Photo credit: Giovanni Portelli via The Catholic Weekly
John Pridmore, and ex-gangster, is now an internationally renowned Catholic speaker and author from England.
John Pridmore shares his inspirational testimony around the world through talks and parish missions and even spoke in front of a crowd of over 400,000 young people at World Youth Day in Sydney.
This is his testimony:
John Pridmore’s Testimony: Early Life
So I was born in the East End of London, and I was baptized Catholic, but it was never brought up as a Catholic. I never went to Catholic school.
I never went to church.
At the age of 10, I came home, a normal night, and my parents told me that I had to choose who I wanted to live with, because they were getting divorced. Now, I love my parents so much and I couldn’t choose because the two people I love most in this world, had crushed me inside.
So I think I made an unconscious decision that I wasn’t going love anymore, because I really believed if you didn’t love, you didn’t get hurt. My mom ended up having a nervous breakdown, went to psychiatric hospital and my dad remarried. And my step mom thought the best way of bringing up a child was beating them each day.
So that added to my anger, to my hurt inside.
At the age of 13, I started stealing because,
I wanted someone to take notice of the pain that I was in.
I expect that I wanted someone to tell me they loved me, but because my dad was a policeman, it just added to the beatings.
At 15, I was put in detention center, which is like a youth prison. And I actually felt it was better in there than being at home. So I left home at 15.
My only qualification was stealing. So that’s what I did.
At 19, I was in prison again, and there was another change in me. The way I dealt with all the abuse I suffered as a child, is I just turned that abuse into anger. So I was always fighting.
I was put on 23 hour solitary confinement, and it was a bit like having a mirror put in front of me.
And because I hated what I saw in that mirror, I seriously thought about taking God’s greatest gift, my own life.
But God must have been there, because I didn’t like my own life, but I came out of there more angry and more bitter than ever.
And I thought, “What you want out of this world, you take because no one gives you anything.”
John Pridmore’s Testimony: The Underworld
And I started bouncing, around the East End and West End clubs of London, and I met some guys who seemed to have everything. They had the best cars, the best girls. They walked into a club, and everyone stopped because they are this respect.
And I wanted that respect. I wanted that power.
So I started working for these people. But before very long I wasn’t working for them, I was working with them. And these were the people who ran most of the organized crime in London.
So to my shame, I was involved in major drug deals, protection rackets, vicious crime of all sorts. There was a time where I’d seldom leave my house without carrying a gun. And my main job was protection rackets, but enforcing for a drug baron, which meant if someone didn’t pay him, I had to use violence to get them to pay.
And I slowly obtained everything the world says makes you happy.
I had the penthouse apartment, the sports cars, more money than I could spend. But inside, there was this overwhelming sense of emptiness.
And because I wanted to fill that emptiness, I looked for what the world offered. So I was on crack cocaine, smoking dope like it was going out of fashion, drinking really heavy.
I was also very promiscuous. Sometimes I’d wake up with girls and I wouldn’t even know their name. But the more promiscuous I became and the more drugs I took, the more my soul seemed to die inside, till eventually, I remember one girl I lived with for six months, she knew no more about me the day she moved out than the day she moved in.
Because even though people looked to me, as being a hard man, inside I was a scared man.
Scared of being rejected for who I really was.
So I wouldn’t share my feelings with anyone, in case they rejected me, like I felt my parents had rejected me.
John Pridmore’s Testimony: The Voice of God
I was working in a club that we owned in the West End of London, and I ended up hitting this guy, and I hit him with these brass knuckles. And I truly thought I killed him.
And the thing that scared me the most, is I didn’t care.
And as I drove home that night, I thought, what have I become, that I could kill someone and not even care because I used to care? I used to want to help people when I was a kid. But here I was, just hurting everyone around me.
I came in, this normal night, and I became aware of a voice speaking to me, in my heart,
and I knew that voice was God.
And I knew I was dying there and then, and I knew I was going to hell.
And I cried out for another chance. Not because I was sorry, but I didn’t want to go to hell. And I said the first prayer I’d ever said. I said,
“Up to now, all I’ve done is take from you, God. Now I want to give.”
And as I said that prayer, that emptiness, which it always filled my heart, was suddenly filled with the love of God, the Holy Spirit. And in that moment I knew God could love someone like me.
Whereas up to that moment, I’ll be honest with you, I always thought I was worthless, and it didn’t matter whether I lived or died.
But in this moment I knew it did matter, because God loved me.
The only person I knew I had the faith, was my mom. And I wouldn’t see a lot of her in those days. I might give her an expensive present, when I felt guilty, but this night, I went round and told what had happened to me.
And she said to me, she had prayed for me every day of my life. And nine days before this, she prayed a novena, which was to the patron saint of hopeless cases, St Jude.
And it was on the ninth day of my mum’s Novena, that I truly believe, I heard the voice of God speak to in My heart.
John Pridmore’s Testimony: The Conversion
I ended up meeting a priest who told me about a retreat that was happening. To be honest with you, I thought the retreat was lying on the beach, Bacardi, breeze, enjoying a nice girl just chilling for a couple of weeks, and I thought I have a holiday, so I’ll go on this retreat.
Well, when I got there it wasn’t like I imagined. And there was a talk which was,
“Give me your wounded heart.”
And as I listened to this priest speaking about how every sin we commit is like a wound on our heart, I was looking at a crucifix.
And for the first time in my life I realized why Jesus had died on that cross.
Because the darkest, most terrible sins I’d ever committed, he gladly carried in his heart to that crucifixion.
And I was filled with real sorrow for my sins.
But much more than that sorrow, was this incredible joy, because it was like Jesus, saying to me, “John, I love you so much. I’d go through this all again just for you.”
And I started crying. I cried for the first time since I was 10, when my parents told me that they were getting divorced, because that part of my heart that I had closed to love, through Jesus’ sacrifice, I was able to open it again.
I came out of that talk, and I said a prayer to Our Lady, and I just said,
“What is it your son wants me to do?”
And I felt Mary whisper in my heart, “Go to confession.”
I’d never been to confession in my life, and I think I have broken every commandment there was, but somehow, Mary gave me the courage, because I was scared.
And I went to confession, and I left out nothing.
I told the priest everything I had done, terrible, horrendous things.
And after this confession I was too ashamed to look at him. And he said, “Look at me.”
But I wouldn’t look at him. I was looking at the floor.
And he said again, “Look at me.” And as I looked at him, I saw that he was crying.
And he said,
“Jesus loves you.”
And it was like that part of my life that I thought could never be forgiven, that part of me that could never be redeemed, was suddenly redeemed. It was like I felt the wind on my face. I heard the birds singing. It was like I felt my life had been resurrected through Jesus’s crucifixion.
I came away from that confession, and I ended up going to Mass.
And as I went to receive the Eucharist, I just said a simple prayer, and I said,
“If this is true to you, Jesus, then show me, because I don’t understand.”
And as I received Jesus on that day, the only way I can describe it to you, is every good feeling I’ve ever felt in my life, including how I felt when I walked out of that flat, and felt the Holy Spirit, including how I felt when I walked away from confession, was magnified, and magnified.
And I knew that was Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity.
Not because anyone had taught me out of a book, but I had asked Jesus, and he had personally shown me.
And I had an infused knowledge that everything that the Catholic church teached, was the true teaching of Christ. And I knew I’d be a Catholic till the day I died.
So the greatest joy in my life now is sharing my story and telling people no matter where they’ve been, no matter what they’ve done, God’s mercy is there for them.
And the one true church on earth, is the Catholic Church.
So thank you and God bless you.