In the mid 19th Century, Protestant England experienced a movement of return to the Catholic Faith. Among the most illustrious converts we must mention the names of Newman and Faber. The Oblates first settled in Great Britain (1842), and then in Ireland (1856). Early on, Fathers Casimir Aubert and Robert Cooke, by means of their popular preaching, boldly spread the Truth producing an abundance of fruit.
In 1860, one conversion, which was marked by extraordinary circumstances, provoked a strong emotional reaction. It was in the city of Dungary, in southern Ireland. During the month of August of that year, the Oblates were giving a mission. A Protestant policeman, well-known by the people, was questioning himself on the sincerity of his faith. A Gospel verse about the Real Presence was already troubling him: “I am the living bread come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever.”
A luminous crucifix
“One evening during the retreat,” he tells us “I was at table with friends for a game of cards. I was winning more often than I should have. On the one hand, I felt the pressure to go and hear the sermon at the Catholic church, and on the other hand, the demon of greed was trying to hold me back. Finally, I got up to leave. My companions wouldn’t hear of it. I threw the money on the table, giving in to the impulse of grace. At the church, the sermon was over, but a penitential procession was proceeding along the neighboring streets. In the midst of the crowd of 3,000 people, men were carrying on high a large and beautiful crucifix. At the sight of the crucified Christ, I was deeply impressed. I stood there, immobile, lost in feelings of admiration and love. All of a sudden a dazzling light flashed from the cross. In that light, I saw all the sins of my life. Such a great sorrow overwhelmed me that I let out a great shout and fell to my knees. Once the ceremony was over, the crowd dispersed, except for a small group of friends who remained near me. I returned to my senses, and it was at that moment that the desire to convert to Catholicism arose irresistibly within me. My instruction lasted a few months and it was with indescribable joy that I received Baptism.”
The name of that new convert was Philip Mulligan. Six years later, he entered the Oblates. After his religious profession, in 1867, he received an obedience for Basutoland, as a Brother. There, as an accomplished religious, and a model of regularity and fervor, he taught English for more than forty-five years. Needless to say, he always kept a special regard for crucifixes. On the occasion of the inauguration of a church at the mission of Sion, he shared his impressions with Father Montel, his superior. “This church, modest as it may be, is altogether convenient for a mission country. But something is missin… it lacks a crucifix… If you wrote to friends in Ireland… maybe?”
Brother Mulligan saw his wish granted before he died, on June 11, 1915, at the age of seventy-eight.
André DORVAL, OMI