My name is John Haydon and I am the sixth of nine children. My parents are practising Catholics and our family prayed the Rosary every day together, as well as attending mass frequently and going to confession once a month. I did not know how lucky and fortunate I was to have such loving parents who cared for me so much, to the point where they took it on themselves to homeschool myself and all of my siblings for the better of our education.
Many of these things changed for me, at 15 years old, when I joined a soccer club and soon after was employed at a small supermarket. I was now in an environment of people who were not Catholic and who did not know who Jesus Christ was. As weeks and months passed, I started to lose my faith in going to Mass and praying the Rosary. I would still join my family in these times of worship of God, but my mind was often elsewhere, thinking about sport or the latest movie out, or anything that was taking my fancy at that particular time. I started dating a girl who wasn’t very steadfast in the faith, and more and more of my thoughts and time were spent on her. Slowly, I began to think less of God, and fell further away from Him.
At 16 years of age, I decided to go to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, where I met with many youth from all over the world to praise and worship Jesus Christ. It was there that God truly opened up my heart and spoke to me of His love, and truly embraced me as His own. My heart and soul was thereafter filled with an unexplainable joy for Jesus Christ! It was as if I had fallen down a dark hole, with no hope of escaping, and He had lifted me up out of it. My thirst for Him came back and whenever I would go to Mass or pray to Him I felt my heart open up, allowing His love and forgiveness to pour in it.
Last year, I was asked by my Parish Priest to lead our Parish group to the next WYD in Rio. I said yes with a ready heart, knowing that I would entrust everything to Jesus Christ. Although there were many difficulties leading up to WYD, Jesus gave me the strength to persevere and continue on, never to give up. Once more, at WYD in Rio, Brazil, I encountered Christ with the youth of the Church and was given the grace and strength not only to love Christ and worship Him, but to share His good news of the Gospel to every person I meet in my everyday life.
I would like to finish with this. As Jesus has taught me, it is not enough to go to Mass on a Sunday and pray to Him on the occasions when we feel like it. As children of the King of Kings, we must make the effort to put some time aside for Him every day so we can be nourished and have the grace and strength to live out the Christian life; to bring Jesus Christ into the heart of everyone we meet.
Thank you for reading, I hope you encounter the love Jesus wishes to give to you!
God bless you all!
*John Haydon is currently the Youth Leader of City Beach Parish, and has just started a Young Adults Group called Missionaries of the Redeemer (MOR) which was inspired by his pilgrimage to WYD in Rio de Janeiro last July 2013.