At a very young age Keith Kelly began drinking and experimenting with drugs. He led a dangerous lifestyle until one black night he saw the eyes of evil staring at him
Growing up was quite difficult for me and my siblings as my father was an alcoholic and my relationship with him was just non-existent. We all responded to dad’s alcoholism in different ways. My way was to suppress anger and frustration at our situation. To cope with these feelings, I began drinking at a very young age and went on to experiment with drugs. I became very rebellious against all forms of authority, so I had regular conflicts with the law enforcement in Westport and got expelled from secondary school.
During that time I started to feel a dark presence around me quite regularly. At the beginning I didn’t really know what was going on. I had an innate sense that this was something demonic or evil, but wasn’t able to fully articulate it. I then began to have episodes at night: waking up paralysed and dripping with sweat. I could feel a dark presence in my room which was very frightening. I felt suffocated by this presence and battled to be free of it. One night I woke up everyone by incessantly screaming.
All these demonic manifestations culminated in a very scary incident one night in my bathroom when I looked in the mirror and saw the devil inside me. It is very hard to put into words what I saw. It was a really hideous and beastly form of myself. I could hear him saying, ‘Your life is finished, your life is over, now I have you… I’m gonna destroy you.’ I heard voices regularly and there were a lot of threats being directed against me.
These strange experiences often reduced me to tears of desperation. One day, God gave me the grace to fall to my knees. Though I didn’t know who God was or what faith was about, I had learned the Our Father, and Hail Mary when I attended a Catholic school. So I just started praying the Our Father word by word. There’s always a temptation for prayers to become mechanical and disconnected from the heart. That day I meant every word of that prayer and it was truly a cry to God the Father. I called to Him with all my heart, begging Him to please deliver me.
Halfway through the Our Father, I felt another presence in the room…the presence of God, the presence of my Lord and God, the presence of my Heavenly Father. His presence physically removed this evil presence from my bedroom. I remember just lying on the ground, weeping in gratitude and I knew with certainty from that moment that God was truly my father. A divine peace swept over me that was so tangible, I could feel it. I’ve never felt anything similar to it since. I just lay there and wept with relief and joy.
Years later in my walk with God I learned that the Our Father is a deliverance prayer. It ends with ‘..deliver us from evil. Amen’ and this prayer is in the official exorcism ritual of the Church. The ‘Our Father’ is prayed to deliver the victim from possession or demonic manifestations. I didn’t know this at the time. From that moment when I was 16 or 17, I started praying for help. Every night, I would pray a few prayers asking for help to give up the drugs, to stop drinking, and to get my life back in order because I had a court case coming up. I was charged with 11 offenses and my solicitor was very frank, “You’re looking at a prison sentence.”
During that time my father actually became sober. He was able to conquer his alcohol addiction through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. To help facilitate his recovery, he had a sponsor, Jim Brown who had escaped alcohol addiction after a deep faith experience. Since then he was taking groups of people to Medjugorje. My father asked Jim to bring me to Medjugorje. Jim told my dad to start praying a decade of the Rosary for me every night . Though Jim was hesitant because he knew I had a bad name, he gave me a chance.
We went during the 2005 Easter season but I was just drinking, looking for girls, not really kind of participating in any of the activities. On the third day, I climbed the hill which is allegedly the place where Mary first appeared to the six visionaries. Lot of people have strong conversion experiences up there, but I didn’t know this at the time. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had an encounter with the living God. I was given the gift of faith. I suddenly had no doubts. I knew that God existed and I fell in love with Our Lady. I felt unconditionally loved for who I was, so I came down that mountain as a different person.
Someone in the group said to me years later, “You were different when you came down from that mountain, you were able to maintain eye contact, you were free and comfortable with yourself. You seemed more joyful without that heavy heartedness.” She noticed a transformation in me. I came back to the sacraments on the eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday, the day St John Paul II died, I was like the prodigal son, coming back to God, the father.
Two weeks after coming back from Medjugorje, I had that court case. I had just turned 18 which meant that I had to go on stand and defend myself. So it was quite intimidating. There were three guards, two detectives, the superintendent, the judge, my parents, my solicitor and a couple of journalists. Whenever I opened my mouth to tell my story, the guards would interrupt saying, “This guy is an absolute menace to society, he needs to be locked up, he’s very disruptive and we’ve had multiple incidents with him.” They kept interrupting me, so I couldn’t get into any rhythm. I was very nervous but there were a lot of people praying for me.
Suddenly the unexpected happened. The judge, Mary Devons pointed at the guards and told them, “I’ve had enough. Get out of my courtroom”. They were completely stunned. After they left, she just turned to me and said, “Right, just tell me your story.” I simply told her about how I went to this place called Medjugorje and about my experiences there. Tears sprang to my eyes as I declared with sincerity, “I just really believe God’s going to change my life around.” She looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going to give you a second chance.” I was given a suspended sentence, 200 hours of community service and a nine o’clock curfew for a year. That was it! That was the lifeline I needed and I took it.
Looking back, and spiritually analyzing what had happened, I feel that God was my judge. It was He who saw the sincerity in my heart and intervened. Judge Mary Devons was just the instrument of His mercy. It was powerful. That was my deliverance. And I never looked back. I realized that my life was a gift and everyone’s life is a gift. We haven’t done anything to warrant our existence. God has gratuitously given it to us.
I began to delve deeper into my faith, studying the Bible and reading the lives of Saints. In 2000, I started taking groups of young people to Medjugorje. Recently, I heard a priest answer the question, “What’s the sign of conversion?” He replied that it’s the desire to evangelize. If you have had an encounter with the living God, you can’t keep it to yourself but share it. And I wanted to share it as I was set on fire with love of God. And that for me is a real gift.
Faith is a response to the self revelation of God and not only the self revelation of God, the God who died for us, who purchased us with his own blood. I want to reciprocate that love, which God expressed for me, on the Cross.
There’s a scripture that has always spoken to my heart. “Seek first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be added unto you.” So if you put God first, everything else will fall into place. We cannot outdo God in generosity. That’s my experience of God. If you give God a millimeter, He will give you the universe. So whatever we give God, like the loaves and the fishes, He’ll multiply it. You can’t outdo Him in generosity.
Often, young people have got this preconceived idea that following God equates to giving up everything so life turns dull and boring. But it’s just the opposite. Saint Augustine says, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek him the greatest adventure and to find him the greatest human achievement.” So it’s an adventure. My walk with God has just been this incredible adventure. So don’t be afraid to respond to God’s initiative.
Keith Kelly lives with his wife and 3 children in Westborough County Mail. Article is based on his testimony shared through the Shalom World program “Jesus My Savior”
It was a stormy night. Sister Faustina bowed her face to the ground and prayed the Litany of the Saints. Toward the end of the Litany, such drowsiness overcame her that she couldn’t finish the prayer. She immediately got up and prayed, “Jesus, calm the storm, for Your child is unable to pray any longer, and I am heavy with sleep.” With these words, she threw the window open, not even securing it with hooks. Sister Fabiola said to her, “Sister, what are you doing!? The wind will surely tear the window loose!” But Sister Faustina asked her to sleep in peace. At once, the storm completely subsided. The next day, the sisters were talking about the sudden calming of the storm, not knowing what had really happened. And Sister Faustina thought to herself: “Only Jesus and Faustina know what it means…” Such was the trust Saint Faustina had in Jesus. No wonder He appeared to her and gave her the mission of Divine Mercy for the whole world, with the instruction to inscribe the words: “JESUS I TRUST IN YOU.” She abandoned herself to Him completely, just like a child. Once, during Holy Mass, she had a miraculous vision. Jesus appeared as a one-year-old child and asked her to take Him in her arms. When she had taken Him in her arms, Infant Jesus cuddled up close to her bosom and said, “It is good for Me to be close to your heart…because I want to teach you spiritual childhood. I want you to be very little because when you are little, I carry you close to My Heart, just as you are holding Me close to your heart right now." Spiritual childhood is often misunderstood as naïveté or excessive sentimentality. However, it involves a total surrender to our heavenly Father's providential care—total abandonment of our own plans, opinions, and self-will—and a radical trust in God. Can we, too, ask God to give us the grace to accept—like a little child—all that He asks of us in this life? As we do, can we trust, like Saint Faustina, that the Lord will not abandon us, even for a moment?
She was diagnosed with chronic OCD, and put on meds for a lifetime. Then, something unexpected happened. In the 1990s, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The doctor prescribed me medication and told me I would have to take them for the rest of my life. Some people think that mental health issues happen because you lack faith, but there was nothing wrong with my faith. I had always deeply loved God and relied on Him in all things, but I also felt an abiding disabling guilt. I had not been able to shake off the belief that everything that was wrong with the world was my fault. I had a Law degree, but my heart had never been there. I had taken up law to impress my mother, who thought my choice of teaching as a profession wasn’t good enough. But I had married and given birth to my first child just before I finished it, then gone on to have seven beautiful children, so I had spent more time learning to be a mother than working in law. When we moved to Australia, the law was different, so, I went back to university to finally study my first love, Teaching. But even when I got a job doing what I loved, I felt that I was trying to justify my existence by earning money. Somehow, I didn’t feel that looking after my family and nurturing the people entrusted to me was good enough. In fact, with my crippling guilt and feeling of inadequacy, nothing ever felt enough. Totally Unexpected Because of our family size, it wasn’t always easy to get away on a holiday, so we were excited when we heard about the Carry Home in Pemberton where payment was a donation of what you could afford. It had a beautiful country setting close to forests. We planned to go for a weekend family retreat. They also had a prayer and worship group in Perth. When I joined, I was made to feel very welcome. There, at one of the retreats, something totally unexpected and overwhelming happened. I had just received prayer when I suddenly fell to the ground. Rolled up on the floor in a fetal position, I screamed and screamed and screamed. They carried me out onto this rickety old wooden verandah outside and continued to pray until eventually, I stopped screaming. This was totally unsought and unexpected. But I knew that it was deliverance. I just felt empty as if something had left me. After the retreat, my friends continued to check up on me and come to pray over me, asking for Mary’s intercession that the gifts of the Holy Spirit would become manifest in me. I felt so much better that after a week or two, I decided to reduce my dose of medication. Within three months, I had stopped taking the medication and felt better than I ever had. Melting Away I no longer felt the need to prove myself or pretend that I was better than I was. I didn’t feel that I had to excel in all things. I felt grateful for the gift of life, my family, my prayerful community and this tremendous connection with God. Freed of the need to justify my existence, I realized I could not justify my existence. It’s a gift–life, family, prayer, connection with God–these are all gifts, not something you are ever going to earn. You accept it and you thank God. I became a better person. I didn’t have to show off, compete, or arrogantly insist that my way was the best. I realized I didn’t have to be better than the other person because it didn’t matter. God loves me, God cares for me. Out of the grip of my disabling guilt, I have since realized that “If God didn’t want me, He would have made someone else.” My relationship with my mother had always been ambivalent. Even after becoming a mother, I was still struggling with these feelings of ambivalence. But this experience changed that for me. As God chose Mary to bring Jesus into the world, He had chosen Mary to help me on my way. My issues in the relationship with my mother, and subsequently with the Holy Mother, slowly melted away. I felt like John at the foot of the Cross when Jesus told him: “Behold your Mother.” I have come to know Mary as the perfect mother. Now, when my mind fails, the Rosary kicks in to rescue me! I never realized how much I needed her until I made her an indispensable part of my life. Now, I couldn’t imagine stepping away.
There is a poetic meditation of an early twentieth-century Greek novelist named Nikos Kazantzakis that I keep on my nightstand when Advent comes around every year. He pictures Christ as a teenager, watching the people of Israel from a distant hilltop, not yet ready to begin his ministry but acutely, painfully sensitive to the longing and suffering of His people. The God of Israel is there among them—but they don’t know it yet. I was reading this to my students the other day, as I do every year at the start of Advent, and one of them said to me after class: “I’ll bet that’s how Jesus feels now too.” I asked him what he meant. He said: “You know, Jesus, sitting there in the tabernacle, and us just walking past like He isn’t even there.” Ever since, I’ve had this new image in my Advent prayers of Jesus, waiting in the Tabernacle, looking out over His people—hearing our groans, our pleas, and our cries. Waiting... Somehow, this is the way God chooses to come to us. The birth of the Messiah is THE KEY EVENT IN ALL HUMAN HISTORY, and yet, God wanted it to take place ‘so quietly that the world went about its business as if nothing had happened.’ A few shepherds noticed, and so did the magi (and we could even mention Herod, who noticed for all the wrong reasons!). Then, apparently, the whole thing was forgotten. For a time. Somehow…there must be something in the waiting that is good for us. God chooses to wait for us. He chooses to make us wait for Him. And when you think about it in this light, the whole history of salvation becomes a history of waiting. So, you see, there’s this simultaneous sense of urgency—that we need to answer God’s call and that we need Him to answer our call, and soon. “Answer me, Lord, when I call to you,” the psalmist says. There’s something so brazen about this verse that it’s charming. There’s an urgency in the Psalms. But there is also this sense that we must learn to be patient and wait—wait in joyful hope—and find God’s answer in the waiting.
Q – Why did Jesus Christ have to die for us? It seems cruel that the Father would require the death of His only Son in order to save us. Wasn’t there some other way? A – We know that Jesus’ death forgave us of our sins. But was it necessary, and how did it accomplish our salvation? Consider this: if a student in school were to punch his classmate, the natural consequence would be a certain punishment—perhaps detention, or maybe being suspended. But if that same student were to punch a teacher, the punishment would be more severe—perhaps being expelled from the school. If that same student were to punch the President, they would likely end up in jail. Depending on the dignity of who is offended, the consequence would be greater. What, then, would be the consequence of offending the all-holy, all-loving God? He Who created both you and the stars deserves nothing less than the worship and adoration of all Creation—when we offend Him, what is the natural consequence? Eternal death and destruction. Suffering and alienation from Him. Thus, we owed God a debt of death. But we could not repay it—because He is infinitely good, our transgression caused an infinite chasm between us and Him. We needed someone infinite and perfect but also human (since they would have to die to settle the debt). Only Jesus Christ fit this description. Seeing us abandoned in an unpayable debt that would lead to eternal doom, out of His great love, He became man precisely so that He could pay back our debt on our behalf. The great theologian Saint Anselm wrote an entire treatise entitled, Cur Deus Homo? (Why did God become Man?), and concluded that God became man so that He could pay back the debt we owed but could not pay, so to reconcile us to God in a Person Who Himself is the perfect union of God and humanity. Consider this too: if God is the source of all life, and sin means that we turn our back on God, then what are we choosing? Death. In fact, Saint Paul says that “the wages of sin are death” (Romans 6:23). And sin brings about the death of the whole person. We can see that lust can lead to STDs and broken hearts; we know that gluttony can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, envy leads to dissatisfaction with the gifts God has given us, greed can cause us to overwork and self-indulge, and pride can rupture our relationships with one another and with God. Sin, then, is truly deadly! It takes a death, then, to restore us to life. As an ancient Holy Saturday homily put it from the perspective of Jesus, “Look at the spittle on my face, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image. See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.” Finally, I believe that His death was necessary to show us the depths of His love. If He had merely pricked His finger and shed a single drop of His Precious Blood (which would have been enough to save us), we would think that He didn’t love us all that much. But, as Saint Padre Pio said: “The proof of love is to suffer for the one you love.” When we behold the incredible sufferings that Jesus endured for us, we can never doubt for a moment that God loves us. God loves us so much that He would rather die than spend eternity without us. In addition, His suffering gives us comfort and consolation in our suffering. There is no agony and pain that we can endure that He hasn’t already gone through. Are you in physical pain? So was He. Do you have a headache? His Head was crowned with thorns. Are you feeling lonely and abandoned? All of His friends left Him and denied Him. Do you feel ashamed? He was stripped naked for all to jeer. Do you struggle with anxiety and fears? He was so anxious that He sweat blood in the Garden. Have you been so hurt by others that you cannot forgive? He asked His Father to forgive the men driving nails into His hands. Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Jesus Himself cried out: “O God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?” So we can never say: “God, you don’t know what I’m going through!” Because He can always respond: “Yes, I do, my beloved child. I’ve been there—and I am suffering with you right now.” What a consolation to know that the Cross has brought God near to those who suffer, that it has shown us the depths of God’s infinite love for us and the great lengths He would go to rescue us, and that it has paid back the debt of our sins so that we can stand before Him, forgiven and redeemed!
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