Spirituality for Today – Summer 2017 – Volume 21, Issue 5

The Journey Home

Pam Aherne

The journey Home miracle for dad, mum and I… and hopefully one day for the rest of my family too… to encourage you'.

I would like to share a miracle that happened over 35 years ago that lead to me becoming a Catholic. I know these miracles are happening all the time in a hidden way in the souls of many people as a result of somebody else's prayers so I tell this true story to encourage you, who are praying for people who do not seem to want to know about God, not to give up!

Many years ago my father at the age of seven came with his mum and dad from Ireland to Manchester and they were extremely poor. I remember dad telling me that in his teen days he slept on the banks of the embankment in London so that he could send some money back to his mum from his job in the kitchen of London restaurants. All his life I remember if dad ever mentioned his mother's name long after she died he would weep so much did he love and appreciate her. In his early twenties, he met and fell in love with mum. It was just before the Second World War. My mum's family was managing the hotline which dad was working at the time. They were middle-class and inclined to be Presbyterians in religion when they did attend services.

When mum also fell in love with dad you can imagine they were not best pleased… an Irish working-class catholic lad! In fact sad to say the difference in religion and probably class too affected their relationships the whole of their lives and mum was stuck in the middle loving both equally. Dance mum was not allowed in those days to attend non-Catholic services and it must've been difficult for her to have her only son fall in love with someone who was not a catholic because her faith meant so much to her. But she also always welcomed mum and said she knew how very much her son loved her. When they lost their first baby, Margaret, dads mum stood praying outside the perimeter of the c of e graveyard as she was being buried. In fact I think dad was excommunicated from marrying someone who wasn't a catholic in which is what happened in those days. Thankfully this is not the case anymore.

My sister and I were baptized into the C of E Christian faith and were both sent at some point to a Catholic convent school as well so we could experience both versions of Christian faith, in the hope that we would then decide for ourselves which way we would go. But mum and dad rarely went to any church. They had their own cafe which was open and very busy on a Sunday. I remember being profoundly affected at the convent school by the stature of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we gathered round every morning. We used to sing 'Sacred Heart of Jesus burning would love for me, inflame my heart with love for Thee' every morning. I remember winning a little picture of the Sacred Heart somehow and are used to pin it on the inside of my vest! My friend noticed I have something there and tease me about having the Beatles picture next to my heart. In those days I didn't have the courage to say 'no it's Jesus'!

In my teens I was drawn off in all sorts of different wrong directions like many people are amending very early 20s I began earnestly to look for God. I won't go into this here as the YouTube shares I have done this past year, in order to help other people in their faith journeys, cover all the difficulties and ups and downs of my journey from then onwards.

The main point here is the actual Grace our family received which enabled me to take the step of entering into the Catholic Church. I had decided and reveal to mum and dad but I really wanted to become a Roman Catholic. They were okay about it really upset mum was worried in case it would separate me from her in some way and I could see dad, who had not been able to go to the Sacraments all his married life, looked very moved. However my mum's mum, 'nana', was living with them at the time and she had a repetitive kind of dementia by that stage and was on her own. She mainly just reminisced about her childhood. Mum and dad both said we mustn't breathe a word of my conversion to her (in view of the historical conflict).

However one amazing morning when mum was taking nana her breakfast in bed the latter suddenly said out of the blue' you know if you would like to come become a catholic any time please don't let me stop you.' Mum could hardly believe it neither could any of us because Nana rarely said anything sort of 'with it' really and we had in any case been so very careful not to talk about it in any way. But it was a particular shock to mum because she herself had not really thought of becoming a Catholic and yet now it was presented to her! After I had been received into the Church, dear mum started to receive instruction and a year later she too became a Catholic and on that very day my mum and dad were married for the first time in the Catholic Church! And my dad could go back to the sacraments! What a blessing this was indeed and especially as we were only able to have two more years with dad, during which time we visited both Walsingham and Lourdes the three of us. Out of the blue he had a severe brain hemorrhage at the age of 69. RIP Edmund Fitzgerald Aherne (Ted).

Here is the source of the miracle, I truly believe: at his funeral we were reunited with some more distant Irish relatives and I was talking to one of them who told me that in his childhood in Ireland dad and a little cousin who they affectionately called ' Dotey Lee' were inseparable friends. She later went to be a nun in an enclosed order, they couldn't recall which. And just imagine this! The year I had the grace to begin my journey home to the Roman Catholic Church was the very year this nun died. And we were all certain that she would have all her life prayed for her little friend Edmund, and my becoming a Catholic was the catalyst to mum's conversion, their regularizing their marriage before God and his return home into the Church before he died!

So never, ever give up praying for the conversion and salvation of all whom God places in your life!!!! Even if you yourself don't witness it, they will turn to God and be saved… and what stories we'll all share one day in Heaven! How wonderfully good is our God!