Knock's man of vision
PROFILE JOE COLEMAN:THE ROOM is small, cosy, comfortably cluttered, with a sweet fragrance. Two chairs are on either side of a low table on which there is a large, lit pink-coloured candle. Its base is surrounded by stones, some crystal-like. Joe Coleman lights a joss stick, carefully extinguishes the flame and places it near the candle as it adds to the sweetness of the air.
The walls of the room are adorned with images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. There is a statue of Our Lady of Knock on a small table in one corner. On it he has placed a kerchief which he says has been blessed by Our Lady for a woman whose elderly father has taken a fall. A calendar beside it commemorates a visit to Medjugorje last year. He points to himself and Keith Henderson among the pilgrims in a photo.
People who come to him for spiritual healing sit in one of the chairs. He sits opposite. “It’s not me who is doing the healing. It’s Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Mother, through me. I am an instrument for God, just a messenger,” he says.
There is no fee, he says. It was not true that he asked for €40-€60 per healing session. It is just not true. People can make donations if they wish, he says, but they are not asked to do so.
HE HOLDS UPan example of such donations in a box, probably about 80 cent in coins. He has no money nor is he looking for money. It is not about money.
In another corner of the room there is a picture of St Padre Pio, with numerous statues of the saint. On its own, nearby, is a white statue of Michael the Archangel, plunging a sword into a devil.
There’s a much larger brown statue of the Archangel in similar pose on another table. On a wall behind it is a picture of one of Coleman’s spirit guides, a native American Indian “Joshua”. It is above a map detailing a history of “the (native American) tribes”.
Joe Coleman has “very many spirit guides – Indian, Buddhist, St Joseph, St Martin, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, who are always in contact before an apparition”. It was “not a Catholic religion thing. It is about the spirit. We come from the spirit and go home to the spirit,” he says.
On a wall next to the table on which the candle and joss stick throw out light and fragrance there are two framed certificates. They have been signed by the Rev Chala Saleda, who conducted the spiritual healing courses for which they were awarded. They helped give him “a basic idea of meditation”.
He is sorry for recent incidents in which he got angry – with the authorities at Knock last Saturday and on Liveline on Monday. He was tired. People showed him no respect at all, indeed the opposite. He is human and “this is the biggest thing that has happened in my life”. He goes to confession before every apparition.
He is still tired. He feels hounded by the media and says he plans to do no interviews before the next apparition at Knock, on Saturday, December 5th at 3pm.
Even in Ballyfermot he has begun to feel conspicuous. So he goes to churches elsewhere in the city where he can pray in peace, with dignity and without interruption. “It’s nice to stand in front of the tabernacle,” he says.
Not that he needs to go to a church to pray. He does it in the room. He says he speaks to Our Lady at 3pm every day, usually there. Sometimes she appears to him, he claims, sometimes not. It might be for a short while, when she does. She always addresses him as “my sweet child”. He becomes emotional thinking of it.
She is “essence, pure love”. A woman in her 30s, she usually appears with her hands clasped, with a glow, a pink haze behind her, he explains. She then holds her hands out and her heart touches his heart which usually results in him becoming tearful, but they are tears of joy. “The gift of tears”, is how he describes them. Sometimes, he says, she takes him out of his body to heaven.
He also claims that four years ago he met Jesus in Egypt. Coleman was on holiday. at the pyramids outside Cairo. And apparently Jesus, also in his 30s in these appearances, wore a long white gown and had blue eyes. He says Michael the Archangel generally appears to him as he is represented by the statues in the room, though he has also appeared in casual dress – jeans, jumper, and so on. All appear to him very much as flesh-and-blood people, even Michael who, as an angel, never had human form, he says.
JOE COLEMAN WASborn 55 years ago in the Marian year of 1954 on Dublin’s Townsend St. At six months old he and his family moved to Ballyfermot where he has lived since. His mother Mary had 16 pregnancies, with seven children surviving. His father, originally from Nelson Street in the city, died in 1980 following a heart attack. He was 56. Mary, died in 2000, aged 74.
After his primary school education at Mary Queen of Angels Boys School in Ballyfermot Joe Coleman went to work as a messenger boy for a mattress maker on Pearse Street. He had lots of other jobs before getting work with a firm which laid asphalt.
He was with them for eight years until he fell off a roof in Ballyfermot in 1979. Unable to work since then, his life was never the same. He was in and out of hospital for 10 years and was told he would never walk again. To add to his difficulty, in 1985 he fell down a stairs and shattered his ankle. While he was undergoing surgery for this, he says he could feel the surgeons cutting open his leg and tried to shout at them to stop, but was unable to do so.
He then recalls going through a tunnel – he saw his life passing before him and he “landed in a place like a park or a valley”. He saw his father and by his side a little boy. His father beckoned him to come closer. He did. The little boy was Joe Coleman’s son Daniel James who had died shortly after birth in 1984. Daniel James was Joe Coleman’s first child, and he says the boy has remained a constant presence in his life since.
When he awoke, he says he was surrounded by a group of anxious surgeons about to announce that he had died of a heart attack. He insists he had no heart attack.
He says he was “dead for 15 minutes”. This would come out in later court proceedings which resulted from the operation.
Coleman and his wife have four other children, aged from 14 to 24. They have been “very supportive” of him through recent events. They have been raised on his invalidity payments. He has never had any money, he says, and he is not looking for money. “People call me a humble man. I am a humble man but it is most important people know I don’t have money and I am not doing this for money.”
He has a bus/train pass which is how he travels to Knock and elsewhere. Even the trip to Medjugorje with Keith Henderson last year was on borrowed money. He says Our Lady told him to take Henderson there. He is “a very special young man . . . a visionary”. In his 30s, Henderson had come to him seeking spiritual healing.
Coleman says Our Lady will make two more appearances in Knock before Christmas and another next February. As yet, the only date he has is December 5th.
All he wants from the crowd who may attend and the church authorities at Knock is “to be respected and protected”. He wants the statute of Our Lady of Knock to be made available. And microphones. He warns against young women dressing disrespectfully, as happened last Saturday, and against bringing snacks and fizzy drinks into the Basilica. He also wants respect for, as well as from, members of the Traveller community who may attend.
He also has plans to visit the Vatican “very, very shortly,” to discuss Our Lady’s messages with church authorities there.
Who is he?
Joe Coleman, 55-year old Dubliner.
Why is he in the news?
He claims to have had apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Knock, and elsewhere, and has forecast more such apparitions.
Least likely to say:
“Knock, knock, who’s there?”
Most likely to say:
“Holy Mary Mother of God.”