Fr Jaimie Twohig’s faith has been guided by both his earthly and heavenly mothers from its genesis, and it has coloured his very perception.
“Ever since I’ve been ordained, and throughout my studies as well, it’s just a thing that I constantly have to learn, that we’re just really vessels of his love,” he tells The Irish Catholic.
Learning the same lesson that Mary did 2000 years ago, it’s fitting that Fr Twohig’s faith was born out of a place closely associated with her; a faith fostered and coaxed out of him by his mother here on earth.
“My mother was the only one, really, that kept the flame of faith going. I knew she always had some faith. She would go on retreats here and there, but she was pretty much the only one.”
Experiencing a “pretty average faith, in that it wasn’t a big part of my life until my teenage years,” Fr Twohig’s mother provided him the opportunity to glimpse heavenly love for the first time.
“Until my mother went to Medjugorje in 2004, and then when she came back, I could see there was a real difference in her. She was really talking about Medjugorje a lot, and I could see there was a new peace about her. So she asked me to go the following year,” he says.
“I had a great experience out there. There were two things. I just had a real, strong experience of Our Lady’s personal love for me. I knew that she loved me as a mother. Then, the other experience I had was of the group, actually, themselves. My impression was that if you were into your Faith, you didn’t have a lot else going on. It means your life must be a bit boring, but what I found was that the people were great fun, and we had a great laugh. And they prayed really devoutly,” he remembers.
Whereas before Medjugorje he had no problem with arriving 10 minutes late to Mass, he started leaving home early enough to say a rosary on the way there and one on the way back from the church, upon his return to Ireland, “which is something I don’t think I’d even do now,” he laughs.
His understanding of the Faith renewed, he quietly lived his life until God made him aware that he had something greater in mind for him.
“I had three years between the ages of 18 to 21, which was when I joined the seminary, and in that time I was doing all of the things that an 18 year old would do. Like going out to pubs, nightclubs, and things like that, but all the time there was just this internal call, and my faith was growing at the same time.”
Attending a couple of vocations weekends, he settled on the Pallotines; a decision accompanied by a “great sense of peace…this was home.”
Settled now in Shankill, south Dublin, Fr Twohig’s return to genuine faith guides his ministry. Seeing the same lukewarmness in others that he saw in himself, he describes it as the biggest challenge he faces.
“It’s the biggest challenge. Someone who’s on fire with their faith, great. You can leave it at that. Even people who are openly hostile to the Faith; they’re sometimes nearly further along the line, whereas those in the middle who have just always gone to Mass but have never let it penetrate… that’s the most challenging,” he admits, “ and kickstarting that side of faith is difficult. And maybe not even people who go to Mass, there’s people who don’t go to Mass but don’t see it as a problem anymore. The attitude that God loves me, so it doesn’t matter what kind of life I live.”
Having experienced the temptations of the easy life himself, Fr Twohig is at pains to communicate the real essence of the Catholic Faith: “It’s so drilled into us, and I mean, of course God loves us but it’s nearly become…the more you say it, it could nearly lose its meaning. It’s the love of the cross. It’s self-giving love.”
A line of great importance that he’s identified is, “It’s not our ability, it’s our availability,” and he employs this attitude as he tends to those both inclined away from God and towards him. Making yourself available is an action that brings heaven with it, he tries to help people see.
Fortunately, however, he’s not limited to this kind of exhortation. A stalwart of the Youth 2000 circles, Fr Twohig encounters plenty of people keeping lit the flame of Faith, particularly young people. Encouraging them along the path is often an invisible task, but one that yields much fruit.
“It’s always the individual moments,” he says, as he speaks of the rewards of his vocation, “…when someone comes closer to God. Maybe sometimes, they might let you know through a letter or maybe it was something that you said. It’s how God is working through us.”
“For myself, most of the time not having a clue, sometimes you go and you give a sermon and you think, ‘Ah, it was only an OK sermon,’ and then you find out it really affected someone,” he says.
“If I could sum it up, it’s whenever the Lord shows you how he has worked through you to bring someone closer to him. We don’t see it all of the time, but sometimes he allows us to see it.”