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Alf McCreary in conversation with Brother David Jardine of the Society of St Francis 

‘I visited a young woman who’d been blind for seven years. We prayed together and she regained her sight. I found that rewarding’

Prayer power: Brother David Jardine prays for several hours each day
Prayer power: Brother David Jardine prays for several hours each day
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

David Jardine was born in 1942 and spent his early years in Banbridge and Downpatrick. His father, David, a postmaster in Downpatrick and Ballymena, died aged 50. His mother, Maude, died at 88.

David, an only child, was educated at Banbridge Academy and Down High School. He took a degree in Spanish with Portuguese at Queen's University, Belfast and a theology degree at Trinity College Dublin.

He was ordained in St Patrick's, Ballymacarrett in 1967. Later he worked as assistant Church of Ireland chaplain at Queen's and was a chaplain at Crumlin Road Gaol from 1975 to 1985.

In 1973, he joined the Anglican Society of St Francis, living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and is still a member 46 years later. The society sent him to Brooklyn in New York from 1985 to 1988.

Brother Jardine came back to Belfast, working with the International Divine Healing Ministries for nearly 30 years. In 2007, he was made a canon of St Anne's Cathedral.

Recently, David has been become involved in Equipping for Life, a ministry encouraging Church people to give their services free-of-charge to serve those in areas which suffered during the Troubles.

Q. How and when did you come to faith?

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A. I have always had a sense of faith in God, due to the great upbringing my dear parents gave me. As an adult, the Society of St Francis has been a big influence. They have three hours of prayer and worship built into our schedule every day. There have also been key individuals and the Rev Cecil Kerr, founder of the Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor, was the most important. He taught me the power of prayer, not by what he said, but by the way he lived his life.

I try to invite God into everything I do and I endeavour to stay in touch with Him all of my waking hours. This is often called "practising the presence of God". It isn't always easy. My mind wanders all over the place, but when I ask God to help me to keep my mind focused on Him, everything goes far better.

Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith, or a gnawing doubt about your faith?

A. I try to stay as close to God as I possibly can, so that this does not happen. I never get angry with God. Why would I become angry with my best friend? He comes with me wherever I go and is never more than a prayer away. When I run into difficulties, I want to be on the best of terms with a friend like that, not angry with Him.

Q. Do you ever get criticised for your faith? And are you able to live with that criticism?

A. I don't like criticism, but in life you cannot avoid it and I have my own way of dealing with it. If someone upsets me, I start to bless them in the name of Jesus, who said, "Bless those who curse you". If the hurt has been very deep, I may have to flood the person with prayers of blessing. And it works. My peace is restored and my precious relationship with God is kept open.

A friend of mine said that the heaviest burden anyone can bear is a grudge. I don't hold grudges and I deal with them as quickly as I can.

Q. Are you ever ashamed of your own Church, or denomination?

A. There is a lot of criticism of the Church today, some of it justified, but a lot goes overboard. The Church is full of good people who do an amazing amount of good work in a quiet way. A top man in the BBC, who contracted cancer, came to our healing services for months. He was continuously expressing his amazement that the people praying with him were doing it free of charge. In his business, if anyone worked overtime, they had to be well paid.

I also remember being asked to visit a young woman who had been blind for seven years. We prayed together at length and she regained her sight. I found that very dramatic and rewarding.

Q. Are you afraid to die? Or can you look beyond death?

A. I am not afraid to die. I have given my life to Jesus and I feel His hand upon me. I believe in a resurrection. The Bible does not give much detail about what life in the nearer presence of God will be like.

The few glimpses we are given assure us that it is going to be a marvellous experience, but anyone who does not take seriously where they are going after death is a fool.

Q. What do you think about people of other denominations and other faiths?

A. I am very happy to have fellowship with fellow believers right across the board. I was always inspired by the late Terry Donaghy, a Catholic solicitor.

He regularly visited 15 Protestant churches in north Belfast and was always talking about how much he had been blessed by his Protestant brothers and sisters. I have also been greatly helped by the books of a Pentecostal pastor, David Wilkerson, who taught me how to surrender difficulties to the Lord at a very challenging time in my life.

Q. Why are so many people turning their backs on organised religion?

A. There are many factors, but one major one is that self is the great enemy of the spiritual life - self-centredness, wanting everything to be done our way. In the West, there is a spirit abroad which insists that whatever people want to do, they must have the right to do it.

When Christianity talks about "giving our lives to Jesus", that is right at the other end of the scale. Sometimes, it is only a crisis in a person's life that will make them take that step.

Of course, the Churches could also have done better in presenting the message in a way that makes people want to embrace it.

Q. You have kept the vow of chastity. Do you regret not having a wife and family?

A. I did not choose celibacy for myself, but it is a rule I obey with the Society of St Francis. It has the reward of giving me more time for prayer, which is valuable, but it would have been nice to have had the warmth of human relationships in a marriage with children.

Q. What is your favourite film, book and music?

A. My favourite film is Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart. My favourite book is Practising the Presence of God by the Carmelite monk Brother Lawrence, who died in 1691.

But the best book of all is the Bible.

A piece of music that made a big impact is In the Garden by Perry Como.

It was played at the funeral of an old pal, Noel Ewart, who had been a professional wrestler, so the church was packed with big, strong men. But when Perry Como sang, "He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me that I am his own", I don't believe there was a dry eye in the place.

And I said: "I think I will have that song at my funeral."

Q. Where do you feel closest to God?

A. In a particular chair in my living room at home, where I spend between two and four hours in prayer every day.

Q. What inscription would you like on your gravestone?

A. The verse which expresses best the principle that I try to live by: "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continuously be on my lips."

Q. Have you any major regrets?

A. Lots of things, down through the years, that I wish I had done differently. Sometimes they surface and, very occasionally, I need to spend time in prayer about them.

I haven't found anything yet that the Lord and I have not been able to sort out together - even if it does take a bit of time.

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