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At playschool with Mary my mother

30 November, 1999

Fr Jack McArdle’s book is a call to return to the basics of the Catholic faith and to examine the role of God and Mary in our own spiritual growth.

126 pp, Columba Press, 2006. To purchase this book online, go to www.columba.ie .



1.  God
2.  Father, Son and Spirit
3.  Myself!
4.  The Church
5.  Eucharist
6.  Prayer
7.  I need your prayers
8.  The Rosary
9.  Purity
10. Family
11. Divine Mercy
12. Purgatory
13. Heaven


Fr Mc Ardle spent many years as a teacher and reviews some of the basic teaching e.g Who is God?, The Trinity, and the big issues of Church theology today e.g. prayer, family, Eucharist. He is always guided by his biblical knowledge and personal Marian devotion.

The style is  popular, easy and engaging – appealing to a wide audience.  The chapters are written as a series of lessons complete with questions and answers.



One of the first points that you have to grasp is that what I tell you is too much for you to understand. I can use words that you understand, and concepts and ideas that are familiar to you in everyday living, yet the truth behind what I say can be completely hidden from you. You are limited (‘boxed-in’) in your human nature. You can see and hear those things that are within your reach. There are people speaking to each other a few miles from where you are now, but you cannot see them, or hear them without the help of something electronic, such as a telephone, or a television. What I will speak to you about is even beyond the scope of anything electronic. I will obtain for you the gift of understanding things beyond your human understanding, and of seeing things, and understanding truths that are away beyond your human vision, or your mental capacity. Imagine two boxes on the floor in front of you. One is quite small, while the other is so huge that you cannot possibly see around it, or over it. I will take truths from that large box, and present them to you in such a simple way that all of the truths in that large box will fit into the little box, which represents you. Don’t worry how I will do that! That’s my responsibility and, as I work with you, you will understand more and more the wonderful mysteries and secrets of God. In many and varied ways I will teach you, and lead you into a deep conviction about the truths I share with you.

Let’s look at that word God for a moment. The concept of God is so far beyond your mind to grasp that, when you speak about him, you are certain to be wrong! He is so much more than anything you could say about him. And yet that same God, almighty and infinite, can give you a special vision to see him, and an extraordinary mind to know him. It’s like as if God could pour all the oceans on earth into a small teacup. I hope you are beginning to get excited about this, because it is truly wonderful and absolutely mind-boggling. The first thing I want you to know is that there is only one God; God with a capital G. There are many other gods (small g) which people worship, such as money, power, or pleasure. The world is full of such false gods. That is why I must make it clear, right at the beginning, that there is only one true God. Right from the beginning, I will give you another word for the God of which I speak, and that word is love. Always be ready to switch from one word to the other, and know that you are speaking about the same thing. You probably smiled when I used the word ‘love’, because you know what that means. The truth is, of course, that you know very little about love, but you have a few ideas about it. What you know already will be a good starting place, and I will build on that to complete the picture. Yes, indeed, God is love, and everything he says and does is done out of love. For example, he decided that you should exist, so he created you, and that was a beautiful act of love.

I’ll give you a break for a moment, because you might have some questions you want to ask.

I have many questions, but the one I would love you to answer is: You said that God created me as an expression of his love. What about the millions of other children he creates that have very short and painful lives, because of the lack of food or medicine, or the presence of war or natural disasters? Surely he’s not doing them any great favour by creating them?

Wow, that’s a good question! I will answer it in part now, because we will be coming back to this on several other occasions, in connection with other questions. Love must be something that is freely given, otherwise, it is not real love. If I have to love you, and have no choice, then that’s not real love at all. When God created you he left you with a choice, a decision. He gave you a gift that would make it possible for you to love others the way he loves us. In other words, he made you in his image and likeness. However, he didn’t create you in such a way that you have to love others, and have no choice in the matter. He gave us what we call ‘free will’. We are free to love, or not to love; that choice is ours. It is obvious which choice God wants us to make, but he won’t interfere, if we choose not to love. If we loved the way God loves us, then there would be no hunger, no wars, or no environmental damage, which causes most of our natural disasters. There is enough food for everyone, but those who have plenty refuse to share with those who have nothing. Each of us is part of a team. If you refuse to pass on the baton, then you will lose the relay race. Some people believe that if God would change, and do things differently, everything would be ok; while God knows that if we changed, and did things differently, yes, indeed, all would be well. God never planted a bomb, fired a bullet, or took food out of the mouths of the hungry. It is not God’s will that people should kill each other, or that people die of hunger because others won’t let them have food. I’m sure you are aware of the wonderful efforts of good people to correct these wrongs. These people are an example to all others, and if each person followed their example, the world would be completely changed for the better. That is what God asks of us, but he does not demand anything, because he has given us free will, and our response must be voluntary; it must be something that we ourselves decide to do. To watch my children crying and dying breaks my heart, and that’s exactly why I’m speaking to you now. I believe that you can make a difference. There was never a bullet fired or a bomb planted that did not begin in the heart of some individual. It is the same with the process of goodness. You can be like a stone thrown into a pond, which sends rings out to the very edge.

I said that we would return to your questions many times during our time together. For now, however, all I ask for is that you decide for the good… and much good will follow for many others.

Before your question, I was speaking about God being love. This means that God loves us 100%, and could not possibly love us less. His love is constant, and there are no conditions. For example, God doesn’t tell us that, if we’re good, he’ll love us. No, he loves us because he is good, no matter what we’re like. Suppose you are in your bedroom, with the light on. The room is bright, and you can see clearly. You decide to leave your room, and go out into a dark corridor. You are now in the dark, and you can see nothing. Remember, however, that the light is still shining in the room, even when you decided to walk away from it. God’s love is still there, even if we choose to live outside or apart from it. I am praying for you as I speak to you, because, of yourself, you could never grasp these truths. Even if you knew that God loved you, it might be nothing more than knowledge up in your head. I want you to know this down in your heart. In other words, it’s the most important thing that you could possibly know and believe. Knowing that God loves you is much more important than you loving God. A good definition of a saint is not somebody who loves God, but someone who is convinced that God loves her. I have so many things to teach you, but it is essential that you get this simple truth embedded in your heart first. When I speak to you about what God is doing for you, or wants to do for you, it will be so much easier to grasp if you have a deep conviction about why he loves you. He has made you in such a way that you are an extension of him, and he never ever wants to be separated from you. He looks upon you, and he sees you as no other human being ever could. He sees a reflection of himself when he looks at you. When he sees brokenness and sin he only wants to remove it, because it doesn’t belong there. He sees you as being worth much more than you yourself could possibly imagine.

God never remains still; he is always active. Oh, yes, he created you, but he continues to create you with each new day. (He loves you as you are, but he loves you more than that, or otherwise he would leave you as you are !) You are clay in the hands of God, the Master Potter. He is continually shaping you, and forming you until you are a perfect reflection of what he had in mind when he called you into existence. Don’t forget what I told you about free will. It sounds crazy but, in your case, the clay can actually resist the hands of the Potter, and decide for itself how it wants to be formed. The results can be truly beautiful, or very very ugly. The choice is yours. Please remember what I told you earlier, and don’t even try to understand this. All I ask is that you trust me, and believe me now, and all the rest will follow. As I speak to you, I am praying for you, asking God to give you the gift of opening your heart to the truths I present to you. Don’t worry about the understanding… that will come later.

There is so much I want to tell you, but I want to stay with the theme of God, love, and you, until I feel you have absorbed the truth behind it, and you know what I know. It will change your life totally. Just leave to one side, for a while, all your faults and failings, and join with me in standing before God as you would before the midday sun. Let the warmth of his love touch your spirit, and melt away all the crusts of fear, loneliness, guilt, and isolation that you wrap yourself in. Let the warmth of his love seep into the very core of your being, and melt any coldness that may have gathered around your heart. Imagine you are sitting out in the back garden on a deck-chair on a sunny summer’s day. All you have to do is be there; the sun will do the rest. Don’t worry about sun-burn; I will protect you with my mantle. When you leave aside the faults and failings (for a while), what’s left is what God created. When exposed to the warmth of his love, it is so much easier for the Potter to melt and to mould. One of the great mistakes that people make is to believe that they must make themselves perfect before they have any right to stand before God. Oh, what a great mistake that is! If you wait till that time, then the first time you are going to stand before God is at the moment of death. It could be too late then! The problem here is a very simple one; it is a question of where and how to start. You begin exactly as you are, and then the changes begin to happen. This is something that you experience firstly, and come to understand later on. 

How are we doing so far? Any questions?
Yes, I was wondering does all of this happen suddenly, or does it take time?If it takes time, how much time are we talking about?

Once again, a good question. The handiest way to answer is to say that it happens suddenly, but it will take you time to become aware of the change. You have spent quite a while with certain beliefs and attitudes, and it will take some time to let go of these, and then to realise that they are gone. Take the example of your mother steeping some whites in bleach. Once she has submerged the articles in the liquid, the process has already begun. (By the way, that word ‘process’ is a very useful word in helping you grasp some of what I’m saying.) It means a series of ongoing changes; things that happen as time goes on. That is how you will change. The process begins immediately and, as time goes on, you will become more aware of what’s happening. If you have a younger brother or sister, you may have noticed how the hair grew, and the teeth appeared, and the baby did nothing to cause any of this! This is actually God continuing to create the baby. I can see by that expression on your face that you have another question!

Yes, I have. If God is continuing to create the baby, why would he let the baby get leukaemia, meningitis, or be found dead in its cot?

Yes, that’s a big one, and I’ll help you understand something about that. I’m delighted you asked it, because it shows that I have your attention. What God creates is good. His grace, however, builds on nature, and does not replace it. What I mean by that is that God creates the person, while the body is a combination of the genes, personality traits, and ‘humanness’ of the parents. That means that the baby’s body contains within itself all that is good and bad within the parents. If the parents are tall and slim, it is likely that the baby will grow to become tall and slim. If the parents are of a nervous disposition, and subject to depression and paranoia, it is likely that the baby will grow up with many emotional problems. The human body is made up of a certain and particular chemistry. One body is very much effected by hay fever, while another never has a breathing problem of any kind. One body reacts to the toxins in the air, and develops cancerous growths, while another seems to be completely immune to all such influences. This is nature taking its course, and God allows nature to follow its course. Grace (God’s blessing) builds on nature; it doesn’t replace it. Nature has an extraordinary way of accommodating to its conditions. The blind can have very sharp hearing, or a very sharp sense of touch. One of Ireland’s greatest artists was born without arms, and painted and wrote with his feet. People in different parts of the world have skins that are black, white, brown, or yellow. The chemistry of some bodies cause them to grow to an abnormal height, while others remain away below the height of the normal. Some have eyes that cannot see, or ears that cannot hear. All of this has to do with the body. The person inside is fully human and fully alive, even if the mind is not fully functional. The most disabled child is on this earth with as much right as the greatest genius that ever lived. What the body can do, or what the body or mind can achieve, is not a test of the value of the person. It is the person living within the body that matters.

I’m sorry if all of this seems ‘heavy’ and difficult to grasp. However, I know that we will come back to all of this in several more of our sessions together. I am very conscious of the fact that many such questions make no sense whatever to the human mind, and I trust the Spirit of God to enlighten you about all such questions. Speaking of the Spirit of God reminds me that it’s time we moved on, and our next session together will deal with the whole question of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Before we finish off today, I want to summarise what I have been telling you. I want you to know God and his love. I want you to be open to that love, so that you can grow in the warmth of that love. I want you to live a life that is blessed with God’s love and care, so that you can pass this message on to others as you travel along the road of life. I am speaking to you personally, but I am very conscious of all the others who can be touched for good by you, and by your example. You are very precious to me, and I have chosen you because you have the disposition to listen to me, and to learn from me. This gives me great happiness, and I rejoice in the knowledge of how much happiness all of this will bring to you. I will pray for you very especially. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you tomorrow.

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