For three years, Anne Galea’s son, Rob, 17, had been out of control. She felt helpless watching him spiral downward. Unbeknown to Rob, she would stand outside his bedroom door and pray as she listened to him sob. Praying was all she could do for her son because he wouldn’t let her help him.
One day, the pain she felt for her suffering son brought her to her knees. She cried out to God that she would not get up until he saved her son. She begged for mercy for Rob, beseeching the Blessed Mother to be her son’s mother and to carry him to Jesus.
Through her tears, she beheld in her mind’s eye a picture of Rob surrounded by a group of young people. In this vision, her son was playing a guitar and singing and around his neck was a priest’s collar.
Anne’s son didn’t sing or own a guitar, and for him to become a priest would be a miracle.
Rob Galea and his two siblings had an idyllic childhood, growing up on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Malta. The Galeas spent a lot of time on the beach and in the water. Almost every Sunday, the Galea children saw their grandparents.
Rob’s carefree happiness started to disappear in primary school when two of his grandparents died in a short period of time. He couldn’t understand why his life had to change.
On top of the pain of loss, Rob experienced bullying in school. His classmates mocked him for his appearance, and he was friendless. Things got a little better when he changed schools, but it was too late.
“My self-esteem was wrecked. I was convinced that I was worthless,” writes Fr. Galea in his autobiography, Breakthrough: A Journey from Desperation to Hope (Ave Maria Press, 2018).
When Rob was 14, he wanted nothing to do with his parents, especially his father. He began sneaking out to clubs, drinking, smoking, lying, and shoplifting for an adrenaline high. Then he fell into the wrong crowd and started doing drugs. When he was 17, a malicious lie he told about a drug dealer put his life in danger, and he was afraid to leave his room.
Rob, consumed with worry and loneliness, felt hopeless.
“As I knelt restlessly on my bed, I saw only two ways out of my misery. One was for someone, somewhere, to reach out and somehow save me, or two, to end my own life,” Fr. Galea writes.
He was in such a debilitated mental state that he would punch himself in the gut and hit his head against the wall to distract himself from thinking.
He thought no one cared — not realizing that his mother was begging for the Lord to save him.
A phone call from his surviving grandmother inviting Rob’s sister, Rachel, to a Catholic youth group meeting was the lifeline that Rob needed. He asked his mom if he could go with his sister. At that meeting, he witnessed the happiness of people who loved Christ, and he wanted to experience their joy. The preacher had told the group that they could talk to Jesus. Rob grew up in a Catholic home, but he never felt that God had time for him.
Even so, what the preacher said caused him to do something unusual. He closed his bedroom door and set up two chairs facing each other. Rob sat in one chair and invited Jesus to sit in the other. Every day, he would talk to Jesus as if he was sitting in the chair across from him — praying and pouring out his problems.
In one of those prayer sessions, the other chair was no longer empty.
“[S]omething kept me waiting in silent prayer for longer than usual, and that’s when God spoke back,” Fr. Galea says in his book.
When Rob opened his eyes, he saw Jesus.
“It was like the Holy Spirit had chosen that moment to help me get rid of the inner fury, loneliness, and regret that was still left in my heart,” he writes.
Rob continued to grow closer to God, and though he first resisted, he eventually entered seminary and, in 2010, became a parish priest in Australia. He also co-founded a youth movement called the Stronger Youth program and became a recording artist. Many will remember that he appeared on Australia’s version of X-Factor and performed at World Youth Day.
Fr. Galea’s journey from a hoodlum to musician priest is a fascinating one, and Hollywood thinks so, too. Film producers have purchased the rights to his recently published book, Breakthrough.
Never stop praying and hoping
Beyond Fr. Rob’s exciting story, for me, one of the most important messages is for parents. For all of those moms and dads out there thinking that there is no hope for a seemingly lost child, this priest’s story offers hope and encouragement. It reminds us never to stop praying for our children.