by ROWENA OREJANA
Confession and a return to a state of grace was the only wish an Australian father had for his son, Andrew.
Fr Andrew Grace spoke before Divine Mercy followers at St Joseph’s Takapuna in Auckland on February 22.The programme was part of the nine day Divine Mercy Congress of Oceania, from February 20-28.
Fr Grace said he grew up in a religious family. In his teen years and well into his young adulthood, though, he got caught up in secularism and apostasy.
As a university student, he recalled binge drinking and courting death with stunts like climbing the Opera House in Sydney.
“I was caught up in a culture of death. We climbed up all the way to the top. Coming down, we had to put our fingers and toes in the grooves of the tiles. When I saw my shoes roll down, I panicked and said, ‘That’s going to be my body falling any moment. I’m not moving,’” he said.
His friend, Dave, however, who called him “Priesty” (“I don’t know why he called me that. He wasn’t even Catholic”) helped him down. This same friend would die a few months later, joyriding in a stolen plane.
At the funeral of his friend, he started searching for truth, but for years held on to his secular choices.
He became a successful project manager in construction. He had a beautiful girlfriend and was earning a good income.
His father, who visited Medjugorje with his (Fr Grace’s) mother, came home with a renewed passion for the faith.
“On his birthday I asked him what he wanted and he said, ’I would like to see my son back in a state of grace’,” Fr Grace said.
He said this was his father’s wish for several more occasions like Father’s Day and Christmas.
“I would ask him what he wanted and he would say, ‘I want you to confess’,” Fr Grace added.
One day, he said, his father told him (FrGrace) that he (Fr Grace) belonged to the church of the anti-Christ. “When you go to Communion, the communion you receive is a sacrilege. You need Confession,” his father told him.
His father’s words penetrated his heart. Still, when he found himself praying inside St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, he thought, ”Jesus, surely I don’t have to go to a priest to confess my sins. Surely I could just tell you I’m sorry.”
The more he prayed, the more his heart melted. Finally, when he saw a green light at one of the confessionals, he went in with much trepidation. Inside, he found a very humble and gentle priest who listened patiently. “The [priest] said to me, all those sins that you have confessed, they are very serious. But the greatest sin of our modern era is the sin of pride. Sadly, so many people no longer humble themselves before Jesus in this sacrament and receive his mercy, his healing, his grace which he wants to give to everyone. It is so easy,” Fr Grace recalled.
Fr Grace said after that he still gave in to peer pressure and sinned, but he kept going back to Confession.
Years later, he found the strength to say yes to a priestly vocation.
“Jesus gives us specific graces for our area of need,” he said. “It’s so easy to get back into a state of grace.”