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Nov 10, 2022 170 Keith Kelly
Encounter

Judged by Men, Saved by God

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.

Word by Word

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.

Ultimatum

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.

Thrown Back

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.

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Keith Kelly

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”

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