I was born into a Roman Catholic home in the early 1940's. My parents were devout Roman Catholics and we were instructed in the teaching of the church and were taught that this was the one true and infallible church.
At the age of seven I made my first communion and from then onwards, in the sight of the Roman Catholic church, I was committing a sin if I didn't attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days.
I was encouraged to go on pilgrimages in atonement for sin, for example--walking on stones in my bare feet, whipping myself, fasting and silences, which was the hardest for me and which was often broken!
Having been in contact with Protestant people my one desire was to win them to the Roman Catholic faith believing that outside the Roman Catholic church people were doomed. If often wondered in what way I could win these Protestants to the true church.
After speaking to the priests and nuns on several occasions they encouraged me to go into a convent to become a nun of the Poor Clare Order in Antrim Road, Belfast. Not being content to wait until I was eighteen years old, at the age of fourteen I got permission from the priests to go and work in a Protestant factory off Donegall Road. My parents were utterly opposed to this idea but to them what the priest said was law.
From the first day at work, as I look back I can see the Lord's hand in my life as He led me step by step to Himself.
The team of people over me in that factory were azll believers, born again of God. I was horrified at this but was still determined to win them to the Roman Catholic faith. Often I visited the priest to ask for his advice but all he could tell me was to pray more to the different saints, put more money into the church and I was always told never to read the Bible and was threatened with what the consequences would be if I did, for example--my hands would wither away or my tongue would fall out--this to me would be a great calamity! Never having had a Bible I just thought this would never happen so I didn't really worry about it.
A Christian friend at work often read a book which she seemed to enjoy reading. One day, out of curiosity, I asked to see it and discovered it was the Bible. Having asked for it I couldn't give it back so I pretended to read it. As I turned the pages I stopped at John's gospel chapter 3 and my eye caught the words in verse 16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I was arrested by these words and felt that I would like to read more so I stopped again in John chapter 14 and read the first few verses. There I read about believing in God and in Jesus Christ His Son, who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Continuing to turn the pages my eye caught the words in Acts 3:19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," and then again in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." I also read Hebrews 7:25, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" and 1 John 1:6- 10.
In these verses I found that no priest could forgive sins and that Jesus only could take our sin away by His precious blood that was shed on Calvary.
Sadly I had to part with the Bible, my lunch bread being over. I tried to memorize the verses so that I could communicate them to the priest. When I confronted him with them he told me I was not to accept them but to adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church as the only true faith. I was reminded again of what would happen if I continued to read the Bible.
As I left the priest, I felt very depressed for I felt that I had been rebuked by him and that he had given me no help whatsoever.
Wishing to know more of the Christian faith, I asked my friend if I could go with her to a place of worship. First I thought it was my duty to go to Mass after which I made my way to Argylle Presbyterian Church, Shankill Road. It was Childrens Day and through the simple message and through Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." I realized I needed to be saved and longed to give my all to Jesus. Being under age, I thought at the age of twenty-one it would be time enough to become a Christian.
Longing to know more about Jesus I determined to frequent as many places of worship as I could. About this time my parents found out that I was attending different meetings and in an effort to stop me they locked me in my bedroom. Outside my bedroom window was a drainpipe which I managed to climb up and down and which was the means of my getting out without my parents' knowledge. When they found out what I was up to the Legion of Mary and the priest were informed and they had me removed to another factory where the Legion of Mary prevented me having contact with Protestants, especially Christian people.
In January 1957 I attended Great Victoria Street Baptist Church where the pastor emphasized the fact that "Today is the day of Salvation" and then I felt that good works and church attendance did not atone for my salvation so, that night, I gave Jesus my life, the burdens rolled away and great was the peace that filled my heart.
I was freed from my locked room the following Tuesday and my parents saw a change in my life. For the first time I was able to take my stand for the Lord, by telling them that the change was wrought by the Lord Jesus who gave His life for me at Calvary, and the Lord would do the same for them if they too would give their lives to Him.
The next Sunday I went to the same church but I can't remember the sermon but the text stuck in my mind and even to this day I find it a great help: "Fear though not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee: yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa. 41:10).
That Sunday night I realized my parents were very vexed with me. I was punished by being punched, kicked and pulled up and down the floor. My parents then wanted to know--"Was I going to be a Protestant or a Roman Catholic?" I told them--neither--that I was just a sinner saved by grace. I knew I had to leave the Roman Catholic church as all its teachings were against the scriptures.
The priest was brought on the scene and told my people he would have me blindfolded, kidnapped and put into a convent. This they tried to do but I escaped and found myself running to Christian friends who were up at that late hour asking the Lord to deliver me. Praise God for the Evangelical Protestant Society who helped to get me to Dublin.
After a few happy months with the Irish Church Mission my people found out my whereabouts and I had to flee to England. Still being under age it wasn't easy, as there was press coverage and other pressures, but I thank God that He undertook for me by giving me Christian friends.
At the age of eighteen I commenced training to become a nurse and after finishing this I went back to Belfast to live. One night, when returning to the nurses' home the Legion of Mary bundled me into a cary saying that I had got away before but I wouldn't get away this time. I told them my Lord would undertake. By some miracle I was able to break the window with the heel of my shoe and get hold of the ignition key and throw it out of the broken window. Some people passing by took me to the police station in their car.
Just after this I was married and the Roman Catholic church gave me up as a bad job!
The Roman Catholic church would like people to believe it has changed but I KNOW that Rome will never change, for even today my own family practices the same teachings and superstitions in which I once believed. In the words of the Psalmist I can say, "The Lord hath done great things for me whereof I am glad."
--Mary C. Lynn, 1988 Women's Protestant Union Sussex, England