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A Free Gift

"Message of Love" by Peter Mason

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Music playing: "Message of Love" from Peter Mason's album Message of Love.

"A free gift through
the one man Jesus Christ!
(Romans 5:15)"


Pete Mason is available for free concerts anywhere.
Please call 778 858 7257 or email [email protected]

A Free Gift - Peter Mason's Testimony

Jesus said, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already burning!" (Luke 12:49). The fire of God's love transformed my life from spiritual darkness to light, from drug addiction to freedom, from slavery to sin to new life in Christ, from giving my soul to Satan to opening my heart to Jesus. From a heavy metal rock musician living a wild life to a Christian recording artist striving to serve the Lord. This is my story.

It was on September 28, 1962 that I came into this world. I have three brothers, Allan, Don and David, and one sister, Lorraine. My parents are Dr. Leslie and Freda Mason. My ancestry is Jewish, Polish, Norwegian, English and Canadian. I only know a few words in Polish that my mom used to scold us kids for misbehaving or being messy.

My earliest memories are feeling a lot of love, warmth and excitement. I was baptized into the Catholic faith in St. Jude’s Church in Vancouver shortly after I was born.

When I was a young child I recall taking the baby Jesus out of his crib from our Nativity scene, holding him in my hands and kissing him. I loved Jesus with a simple, pure love that I learned from my parents, especially my mother, who used to kneel down with me every night to pray with me.

I attended St. Francis de Sales elementary school in Burnaby, B.C. I enjoyed going to the school masses and singing songs with all the other children. I received my first Holy Communion and Confirmation at St. Francis de Sales Parish. While I was in school I learned how to play the electric guitar and dreamed of becoming a rock star when I got older.

My father used to work as a medical doctor for Whistler Mountain. Almost every weekend we would take the long, winding highway up to the scenic mountains to go skiing. There was a small chapel at the bottom of the Gondola run. We used to ski down the mountain on that run at the end of the day and go to church. Sometimes my parents would invite the priest, Fr. Scott, OMI, over for dinner. He would play his guitar and sing and tell us all sorts of amazing stories of his ministry with the First Nations people.

I was greatly influenced by my brother David in his choice of music and having long hair. In grade 7, I was given a prize for having the longest hair (out of the boys) in the school! Once I closed a bus window and caught my hair in it and could not open the window! Someone eventually came to my rescue. The first album I bought was by Black Sabbath. I once brought it to school for "show and tell" along with my stereo! I cranked up the volume and blew away my elementary school class with Ozzy Ozbourne and his band. I started smoking pot in elementary school and getting drunk with my friends.

My brother Don took me to see the horror movie "The Exorcist." It totally scared me and I was so fearful of the Devil that I could hardly sleep at night for a long time. I slowly became fascinated with Satan. I admired his power and I wanted to enjoy a wild lifestyle. When I was in grade 7 I gave my soul to Satan. I was fully aware of what I was doing. I figured that, since I enjoyed doing bad things, I might as well join the Devil's team.

I would attend Sunday Mass with my family but I was not interested in it. Sometimes I broke out in laughter when I saw the priest holding up the Body of Christ and calling it the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Other times I would go outside or throw rolled up pieces of paper on the heads of the people below the balcony.

I began to take an interest in the occult, using tarot cards, and oujia board and a mask of Satan. I painted my walls dark red, my ceiling black, and placed a poster of Satan with horns and a pitchfork and a wicked grimace.

It took days of pestering my mother for permission to do this and she finally gave in. She bought the paint and the woman asked her, when she saw the colors, "what are you painting, a brothel?"

Once I entered St. Thomas More High School I was busy playing with a band. I liked to wear my hair long and I would tell my mother, "Jesus had long hair. Moses had long hair." Those were the days of wild weekend parties, drinking and drugs. Once I drank so much and smoked so much pot that I began smashing beer bottles in a park in the presence of my friends.

The police were called and all my friends were arrested. I escaped by running into the bushes, imagining I was an escaped convict running from the prison guards. I hid in a tree trunk for hours in the rain and crawled home on my hands and knees, as I was unable to walk. When I arrived home I looked in the mirror and my face was bloodied, my hair a mess and my clothing filthy. In an instant I thought about the sufferings of Jesus, even though I was not in a loving relationship with him at the time.

I loved wild parties and once I got so drunk that I fell straight backwards and hit my head on a large wooden table, which knocked me unconscious. I woke up several hours later.
Another time I stole some Gravol pills from my father's chest of medicine and overdosed on them. I felt like I was going to collapse and get sucked into the earth.

Another party I was at was so wild that the police were called to break it up. I was escorted outside by an officer and told to stay away. Being the disobedient youth I was, I immediately went back into the party, where I was arrested and taken by police wagon to the local police station, where I spent the night in a cell with a few other partygoers. I managed to sneak home the next morning without my parents knowing about my escapades.

Sometimes I would vandalize our neighbourhood, pouring purple paint down mail boxes, cutting branches off trees and strewing them all over the street, making a total mess of the local neighborhood. I loved to listen to Black Sabbath songs about the devil, and read horror books.
I wasn't interested in prayer. I thought church was boring. I believed in God, but was not in the least interested in spiritual things. They just did not seem relevant to me. In grade 12 I switched to Burnaby South Senior Secondary because some of my friends did the same thing and there were girls there (STM was an all-boys school). It was during grade 12 that I joined another rock band called Tom Foolery.

At one of our concerts in Vancouver I got so drunk with a girl in her car that I ended up driving the wrong way down a one-way street and slammed into a car crossing the street and wrapped it around a telephone pole. Amazingly, the police did not take a breathalyser test and I was not charged.

Tom Foolery
After graduating I went on the road with a rock band named Roxcity. We were loud, heavy and loved to party. I used to have women jump on stage and grab me by the legs and hang on! Another time a fight broke out and a man was thrown through a window. Life on the road was wild. Once, after a gig, around 2 a.m. I watched a movie on television about the life of Jesus. It caused me to think about my spiritual life briefly. God was planting a seed.

I ended up quitting Roxity while on the road and I flew home. I was getting worn out with the wild lifestyle on the road. I joined another couple of musicians and we formed Tyranny. The name aptly describes what life was like in the band sometimes. The band fell apart and I began to search for a purpose in my life. I wanted to know the meaning of my life.

I had a girlfriend. Our relationship didn't have a spiritual aspect. We enjoyed parties, music and friends together. We had been going out for several months when one day I had a thought come into my mind: "I am a Catholic." I realized that in my life I had not lived as a Catholic Christian should and I felt guilty. After this event a search started: a search for meaning in my life. I slowly began to believe that God must have something to do with these feelings I had been having.

One day in the month of May 1983, I was mowing our front lawn. At one point I sensed a strong presence: the presence of Jesus. I stopped the mower and listened interiorly. An image of Jesus knocking at a door appeared in my mind and I heard Jesus saying to me inside, "Peter, I am what you have been searching for. Open your heart to me and I will give you peace and a new life." I explained to the Lord that I was like the prodigal son, but that if he wanted me to I would open my heart to Him. So, I prayed a prayer to give my life to Jesus and accepting Him as my Lord and Savior and express sorrow for all my sins.
As soon as this prayer was finished I felt a great weight lifted off of me and the power of the Holy Spirit filled me with joy, peace and love. I finished the lawn and went inside and my mother noticed a change in me, and I said something to her about Jesus. Shortly after this I realized that, as a Catholic, I needed to go to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). It took me a couple of attempts but I finally made it to the church and was welcomed by the priest. He heard all my sins and encouraged me by saying that the Lord never abandoned me, even though I did not pay much attention to Him.

I received absolution and felt such a burden lifted off of me, a spiritual burden. I walked out of that church feeling like a new man. From that point on, I wanted to please God and do His will. I began to participate in Sunday Mass with attention and slowly started to go to weekday Mass, starting once a week and eventually working my way up to daily mass. I loved to pray after Mass, having just received Jesus in holy Communion.
My life was majorly transformed. I could hardly believe what was happening to me. I was filled with a joy I had never known before and a burning desire to share Jesus with everyone. I had a deep hunger for God in prayer and loved to begin the day with quiet prayer in my room, reading the Bible and the lives of the saints. God changed my focus from trying to be a rock star to trying to be a saint! (I'm still trying and I won't give up!) We are all called to be saints, which is simply a call to holiness. "Be holy, as I, the Lord your God am holy," God tells us. Everyone in heaven is a saint. God invites us to choose holiness every day, and not get discouraged when we fall.

I joined the youth group and soon became one of the leaders. I also joined M2W2, which is a group that visits inmates in prison and befriends them. Another ministry I got involved in was the folk choir. It was here that I was able to develop my song writing skills and try out new songs with the choir. The first Christian song I wrote was called "How Can I Know You?" I also started to read the lives of the saints and became inspired to try to follow their example of loving God and others.

I formed my own band and released a cassette. We played a showcase gig with record company representatives present. Chaos broke out and fights were breaking out all over the club. Someone even started to approach me in a violent manner.

That night I reflected on this crazy experience and I decided I wanted out of the rock and roll business. The next day I called my band and told them it was over. I also called my manager and informed him. I sold all my musical instruments: 6 bass guitars, electric guitars, etc. because I wanted to be freed from all the negative associations I had with music.

I read a book on the life of St. Francis of Assisi and I really could relate to his conversion from a party-loving youth to a man touched by the love of Christ. I wanted to follow his example of radical gospel living. I found out that there was an order for lay people called the Secular Franciscan Order. A friend of mine was a member. After a while, I attended my first meeting and really felt at home.

After an initial period of inquiry and a year of novitiate I made my profession in the SFO. This was a very special day in my life. Now I was called to live a Franciscan spirituality, with an emphasis on simplicity, joy and love for the poor and all creatures on earth.

Soon after I joined the Secular Franciscan Order I began pondering what God's will for my life was. Little old church ladies would sometimes come up to me and say, "you should be a priest." Once, the pastor of my parish asked me if I ever thought of becoming a priest. All these events caused me to reflect on the possibility that God was calling me to be a priest.

I went on a silent retreat at Westminster Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in Mission, B.C., with the Secular Franciscan Order. During that retreat I spent some quiet time a small chapel underneath the seminary. I sat in one of the pews and simply placed myself in God's presence, seeking to know his will for my life. Jesus was present in the Bread of Life in the tabernacle.

After about two hours, I began to feel a special awareness of God's presence in the chapel. I began to see forming a misty cloud, slowly filling the chapel. It was a light cloud that surrounded me. I was feeling amazed at this phenomenon, when I heard a deep voice speak to me, saying "Peter, I want you to be a priest." The voice was very deep and spoke very slowly, with great power and majesty. I knew it was the voice of God.

After God spoke these words to me, the misty clouds slowly faded away and I was left to ponder in my heart what had just happened. I realized that God had just revealed his will to me. I went back to my small room in the monastery and sat at my desk and reflected on what had happened. I thought to myself, "I don't really want to be a priest." I thought about the fact that I would have to give up the idea of getting married.

After over a month of struggling with this issue I finally surrendered my will to God's and told him that if he wanted me to be a priest I would do it. The big step for me was to make a phone call to a Franciscan priest, Fr. Martin Betin, O.F.M., and ask him what I have to do to become a priest. Several months later I found myself studying for the Friars Minor in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As I was drawn to St. Francis and his spirituality, it made sense to become a Franciscan priest.

After two years of studying philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan, I felt God calling me in a different direction than the Franciscans. I got to know Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity Sisters in Vancouver and they suggested I visit the MC Fathers in Tijuana, Mexico for a come-and-see program. I went there and after a few days I had to leave due to the noise at night, which was preventing me from getting a good night's sleep.

I prayed about it and called upon the Lord for direction. The idea of studying for the diocesan priesthood came to me in the chapel. I spoke to the superior there and said I needed to return to Vancouver, which I did. Upon arriving home I made an appointment with the vocation director and then met with Archbishop James Carney, who accepted me as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

He sent me to St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ontario. I sometimes had struggles when I remembered my wild past. I thought, "how could someone who has been as sinful as I have be a priest?" I didn't give up because I truly felt this was God's will for me. I continued in the seminary until I finished the program to the point where I was to return to Vancouver for a year of pastoral internship, which I did at St. Jude's Parish. During that year, 1993, I was ordained a deacon. It was a beautiful ceremony that almost brought me to tears. It felt like a spiritual marriage with Jesus. I assisted my pastor, Fr. Rick Gagnon, with Mass and other pastoral duties.

I was speaking at a Catholic Charismatic Youth Conference around that time. At one point, a young woman screamed and started laughing, then crying, and writhing all over the floor. This was during a prayer time for the youth. I sensed something spiritual was going on. I said a simple prayer to take authority over any unclean spirits. She screamed out "Noooo!" Then we prayed various prayers and she manifested signs of diabolical possession.

A priest was called and when he came and embraced her there was peace again. She later shared with me how she felt a presence within her reacting against my prayers. The Lord really touched her. She shared how her family had been involved in the occult in the past. I went home exhausted and much more aware of the spiritual battles I would be facing as a priest.

I returned to the seminary for my final year of studies as a deacon in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. It was generally a good year, though I did struggle at times with my past and how God could call someone like me to the priesthood. I went for a week of silent retreat at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. It was a powerful time of silence with the Lord. At one point I spent 24 hours in a little log cabin with nothing but a Bible and a loaf of bread and some water. This experience is called a Poustinia.

Prior to my Poustinia, I was told that the Lord always speaks to those making it. I was ready to hear God speak to me. Some time went by when I finally heard the Lord speak. It was a quiet, gentle voice within that said, "Fear not, I am with you." It was a consoling word, but I did not quite understand it, as I was not really afraid of anything at that time. What I didn't know was that this word was meant for my immediate future.

After my retreat I took a bus to Toronto to meet my parents and the rest of my family. During the trip another thought came to me: "You made a mistake in not having a spiritual director on your retreat. Now you will make a terrible priest. You have sinned too much to be a priest. If you get ordained, you will destroy the church." These horrible thoughts bothered me a great deal. They were so contrary to my experience on the retreat. This was just the beginning of a powerful spiritual struggle.

I came into Toronto, agitated by this experience. After I met my family I returned to the Basilian Father's residence I was staying at. I was alone again, with these disturbing thoughts. They would not go away. Even when I was trying to sleep I was disturbed and the thoughts became worse. I began to feel rejected by God for all the sins of my past life. Satan was telling me that I belonged to him, that I was condemned to hell, and that I might as well kill myself and get it over with as I was condemned anyway.

Images of death flashed through my mind: suicide by jumping in front of the subway, strangling, gas, cutting, etc... I was unable to sleep. I saw my father, who is a doctor, and he took me to the emergency where I was given some sleeping pills. This happened twice. The pills helped a bit, but I still only had about 2 hours of sleep.

A priest was called, a very holy man, and he sensed the evil one was working on me. He took authority over the Devil and prayed with me, but I was too exhausted to react much. I was still in a world where everything seemed dark and distant, a state of separation from God and His love. It was the most horrible experience I have ever had. St. Faustina Kowalska had a similar experience, which she describes in her Diary.

On the third day, I met with a priest-psychologist. I explained to him what was going on recently and asked his opinion. He immediately read from Scripture, the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:10-12). As soon as he read this, I was transformed in my spirit and the spirit of heaviness and separation from God left me! He told me that I had been through a violent diabolical temptation.

A month later I was ordained at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, on June 5, 1994. I spent time in silent prayer before the ordination mass, listening to the Cathedral bells ringing loudly. I felt such peace and joy. It was an amazing ceremony, with my family, friends and many others present. Now I was a priest of Jesus Christ, fulfilling a call I felt I had many years ago to leave everything to follow the Lord and serve him.

My first parish assignment was Corpus Christi, in Vancouver. It was a large parish with many families and all sorts of groups. It was there that I joined the Legion of Mary as an active member. I was soon busy with daily Mass, confessions, visiting the sick, meeting school children and numerous parish meetings. I was happy, but a little stressed out at times with all the work.

I was at Corpus Christi for a year and was then sent to St. Ann's parish in Abbotsford, which is about an hour east of Vancouver. This was a smaller parish, as they did not have a school, but it was very vibrant with numerous groups meeting regularly, including a charismatic prayer group, which I took part in. More hospital visitations, Masses and group meetings kept me busy.

I didn't realize that my life was about to take an unexpected turn. My worst nightmares were about to become reality.

I was transferred to another parish. Here I encountered a great deal of suffering. I was being tested and purified. Eventually I was removed from this church and sent home. On one hand, I was relieved to be out of the situation. On the other hand, I was saddened by having to leave the parish.

What followed was months of waiting, praying and hoping for a solution. At a certain point, I got involved with prayer ministry and encountered some people who were struggling with the reality of the influence of evil spirits in their lives. The combination of working with them and the pressure of not being in a parish eventually resulted an emotional breakdown. I had reached the end of my rope.

With the help of good counsellors, I was able to feel good again and eventually I was sent to another parish. Still, I occasionally struggled with some of the strange spiritual experiences that I had before. I worked at a few different parishes briefly, as well as two different hospitals as chaplain. I was sent to St. Edmund's parish in North Vancouver as a resident priest. There I celebrated daily Mass, preached, heard confessions, performed funerals and visited the sick and dying with holy communion. I also took part in a number of parish groups. Eventually I ended up celebrating Mass in a small chapel in Vancouver and working in the archives department for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. While it was good to celebrate Mass with people and preach God's word again, I was feeling unhappy with my general situation. I found archives work boring and not challenging enough.

Through all of these experiences I had been consulting my spiritual director. During one meeting, my director said to me, "Peter, have you ever thought about laicization?" Laicization is when a priest is released from his priestly vows and returns to being a member of the laity.

I quickly responded, "no!" I certainly had never considered this option because I was convinced that God had called me to be a priest and I would never quit following my calling. My director asked me to think and pray about it during my upcoming retreat. I said I would and went home pondering this idea, but feeling quite opposed to it.

I made a silent retreat at Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C. I took a document from the Vatican about the life and ministry of priests. I read through the whole thing and felt surer than ever that this was my calling. I briefly thought about laicization but deep down I was closed to the idea because it seemed to go against what I thought was a clear call from God.

I returned to my spiritual director and said I had decided not to pursue laicization. I wanted to stay a priest. My director accepted what I said and did not try to influence me in any way. Little did I know that down the road God had a surprize for me. On June 26th, 2001 I moved to Good Shepherd Church in
South Surrey, B.C. Here I was a resident priest. I celebrated daily mass in a small adoration chapel. I also began doing some gardening work a couple times a week at Rosemary Heights Retreat Center in Surrey. It was a peaceful and reflective time for the most part, but there was also some stress in my life, as my future in the priesthood seemed so uncertain.   A year or so passed, during which I continued to celebrate daily Mass and pray for God's will. One day I began to think about laicization. I slowly began to realize that I had not really given the idea a chance. I felt that God was calling me to reconsider my decision not to examine laicization. I met with my spiritual director again and she told me she was not surprized that I had come back to this issue. She sensed that I had not been open to God's will regarding my priesthood and the possibility that God was calling me to let go of the firm grasp I had on it.

I decided to make another retreat. This time I felt totally open to whatever God wanted me to do. I did not bring along a book all about the priesthood. I brought my bible and a book about discerning God's will. I also spent a lot of time in silence, seeking to hear God's voice. As I read the book on God's will, I began to feel more and more convinced that God was calling me in a new direction in my life. One problem remained though. I could not understand how I could experience such a clear call to the priesthood years ago and now find God calling me in a new direction.

I decided to talk a walk and talk about this with God. I asked the Lord how this could be, this new calling in a different direction, when so many years of my life were spent preparing for priesthood and living as a priest. As soon as I finished my question, I sensed the Lord answering me with both a Scripture passage and an interior image.

The Scripture was from Jeremiah 18:1-6: "This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Rise up, be off to the potter's house; there I will give you my message. I went down to the potter's house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay that he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the Lord. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel." The image I saw was the potter working on the clay, making it into a different vessel. I realized instantly that I was like the clay that turned out badly, and God was re-molding me into another vessel. I no longer struggled with reconciling God's initial call to priesthood and the new direction I was being led in. God was with me all along, every step of the way, and molding me according to His plan for my life. I had reached a personal decision: I would petition Rome for laicization. This decision was to open a whole new life for me.

When I returned home I met with my spiritual director and shared what had happened to me during the retreat. She was supportive and sensed the Lord was truly working in my life because I was open to him. I made an appointment to meet with my Archbishop. During our meeting, he told me he felt my decision was a wise one. I felt even more at peace with what was happening because now my Archbishop was supportive, and I respect him as God's representative to me in a special way because of my priesthood.

Soon the formal process of petitioning the Holy Father in Rome for laicization was underway. I met with a priest appointed by the Archbishop and had to go through interviews, complete questionnaires and provide references from people who have known me before and during my life as a priest. It was like reviewing my whole life, from childhood to the present day.

I waited around 16 months to hear from Pope John Paul II about his decision to grant me laicization. In the meantime, Archbishop Adam Exner had to submit his resignation, which Rome accepted. Archbishop Raymond O. Roussin became the new Archbishop of Vancouver. I was impressed with his simplicity, gentleness and love of Christ. He generously sponsored my studies at Langara College in Vancouver. I learned how to start and manage my own business, as well as sales and marketing. I was originally planning to start my own search engine optimization business, and actually did establish it as Top 10 Rankings Inc. I started to get some clients and perform website promotion for them. In September of 2004, however, the Lord called me to enter full time into Christian music ministry. After discerning it through prayer and dialogue with my spiritual director, who supported this new vision for my life, I began making changes to begin my music ministry.


Myztery

I began a Christian band called Myztery. We recorded our first album, which was released in May of 2005. You can hear it on our website at www.myztery.net The Lord is opening up doors for us to share our Christian music through live concerts, which we have started to do. I received a call on November 4, 2005 from Fr. Mark Shwab, who works in the Chancery Office for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. I was asked to meet him. I knew it must have something to do with my petition for laicization. When I met him he informed me that the Holy Father has accepted my petition and is willing to grant me the laicization. All I had to do was read the letter from Rome and sign a document, and that complete the laicization process.

To celebrate my new direction in life I went to a local pub and had a Guiness beer and smoked a cigar. I felt very happy and at peace. I continued recording our Myztery album at a studio in Vancouver. The laicization means that I am released of all my priestly duties and privileges. I am still called, as all Christians are, to proclaim the word of God by word and example, and I can administer the sacraments only in danger of death (Anointing of the Sick: confession, anointing, holy Communion). I am, ontologically speaking, still a priest: "You are a priest forever, like Melchizedek of old." I am still called to holiness.

It was during one of our recording sessions that I met Cyndie Grozelle, who was brought in to help us with vocal harmonies. We hit it off and began dating and she also joined the band. Cyndie is a talented singer and keyboard player. She also plays bass, guitar and dances. She is also a talented songwriter. Cyndie has joined me in our ministry at I trust Jesus.com and our weekly ezine, Behind the Veil, as well as Myztery. She has been a real blessing in my life in many ways.

Prior to my laicization I discerned God calling me to leave the Secular Francican Order, in order that I might follow a new spiritual path in something the Lord was calling me to continue developing: The Missionaries of Merciful Love, a lay spiritual movement (see www.mercifullove.com to learn more). I am currently waiting to hear back from Archbishop Roussin for approval of this vision of mine as a "private association of the faithful", which is the canonical term that would apply if granted.

I have shared the free gift God gave me through his only Son Jesus Christ. Have you received the free gift God has for you? Open your heart to Jesus now. He will come in and share his love with you. His merciful love endures forever!