I I was only six when my brother Oliver died suddenly of meningitis in 1984. I was upset but afraid to cry. Even then I was overly conscious of how others viewed me. My parents drew great strength from their faith, and prayer was always at the centre of our family life. After Oliver died I consciously turned to God.
When I made my First Holy Communion I began to go to Mass each morning with my mother. I really loved God and Mass. I kept this hidden for fear of what my friends would think.
I also became conscious of my desire to please others. I wanted to be loved and accepted but felt I had to earn it. As I became more focused on myself I moved further from God.
He was important in my life, but as a God to be feared; his commands were to be kept to avoid punishment. I never knew his total love for me, but longed to know it.
By the age of 15, I was very aware of my appearance and wanted to be good-looking, fashionable, slim and fit. I became very strict with my diet and lost a lot of weight. It took me years to admit I was anorexic.
From the outside it looked like I had a weight problem but the underlying problems were far deeper. I was never convinced of my own self-worth. Most importantly, I still didn’t know the caring love of God.
During my final year in teacher training I received a scholarship to California State University at Chico to do an MA. There I felt the freedom to start anew.
I was drawn to the Catholic Centre for students. The young people attending it for Mass, prayer and social events were so joyous in their faith. I felt loved by these people for who I really was and what I believed in.
At last I could be myself. I also recognised what could fill the void within me – my God, the God for whom I was made. I longed to get to know him better.
That was four years ago. Since then God has worked such wonders and healing in my life, and brought such wonderful friends my way. Moreover, I have come to know Jesus in a personal way – a way I had never thought possible.
Today, I feel God wants me in Ireland where so many are spiritually impoverished. They really are the “poorest of the poor”, as Mother Teresa put it.
I have taken a two – year career break from teaching to work with Pure in Heart, a voluntary group of young people concerned with society’s messages on sexuality, relationships and love. We hope to draw others closer to God by our example and encouragement.
Only by God’s grace am I where I am today. Sure, I have days when I struggle and I still have much to learn and much growing to do, but the difference now is that I am walking with Jesus.
by Edel Reynolds | teacher
taken from Courtesy Alive Paper.