by Matthijs van Dorp and Robin Pownall
from the Netherlands
"The Lady of All Nations guided us out of faithlessness to Jesus"
What follows is a testimony that is rather typical of the young generation in Holland. We have here two young men, Matthijs (right) and Robin, who will both tell us about the way they found the Catholic Faith and the decisive part the Lady of All Nations played in it.
It will be short, as secrets of the heart should not be unfolded in the presence of many people. However, we could convince them for the honor of God to give away something of their secret. Both have the refreshing characteristics of new converts: a great gratitude as well as the ability to marvel at the wonderful works of God.
Robin is a graphical designer. Before that, he had been a globetrotter and UN soldier in, among other places, Lebanon, a passionate parachutist and adventurer. Although he believed in a Higher Being and that there must be a meaning to life, his search for real love was in a completely different corner than God and his commandments.
The testimony of these two young men is particularly touching, because Robin, as a new convert through the grace of the Lady of All Nations, instantly passed his faith on to Matthijs, and from that point on their friendship became a true friendship. When Matthijs was baptized and confirmed, Robin became his godfather. And when Robin received his confirmation yesterday – as you witnessed yourselves – Matthijs became his godfather. In this beautiful friendship an 83 years-old lady played a decisive part. For this reason, we will call her to the stage later on.
Matthijs grew up, in fact, without any religion, although his parents are Protestants. Like many young people he tried to fill the empty space of faithlessness by taking drugs.
After that, he joined a circle of people that tried to improve the world through meditation. The initiative started in beauty and harmony but ended in pride, jealousy and hatred. The whole group fell apart and Matthijs was hardly able to keep on living in reality. He lived as if in a trance. It was simply too much for him then to step out of the continuous, irresponsible state of being ‘high’ and to get back into the real world. He suffered from severe overstrain for a whole year. His emotions raced through him. But above all he was afraid, he had a fear which he had never known before in his life. In short, he had nearly rendered himself unfit for life. (Note, December 2010: Matthijs entered the Community of St. John and is studying for the priesthood.)
Yes, that was not a particularly pleasant time. Although I was aware of the existence of a divine world, initially, I did not want to have anything to do any more with the supernatural in order come back down to earth at last.
After suffering from burn out for a whole year, I had somehow regained the courage to choose for life and collect the scattered pieces one by one. I enrolled in a typing course, and the moment I held the certificate in my hands I truly felt I had accomplished a great success. After six years I was a programmer and not only down to earth, but also fully integrated into the mundane world and I lived a very secular life. But then the desire for the spiritual suddenly emerged in me once again and took hold of me. Although I tried to ignore it, it would not let me go and grew gradually stronger and stronger. I had no choice: I had to do something. As it had ended very painfully the last time, I wanted to set about it differently this time. I thought to myself: There is only one God. Some call him Allah, others Krishna or Buddha or else give him another name. That is why I decided to read the bibles of the various world religions. The identical points would then go for me as the truth. And so I started with the Bagavad Gita, the manual of the Hare Krishna.
In this period I went hiking with Robin in the woods one day.
I can remember this hike very well. It was only a short time before my conversion. In 1998, so only five years ago, I received a prayer picture of the Lady of All Nations. I prayed it time and time again, and also took it with me when I went to Rhodos for a year because of the casino construction which I had worked on as a designer. Although I prayed the prayer at every turn, I did not have a strong, inner relationship with the Lady of All Nations yet. Nevertheless, I once managed to get the pilgrim picture in the house of my grandmother. But, evidently, I thought, “This pilgrimage picture is not my cup of tea, it is something for my granny.” But when I took the picture back again, and stepped into the train with it, I thought, “When you are truly the Mother of God, then you should not stay in the cardboard box,” and I placed the picture on the seat in front of me, visible for all. Later on I realized that in that train I had started to converse with the Mother of God as if with a living person.
Step by step God led me back then through the Lady of All Nations to Jesus and the Church. My conversion is as precious as a diamond to me, and you will surely understand that I can not give you all the details about it now. In any case, when I went hiking with Matthijs, I was newly converted and filled with enthusiasm for God and the Lady of All Nations. Matthijs told me something of the contents of the Bagavad Gita, the manual of the Hare Krishna; I told him of God and my miraculous conversion through the Lady of All Nations. God was clearly present in our midst.
Shortly thereafter I called Robin and asked him to take me with him to a church some time. He said, “Yes, that’s alright, but the next possibility is, however, a national prayer day in Amsterdam.” Now I had pictured myself going to a church and sitting somewhere in a corner in the back where I could observe everything from a distance. The thought of a great meeting was unpleasant and I said, “We will do it some other time.” The moment I put down the receiver, I thought to myself, “What an idiot I am! Why can’t you just go? What are you afraid of?” At the same moment Robin called me back and asked me if I really did not want to come to the prayer day of the Lady of All Nations. It was like, as the Dutch saying goes, “Two souls, one thought!” I therefore promised to go. On the way there, he gave me this rosary. At the second national prayer day in 2002, in the Jaap Eden hall, I saw Robin kneel down on the ground and pray so intensely that I said to myself, “If Robin is insane, then we all are.” I followed his example, kneeled down and turned to God and prayed with simple, poor words. The prayer day became for me a profound experience. I thrived on the atmosphere of love and unity.
On the way back the peace in me was still there and in the same week I called Robin and said, “I want more!” He took me with him to various churches, convents and chapels. It seemed to me that my search for God, which started as a small brook, flowed into a great stream that drew me with great strength to the Catholic Church.
Although I did not like to read, my living room was strewn with Christian literature within a short time. I must admit that in the beginning it was not easy for me to give up the body of ideas of Hare Krishna. I liked many parts of it. I prayed to God for clarity and opened the Bagavad Gita, the so-called Hare Krishna bible, and read the words where my finger lay. What I read there gave me peace and the conviction that it was ok that I would enter the Catholic Church. It was the last time I opened that book. Today it lies in my bedside table covered with a thick layer of dust.
Now the Bible, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas of Kemp and The Love for the Eternal Wisdom by St. Grignion de Monfort have become for me the most precious literature. I can recommend them to you with all my heart.
In the chapel of the Lady of All Nations I felt at home and safe from the beginning. There I was prepared for my baptism, which I received on 11 October 2002, the Feast of the Motherhood of Mary.
When I look back, I must say that, because of my frequent use of drugs, I turned into a chemical cask. I tried everything that was possible to fill the terrible inner emptiness. I did not know what ailed me then. But now I see that it was the want of real Love. I wanted to fill this shortage of love with something artificial, but it could not really satisfy my needs.
Finally, I would like to say to you that God gives me so much love these days that my heart is completely filled, yes, it actually flows over, and I can spread this Love around me.
In winter time, Robin, his girlfriend Anna and I have packed ourselves with food, gloves, scarves, but also pictures and rosaries and gone into various quarters of Amsterdam, where many homeless and drug addicts live.
When we give them something for their material needs, we always offer them a rosary and a prayer picture. Regarding the prayer picture, we tell them, “When it is not for you, then you will surely know someone who would love to have it.” You cannot imagine, dear friends, what kind of beautiful meetings we have experienced! Every time we gave the homeless a gift, it was not them, but we who were receiving the presents. More often than one may think, we met people of all ages who were religious. And we were often surprised to find that they knew the Holy Scripture very well, sometimes even better than we did.
I have also frequently put key rings in discos, bars, train stations and other places, and have stood and watched how long it lie there before someone finds it and, fortunately, takes it.
We could tell you of many more beautiful examples about the spreading of the prayer picture, but there is unfortunately no time for that.
Finally we would like to introduce to you Mrs. Wobien de Jong. She was my godmother, together with Robin as the godfather. For Robin and me Wobien has always been a great support in the faith. As new converts we are of course grateful to have someone who knows the faith from a lifetime of experience. Wobien helps us through the jumble of thoughts, also by means of good literature, to get more and more engrossed into the healthy Catholic Faith.
Dear friends, to conclude we would like to say to you that the arms of the divine Father are wide open. With patience and true love for God, every prayer will be answered in this special time. We should not let ourselves be disturbed by our worries, because the Father never leaves his children alone. Like with us, he will straighten crooked ways and turn them into right.