Bring up the topic of faith healers in any Irish pub and you’ll immediately see a divide that hasn’t been seen since the parting of the Red Sea. You either believe or you don’t. My mother, tired of listening to accounts of various visits to GPs, neurologists, and other ‘alternative’ therapists, decided to take matters relating to my health into her own hands. We were to go see the famous Eddie Stones, in Clonfert, Co. Galway.
Unlike many other Irish healers – Danny Gallagher, Michael O’Connor or Aidan Wrynne – Eddie doesn’t lay claim to being the seventh son of a seventh son. His call was more tangible – Our Lady appeared to him as he was having his tea one night. This apparition was the first of many callings for him to leave his life as a butcher and take up this calling from God. [As I said, you either believe or you don’t.]
Emmanuel House was founded by Michael Cullen, an Irishman who spent time in prison in the USA before being deported. While in prison, he found God and when he came home, he set up the community in Clonfert (the site of the 6th century monastery of St Brendan the Navigator). Eddie and Lucy Stones were drawn to him and took over the ministry when Michael and his wife went back to the States. People come from all over the country to see him, to have him pray over them, to be healed. As reports for these mass gatherings include those who ‘fall’, faint from the experience, I was decidedly curious to see how I’d react.
When we eventually arrived, it was to find a notice to say that the centre was closed for two weeks holiday. Not one so easily deterred, my mother rooted out the man himself and we were sent to wait in the oratory. Some others also driven by blind faith and expectation arrived, too. All told, there were about twelve – so we didn’t get the full treatment. We said the rosary (the five new mysteries of light which can be said on a Thursday) and then heard various accounts of people healed.
Finally we came to the blessings. I was third in line. He took my hand and asked me what was wrong. I said I didn’t know. Pins and needles, exhaustion, lack of focus, and a deep-seated curiosity as to what I was doing in this world. He touched my head and told me my illness was in my brain (which shocked the proverbial out of me – as only the previous week had a systemic inflammation of connective tissue starting in the brain been mooted as a possible diagnosis). He prayed over me and then asked if I was married. I said no. He said: How about immediately, and ten kids! Now believing that would take some measure of faith.
Do I believe that I’ve been cured? Yes. Am I cancelling my MRI booking and my appointment with the neurologist? No. Does this mean that I really don’t believe? Or am I being pragmatic. Some say that faith healing actually risks recovery. I’m resorting to old Irish ‘to be sure, to be sure’. I feel a lot better. I seemed to have turned a corner. My outlook is more positive and there’s a contentment there was wasn’t there before. It could well be the Holy Spirit working through the hands of Eddie Stones. Who knows. But, I tell you, if I meet a widower with ten kids….