The Incredible Story of Colm John Cahill
One day, when I was seven years old, I was riding in the car with my dad. That day would completely change my life. As we made our way home, returning from a sports game at my school, a large truck hit the back of our car, and catapulted us down the road, about thirty feet forward.
After that I began to have seizures. Doctors never knew the exact cause. At first, I’d have a seizure a week. Then they grew worse and more frequent. By age eleven, I was having multiple seizures, four or five every day. With each seizure, I lost consciousness completely; my body was thrown into spasms, as I twitched on the ground from ten to forty-five minutes—many times suffering serious injuries. One time, I went from standing at the top of the stairs to my next memory of waking up later that day in a hospital bed.
I couldn’t live a normal life. Someone had to watch over me at all times. My nerves were frayed from anxiety, as danger could strike at any time. I was forced to scout out every room, before I could walk across it, to make sure I wouldn’t crash into objects. I could never freely walk outside by myself, or play sports, or visit a friend’s house. Whenever I sat down, I had to have a back support. My every single move was premeditated.
I felt extremely depressed and worried about life and what my future was going to be, if any. I was raised in a Catholic family, but found it very difficult to believe in a God who would let this happen to me. I couldn’t see how a child suffering as I was, could in any way, be related to Love. And at the time, I didn’t even realize how much my family was also suffering. I was the middle child of five, and my illness took its toll on not just my parents, but on all my siblings—two sisters and two brothers, who had to constantly look out for me, shouldering lot of responsibility at their young ages.
I come from one of the Channel Islands off of the coast of Normandy, France, called Jersey—a possession of the English Crown, connected to the United Kingdom. By 2003, at age twelve, I traveled in and out of the hospitals on the island all the time. Twice, I was airlifted from Jersey to London to see different neurologists, whom we hoped would offer some idea of the nature of my problem and therefore treat it better. But sadly, this had no result. From eight years old onward, I consumed a daily cocktail of drugs, which changed every couple months—from epilim to tegretol to lorazapan to diapazan, and so on, and so on, and so on.
I lived in a constant critical situation, and there was no hope for the future. I didn’t feel very many emotions, because any heightened emotional activity could trigger a seizure. The theme of my life and of my inner state was helplessness. I didn’t consider suicide, because as far as I was concerned, I was living the life of someone who was already dead.
My family tried everything to prevent my seizures and to heal me. They contacted every specialist across the globe, from America to Australia, but to no avail. When I was thirteen, my family reluctantly decided I would have to be put in an institution. I dreaded this, but agreed to it, knowing there was no way they could otherwise have one single day of a normal life. I would still come home at times, and if I was well enough, my parents took me to church, but I would live there in the institution, under constant 24-hour care and surveillance, until my inevitable death, because one can only be on such drugs, with such an illness, for so long.
That same year, in 2004, a new priest came to Jersey, and my family grew close to him. I met him for the first time, when he came to anoint me during one of my hospital stays, but I didn’t know him well. In May of that year, he came to my house and asked to speak to me. He told me he was going to a place called Medjugorje. I didn’t know what or where that was. “I want to go and pray for you there,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, without the least bit of enthusiasm.
“But I also want to ask something of you,” he continued. “I will send your mother a message from Medjugorje, and at those times, you have to pray.”
Remaining helpless and despairing, I agreed. I saw his Medjugorje trip as a Why not? Nothing else had worked. Where the world had completely failed me, perhaps God and mother Mary could come to the rescue. I turned to them, without hope, and asked, “Is there anything you can do? Can you help me?”
The priest traveled to Medjugorje the following week. I was the prayer intention for his entire seven-day pilgrimage. In every Mass he attended, every rosary he said, every hike he took up Cross Mountain, every prayer he prayed, he asked that I would be healed.
On the 21st of May, we received a message from him, saying there would be an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the visionary Ivan that night. It would take place 10 p.m. in Medjugorje—9 p.m. in Jersey. And he wanted me to pray at the exact time of that apparition.
Shortly before 9 o’clock, I went into my backyard, which was strange, because the night was dark, and I was alone. In and of itself, this was quite a leap of faith, because I should never have ventured outside—it was too risky. Nor did my mother follow me. As an act of faith, she allowed me to go.
In my arms were a crucifix, six candles, and a rosary. I didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted to create a sacred setting, so I put together a makeshift altar, and placed onto the middle of a bench, a crucifix, with three of the six candles on either side of it. After lighting the candles, I knelt down in front of my “altar,” and took out a book on how to pray the rosary. That night I prayed the first decade of my life, with a rosary in one hand and the book in the other.
As 9 p.m. approached, I remained in continuous prayer. A gusty wind blew around me, and nervously, I expected the candles to blow out; but strangely enough, they stayed lit. Then exactly at 9 p.m., the same time as Mary came to earth in Medjugorje, things started to happen. The wind completely stopped—in a split second. It didn’t die down. It became non-existent. Everything suddenly rested in complete, peaceful stillness. In this moment, while staring intently at the crucifix, I called out in a plaintive voice, “Help me!” Those two words were like one hundred. They summed up every cry of my heart. I just wanted to be delivered from my illness. Then right in front of my eyes, the six candles, one by one, from left to right, miraculously extinguished themselves, with about two seconds elapsing in between each candle. Once all the candles were out, an incredible energy and peace built up inside of me. I could feel a force pass slowly upward, through my entire body, and out of the top of my head. This lasted for about thirty seconds, and then a deep, pervasive peace settled within me, as I knelt in the lingering, uncanny stillness.
Since age seven, when the accident occurred, I had suffered a constant headache and dizziness, from the many medications I had to take. Suddenly my symptoms were gone.
Overwhelmed and confused by what I’d seen with the candles, and by the intense stillness in the garden, I got up, walked back in the house, and went straight to bed. The next morning, when I woke up, a message was waiting for me from the priest in Medjugorje. He said that, during the apparition to Ivan, Our Lady had prayed especially for all those who were ill.
That day passed, and I didn’t have a seizure. And then the next day passed, and I didn’t have a seizure. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but excitement began building inside of me. The following week, when the priest returned from Medjugorje, still no seizures. . . no headaches. . . no hallucinations. . .no dizziness. It was then that my family and I finally realized what had happened to me in the backyard. I had been completely healed.
My doctors couldn’t give an explanation of how the seizures had suddenly stopped, but the priest did offer me one. I had never had faith as a child, nor had I attempted to explore it, and now my faith was impossible to ignore. “You were healed,” said the priest, “by God, through His mother.”
Doctors started to withdraw me from medications. With my being on so many, they couldn’t take me off of everything at once, as that would have completely thrown off the chemical balance in my body. It took eight months, but by the beginning of 2005, I was free of all medications.
One by one, my family shed any lingering traces of disbelief, and spontaneously released bursts of thanksgiving, praise, and joy. Naturally reserved in nature, I expressed my grateful heart through the big smile plastered on my face, as I jumped up and down inside of myself. I felt so happy with life, and I fell deeply in love with Our Lady and Jesus Christ.
With my newfound curiosity, I wanted to explore my faith; I wanted to get to know Our Lady, and her Son Jesus; I wanted to go to Medjugorje; and all of this has happened. Exactly one year later, on May 20th, 2005, I stepped foot in Medjugorje, on the anniversary of my healing, and I’ve been returning there ever since. Seven years have passed since then, and I am still completely healthy.
These last seven years, for me, have been about coming to know life. Alongside my newfound joy and curiosity, I had my own struggles and challenges. I wasn’t healed into becoming a saint. I was healed into becoming a normal teenage boy, with the heartbreaks and challenges that come with it. Over these last few years of learning about myself and about God, I’ve also come to know my vocation. This September I will enter seminary and study to become a Catholic priest.
I now understand that the line, “Nothing is impossible for God,” is literal. He means that. When I turned to Him in absolute helplessness, when the greatest specialists in the world couldn’t understand how to cure me, the Almighty gave me life.
By Christine Watkins