|Among the huge number of priests from various parts of the world who have visited the House of Prayer Achill since it was first opened by Archbishop Cassidy on July 16th 1993 have been theologians who have given testimony of their experience and belief in Christina Gallagher and this work. A sample of such testimony is the following from a Jesuit theologian, writer and broadcaster in London, Rev Richard Foley S. J.
“What Clinched My Conviction About Christina Gallagher” By Rev Richard Foley S.J.”
What think ye of Christina Gallagher? This question has stirred many a conscience as a result of the recent public statement on the subject of the Archdiocese of Tuam (note: this was the 1998 statement). It all focuses on the supernatural phenomena widely reported to surround her and the House of Prayer in Achill: are they or are they not authentic? The Archbishop has, as yet, given neither his final approval nor disapproval with regard to the supernatural element in the case. The key sentence in his statement reads: “The question, as far as competent ecclesiastical authority is concerned, remains open and unproven.”… But he very pointedly added that the door remains open to any further evidence that will vindicate the claims beyond all reasonable doubt. There are well-known close parallels, where the supernatural claims still remain undecided by the competent Church authorities and their wait-and-see stance could continue for a long time to come. Fatima, let us recall, had to wait some thirteen years before receiving formal Church approval. The Archbishop’s statement went on to affirm, in keeping with Canon Law, that Christina Gallagher and her “associates” enjoy the right, not only to believe in the supernatural phenomena, but, to state their belief to all and sundry. I must immediately declare myself to be one of the aforementioned “associates”, for I am fully convinced that Christina Gallagher has a special prophetic mission, reinforced by powerful charismatic gifts, to lead many souls, especially Irish souls, back to a true and authentic living of their Catholic faith in this confused world of ours.
“My First Visit”
To begin at the beginning, my first visit to the House of Prayer Achill a few years ago was largely exploratory and look-see. Having been commissioned to write something aboutChristina Gallagher, I felt I ought to meet her beforehand and spend a few days in her House of Prayer – the house specifically set up by Christina Gallagher in Achill at Our Lady’s instigation, so she claims, for the sanctification of priests. That house certainly lives up to its name; it has a prayerful atmosphere, and much prayer, in fact, is done there not only by priests but even more, for priests, by the laypeople who flock there in such numbers. It is something of a spiritual power-house. The peace and radiance of the Eucharist is all-pervasive and the Mother of Divine Grace dispenses her largesse with a liberal hand. Indeed, she was good enough to mediate some very special graces for myself and my work. The same goes, I have reason to know, for many other priests who have been there.
What finally clinched my conviction about Christina Gallagher was her personal charism for reading souls. Though I had been informed that other priests had experience what I am about to describe, in the event it bowled me over. All this took place in the course of an interview I had requested of her as part of my three-day retreat. This modern-day mystic, in the course of the interview, saw into my interior life as if it were an open book. The scanty triumphs and numerous failures I had chalked up over the years since ordination were obviously crystal clear to her. She could survey my entire track record. She clearly possessed a sort of x-ray insight into my private world of conscience. She could witness within me the hidden arena, where, as is the case with everyone, moral warfare is waged non-stop between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Mammon. Christina finally gave some eminently sound practical advice as to how I could and should advance as a priest in the Lord’s service.
I hasten to add that throughout this interview, she was most respectful and tactful, going about her business as matter-of-factly as a nurse taking your temperature or reading your blood pressure. I subsequently felt an over-whelming peace come over me. And peace, as we learn from St. Ignatius, is a sure sign of the good spirit and the presence of God. Thus, at which might be called the spiritual level, I first experienced for myself the supernatural element in Christina Gallagher’s life. This element became for me even more strikingly evident at a physical level on seeing her bearing the stigmata. The wounded limbs of the Crucified are, as it were, replicated in her body, and the thorn-marks stand out starkly on her forehead. The suffering she undergoes is agonising; yet she offers it readily, indeed almost eagerly, in reparation for the sins of the world – especially for the sins of the world’s priests. When you consider the phenomena of the stigmata in the wider framework of Christina’s work, which is characterised by deep prayer, self-sacrifice, humility and submission to authority, total and unquestioning orthodoxy, a burning zeal for souls, and an ardent spirit of reparation, you realise you are dealing with the genuine article.
I came to the same conclusion when applying the simple litmus test prescribed by Our Lord for discerning between the authentic and the sham, “by their fruits you shall know them.” (Mt. 7,16) Indeed, Archbishop Neary paid Christina Gallagher a generous tribute in this connection, affirming that “she has been a force for good in the faith, prayer and lives of many people who have, in whatever manner, been associated or otherwise in contact with her.” What this amounts to saying is that, a superabundance of spiritual fruits have come through this humble Mayo housewife and mother of two. Many thousands of people have experienced a strengthening of faith just through seeing her or hearing her speak. As for her own faith, it is as solid and sound as the Chair of Peter itself. Certainly there is nothing in Christina’s spirituality of those watered-down and wishy-washy half-truths and heresies that liberal thinkers and publicists are spreading like poison among the ordinary faithful. Nor is anybody more aware than she that the Catholic faith is undergoing a serious crisis, in Ireland as elsewhere – and that not a few priests are among its victims. One particularly sad effect of this crisis is the significant absence of young people at Mass in many churches. It is with them that the ‘faith drain’ is at its most damaging and tragic. So worrying is the general situation, in fact, that a charism as powerful as Christina Gallagher’s is clearly needed to bring Ireland back to its former role, as a stronghold of faith and as a springboard for missionary outreach to the ends of the earth. Many healings have been reported through contact with Christina Gallagher and the House of Prayer Achill, all of which healings are a further manifestation of the fruits in question. Spiritual healings naturally take pride of place, and there have been a number of them, priests included. What happens is that those concerned receive the grace to see their lives in a new light and to keep close to God through prayer and the sacraments.
Many physical healings, too, have been reported. A remarkable recent case concerned a Dublin woman with a chronic heart problem. Despite a series of operations, it got so bad that a proposed heart transplant was ruled out as impossible. Then, in June of last year (1997) this woman, who had not been practicing the faith for years, accompanied her sister to the House of Prayer Achill, having first made her peace with God through confession. Christina prayed with her and the woman attended Mass. Then and there, the Eucharistic Jesus touched her life, and from that moment she started to recover. Specialists reported a sensational improvement in her heart condition and she can now walk as never before. What has also staged a remarkable improvement is her faith and prayer. Mass andt he Rosary now form the centrepiece of her life, and her one ambition is to ‘bring others to God.’
I believe it is vitally important that Christina Gallagher’s crusade of prayer and reparation should reach out far and wide. For her charism has transformed the House of Prayer Achill into a beacon of faith and holiness to illumine the spiritual darkness that is fast enveloping Catholic life and culture in Ireland and throughout the western world. It is also vitally important that the House of Prayer Achill should continue to attract large numbers of visitors, so increasing the volume of prayer for priests – the Lord’s anointed, who are such key figures in maintaining and spreading God’s kingdom… The irony that aches and aches beneath her mission is that it is so widely misunderstood, misrepresented and rejected by those very men for whom it is primarily intended by the Mother of God. Christina is well aware of this; and indeed, it is one of the heaviest crosses God has asked her to carry. May the Queen of Peace and the Mother of Priests promote mightily the vital apostolate She herself has initiated on Achill Sound.”
Rev. Richard Foley, S. J., a Jesuit of British Province, obtained his Doctorate in Theology in Louvain, and taught there for a number of years. A prolific writer and broadcaster, he published various books, including “Mary and the Eucharist”.
Fr Foley wrote the foreward to Thomas Petrisko’s book about Christina Gallagher “The Sorrow, The Sacrifice, & The Triumph”