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Adventures in reconciliation

30 November, 1999

Paddy Monaghan is the leader of the Alpha Course Movement in Ireland. Here he tells of the personal experience that changed his life and led him to devote so much of his time and energy to the task of evangelisation.

I am fifty years old and live near Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. I am married and have four lovely children. I work part of my week as a financial consultant and the rest of the week as an Evangelical Catholic lay missionary and reconciliation co-ordinator. As an Evangelical Catholic, I am concerned to see a Christ centred, Biblically based renewal in the Catholic Church, to foster reconciliation among Christians and to build up Jewish-Christian relations.

I grew up in Kells, Co Meath. I was inordinately shy. I had buckteeth and paid the price for it through endless teasing from my peers. My self-consciousness was a blight on my life. At eighteen years of age, a shy, introverted country boy, I went in great trepidation to University College Dublin to do a commerce degree. I joined a Catholic lay organisation called the Legion of Mary, whose members engaged in various forms of charitable work. My weekly task was to visit mentally handicapped people in St Vincent’s on the Navan Road, which I found very enjoyable and rewarding.

I lived for three years in a bed-sit in north Dublin. For the first year, I was very insecure. I can remember having a sheet of paper stuck up on the wall in my bed-sit with three words written on, that summarised what I felt to be most lacking in my life: security, trust, confidence.

This all changed when, in the course of my work with the mentally handicapped, I met a fellow student called Ann. I suddenly had a friend, someone with whom I could share anything. I developed real security, started to trust people and grew in confidence in myself. This was February 1973.

The previous December, I had attended a Liberation Theology Workshop in York University, along with fifteen or twenty students from UCD. In the course of our time there, we found ourselves invited to a charismatic prayer meeting. This was my first encounter with people praying spontaneously in public. I was deeply touched. We came back to UCD and decided to start a charismatic prayer group. I found it tough going at first but I persisted in going to six or seven prayer meetings. Then, towards the end of February 1973, it happened! I found the Lord for myself. I was born again by the Spirit of God and simultaneously baptised in His Holy Spirit. It was as if, all along, I had been in a dark room and suddenly the light had been switched on. I remember waking up in my bed-sit in Rathmines and knowing something had changed. I picked up the Bible and the words just seemed to jump out at me.

One of the significant things that profoundly affected my life, one year after my conversion, was attending a conference in Limerick, of Evangelical Catholics and Evangelical Protestants from the North and South of Ireland, sponsored by the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship. During the worship time, Sr Alphonsus, an Evangelical Catholic nun from Portadown, shared a prophetic picture, which portrays, I believe, God’s plan and purpose for Ireland: logs were brought from the North down to the centre and oil from the South was poured on them. Fire came down from the clouds and set the whole pile ablaze. The logs, she said, represented the Evangelical Protestants, who were steeped in the Word of God, but who, without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, could become hard and legalistic. The oil, she said, represented the born again, baptised in the Holy Spirit, Roman Catholics, now full of zealousness for God but lacking a foundation in His Word. As God would bring the two together, so Holy Spirit revival would sweep Ireland and Ireland would again become a light to the nations. This profoundly impacted upon me.

Over the last twenty-eight years, I have been involved in bringing the logs and oil together in Ireland. It was one of the basic incentives that led me, with others, to set up the Evangelical Catholic Initiative (ECI). We see reconciliation between the Christian Churches and renewal within the Christian Churches as being two sides of the same coin.

I have the privilege of serving on the Service Group of St Michael’s Prayer and Bible Study in Dún Laoghaire. We have just completed our third Alpha Bible Study course, run jointly with the local Methodist Church. We praise God, that, as a result, some twenty people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviotiur. My hope and prayer is that, as the Word of God impacts on the lives of more and more people, drawing them into a living relationship with Jesus Christ, we will see Ireland again becoming a land from which Gospel will go out powerfully to the nations.

An edited version of Paddy Monaghan’s Personal Testimony
Taken with kind permission from the book Adventures in Reconciliation