl, but how can I know they are for me?”

“But sister, you do not believe I would deceive you?”

“Oh no, dear brother, you were always kind to me.”

“Then will you not have confidence in Jesus who died for you? Listen to what he says to all who, like you, are burdened with their sins and need pardon: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11v28)

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)

“Could you think for one moment that Jesus would have suffered half the chastisement and leave us to suffer the other half? That is the teaching of the priest, but not the Word of God. To those who believe in Jesus, death has no terror. O, my sister, look to Jesus, the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. When you leave this world, you will go straight to Him.”

The brother ceased speaking, but blessed and happy were the moments spent with the dying sister, who but a few minutes before was the victim of ignorance and superstition. But blessed be God, the Holy Spirit penetrated the soul of the dying girl and helped her to see by faith, Christ, the Lamb of God, who died to save her.

“Oh, brother now I understand it all, I too, am happy. Jesus has forgiven me my sins and given me peace and joy. Glory to His Name.”

And in that blessed assurance, after a few days of suffering, she left this world to be forever with the Lord in Heaven.

 Joyful News Publications

The Bungalow, Foremass, Lisnaskea, BT92 5FH

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The 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin – and the Mass versus the Book of Hebrews

June 15, 2012

It is eighty years now since the last Eucharistic Congress was held in the city of Dublin and this week I have been reading Roman Catholicism’s statements on the Eucharist, in the light of the book of Hebrews. A Eucharistic Congress I learn… “is an international gathering of people which aims to:

(1) Promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church.

(2) Help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy

(3) Draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist.”

What is the ‘Holy Eucharist,’ according to Roman Catholic doctrine? The ‘Holy Eucharist,’ I am told, ‘is a sacrament and a sacrifice.’

I further am informed that… ‘In the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received. The whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. The words “really, truly, and substantially” are used to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power.’

Therefore, clearly we understand from Roman Catholic doctrine that ‘the Holy Eucharist’ is a sacrifice. However, when I turn to God’s Word, in the Book of Hebrews, I read these words… “And every priest standeth ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews  10v11-12)

I love the words of Hebrews 10v17-17-20… “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh…”

If the Eucharist as a sacrifice is a ‘bloodless’ sacrifice, then we learn in Hebrews 9v22, that it is futile as a sacrifice, for… “without shedding of blood is no remission.”

On the other hand, if people believe that it is truly the body and blood of Christ, then they are contravening God’s law, for we read… “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to the bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28)

My prayer is that eyes would be opened by these words…

“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9v24-26)

I feel at this point that I should conclude with the words of Jesus Himself, at the last supper… “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22v17-20)

Jesus by His words and actions was instructing His disciples and ultimately, all those who would come to Him in repentance down through the ages, to “do this in remembrance of me.” The bread and wine were figurative of the greater sacrifice of Himself.

Here is a thought… how could His disciples actually eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood, when He was there in Person, with them?

Jesus often spoke figuratively… “I am the door,” (John 10v9) “I am the true vine.” (John 15v1) “I am the vine, ye are the branches…” (John 15v5) “I am that bread of life.” (John 6v35) “Ye are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5v13) “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5v14); “My sheep hear my voice…” (John 10v27)

Prior to last Sunday when I was viewing the special site set up for the purpose of the Eucharistic Congress, I noticed a ‘countdown’ to its commencement. Surely the countdown is getting lower and lower every day, with regard to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? His last words in the Book of Revelation are: “Surely I come quickly.” (verse 20) I would urge all who read this to seek out the truth in His Word and not to rely on the traditions of men…. “seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you…” (Matthew 7v7) May the Lord bless His Word to all who read with seeking hearts.

The Adventures of a Bible – A True Story set in Dublin, by the Rev. J.H. Townsend, D.D.

March 31, 2012

This is the title of just one of the tracts which I recently obtained from “Way of Life”, Dungannon, copies of which are also available from “Good News for Ireland,” 5 Rathina, Newcastle-West, Co.Limerick.

Clearly written in a much earlier era, it struck a chord with me. Here is the amazing story of how one worn little Bible brought salvation to the lives it touched over a short space of time. My prayer is that this true story, by Rev. J. H. Townsend, will now touch even more lives…

On a dull January afternoon some years ago – the date of this occurrence is written down in an old notebook of mine – a young widow was sitting in her drawing room looking out of the window.

It was a fine house in a fashionable Dublin square; the room was handsomely furnished, everything indicated comfort, and even wealth, but the possessor looked unhappy.

Mrs. Blake was a Roman Catholic, fervent and conscientious in the practice of her creed, but of late her mind had been burdened with the thought of her sins. Religious practices, penance, and even prayers, brought her no relief; the burden could not be removed.

She had told her sorrows to her confessor, and at his bidding had taken up works of charity; but, although these things were an interest and for a while occupied her mind, the sense of her own sins lay heavy on her soul. Her confessor, a kindly and attractive young priest, gave her full absolution, but his words brought no comfort.

As she sat musing, there was a knock at the hall door, and before she had time to collect her thoughts a visitor was in the room. “What shall I do to rouse you and get that sad look off your face?”

“Ah, Father John, you are kind and you have done your best, but the burden of which I have told you lies heavy on my heart.”

“Listen to me,” said he; “I have made up my mind what you are to do. There’s a man coming to the Rotunda tomorrow who will make your sides ache with laughing, and you shall go to hear him.”

“Oh, Father John.”

“No – not a word! I won’t have any excuse – I enjoin it; go you will, and go you must.”

The young priest explained that a Society entertainer well-known at that period, was to appear before a fashionable audience, and that in his opinion this would be the best thing for her. No protest was of the slightest use; she could not disobey her spiritual advisor, who had even bought her a ticket for the performance, so the following afternoon saw Mrs. Blake at the appointed place, where large placards announced the entertainment which she had been ordered to attend.

The Rotunda, as every Dublin person knows, has more than one public room under its roof; there is the great Round Room, the Pillar Room, and one or two more; there are, moreover, different entrances. Now, as it happened, Mrs. Blake had made a mistake as to the hour of the performance, and instead of the crowd which she would have seen had she come at the right time, she noticed a little string of persons entering the building; following them she found herself in one of the smaller halls and sat down.

It seemed odd that no one had asked her for a ticket, but she concluded that this would be rectified later on. There was no time for much thought, as almost immediately a gentleman came upon the platform and gave out a hymn. Then it flashed on her that she had made some dreadful mistake – she must be in the wrong room, and, worst of all, this must be some Protestant meeting into which she had unfortunately found her way. Mrs. Blake was shy and sensitive; to go out of the place in the sight of all assembled was to her an impossibility. What should she do? She determined to slip out at the close of the hymn, for by doing so her action would be less likely to attract notice.

This she tried to do, but in her anxiety to be quick she knocked down her umbrella violently, and the noise which it made was so great that many turned round to see the cause. Poor Mrs. Blake, terrified at what she had done, sank into a chair and almost wished that she could fall through the floor.

Now there was a deep silence, and then one voice, that of the man on the platform, was heard in prayer. She could not help listening, as she had never heard anything like this before; it was so unlike the “Hail Marys” and other prayers in her books of devotion. The man was so reverent, but he seemed so happy as he prayed! This struck her as most extraordinary.

The prayer ended and the speaker announced that he would read a passage of Scripture on the “Forgiveness of Sin.” The very subject of all others in the world that she longed to hear about! Come what may – let Father John say what he liked or do what he chose – she must listen to this.

The first eighteen verses of the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews was read, and the speaker in a simple way expounded the teaching until it became as clear as daylight. The One Sacrifice once offered; the free and full forgiveness granted to those who ask for it in His Name; this, illustrated by several other passages in the New Testament, formed the subject of the discourse.

As the thirsty ground drinks in the summer rain, so did this poor soul receive these wonderful truths. She had never heard them before, but now they flowed into her inmost being and she longed to hear more.

The speaker ceased, and after another prayer the meeting broke up.

Mrs Blake felt that this was the opportunity of her life, so, summoning her courage, she went to the edge of the platform and asked the gentleman whose words he had been reading.

Surprised at such a question he came down, and was at once plied with so many enquiries that he offered to write down references for her to study at home. When, however, he learnt that the lady had never possessed a Bible, his interest was keenly aroused. “I will lend you mine,” he said; “read the marked passages in the pages I have turned down, but let me have it back in a few days; it is the most precious thing I have.”

Mrs. Blake thanked him warmly, and hastened home with joy in her heart and a new light in her eye; how different a being from the disconsolate creature who a couple of hours previously had found her way to the Rotunda!

For the next few days everything was forgotten but her new treasure; she read and re-read the marked passages and many others too. The Light shone into her understanding; the burden long weighing upon her conscience rolled away into the Open Grave, and the peace of God filled her heart and mind.

Now the time had come for the Bible to be returned. Once more she was deep in her new study and so engrossed in thought as not to notice a ring at the hall door. Someone entered her sitting room and her confessor stood before her. He noticed two things: an embarrassment in her manner, and at the same time a restful calm in her eyes, to which he was a stranger.

“What has happened to you?” asked the visitor. “I haven’t heard how you liked the entertainment, and as I didn’t see you at Mass last Sunday I thought you might be ill.”

Taken aback by the suddenness of the whole thing, Mrs. Blake lost her self-possession. She had intended to keep the matter a secret for a time at least, but now she was off her guard, and with the simplicity of a child she told the whole story – the mistake of the room, the attempt to go, the words spoken, the book lent, and, last of all, the joy and peace that filled her heart. With downcast eyes she spoke, but when she glanced up, her spirit froze with terror at the look of the man before her.

It was black with rage! Never before had she seen such fury depicted on a face.

“Give me that book!” he said hoarsely.

“It isn’t mine” she cried, vainly attempting to stop him.

“Give it to me,” was the reply, “or your soul will be damned eternally; that heretic has nearly got you into hell, and neither he nor you shall ever read that book again.”

Seizing it as he spoke, he thrust it into his pocket and, giving her a fearful look strode out of the room.

The lady sat as if paralyzed – she heard the hall door shut, and something in her heart seemed to shut also and to leave her alone in terror. That awful look searched her through and through; only those who have been born and brought up in the Church of Rome know the nameless horror which their idea of the power of the priesthood can inspire. Then too she thought of the gentleman who had lent her his Bible; his address was in it, but she could not remember it and knew not where to write. This was very grievous, but oh! that look – it was branded on her memory.

Days passed slowly by, but her visitor, once so welcome, now so dreaded, did not return. Courage began to creep back, and at last, after a fortnight or more had elapsed, Mrs. Blake determined to venture upon a visit to him. She must make one more effort, if not too late, to get the book restored to its rightful owner.

Father John lived at some distance from Mrs. Blake’s residence, and his house adjoined a convent to which he was confessor. The door was opened by a nun, who visibly startled at the sight of Mrs. Blake and, upon being asked if the priest was at home, her eyes seemed to blaze for a moment, but immediately her face became rigid and her manner cold as she said, “Yes, Father John is at home – he is in this room; will you not come in and see him?” As she spoke she half led, half pushed, the lady into the room opening off the hall; but as the visitor entered she uttered a piercing shriek, for oh! – horrors of horrors! – there was an open coffin, and in it the lifeless form of her confessor.

Before she could recover from the shock, the nun glided up to her and hissed into her ear these words: “He died cursing you; you gave him a Bible, and he told me to tell you that he cursed you – cursed you with his last breath; now go!” And before she well knew what had happened, Mrs Blake was in the street with the door shut behind her.

Several weeks elapsed. The breath of spring had passed over the earth, waking leaves and flowers to life and loveliness. One evening Mrs. Blake was sitting alone preparing over the events of the past three or four months. The joy of pardon was in her heart, she had bought a Bible for herself, and had read it daily. The old errors in which she had been brought up had been one by one renounced, but there was a sorrow which could not be effaced. How sad, how ineffably sad, the brief illness and sudden death of the young priest! His last look! His last words! That terrible message!

Why should she have been so blest, brought into the haven of peace, filled with heavenly joy, and he – why should not the same words have brought him a like message? It was too awful, and was one of the mysteries which could never be explained. “Why,” she said to herself, “should a God of love do this?”

At that moment the servant ushered into the room a lady who was closely veiled and who stood for a moment irresolute. Before Mrs. Blake could speak, the other said, “You do not know me in this dress, but you will soon recognise me.” With these words she lifted her veil and revealed the face of the nun who had delivered the message of cursing as they stood by the open coffin.

Mrs. Blake started back, not knowing what might happen next, but her visitor calmed her fears, adding, “May I sit down and tell you something?” Having been invited to do so she went on – “I have two things to tell you, and I must be very brief for I am in great haste. First, please, please forgive me for that awful lie of mine; I have asked God’s forgiveness, but I beg also for yours. Father John died blessing you with all his heart. The day before his death he charged me to tell you that he too had found forgiveness for his sin by that book, and that throughout Eternity he would bless you for having brought him to the knowledge of his Saviour. Now, will you forgive me?”

“I will indeed, from the bottom of my heart,” gasped the astonished lady; “but why did you say what you did?”

“Because I hated you. I loved him, and hated you for having sent him to hell as I believed. Now listen. I felt the strongest desire to read what he had read, and after his funeral I could not resist looking into the book for myself; I was fascinated and read more and more, and I too have found pardon and peace in my Saviour. I have been studying the Bible for weeks, and now here it is” – producing it as she spoke, “I have escaped the convent this evening and will cross to England tonight, but I felt that I must come here and return this Bible, and to tell you that all my life I too shall bless you for having through it taught me how to get forgiveness for my sins. Good-bye! God bless you! We shall meet in heaven.”

A brief farewell and she had passed out of the house and was gone.

Was it, after all, only a dream? A little worn Bible lay on the table before her. It was no dream, but a glorious reality. That little book – without a living voice to expound its teaching in two of these cases – had brought three precious souls out of darkness into light.

Imagine the feelings of the owner when it was restored to him with this wonderful record! And yet what says the One who sent it on its mission?

“My word shall not return unto Me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Reader, what has your Bible done for you?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”  (John 3v16&17)

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)

August 13, 2011

I have recently returned from a trip to County Donegal, that beautiful most north-westerly county of Ireland. Thoughts of the scenery and the friendly people we encountered in the more remote regions still lingered in my thoughts as I heard some news upon our return home… that of a forthcoming report which is expected to reveal the abuse of hundreds of children in the diocese of Raphoe by at least twenty priests.

It has been reported that in many instances the hierarchy within the Roman Catholic system has protected those who have been responsible for this horrific abuse for many years, while some of those directly responsible for it have had the audacity to think that they are immune from prosecution because of the positions they occupy.

I mostly think of how it must have been for the children involved. How confused they must have felt when they were treated in this manner by someone who was looked up to by people they respected, as a ‘spiritual leader’ and how fearful and agonising the knowledge that they had no voice to articulate the horror of what they were being subjected to. In some cases it has been revealed that not even the parents of children in those days would listen to them or believe them.

Yes, many parents did believe their children – but when they tried to report the matter, it was not even recorded and when the Gardaí (Irish police) became involved, the church was quoted as having been “uncooperative, obstructive and misleading.”

Many years ago in Ireland (and perhaps still in some places today) it would have been deemed outrageous to accuse a priest of anything untoward. These days we only hear about the crimes which have been reported but perhaps there were many more victims in bygone years who remained silent on the subject of their traumatic abuse.

But some day “we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” (Rom.14v10)

“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)

Most people in Ireland (whether they belong to the religious hierarchy or otherwise) abhor these crimes against children, but it is a fact that every soul needs to be “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (1Peter 1v23)

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3v3)

This does not happen when we are baptised, confirmed – or when we join any religious organisation.

Rather, it is a spiritual awakening brought about by our repentance of all that previous life of sin and the giving of our hearts, our all, to the Living Saviour “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col.1v14)

These words speak of Jesus… “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7v26&27)

Surely… there is no other priest in whom we can put our trust, but “the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7v28)

My prayer is that the unsavoury news that they hear would urge souls throughout Ireland to question the very nature of this religious system in which they have put their trust and that a spiritual awakening and hunger for the truth would spread throughout the country.

Can those responsible for horrific abuse be forgiven? Yes… but only if they truly and humbly repent of (and turn away from) their sin, putting their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

And when they do so, they will no longer want to be part of an erroneous system of belief whose ordinances are contrary to scripture in so many ways.

On Pennies, Paupers – and the Pope’s Recent Visit to Glasgow

September 23, 2010

I had occasion to travel over to Glasgow in Scotland recently, to visit my daughter who will be spending a year in that city. When I discovered that my visit there was to coincide with that of the Pope’s, I immediately thought of a certain tract that I have in my possession… “This is my Story – a Personal Testimony by converted priest Henry Gregory Adams,” has been printed in tract form and used extensively in Ireland but now I felt led to bring a quantity to Scotland. This tract is taken from one of the shorter testimonies in a book of ex-priests testimonies: “Far from Rome, Near to God – the testimony of 50 converted Catholic priests.”

I feel that the change in my original plan, which would have meant flying over the previous week, was no accident, because a week later I found myself on a plane where my fellow passengers included some young nuns. The young man who sat nearest to me during the flight refused a tract and then my attention was drawn to the young nuns and somehow, one in particular. She smiled and thanked me for the tract as I made my way down the aisle to disembark at Prestwick Airport. I pray with all my heart that somehow the message of salvation would dawn on the souls of these young women.

My witness for the Lord, for the couple of days that I stayed in Glasgow was to continue in this manner. I didn’t somehow feel led to stand on the street giving out tracts, as the quantity that I had was limited anyway, but wherever possible I gave them to those I came in contact with. The airline pilot, the taxi driver, the owner of the B&B where I stayed, shopkeepers and many people on the street who kindly gave me directions all accepted one. I even left one in a Roman Catholic Church.

One incident stands out from all the rest, concerning my tract distribution. It was my last morning, bright and breezy with a warm sun glinting on some fallen leaves and I was dragging my case around to my daughter’s accommodation to spend the last day with her, when a young woman came out of a side road and smilingly said “hello, isn’t that a lovely morning?” I had been praying just then that the Lord would show me who to give that last morning’s tracts to and I felt that this young woman should get one. However, she walked briskly on, overtaking me and I felt that I really could not shout after her. “Lord,” I prayed as I vainly tried to walk faster, “please help me to reach her.” Then something unexpected happened. I saw her hesitate and stare down at the footpath, after which she bent down to pick something up. Waiting for me, she turned to me with it in her hand and cheerfully said: “Here take this. It’ll bring me good luck, if you do.” She held a copper coin out to me, a two pence piece, not worth much these days – although most people appreciate every penny in a recession! “Thank you,” I said, “but you keep it. After all it was you who found it.”

“Oh no,” she said, “if you don’t take it, I won’t have good luck.” Not wanting to make an issue of the ‘good luck’ theory, I saw my opportunity, accepted the coin and said: “Will you then, take this from me?” I held out the tract and she happily accepted it. After thanking me, she resumed her fast walk in the morning sunshine. The Lord had answered my little prayer in an instant in this city where there is often hostility towards the gospel!

The previous evening I had been thoughtful after watching a televised account of the Pope’s visit to Glasgow. I remembered words referring to Jesus that had very recently been part of my daily reading: “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords;” (1Tim. 6v15) In the Bible the term “Holy Father” (John 17v11) is only used to address Almighty God. All men (including every Pope who ever lived) “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3v23) Why then, do men revere an unregenerate man like themselves? He is a man who has been elected by other men to the position known to men as ‘pontiff,’ but like all men he needs to come the humble way, by admitting his need of a Saviour.

What would happen if the Pope discovered that he was in error? Somehow I sincerely believe that he would be in a very dangerous position. Yes, his life would definitely be in danger but… “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16v26) On my first day in Glasgow, my daughter and I had visited a museum which displayed some artist’s impressions of the paupers of the time. Many well-known characters in Victorian Glasgow relied heavily on the mercy and generosity of passers-by, who would take pity on the fact that they were blind or crippled and so had to beg for a living. ‘It would be better to be a pauper upon this earth and know the Saviour,’ I thought, ‘than the most acclaimed person in the world who has never found the truth of salvation.’ All the applause; all the worldwide fame, riches or accolade of a lifetime can never make up for the eternal loss of my soul – or yours.

Praise God for the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ – the ultimate and final sacrifice for the ransom of all the souls of mankind. How, then, “shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb. 2v3) and “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul…?” (Matt. 16v26)

My Visit to a Monastery in Rural Ireland

June 23, 2010

It was with feelings of apprehension that I embarked on a recent journey which would lead me into the confines of a monastery in the depths of rural Ireland. Travelling from our native County Meath, we took the motorway south of Dublin and it wasn’t long before my husband and I found ourselves in unspoilt countryside with not a dwelling house in sight. We had promised my brother-in-law that we would visit him at this time and so we took that opportunity, given that my husband had some business to attend to in Carlow Regional College and I wanted to distribute some books to the Carlow/Kilkenny area. That memory of driving deeper and deeper into beautiful countryside now provokes many thoughts and questions, including… “Are there any examples in God’s Word of His servants leading a monastic life?” Paul did not lead this sort of life and nor, indeed, did Peter who had a wife. (Matthew 8v14) The New Testament servants of God lived and worked amongst the people and wherever they travelled, spread the gospel. Paul, for example, worked for a time with Acquila and Priscilla who were tentmakers. (Acts 18v1-3)

We found my brother-in-law well, if a little tired, but given that he must rise at 4.30a.m. every morning that was hardly surprising! I gave him some literature that I had received earlier in the week from someone that I had met in the Dundalk area who had supplied me with many tracts taken from one of the shorter stories in a book of Priests’ testimonies: “Far from Rome, Near to God” by Richard Bennett, former Dominican Catholic priest and Martin Buckingham. The book (Catholicism’s Inside Story Revealed by Fifty Converted Priests) was first published in 1994 and as the title suggests, is a compilation of the stories of fifty Roman Catholic priests who came to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

That verse: “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16v1) came to mind, as we drove down a narrow country road which was bordered by trees and high hedges. How can I physically make anyone see my spiritual point of view and least of all… how can I possibly make other human beings believe the truth of those words… “every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10v11&12) I wish with all my heart that everyone I meet would understand that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) but I realise that only the Lord can work in an individual’s heart.

Yet, as His servant, I can (and must) spread the word and plant seeds wherever I go on this earth, for not one of those who serve the Lord is free from the great commission… “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16v15) And so we must go as the Lord directs; as individuals our calling is unique but He needs us to reach our loved ones, our workmates, prisons, hospitals, the people on the street and monasteries…

My brother-in-law took us on a walk around the grounds. It was so peaceful, with the birds singing in the trees, the little calves in the green fields and white swans in a small lake which was surrounded by swampy land and rushes. Still, only the Creator can impart that true peace of mind which comes from repenting of our sins at the foot of the Cross. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5v1) This peace passes all understanding. We can strive and work for our salvation; we can deny ourselves every worldly pleasure; we can remain celibate all our lives – but all to no avail. Surely these words in Isaiah 64v6 apply to the man (or woman) who has not come the humble way, by simple repentance and faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64v6)

Of course this verse applies to those who have not yet trusted the Saviour, for when we repent and turn to Him, then the following verse applies to our lives: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor. 5v17)

On our walk within the grounds we came to a little wooden bridge over the river but as I walked across I noticed with concern that part of it had broken away. A technical person by nature, my husband pointed out the danger – and the fault with it. “There’s where the problem lies,” he said, pointing to part of the construction. A spiritual analogy was visible here too. Surely Calvary bridges the gap between God and man? This is not a broken bridge, but a bridge that we can depend upon; a bridge that can take us safely over Jordan to a land where we will dwell in green pastures for ever and ever at the feet of Jesus who gave His life that we might live eternally in the joy of His Presence. This is not a bridge of works but of faith in His finished work.

I wished that I had brought some bread from home for the swans, which is something that I love to do, but I am certainly glad that I brought the tracts for those whom I came into contact with. “Cast thy bread upon the water: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11v1) Perhaps not in the near future, but some day the Lord’s servants will see the fruit of their labour. Meanwhile, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6v9) And so, spiritually speaking, I must sow in all conditions. (2Tom. 4v2)

I had looked up into the sky and noticed how grey it was, for clouds drifted across and I felt a spit of rain. Still, this did not prevent us from embarking upon that walk with my brother-in-law, with whom we wanted to speak. In the spiritual realm: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecc. 11v4)

Entering the monastery again, we sat in the old sitting room once more while sipping tea with my brother-in-law. A short time later a door creaked open and I looked to see who it was…

“Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” These words of Jesus (in Matthew 23v9) came to mind as my brother-in-law introduced us to two priests who resided at the monastery. We had been talking with my brother-in-law for just a short time when the first one arrived to meet us. I had absolutely no wish to show disrespect to these men personally, but God’s Word is clear on this matter. I cannot, and must not, address any man upon this earth as “Father” in the spiritual sense of that word.

As we took our leave of the monastery that day, casting a backward glance I knew that I must leave my concerns for my brother-in-law with the Lord. He tells me: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4v6) Now was the time for prayer – and to enlist the prayers of others.  

My visit to Kilkenny the following day saw the successful distribution of my books to the Kilkenny Christian Bookshop, Khan’s Bookshop in Kilkenny and the Kilkenny Book Centre. Carlow Library and others throughout Ireland are also in possession of the books which is good, given that each book has the potential to reach numerous people.

On the way home we visited Duckett’s Grove and Baltinglass Abbey, both reduced from their former glory, to ruins where the birds make their nests – a timely reminder that nothing in this world will last but that the “Word of the Lord endureth forever.” (1Pet. 1v24&25)

How thankful I was to the Lord for our safe return home from that little journey, since roads these days can be treacherous. When we reached the motorway I saw an amazing sight. There had been a delay, with traffic backed up all the way in front and behind us and I wondered what was wrong. “Possibly an accident,” commented my husband, but then the car in front of us put on its hazard lights and we saw them: the beautiful little ponies being led safely away from the motorway by uniformed police on motorcycles. These young creatures, which had somehow strayed into dangerous territory were now trusting their guides and trotting along, they followed them through the traffic until at last they would reached a safe haven. Surely, too, we can trust our Guide to bring us safely home – for He knows the way; the only safe way through the maze of erroneous belief systems and the hazards and trials of this life.

© Elizabeth Burke 2010

On Millstones, the Sea, Sin – and Amazing Grace!

June 5, 2010

“Millstones…” Isn’t it strange how our train of thought takes an unusual tangent, when we are disturbed by something we hear on the news? The particular item I refer to is that of a recent report on the clerical abuse of children throughout Ireland. This abuse spanned a period of many years we are told – who knows how long? Well actually, God knows. In fact there is nothing He doesn’t know, hence the term that we use to describe His nature – “omniscient.” Every word spoken in secret, every evil and clandestine behaviour on the part of man (or woman) – He knows it all, and some day everything shall be exposed!  (Matt. 12v36; 1Cor. 4v5; Rev. 20v12).

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 18v6. Having had an opportunity to view millstones in an old converted mill, I was impressed by how solid and massively heavy they were. There is no way that they could be lifted by ordinary human hands! Many would be of the opinion that these abusers deserved ‘a millstone necklace, and to be subsequently launched into the sea.’ As a mother, I felt justifiably furious by the idea that people in positions of ‘spiritual’ authority would use those positions to abuse children, given that we can never even begin to estimate the psychological damage sustained by the victims.

Then I thought of those millstones again – and the sea, and someone who had been a sailor. This person had taken advantage of his position to abuse African slaves on board ship, during the vile slave trade of the 18th century.

The seas were often treacherous on his long journeys back to his native England, but it was on one such journey that the Lord spoke to John Newton. On March 9th 1748 he happened to pick up and read a Christian book that he found in his cabin. Already disturbed by the contents of this book, the infamous slave trader became terrified the following day when the ship was caught up in a violent storm. Sadly, one man was swept overboard and the vessel severely damaged by the crashing waves. However the Lord used this terrifying situation to bring John Newton to his knees. He became acutely aware of his sin, to such an extent that he was convinced that he could not be forgiven. For weeks his ship drifted at sea, violently tossed to and fro by the angry waves; furthermore the crew were rapidly running out of rations. But during this time John Newton searched the scriptures, with a desire in his heart to get right with God. Then, miraculously, the winds abated and the ship found a safe haven in Irish waters, anchoring on the shores of the lovely Lough Swilly, County Donegal.

Here the locals helped the crew to repair the damaged ship and John Newton came to see that God’s grace and mercy is extended to the most ‘hopeless’ sinner – even him. Soon others noticed the changed life of this man who “once was blind – but now could see.” How marvellous that one who once blasphemed the Saviour’s name was inspired to write some of the most beautiful poetry and hymns in the English language. Perhaps the best known of these today is “Amazing Grace.” Written in 1772, it lived on to touch hearts over the centuries and continues to be sung even at secular events today. His numerous other hymns include: “How Sweet the name of Jesus Sounds” and “In evil long I took delight.”

Having been a drunken infidel, sunk in the mire of the deepest sins known to mankind, John Newton had put His trust in Jesus who still calls out to all who will hear His voice today: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16v26).

Whether a man wears the robes of a priest or bishop, or the rags of a debauched John Newton, is irrelevant to God, for He can see beyond the outward appearance, to the ‘inward man’ and his spiritual condition. In 1Samuel 16v7, we learn that… “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” What is more, He is willing to forgive the most awful sins of mankind, providing that they repent and put their trust in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary; He wants too, to heal the victims of abuse and crime.

Most of us have probably never sunk to the depths of depravity that John Newton sank to, but every one of us needs a Saviour, and not one of us will get to heaven without taking the humble route that John Newton took! Whether we wear a clerical robe, a salesman’s suit, a police uniform, or a judge’s wig – we must get right with God, if we have not already done so. We need to recognise the truth in those words in Romans 3v23… “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Then we must be willing to let God put matters right, by simply repenting of our sins and asking Him to take over our lives.

When we do this, it will be as if “our sins have been cast into the midst of the sea;” we read in many portions of scripture of the great mercy of God in this respect. While men may find it hard to forgive us, God does not remember our sins and hold them against us, when we are truly repentant, turning away from sin in His strength. “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7v19). He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3v9) Not willing that a millstone be hanged around anyone’s neck, but rather that their sins would be cast into the sea! If the Lord can bring about dramatic changes in the life of a man like John Newton, there is no limit to what He can do with your life, whatever it has consisted of in the past! Please trust Him now – for your destination for all eternity depends upon it, and in this life God can use you for His glory, just as He used His servant, John Newton.

© Elizabeth Burke 2008

Link for hymn: “Amazing Grace”: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/m/a/amazing_grace.htm