John McAreavey admits the pain of Michaela's murder 'too much of a cross to bear'
Not a murmur could be heard as John McAreavey, his leg in a brace and supported by a crutch following a sporting injury, limped up to the altar of St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry.
He told a packed congregation how his faith had sustained him during "times of intense suffering", referring to the murder of his wife Michaela on their honeymoon.
Mr McAreavey's life was catapulted onto the world's media after his bride was found strangled in the bathtub of their hotel suite in Mauritius, just days after they were married in 2011.
Speaking last night as a guest of the Little Way Novena taking place this week in Derry, he spoke courageously of how at that time he was left thinking the burden of his wife's brutal death was "too much of a heavy cross to bear" and he was "left with no hope" - but through his faith he survived.
While he did not refer to the nightmare of his wife's murder directly, his oblique reference to "his personal sufferings" left listeners in no doubt of the depth of pain he endured.
He said: "We tend to look at drastic things happening and, unbeknown to us, we isolate ourselves from God and we try and take it all on our own shoulders, and that is why we become anxious and feel 'why is this thing happening' or 'how I am going to deal with this' and we become stressed.
"If you believe in God, who is your personal friend and who is actually there for you and attempting to lighten that burden, then it will lighten and things will become easier, easier to manage, although it may never go away. Some of my own personal sufferings over the past few years have definitely served to shape my thinking around that idea.
"I actually hesitate to mention this because of fear of conveying the wrong message, giving the wrong impression of me, because I think that a person who is constantly calling on his trials and tribulations... there is a danger of developing a 'poor me' complex.
"I am always reluctant to refer to my own personal sufferings because in a place like Ireland, which is so small, everyone will know my own personal circumstances and what happened, but I feel a little justified in sharing that here, because of how that has shaped my own personal thinking.
"For sure, the pain of losing a loved one in such a cruel, cruel way and then to be compounded by the injustice of everything afterwards, I'll admit that at times I did think, 'no, this is just too much', that burden, that weight was just too much for me, too much of a heavy cross to ask someone to bear.
"When I had those temptations to feel like that and to want to almost wallow in self-pity, to be left with the temptation there is no hope left, there was always something there that came to me to sustain me in those dark times and, I suppose, sustain my determination that I would get through this suffering.
"For me that was very much the work of God and the work of the Holy Spirit."
Mr McAreavey said that in the midst of the trauma of his wife's murder and the subsequent trial and acquittal of those accused, he felt buoyed up by his faith, and encouraged those in the congregation never to give up hope in their own difficulties.
He said: "My own personal trials have taught me the value of unmerited sufferings, whenever I felt my sufferings were starting to mount I felt there were two ways that this could unfold for me - you could react with bitterness, the anger, or you could choose to transform that suffering to go the opposite way and to transform the suffering into a creative force.
"I decided the latter was for me. I realised though that suffering was a necessity, but you learn to deal with a situation, but you can make of it what you will."