From the suffering of war to a new life in Christ


My name is Brendan McNally. I am an artist, a language teacher, a war veteran, and a father to a beautiful 8 year old daughter. So that sounds like a lot of things, and it is. I have been many things in my life, but most importantly for this testimony tonight, I am a recent revert back to the Catholic faith. 

To give a bit of background on my faith journey, I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school until the age of 10. It’s truly unfortunate that I left the faith at such a young age, which is of course a long story on its own, but it’s a story for another time. Tonight, I’m going to focus on how I found my way back to the faith. And how my faith and relationship with Jesus, has not only given purpose to my life, but purpose to my struggles, to suffering. That alone is and has been a miracle in my life. 

I was a person who struggled a lot with suffering, to endure it, to understand it. And I struggled with crippling fear and anxiety, largely a fear of suffering. I had come back from my last tour in Iraq with PTSD, undiagnosed for a long time, but I dealt with crippling panic attacks that even led to periods of agoraphobia. I couldn’t leave my house at times. I struggled for 10 years with this crippling fear. I had seen the dark side of the world and I just could not process what I’d seen. To know how dark it really can get in this world. I couldn’t reconcile what I’d seen and experienced with a creator who loved me. The crippling fear and existential anger I felt led me down a path of nihilism. 

However, this wasn’t always so for me, in fact quite the opposite. I wasn’t a person who typically struggled with fear, nor with suffering. I went to art school, traveled the world in the military, spent most of my 20’s as a semi-nomadic person, and lived fully in the world, seemingly floating through life without much of a care. I had been through boot camp, and even had already done one short tour in Afghanistan, on Bagram Air Force Base. It was very intense. I learned to sleep through nearby explosions as if they were annoying sirens. But it wasn’t until the completion of my second tour, which was in 2007 and 2008 in southern Iraq, that my spirit broke. Looking back now, I can clearly see that the Lord decided to save me then. He put a roadblock in my life that only he could remove. He allowed a brave person to become fearful, and an adventurer to become a scared recluse. I can see the mercy, and divine justice in this now because during those 10 years, the Lord led me back to his Church. 

My conversion was very private, and very intuitive. I did not have family pulling me back towards the Church. Nor did I even have a single Christian friend, but I had been seeking the truth, desperate to stay afloat with my then 5 year old daughter during the pandemic. I had lost my job near the beginning of the pandemic and was really struggling with my mental health. I am not from New York and had only moved here a few months before the pandemic started. So by the spring of 2021, I was in the hardest situation of my life. I finally had to admit it was too much for me to handle on my own. I finally began to pray again, for the first time since my childhood.

I had been  away from the faith for around 29 years when I finally walked back into a church in the spring of 2021. In fact it was almost 2 years ago to the day that I finally, after nearly 3 decades, got down on my knees and asked the Lord for help, and for mercy. I am standing here in front of you today because the Lord did indeed answer that cry for help, and the mercy I have received since then has been immense and life altering on a scale that I would have never believed possible before my conversion. 

Not every problem in my life was healed, rather I was given a deep faith that cured me of my fear. At the point of my conversion, my life was in a mess. I have had to work on and address those issues one at a time, and untangle the absolute mess my life was in. But I do believe I experienced a miracle, as I felt a peace after my cry for help that has carried me through this struggle. Since that first prayer, and the deep peace I felt in that moment, after 10 years of daily panic attacks, they finally ceased. I am eternally grateful to report that I have not experienced a single panic attack since that moment. Of course, all my problems were not solved in an instant, but I did receive a faith that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. And He has walked with me through this all, and I have trusted Him on that, and He has carried me through, up to this moment, of me standing here. 



We are here tonight to talk about “The Way of the Cross”. Learning to carry my cross, with help from the Holy Spirit of course, has not only brought me back into the Church, but allowed me to pass the faith on to my daughter, and begin anew. My life and my struggles have become a blessing and a way to connect with others. What once weighed me down, now lifts me up. I now see the purpose in my suffering. I have been able to live my life again, with faith and trust, and for the first time since my childhood, a sense of joy and gratitude. But now I hope my testimony can speak to those who feel that the burdens of life are too much, and for the hopeless, that if you, with faith, pick up your cross the Lord will carry it with you.


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