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Jul 21, 2023 1006 Patrick Reynolds, Ireland
Encounter

Actor turned Evangelist

As an actor and director, Patrick Reynolds thought God was only for holy people. He failed to understand God’s plan until the day when he had a supernatural experience while reciting the Rosary. Here is his incredible journey.

I was born and raised in a Catholic family. We went to Mass every week, said our daily prayers, attended Catholic school, and had lots of holy items in the house, but somehow the faith didn’t penetrate. Whenever we crossed the threshold, Mom would splash us with holy water, but unfortunately, we did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. I didn’t even know that was possible. I understood that God lived up in the clouds somewhere. He looked down upon us all, but in my own mind and heart, He was very distant and unobtainable. Although I learned about God, I didn’t learn who He was. When I was about ten, my mum started going to a charismatic prayer group, and I saw her faith become very real and personal. She was healed of depression, so I knew that God’s power was real, but I thought God was only for holy people like my mum. I longed for something deeper than what was being offered. When it came to the Saints, I didn’t understand their role and didn’t think they had anything to offer me because I didn’t think that I could be holy.

Unfulfilled & Empty

When I left school, I wanted to be rich and famous so that I could be loved by everybody. I thought that would make me happy. I decided that becoming an actor would be the easiest way to achieve my goals. So, I studied acting and eventually became a successful actor and director. It opened doors into a life I had never experienced and more money than I knew what to do with, so I spent it trying to impress important people in the industry. My whole life was a cycle of buying things to impress people so I could make more money to buy things to impress people. Instead of feeling fulfilled, I felt empty. I felt like a fraud. My whole life was pretending to be what other people wanted me to be. I was searching for something more but never understood that God had a plan for me. My life was all about parties, drinking, and relationships, but filled with discontent.

One day, my mom invited me to a big Charismatic Catholic conference in Scotland. To be honest, I didn’t want to go because I thought I had put all that God stuff behind me, but moms are good at emotional blackmail; they can make you do things that no one else can. She said, “Pat, I’m going away to do mission work in Africa for two years. If you don’t come to this retreat, I won’t get to spend any time with you before I leave.” So, I went. I’m glad now, but at the time, I felt uncomfortable. It felt strange to see so many people singing and praising God. As I looked around the room judgmentally, God suddenly reached into my life. The priest spoke about the faith, Jesus in the Eucharist, the Saints, and Our Lady in such a real, tangible way that I finally understood that God was very close, not somewhere up in the clouds, and He had a plan for my life.

Something More

I understood that God had created me for a reason. I said my first sincere prayer that day, “God, if You are there, if You have a plan for me, I need You to help me. Show me in a way that I can understand.” People began to pray the Rosary, which I hadn’t prayed since I was very young, so I joined in any prayers I remembered. When they began to sing, something in my heart melted, and for the first time in my life, I experienced the love of God. I was so overwhelmed by this love I began to cry. It was through Our Lady’s intercession that I was able to come into the presence of God. I went to Mass that day, but I knew that I couldn’t receive communion because I hadn’t been to Confession in a long time. My heart was longing to be closer to God, so I spent the next few weeks preparing to make an honest, thorough Confession. As a child, I went to Confession regularly, but I don’t think I was ever really honest. I took in my shopping list of sins—the same three or four things every time. When I experienced absolution this time, I felt great peace and love. I decided that I wanted more of this in my life.

To Act or Not?

As an actor, it was very difficult to live my faith. Every part I was being offered contradicted my beliefs as a Catholic, but I didn’t have enough formation in the faith. I knew that I needed more help. I started going along to a pentecostal Church, where I met people who taught me about the Bible and how to praise and worship. They offered me mentorship, friendship, and community, but I couldn’t let go of Jesus in the Eucharist, so I remained in the Catholic Church. Every week they challenged my Catholic beliefs, so I would go and study my catechism to come back with answers for them. They helped me become a better Catholic, understanding why I believe.

At one point, I had a mental and emotional block about why Catholics had such a devotion to Mary. “Why do you pray to Mary?” they asked, “why don’t you go straight to Jesus?” This was already on my mind. I struggled to find an answer that made sense. Saint (Padre) Pio was a miracle worker whose life inspired me to become a better person. As I read about how his devotion to Our Lady brought him deep into the heart of Christ and the Church and listened to Pope John Paul II, the witness of these two great men inspired me to trust and follow their example. So, I prayed every day for the Pope’s intentions through Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

I went along to a Marian retreat to find out more. I heard about Saint Louis De Montfort’s great devotion to Mary and how talking to her in prayer is the quickest and simplest way to become like Jesus. He explained that there are two ways of making a statue—sculpt it arduously from a hard piece of material with a hammer and chisel, or fill a mold with resin and leave it to harden. Each statue formed in a mold follows its shape perfectly (as long as it is filled). Mary is the mold in which the Body of Christ was formed. God made her perfect for that purpose. If you are molded by Mary, she will form you perfectly, if you give yourself fully.

When I heard this, I understood it to be true. When we prayed the Rosary, instead of just saying the words, I tried to pray the words with all my heart, meditating on the Mysteries. Something unexpected happened. I experienced the love of our Blessed Mother. It was like the love of God, and I knew it came from the love of God, but it was different. She helped me love God in a way that I had never been able to do on my own. I was so overwhelmed by this love that I was moved to tears of joy. Finding such a wonderful gift was like the treasure in the field from the parable. You’d be willing to sell everything to buy the field so you can keep this treasure. From that moment, I knew that I couldn’t continue acting. I couldn’t live in that secular world and be a good Catholic. I also knew that people needed to know about the love of God. So I put my career aside so I could evangelize.

Digging Deeper

I came to Knock in Ireland to ask God what He wanted. Our Lady appeared there in 1879 along with Saint Joseph, Saint John, and Jesus as the Lamb of God on the altar, surrounded by angels. Mary came to lead people to Jesus. Her role is to bring people to the Lamb of God. In Knock, I met the woman I would marry and the people who offered me a job doing mission work. I came for a weekend, and 20 years later, I’m still living in Ireland.

My love for the Blessed Mother continued to grow once I learned to pray the Rosary properly. I had always found it very difficult to pray it on my own until I went to the National Shrine in Walsingham, England. In the small Chapel with the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, I asked our Blessed Mother for the grace to pray and understand the Rosary. Something incredible happened! As I began to pray the Joyful Mysteries, in each Mystery, I understood that Our Lady wasn’t just Jesus’ mother, she was my mother, and I felt myself growing alongside Jesus through His childhood.

So when Mary said “Yes” at the Annunciation to being the Mother of God, she was also saying “Yes” to me, welcoming me into her womb with Jesus. As Mary traveled to visit her cousin, I felt myself being carried in her womb with Jesus. And John the Baptist jumped for joy that I was there in the Body of Christ. In the Nativity of Christ, it felt like Mary gave new life to me, saying “Yes” to raising me. As she and Saint Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, they also offered me to the Father, accepting me as their child. When they found Jesus in the Temple, I felt that Mary was also finding me. I had been lost, but Mary had been searching for me. I realized that Mary had been praying with my mom all those years for my faith to return.

I helped found Holy Family Mission, a house where young people could come to learn about their faith and to get the formation they may have missed as children. We chose the Holy Family as our patrons, knowing that we come into the heart of Jesus through Mary. Mary is our mother, and in her womb, we are formed like Christ under the care of Saint Joseph.

Grace upon Grace

Our Blessed Mother was instrumental in helping me to find my wife at Knock and getting to know her as we worked alongside each other in a movement called Youth 2000, which centers around Our Lady and the Eucharist. On our wedding day, we consecrated ourselves, our marriage, and any future children to Our Lady of Guadalupe. We now have nine beautiful children, who each have their unique faith and devotion to Our Lady, which we’re so thankful for.

The Rosary has become such an important part of my faith and a channel for so many graces in my life. Whenever I have an issue, the first thing I’ll do is pick up my rosary beads and turn to Our Lady. Saint John Paul II said it’s like taking her hand so she can lead through any dark times—a safe guide through troubles.

Once, I had a falling out with a close friend, and I was finding it very difficult to be reconciled. I knew they had wronged me, and I found it hard to forgive. This person couldn’t see the hurt they had caused me and others. Part of me wanted to do something about it, part of me wanted to take vengeance. But instead, I put my hand in my pocket and picked up my rosary beads. I had only prayed one decade of the rosary, before this friend turned round with a changed countenance and said, “Pat, I just realized what I did to you and how much I’ve hurt you. I apologize.” As we embraced and reconciled, I recognized the power that Our Lady has to change hearts.

Mary is the means God chose to enter this world, and He still chooses to come through her. I now understand that we don’t go to Mary instead of Jesus, we go to Mary because Jesus is within her. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant contained everything that was holy. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, the living tabernacle of the Source of all Holiness, God Himself. So, when I want to be close to Christ, I always turn to Mary, who shared the most intimate relationship with Him within her own body. In drawing close to her, I draw close to Him.

Article is based on the testimony he shared in the program “Mary My Mother”. To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/show/

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Patrick Reynolds

Patrick Reynolds is the director of formation at the Holy Family Mission in Ireland.

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