I grew up in a Catholic family.
I’m from a small part of the world called Derry, which is in the North of Ireland.
A place where, when I was growing up, “Catholic” and “Protestant” were political terms.
Just because you grew up in a Catholic family, it did not necessarily mean that you attended Mass or had any formation about the Catholic faith, no. The Catholics who wanted a united Ireland killed the Protestants, and the Protestants who didn’t want a united Ireland killed the Catholics.
That was what being Catholic meant to me. God played no part in my life. In a society where hatred prevailed, there was no room for God.
Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be an actress. When I was around fifteen, I joined an acting agency and had a manager. I was a presenter for some television programs, I wrote plays, did a lot of stage acting, won awards and when I was eighteen I had a small part in a movie.
I liked to party a lot. My weekends, since I was sixteen/seventeen, consisted in getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes.
One day one of my friends called me. “Clare”, she said, “do you want to go on a free trip to Spain?” Free trip to Spain, I thought, ten days of partying in sunny Spain – of course I wanted to go!
She told me that all the people who were going were going to meet together the next week. The next week came, and I went to the house where we were going to meet. I walked into a room and it was filled with people around the age of forty and fifty and they all had Rosary beads in their hands.
“Are you all going on the trip to Spain?” I asked them, almost afraid that they were going to say what they all responded enthusiastically three seconds later “Yes...we’re going on the pilgrimage”.
Yes my dear friends, we were going on a pilgrimage for 10 DAYS! I tried to get out of it, but my name was already on the ticket, so I had to go. I now see that it was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back Home, back to Her and Her Son.
The pilgrimage was during Holy Week in a 16th Century Monastery, not quite what I had imagined when I thought about going to Spain. The Holy Week Encounter that we attended was with a group called the Home of the Mother and I was not a very happy camper.
Nevertheless, it was on that pilgrimage that Our Lord gave me the grace to see how He had died for me on the Cross. After I had received that grace, I knew that I had to change. I asked myself: “If He has done this for me what am I doing for Him?”
It’s so easy, when you’re on a retreat or when you “feel” the love of God, to say to Him: “I’ll do whatever You want me to do,” but when you “come down from the mountain” it’s not that easy.
The sisters had invited me to go with them and other girls on a pilgrimage to Italy. I went and despite the very superficial attitude that I had during the pilgrimage, Our Lord spoke very clearly to me.
He wanted me to live like the sisters in poverty, chastity, and obedience. I automatically told Him that that was impossible for me. I said: “I can’t be a nun! I can’t leave drinking, cigarettes, partying, my career, and my family.”
If Jesus asks us to do something He also gives us the strength and the grace to do it, there is no doubt about that. Without His help I would not have been able to do what I had to do to respond to His call and follow Him.
After I knew what He was calling me to do, the Lord gave me another big grace when I was filming a movie in England. I saw that even though it seemed that I had everything, in reality I had nothing.
I felt a great emptiness as I sat on top on my bed in the hotel room. All that I had ever wanted I seemed to be achieving and I wasn’t happy. I knew that I would only be truly happy by doing what God wanted of me. Our Lord showed me that my wild lifestyle deeply hurt His Sacred Heart. I knew that I had to leave everything and follow Him. I knew with great clarity that He was asking me to trust in Him, to put my life in His Hands and to have faith.
I am now very happily consecrated in the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother. It never ceases to amaze me how Our Lord works in the souls, how He can totally transform one’s life and capture one’s heart. I thank God for the patience that He has had with me, and still has!!!! I do not ask Him why He has chosen me, I just accept it. I depend totally on Him and Our Blessed Mother and I ask them to give me the grace to be whatever they want me to be.