He said ‘I’ll give you a peace the world cannot give’ and I have learned just how true that is
My name is Diarmuid Clifford and I’m from Galway. I’ve just one brother, who’s older than me, and I’ve no sisters. I’m working as a translator between English and Irish and I’m still living in Galway.
The faith was a big part of life in our home; my mother made sure that my brother and I learned all about it and we had daily prayer. When I went into 3rd Class, I joined the Mass Servers and really enjoyed that. The Parish Priest, Fr O’Connor, was very good with the children and was an inspiration in the faith to us. Serving Mass gave me an early understanding of the different parts of the Mass. From an early age I began to pray in my own words and always saw Jesus as a friend who I could talk to about anything.
During my teenage years I continued to pray to Jesus from my heart. This was not an easy time. At the age of 16, I was hit by a major onset of anxiety which left me suffering greatly and with nowhere to turn for help. But, in the midst of all this, I did have one friend to turn to who I could tell anything to, and that was Jesus. My trust was not yet strong, I could not yet understand his words ‘Be not afraid’, but his support kept me going. I came through that crisis but my self-image was not good and I found it difficult to accept myself.
At this time Jesus was in my life but he was not at the very centre. I was turning to him as a support in difficulties but didn’t really believe that he could run my life an awful lot better that I could if I gave him a chance. I joined Youth 2000 back in 2001 and gradually began to go deeper in my faith through this, particularly as a result of having a community of believers around me. But still I struggled to find peace and went through a number of years of constantly putting myself under pressure, feeling that I could only be worth something if I achieved this and that. I never gave myself any break or change to relax because I didn’t think I deserved it.
All this came to a head in 2003 when I suddenly found myself struggling to speak. All the tension had blocked my speech and this problem quickly became worse to the point that I had developed a really bad stammer. This was a particularly painful experience for me because I had been trying to control my life myself and this was often done through the spoken word. Now to not be able to get my words out left me desperately frustrated and despairing. For a while it seemed like a disaster but eventually it forced me to re-evaluate the whole way I was living my life. I slowly began to let go and as I continued to pray to Jesus, he gave me so much help. I still vividly remember the Galway Youth 2000 Retreat when I felt hope again for the first time since the stammer had come on 6 months before that; I felt that Jesus was once again raising me up from the darkness of despair.
Since then I have sought to move closer and closer to Jesus, especially through Mass, Adoration and prayer. He has responded by constantly giving me more peace and healing. I realise not that he is not just someone to turn to in a crisis but always wishes to offer more peace and joy, in both good times and bad. He said ‘I give you a peace the world cannot give’ and I have learned just how true that is. And it’s something deeper than surface-level happiness.
It’s only lately that I’ve come to realise that we can be suffering and yet be at peace at the same time. That is the peace of Jesus and I can look back now and say that, even when I was suffering greatly, something of that peace was always with me. It’s a peace that doesn’t depend on what happens in life, nor on where I am or who I’m with.
I’ve never had a dramatic experience, but I know that he is with me. I sometimes feel his love powerfully in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, overcoming my resentment and lack of love and softening my heart again. He has taught me to surrender, to be humble enough to accept that his plans, and not mine, bring about happiness. He has set me free by teaching me that my worth doesn’t depend on what I achieve or do but rather on the fact that I’m a child of God, loved unconditionally.