Byrne links compassion, peace

Posted By: March 01, 2017

 Orla O’Sullivan. Irish Echo. New York. Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lorna Byrne is in the U.S. for events.

“I see angels physically as I see people, her books to be released in the U.S. The diminutive Irish woman has penned seven, several of which have topped the best-seller lists.

“I’m dying for this,” she said, eyeing her almond croissant when we meet late February in a Manhattan café. “You can’t always get them in Ireland.”

Byrne is very unassuming, despite reportedly having the proverbial direct line to God and the fame that has followed from the publication of her first book in 2008, the autobiographical “Angels In My Hair.” Her books have been translated into 30 languages, while she has a quarter of a million Facebook followers, has addressed the U.N. and drawn crowds at venues from Europe to Hong Kong.

Her events in Boston, including one for which she returns on March 2, had already sold out when we recently reconnected and Byrne was hoping that another, organized in conjunction with the New York Open Center for holistic learning, would draw a capacity crowd of about 400.

It took place Feb. 23 at Marble Collegiate Church, the traditionally Protestant, grand Fifth Avenue establishment whose pastor Norman Vincent Peale wrote the often capitalism-cheerleading book “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

Byrne voiced support for Occupy Wall Street and concern about climate change. She’s a Catholic who stayed with gay friends during her New York visit and one whose audiences often include rabbis and imams.

“Religious beliefs sometimes box people in from listening to others,” Byrne said. “I don’t judge. We all have a guardian angel.”

Even as her books move from autobiographical to self-help, Byrne seems to be becoming more political—in an all-embracing way. Nowadays, she identifies as a “peace ambassador.” Asked about that, she said, “It’s just part of my job that God has given me to do.”

Byrne has stressed the need to unify Sunni and Shia Muslims and that the U.S. has a pivotal role to play in world peace. She and Betty Williams, the Nobel Peace Laureate from Northern Ireland, have co-hosted Muslim peace events and literally carried the peace torch held by Nelson Mandela, among others.

She said she “couldn’t understand” why she “wasn’t allowed” by the angels to publish “Love From Heaven” in the U.S. when it came out in Europe (three years ago).  “But doesn’t America need it more now?” she said.

“There’s an awful lot of hate and anger because of what’s happened,” Byrne continued. The election, I asked? “Yes.”

The U.S. edition’s subtitle is “Practicing compassion for yourself and others.” The connection between compassion and peace is “very, very important,” Byrne said. “The book is based on loving yourself so you can love others.”

She smiled when asked if President Trump seems like someone who lacks self-compassion. “I know he’s nervous, terrified, in one sense of doing the wrong thing and so hell bent on what he’s doing.

“I ask people to pray for him,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I do get into trouble when I do that!”

Associates also told her she was inviting trouble two years ago by starting the Lorna Byrne Children’s Foundation, she revealed, given recent scandals associated with Irish charities. However, she said she did as the angels bade her.

So it was with the first book. She recalled pushing a pram with the youngest of her then three children, at a time when her now deceased husband was in ill health

“I got amused and kind of annoyed,” she said. I asked was her reaction “You try it changing babies!” “Yeah!” she agreed, adding, “He [Archangel Michael] said help will be sent.”

Byrne wasn’t just busy; she was illiterate. In school, she was written off as “retarded.” In fact, she was dyslexic. She said that she still struggles with reading and writing, something that was evident as she labored over a brief inscription to me in her book.

Back in 2003, a meeting with Jean Callanan, then marketing director of Waterford Crystal, led to Byrne’s story coming out five years later with Callanan’s aid.

“Why me?” Byrne has said she asked the angels and they responded, “Why not you?”

Certainly, her story is wildly beyond the experience of most of us: seeing angels from birth, winged, colorful, some named, some not; foreseeing future events, such as that a co-worker in Dunnes Stores would be killed imminently in the 1970s Dublin bombings.

What to make of it? The Huffington Post, where Byrne blogs, says: “it is difficult to believe that someone can see angels physically,” but that Byrne has been “featured extensively in respected European media,” including BBC and the Economist.

Is it hard to be constantly appraised as a possible fraud? I ask. “You get that sometimes,” Byrne said placidly, adding, “I’m not pushing this on anyone” and that “literally thousands of people have told me that my books helped them.”

There’s a formula to this kind of spiritual feature: the reporter establishes his or her cynical credentials, then is won over to how the subject is the exception to the rule of logic.

Having 25 years ago written my master’s thesis on a very unorthodox topic, especially for journalism studies—the mind-body-spirit connection—I was primed for mystical possibilities, if occupationally skeptical when I first met Byrne in 2010.

Still, I was surprised to feel, as I sat opposite her then, an unmistakable, continuous energetic pull from the area around the navel that many spiritual traditions recognize as both the spiritual and emotional core. Byrne seemed as genuine as angels seem beyond me.

The energetic effect didn’t recur. Granted, this time, we were in a bustling café with company at the table, rather than the quiet alcove of a hotel. Byrne seemed literally more polished—the French manicure striking me as new on this young and stylish-looking 63-year-old grandmother. The gaze was as steady and bright as before and the manner warm but slightly shy, as if she might be happier not being pushed into the public eye.

Byrne is disconcertingly vague on details, whether about the locations in Ethiopia where her foundation built wells, or when the European release was of this new American edition. “I’m terrible on details!” she confessed, with a laugh.

Yet, she said her deceased husband often appears before her in conversation “as clear as I see you” and that she glimpses the guardian angels of diners around us. “I can’t imagine what it would be like not seeing them,” Byrne said.

So, how might someone connect with his or her guardian angel? Start by listening to your inner voice, she said. “Your guardian angel might say, ’Keep that, don’t eat it,’” Byrne added, referring to my half-finished pastry.

“The angels would be interested in so trivial a thing?” I ask, amazed. “Oh, they would, yeah,” Byrne said. “So when something important comes up, you will listen.”