I first saw the radiance of God reflected in a childhood friend in the year of 1960. It was the penetrating light of Christ that transformed a frightened child into a purified, beautiful 14-year-old girl.
The frightened child had truly become a child of Christ.
There were at least a dozen young girls in the Protestant church that Sunday morning, in the small country town where we were living.
I have very few pleasant memories of my youth, but I remember vividly as the tiled floor opened to reveal a pool of cleansing water, the baptismal waters of Christ.
I remember watching resentfully as these young girls were given full immersion after they had committed themselves to the Lord.
This ceremony was a result of a school attendance to a Billy Graham Crusade. And I was to follow my friend in this ceremony.
I was the angry rebellious one, 14 months younger than my friend, and from a family of no Christian beliefs.
My participation was only to conform to parental authority so as not to be an embarrassment yet again.
When we were received into a small room at the back of the Church to change before being seated with our families, I gazed upon my friend, who was simply radiant.
Her only words to me were: “I have been born again.” I contemplated these words, and would often ask myself, ‘What was the good of this God, who allowed my friend to be born again and yet allowed her to die spiritually just as instantly?’
Thirty-three years later, I realised a seed had been planted within me. That seed matured, and I too would come to know of His sanctifying grace.
My friend knew her redeemer that night; she experienced His love, mercy and compassion in an instant as she met her saviour face to face.
But as for me, I was cold, wet and angry; the mystery of His purpose was well and truly concealed.
I spent the next 33 years denying this Almighty God in living a lifestyle of sin and degradation with little regard for anyone else.
But I believe this is a testimony to the power of our Almighty God, for He came to save sinners and a sinner I most surely was.
In March 1993 a Catholic woman gave me a book. I had made no promise to read it, but eventually felt drawn. I tried to fight the urge but I was simply overcome and that was the beginning of many a mystery.
As I read it, slowly contemplating each line, I felt a growing attraction to Our Lady, a woman of great suffering, destined to sacrifice her only Son – and yet she seemed so peaceful. I remember thinking she must have been a woman of great inner strength, a mother of many mysteries. It was then I experienced another call deep within, ‘Your time is now’ to which I screamed ‘all right then’, for enough was enough.
Immediately I experienced a deep silence, and such a sense of relief.
I had to fight against the bad habits of my previous lifestyle with all my strength, and the almighty power of God, only to be engulfed by the divine essence of His love.
On 7 May, 1993, I walked through the doors of a Catholic church and instinctively went to a statue of a woman holding a child. I asked the priest ‘Who is she?’ to which he replied, ‘That is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God’.
I do not remember much more about that night. It was a life-changing conversion for me, for within the depths of a great darkness I was bathed in a glorious light.
For an instant I was graced with a glimpse of the glory of God.
It had taken 33 years but I, like my childhood friend, had been bathed in the divine essence of God and at that same moment He also granted me the knowledge of His sanctifying grace, for I was granted a deep sense of my own disgrace!
For the first time I looked into my naked soul by the piercing light of Christ, to be graced with a deep understanding of my own wretchedness but at the same time I, with the blackest of souls, also sensed His overpowering love.
From that moment I seemed to have grasped a deep understanding of His true presence. The seed that had been planted so many years ago, as I gazed on the newly-baptised, sought to be nurtured.
Every day I would walk to a Catholic church for the highest privilege on offer: to be in His true presence, to watch as the priest raised the consecrated host. My only prayer was a desperate plea for His mercy to pour down upon me. I prayed so earnestly.
From the moment I walked through the doors of the church, the Holy Spirit graced me with a deep awareness of the richness and sacredness of the Church.
I was received into the faith at an Easter Vigil Mass in 1994, and all remains the same to this day, for He came to save sinners and a sinner I most surely am.