Fr. Francis Farry, Ireland: Medjugorje is one of the central ingredients of my spiritual formation

date: 18.09.2007.

Fr. Francis Farry (41) from Donegal (Ireland) was ordained a priest on July 1st, 2007. Medjugorje was instrumental in his spiritual and emotional formation. This is his testimony:

I came to Medjugorje for the first time in 1995. I was 29 years old and very lost. At that time, I was a taxi driver, and I was financially well off. I also had my own house in Dublin, yet I felt very lost. I was seeking something, but I couldn’t find it. Things seemed meaningless somehow.

My faith before I came here was very shallow. My parents were Catholics, and they went to church on Sunday, but like many people in Ireland today, they were only nominally Catholic. My father was a policeman all his working life. I also have a brother in the police force, and although I wanted to be a policeman too, I spent four years truck driving instead. I enjoyed driving, and when I was 22, I began to work for myself, driving a taxi in Dublin. I worked 5 nights a week and I made good money for such a young person. But material things did not bring happiness. Being a taxi driver, I drove people to drink… but at the end of the day, I took to the drink myself. I had a big problem, but basically I was seeking happiness. I saw that what the world had to offer was very shallow. I felt emptiness inside myself, and I began to drink more heavily. Within my family, we were all partial to drink. In Ireland in general this is often a family problem. But when there is a problem within the family, peace is lost. My relationship with my family was very much broken.

I would work four or five nights a week, and the rest of the week I would spend drinking. I thought I could control my drinking, but it became a bigger problem and it was going from bad to worse with the passage of time. Every week-end, after two or three days of serious drinking, I would say: never again, but… I could not control it. I did not know where to turn.

One night in 1993 - I was 27 years of age - I was very angry and very drunk. I was driving my car and I had a very serious car accident. When people ask me how I became a priest, I answer: I met the Lord in an accident. That was undoubtedly the turning point for me. At the time of the accident, I was longing for God very much. I was angry with myself. I was angry with life in general, and I was angry about my family situation in particular. There was no peace. My life felt so empty. I was making so many mistakes… When I had that accident, I was harbouring a question in the depths of my heart: If there is a God, how would I find him? In that accident, the car was totally written off, from front to back, as I had hit a tree at high speed. I ended up in hospital for five weeks. I broke my hip very badly, I injured my sciatic nerve, and I had injured my right foot also. After a few weeks in hospital, they said that the sciatic nerve was not healing because of the severity of the injury. After my release from the hospital, I was on crutches for a further six months. That afforded me time to slow down, to reflect and to realise that I had to get some control over my actions and over my life in general. I believe it was a miracle that I got out of that car alive. It was a very, very bad accident indeed.

About a year later, I got back to work. My leg was still very bad. My brother came one day and told me that there was a healing priest in Dublin, and since the doctor had said that medicine could not heal the sciatic nerve, maybe I should go to the healing priest. His name was Fr. Aidan Carroll, a priest who occasionally accompanies groups to Medjugorje. I attended his Mass and he happened to speak during the Mass about Medjugorje. I did not know anything about Medjugorje. He happened to say that if anyone wished to go to Medjugorje, he had tickets at a reduced price. Marian Pilgrimages had seats available. After Mass I went to see him in the sacristy, and I told him I would be free to go.

I came to Medjugorje in 1995 for the first time. At that time I knew nothing about Medjugorje, but I also found out that I did not know very much about my faith, or God, or Our Lady either until I came here. I had a very, very enjoyable week. I found great joy and the peace that I had been seeking for a long time but which I couldn’t find anywhere. I had been looking in the wrong places. I was empty, and I did not know how to fill this huge emptiness. That week was a huge turning point in my life. I came to realise that, as the messages say, God exists. I felt after leaving here that Our Lady was a real mother, and that had a profound effect upon me: the realization that my Mother cares so much for me. My family was broken at that stage. I needed the sense of coming home with Our Lady. I felt a strong bond with Our Lady, because my own mother had been diagnosed as an alcoholic… but thanks to Medjugorje, my relationship with my own mother has been healed as well.

I went back home and I began to attend daily Mass, to endeavour to say the Rosary… yet I still struggled with the alcohol. I believed I could control it again, but I couldn’t. I thought I could drink socially, but I couldn’t. My last drinking episode was on Christmas Eve in 1996, following a couple of hours work in my taxi. I drank all that night.  I called to somebody’s house very drunk and very hurt within. I told this person that, if she would forgive me something I did, I would never drink again. She said that it was all right…

I thought that I would have no social life without drinking, but I soon realised that I was happier without it. My peace was growing. I could trust myself and I felt a growing sense of serenity.

Medjugorje helped me greatly on the road to sobriety because of my going to Mass every day, and I asked the Lord for the grace to stay sober one day at a time, from one Eucharist to the next. That is what I did, and Our Lady helped me through the Rosary. In Medjugorje, we were told that, when we returned home, we should get involved in a prayer group. In Dublin, I looked around for a suitable group, one that would be Marian, Eucharistic and charismatic. I began attending every Monday, and I found the group very good and very helpful. I found friendship and support. It was all providential.

In June 1997, that prayer group went for its annual retreat. There were about 15 of us, and about five other people joined the retreat. At the prayer meeting, there was a healing service, a Mass, and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. Anyone who wished to come forward for a prayer for healing could do so. I was at the back, but I stood up, went forward and I knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed in my own heart for healing, and the group prayed with me. At that stage, I was hoping for inner healing, a healing of my emotional brokenness, rather then physical healing of the injury on my leg. That was the prayer of my heart. I heard somebody saying behind me: “Lift up your tired hands and straighten your trembling knees. Keep walking on the straight path, so that your lame foot may not be disabled but instead healed.” I thought this was coming straight from the Lord, from the Blessed Sacrament. It certainly spoke straight to my heart. I did not know the lady who uttered the words. She told me later that they were from the Bible, Hebrews 12, 12. She did not know me. Neither did she know about my car accident nor my injury.

The following evening I went home to my father with the good news. I was chatting to him in the kitchen for many hours. I shared my experience of the day before. I was very excited. He opened up the Bible, but his translation was different. Only the Good News Bible had the words “lame foot”. I was amazed that God was so caring. He knows me so intimately, and He knew which Bible translation to take! There is no coincidence with God. He was promising me a physical healing! I was not even asking for this! My accident happened in June 1993. My conversation with my father took place in June 1997. My father referred to his diary: the accident had happened precisely four years previously, at ten past one in the morning to the very second! I had almost forgotten about my car crash when asking myself if God existed… He answered that prayer exactly four years later, to the second! God was telling me that this was not a mere coincidence. He was confirming the healing. He knew every second of my life.

In Medjugorje, I came to the realization that God does indeed exist. In Medjugorje, I found a home. Since my Medjugorje experience, my faith grew stronger and stronger. Daily Mass became the centre of my life.

The call to priesthood came in 1998. I was on retreat in England. I was afraid of this call, although I had felt it in my heart. I knew that I had to respond to it. I knew that God was with me. Here I am now, as a priest. The Holy Mass that I have celebrated in St. James in Medjugorje was one of my first Masses. Here in Medjugorje I heard my first confession and gave my first absolution also. Knowing that I was not worthy to hear anybody’s confession, I went for confession myself to Fr. Svetozar before I heard my first confession…

I have total trust in the message of Medjugorje. I have been here 20 times, most of the time on my own. I have learned obedience to the Catholic Church in Medjugorje. Medjugorje is an integral part of my spiritual and emotional development… indeed one of the very best parts of my formation.

I am happy to be a priest.