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Early years

I was raised in a typical middle-class family in Sydney, Australia, and was loved by both of my parents. My mum was a non-practicing Catholic, and my dad was Church of England. My brother and I were both baptized Church of England. Practically speaking, my family did not follow any religion or have any strong beliefs, but they were good people who freely gave their time to others and volunteered in our local community. I had a few friends who went to church, and although sometimes I went with them, upon starting high school, I started to think that church was only for “uncool” people. I learned a bit about Adam and Eve, and I’m sure other things, but I didn’t take in very much. Throughout my teenage years, I sometimes went to “fellowship” at the local church. It wasn’t because I had any interest in religion, but rather I had some friends who went, and there were some really cute guys!

Teen years

In my teen years I pretty much did as I pleased. I smoked, I got drunk most weekends, tried some light drugs, and did the bare minimum at school. I was not a “bad” teenager; I collected for the Salvation Army, coached junior netball and baseball, played sports, had a part time job, and I was a loyal friend, I just … did what I wanted.

I met my now husband, Rohan, when I was 17, during the Christmas holidays just before I began year 12 in school. He was two years older than me, and there was something different about him. Rohan had a quiet sense of peace about him, and unlike most of my friends and me, he didn’t smoke and didn’t drink much. He was very respectful to his parents, particularly his mum, and he just had a nice way about him.

When I was 18, the morning after my year 12 formal dance, my dad came in and told me that his arm was in a lot of pain and asked me to take him to the hospital. One of my best friends had stayed over after the formal, and we were due to attend our graduation assembly at school later that day. I waited for my friend to get dressed, then we jumped in the car to head to the hospital. After only a few minutes in the car, I heard my dad making a noise which sounded similar to snoring. However, he didn’t look like he was at peace at all. I realized something was very wrong, so I pulled the car over to call for an ambulance at a payphone (this was in 1994, before cell phones were common). I was so confused and upset that I didn’t remember that I could call 000 (like 911 in the US) without needing any money. By the time this registered, another minute or so had passed.

The ambulance came and took my Father. I only have some foggy memories of what happened next. I drove to visit my younger brother at school to tell him that dad had been taken to hospital. I also rang my mum to tell her. I drove to the hospital with my brother and friend. Upon arriving, we were told that my dad had passed away. Apparently, he had died of a heart attack. I didn’t understand. The night before he’d been waving Rohan and me off in the limo, chatting with our family and friends, and now he was dead. I just couldn’t comprehend it.

From that moment, I decided that there was no God, and if there was, I didn’t like Him. What God would take a dad away from his daughter, especially on her graduation day?

Adult years

Over the next 10 to 15 years, Rohan and I got engaged, bought a house, had a baby, and moved up to the Central Coast. We then got married and went on to have another three beautiful children. When our eldest was getting close to school age, we made the decision that he would go to a Catholic school. My husband had gone through the Catholic school system, whereas I had gone through public schools. I figured that I didn’t have a faith, so if the kids wanted to know anything, Rohan would guide them in his Catholic belief, so it made sense for them to go to a Catholic school.I enjoyed the school Masses that I attended with the kids, and occasionally I would sit in the church and cry. I am not sure why I wept; it was just so moving. Share on X

Although I was not a Christian, I did appreciate the nurture and care that was provided by our local Catholic school. It was quite different from what I had known. I loved the way the kids were asked to do fundraisers for the homeless and for kids in poor countries rather than for the school. I loved the morals and the values that were being taught, even if I didn’t understand where they were coming from. I enjoyed the school Masses that I attended with the kids, and occasionally I would sit in the church and cry. I am not sure why I wept; it was just so moving. There was also such a love for others and expectations that students would care for their classmates — it was lovely.

New Age

Over the years I’d always been drawn to anything spiritual. I’d been visiting clairvoyants since high school, would have my cards read, burnt incense, was a huge lover of star signs (I was a “classic Virgo”), believed in numerology, and thought spells were neat. I enjoyed shows such as Charmed, Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Ghost Whisperer. I guess I always knew that there was more to reality than what we could see, and I had a deep interest in seeking out more. Since I’d never really heard much about the spiritual realm, I simply didn’t know what to believe

As I became more interested in the supernatural, I delved deeper and deeper into it. I went to classes to learn how to “connect with Mother Earth” and how to channel energy. I learned how to read Tarot cards and decided I wanted to become a psychic medium. I went to events with famous clairvoyants and attended mind, body, and spirit festivals. I had an interest in aliens; I believed wholeheartedly in fairies and unicorns. Now I can look back and see that I was not in touch with reality. However, at the time, it seemed like the truth.

The breakdown

Then one day it all went too far. I had what would be called a breakdown and ended up in our local mental health facility. What was deemed a breakdown was spiritual possession. I heard voices, I was confused, I thought I could read people’s minds, I believed the most horrible of things, and I was paranoid. I also believed that demons would come out of my bedroom walls.

In the mental health facility, I was given drugs … a lot of drugs. It just made things worse. I was barely able to have a conversation and could hardly respond to my name. If I refused to take the medication, I was threatened that they would simply inject it into me. I could no longer function. I had gone from a busy mum of four, a business owner, a loving wife and community volunteer to someone who could not put a sentence together. It was the most horrifying and hellish time of my life. I truly was in the pits of hell. Satan had me, and he wasn’t letting go. I felt empty, like I had no soul. My heart was empty, but my head was full of Satan.

The battle between Satan and the Holy Spirit

One day, whilst in the mental health ward, I was sitting at a glass door looking out at a little garden, thinking that it must be the Garden of Eden; it was just so beautiful. I figured that if I could just get out there, God would save me. I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I then thought that if the glass would disappear, I would be saved. But that didn’t happen. I just kept feeling like I had to get to God as He would save me. What I was doing was seeking God, but at the time, I really didn’t understand this.The sun shone strongly, and suddenly I felt a huge internal explosion within my chest, which radiated throughout my body. It was a boom that was completely soul-filling. It radiated warmth, it was powerful, Share on X

I then had a realization that God could reach me inside the building. He could save me. It didn’t matter where I was; He could save me. Then I looked up at the sun, which was so bright and beautiful. I thought at that moment that the power of God was in the sun. The sun went behind a cloud, and I asked for it to come back out. It did so immediately. The sun shone strongly, and suddenly I felt a huge internal explosion within my chest, which radiated throughout my body. It was a “boom” that was completely soul-filling. It radiated warmth, it was powerful, it was energizing, and somehow, I just knew it was divine, heaven-sent.In that moment, I heard words in my heart: Convert to the Catholic Faith, and you and your family will be saved. Share on X

The words that I spoke out loud were, “I have the power.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, at first. I just knew that something phenomenal had happened. I realized later that it was the Holy Spirit: “You will receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). In that moment, I heard words in my heart: “Convert to the Catholic Faith, and you and your family will be saved.” I couldn’t explain how I could hear words that were impressed on my heart; I had never experienced anything like it. But I knew that I needed to convert to Catholicism.

From that moment, I was covered with grace. I say this now that I know what it means. In that time, I just knew that I felt so full, so warm, so relaxed, and no matter what was said or done to me, I reacted in a peaceful manner. It was really quite amazing. Up until then I’d been a pretty feisty and controlling woman at times. However, now it was if I were truly in a space where nothing anyone said or did bothered me. Nevertheless, there was a battle raging around me. The battle for my mind and my soul.

Several days later, I was discharged from the hospital and into the care of my longsuffering husband. A mental health specialist was to visit me at home. The drugs they had me on made me almost lifeless. I would stand at the kitchen counter not knowing how to make a sandwich. I could barely communicate with my husband and children and was not able to care for them. My mother’s words to her sister were, “We’ve lost her, she’s gone.” Although my body was there, my mind often was not.

I had the most disturbing visions, heard voices, and didn’t know reality from fantasy. I would watch TV shows, and it would look like blood was dripping down the screen. I would go past the local RSL club (a Returned and Services facility for military veterans), and the flame logo looked like it was on fire. It was diabolical. I had hours of torment every day, where Satan would attack my mind, and I lost control of my actions.I had three dear friends who understood the dangers of the occult and were very aware that meddling in the psychic had landed me where I was. My friends would pray for me, they taught me how to pray the Rosary... Share on X

I took myself off the medication, went to Mass a few times, and spoke with friends who were Catholic. I had three dear friends who understood the dangers of the occult and were very aware that meddling in the psychic had landed me where I was. My friends would pray for me, they taught me how to pray the Rosary, would give me gifts, and would check up on me. They would remind me that God doesn’t let go of us, ever; instead, we let go of Him. I started to read the Bible, listen to Christian music, and pray — things I’d never done before. I learned to keep my mind on the good things instead of the bad, since now I knew where the bad came from. Sometimes I had to focus so hard just to think, because I still often lost control of my mind. I am so grateful to my friends, my husband, my children, and my mother for loving me through this most horrendous time.

There was one time at Mass that I will never forget. During the Mass, I started to feel hot and started to sweat. I couldn’t breathe properly. I dropped to my knees and could not get up to leave. I felt as though my whole body was being crushed into the ground. It was nearly unbearable. At the end of Mass, I managed to get up and leave. I passed one of my good friends on the way out, but I couldn’t stand the idea of being around her, I just knew I had to flee from her. I didn’t understand what had happened until I was explaining it to my friend days later. She explained to me that it was during the Consecration when I felt like I was being crushed to death. This meant nothing to me, but later it made sense. The Consecration is when Jesus, Mary, and all the heavenly angels and saints come to earth, and the wine and host are changed to His eucharistic Body and Blood. No wonder I could barely breathe or stand! Jesus and Satan cannot live in the same house.

Entering the Church

Easter is the time when many people join the Catholic Church. As this was only several weeks away, the parish that was attached to my kids’ school said it was too late to join. Somehow, I managed to find another parish that would let me join in the last few weeks of classes. I was thrilled. As Easter approached, the battles became more intense. One friend warned me that, the closer you get to winning the battle, the harder Satan fights. She was right. There were times when I could barely think, when I couldn’t make it out of bed, when I would drive around and around in confusion, trying to visit a friend only a few minutes away.

I learned to turn my mind away from all the horrible thoughts in my head, from the confusion, from the lies, and to focus on Bible verses, Christian music, to good things, to holy things, to Jesus. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely … think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). I knew that when I felt that my mind was starting to be overcome again, I could think about godly things or say words such as, “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23), and the attack on my mind would cease.

There were times when I switched back and forth between being myself and being heavily influenced by evil. I wore a cross necklace around my neck, but the next minute I couldn’t wait to rip it off, I detested it so much. Sometimes I could pray the rosary; other times the only words I could form in my mind was a very short song about how Jesus’ love was bubbling over. What I did notice was that, every time I said the name Jesus, the voices and thoughts would recede a little. I wouldn’t always have complete clarity, but it would be enough to allow me to continue doing what I was doing, at least until the next attack came on. I knew it was supernatural, and I knew Jesus was protecting my mind. I don’t know how I knew this; I just did.

I nearly did not make it to the Easter Vigil, when I was to be brought into full communion with the Catholic Church. God again put words on my heart: “Just make it to Easter, and you will be saved.” I had thoughts of taking pills, but there were not enough of them to kill me. I barely kept my sanity enough to stay out of the mental health ward. The attacks were huge, and they were constant. I had a parish priest meet with me and our local priest for an exorcism. I was being attacked, and the demonic forces were strong. I recognized when God was speaking through people and when instead it was Satan. Some of the words that came out of my family and friends’ mouths were not always from God. Satan did not want me to convert. However, Jesus always wins. He saved me in the hospital that day and then He gave me the perfect amount of grace to get me through to Easter, and thereafter.

Amazing Grace

At Easter 2013, I was received into the Catholic Church. As part of this process, I made my first Confession. I confessed to sins that were very grave, ones that I now realized were completely against God. They were mortal sins. It was no wonder that Satan was so prominent in my life! I had opened many doors and let him in. However, the beautiful thing about becoming Catholic is that Jesus removes those sins, and we are reconciled with God. I confessed my sins, agreed to change my ways, and then Jesus forgave me. I was reconciled with God. I chose Him, and He had chosen me. I received my first Holy Communion, Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in a beautiful little chapel that day. This whole time, Jesus had been carrying me on His shoulders, as in the parable of the lost sheep. He had kept me sane enough to make it through to this beautiful day.

From the day of joining the Catholic Church, I started to heal. I attended Mass often and received Communion. My mind started to change. Every morning, it felt like a layer of understanding had been added to my mind, and I felt more and more separated from the evil thoughts and words that had been plaguing me. It was like a barrier being removed. Sometimes, I would hear the voices or think thoughts, but it was as if they were further away, as if they were trying to “break in.” But I learned that if I didn’t “connect” my mind with the thoughts, they would go far away. For some reason, it felt that my mind was being knitted together, but that didn’t make sense to me. Now, however, it does: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

God continued to heal me: my mind, my body, and my soul. Each morning, when I woke up, it was as if my mind was just a little better. The thoughts and voices were further away. Over the years, I had believed that was natural to have five to ten thoughts running through my head at once. I thought that is the way it was meant to be, that everyone must be the same. However, now I was learning that this was not the case. This was Satan confusing me; this was demonic influence. As I healed, I went from having many thoughts at once to having just one, or at the most two. I can’t put into words the exact way that it worked; it was divine healing. I now enjoyed true peace. I was not the angry, stubborn, impatient woman that I had been for so long. I had a peace that was beyond my understanding. I now understand this: “I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart” (Ezekiel 36:26).

The Catholic Church, Jesus, Mary, the saints, and attending Mass all became a part of our life. My family agreed to start going to Mass with me every Sunday, and sometimes I would even go during the week. On one occasion, I was at Mass, and as I received the Eucharist, it was if my mind was being knitted together even more. As soon as I had the Eucharist in my mouth, someone was knitting the back of my mind together. It was at times like this that I wish I could see the spiritual world, so I could see what was truly happening. However, I’d learned the hard way, that trying to get a glimpse into what should be the unknown is not wise. If God wanted me to see anything, He would show me. I also learned that the Eucharist was truly a gift from Jesus himself. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (John 6:54–57).

The song Amazing Grace became “my” song. It spoke directly to me: I was a wretch, but He saved me. Satan tried to tangle me in his snares, in his web of lies, and lead me to danger, to death. However, from that moment in the hospital, when I truly first believed in God, His grace appeared. And through His grace, I was being healed, renewed, and set free. Jesus had ransomed me, although I in no way deserved it.

Seven years later, I still love my Catholic Faith deeply. I love Jesus. I am so grateful that I am a part of the Body of the one true Church that He founded. I love that He heals through the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. I love all those “churchy” words which used to sound so foreign to me. I love the saints; I love the angels. I love knowing that no matter what, Jesus’ Church, the Universal Church, the Church for all the world, will never cease to exist, and that no one will ever have the power to change Jesus’ teachings.

I have many friends: Catholics, people in other Christian denominations, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, and more. I love them all. I respect that they have their own beliefs. However, I also know that the Catholic Church is Jesus’ Church, and that makes it the one true Church. It does not matter what others say, I know the truth; I just wish that they did too.

The freedom that I have gained from being reconciled with God is amazing. I no longer suffer from OCD, slam doors in anger, feel the need to control many situations, or am a slave to my business. I can laugh at myself; I don’t take things too seriously, I have much better relationships with my loved ones, and there is a peace in my soul which I never knew existed — “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27).

When I talk with people, when I work with them, when I socialize, I try hard not to judge. I have been that wretch, that absolute sinner, that one who did not deserve help. Yet I received that grace and help. Salvation was gifted to me.

I also try to call out the lies of Satan. Jesus asks us to speak the truth, to declare it boldly, and to speak it in love. This is what I try to do. For when I should have received punishment, I was treated like the lost sheep, carried back to safety, to be with those that love me. When I had sinned so much, Jesus loved me. He allowed me to suffer for my sins, and rightly so. But when I searched for Him, when I truly called out to Him, He was there for me. He allowed me to ask for forgiveness, which He so wholeheartedly granted. I am no longer the lost sheep, and I hope to help other sinners join Jesus’ flock and be a part of His beautiful, life-giving Church. This is what I am called to do — to love even the worst of sinners and help bring them home: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Michele Gower

Michele Gower is married to her husband, Rohan, and is a mother of four children.  She lives outside Sydney, Australia where she runs a Christian-based family support centre and is also in the process of setting up a charity to support disadvantaged and at-risk youth and families in crisis.

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