ROGER L’Huillier can’t be forgiven for forgetting his wedding anniversary.
His forward-thinking wife Joan was clever enough to coincide their November 4, 1967, nuptials with Roger’s birthday.
“Joan picked the date so that I’d have no excuses in remembering our anniversary,” the Brisbane Catholic and author of two faith-based books said.
Born in Melbourne, Roger reflected on his good fortune in finding a companion “who, thank God, said ‘Yes’” to his marriage proposal despite his rocky road towards maturity.
“In my late school years I was often physically bullied,” he said.
“(And) that may account for the terrible anger that plagued me during this time of my life.”
The anger compelled a pursuit of money, but not his own.
“I would steal whenever the chance arose, from school, home or work,” Roger, who went into aircraft engineering, said.
“A foul mouth” also accompanied him.
“The interesting thing, looking back, is that I never swore in front of my parents or, later on, in front of Joan or the children.”
Joan and Roger have four children, “another one in heaven”, he said, and six grandchildren.
The jovial man of purpose affirmed that despite his dishonesty and crude language, he “refrained from taking the Lord’s name in vain and engaging with the pornographic magazines at work”.
In retrospect, too, Roger admitted he was “a compulsive liar (and) … not just little fibs but big, whopping lies”.
As a young, married man with somewhat of a coloured past but with the foundations of faith passed on from his parents, especially his mum, described as the family’s “spiritual rock”, Roger said he began to consider the timeliness of “doing something about” his relationship with God.
“I eventually plucked up the courage to go into St Francis’ Church in the middle of the city of Melbourne for (the sacrament of) confession,” Roger said.
“All the way there I was plagued with thoughts of what the priest would say to me when I told him all the terrible things I’d done.
“When I arrived at the church I really struggled to go inside because of my fear and inner turmoil.
“It was only later on I realised that all my negative thoughts were put there by Satan, trying his hardest to get me to change my mind.
“I truly thank God for His grace, which enabled me to go inside.”
Roger’s confession, after many years, prompted the priest to say, he recalled, “Welcome back”.
Roger had feelings of being “a new man … born again”.
“The heavy load of sin, like a huge rock I’d been carrying on my back, which kept me spiritually bent over, was gone,” he said.
“I felt set free and made clean, I felt lighter and could stand up straight.
“It was truly a remarkable feeling.”
Standing tall since then, Roger said he had “failed many times” but through the graces of faith, the L’Huillier family had travelled abroad for missionary work and moved to where and whom God had called.
Before the move to Brisbane, Roger and Joan said they prayed to be led to a parish “that was spiritually alive”.
“Our faith life was becoming stagnant, so we just continued to pray our simple prayer of request,” Roger said.
The L’Huilliers arrived in Caboolture parish, north of Brisbane, and have been there for 40 years.
In those initial years in the late 1960s, the then parish priest Fr Pat Dowd encouraged Joan to attend a Charismatic prayer meeting despite the fact she had no idea what the term “Charismatic prayer” meant.
At an ensuing Catholic Charismatic Renewal weekend retreat, which the couple both attended, Roger said he felt “a real inner peace with what was taking place” and “forever changed” after experiencing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Roger set out, for the first time in his life, to buy a Bible and God’s Word “came alive … at times, jumping off the page”, he said.
His appetite for spiritual reading material was insatiable, saying “I’d devour Christian books … from autobiographies of special people like Padre Pio, and of seemingly ordinary lay people whom God used to do amazing things”.
“I also read books on Charismatic Renewal, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit … I couldn’t get enough and if nothing else happened, this in itself was a major miracle because since I had left school, the number of books that I had read, you could count on one hand,” Roger said.
The sinful habits of the past “were a distant memory”.
All in all, through life’s “trials and tribulations”, Roger credits “the peace promised to each of us in (the Gospel of Saint) John, chapter 14, verse 27”.
“Jesus said, ‘I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart – and the peace I give, isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives,” he quoted.
“I can now look back to that retreat weekend and say truthfully that nothing much happened except my whole life changed,” and with that statement, Roger roared with laughter.
Grateful for his Catholic upbringing and “retiring from paid work”, God prompted him to “write a book”.
Roger wrote two, Catholics Come Alive, published in 2011, and, more recently, Catholics Stay Alive, both endorsed by Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
The books are an essential collection of Catholic teaching, sacred scripture, testimony, poetry, narratives, and even a few jokes for light-heartedness.
They have been designed to engage diverse ages and backgrounds within a readable yet informational style.
If Roger were to select a “favourite part” of the latest book Catholics Stay Alive it would be “other people’s stories”, and he said “I loved hearing them and was amazed as to how I came upon them”.
He and Joan agreed the books reflected Roger’s personality of serious yet comical, contemplative and conversational.
Joan said she enjoyed being “the sounding board” for the collation of the book’s materials.
The well-read Catholic supports Joan in her voluntary work with Catholic Mission, together having visited Holland Park parish earlier this month to promote the organisation’s work.
Ill health has meant Roger has lost some of the “spring” in his step however, and he’s on the cusp of a hip and knee replacement.
Still, there’s a resonating feeling that Roger has much yet to accomplish, not the least of which is remembering a certain date in November.
To seek contact details or order Roger’s books visit www.catholicscomealive.com
The Catholic Leader has two sets of Roger L’Huillier’s books to give away. Each of the two winners of the competition will receive a copy of Catholics Come Alive and a copy of Catholics Stay Alive. To enter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Roger L’Huillier’s books’ in the subject line, and include your name and telephone number. Entries close on August 27 and winners will be notified.