The first time I visited Jerusalem, I was an impressionable 21-year-old. I fell in love with the place. Everything about the city was intoxicating to me: the sites, the smells, the sounds, the food, the religious diversity cheek by jowl…I was captivated on my first visit and it was to be the beginning of a love affair with the city that is holy to the world’s three great religions.
I have returned many times and have always wanted to spend an extended period there. That dream came closer to becoming a reality when I signed a contract to write a book about the Holy Land late last year. The dream will become a reality this week as I leave for a three-month stay in the Holy Land.
Despite my youthful appearance(!), I turn 40 this week and am approaching 19 years as a journalist – almost 14 years with The Irish Catholic (seven as Editor).
I don’t need to tell you that these have been challenging years in the media and in the Church. They have taken a toll on all of us and many people have had their faith shaken as we have tried together to find God in the midst of crisis.
What one might call a period of exile for the Church in Ireland has also been a time that has convinced me of the piercing need for quality, independent Catholic journalism at the service of the Gospel that can be a real alternative in a world increasingly dominated by a new and stifling consensus. Modern Ireland suffers from a great deal of groupthink and this is neither safe nor healthy.
More than ever, alternative voices are needed and The Irish Catholic continues to be a space for alternative voices. It is my honour to work with a great team in editorial and a broad range of contributors to achieve this.
The Irish Catholic is 131 years old and it is my privilege to have inherited the mantle as Editor and serve you – the readers – as we continue to grow together in faith and deepen our commitment to the Gospel.
These are times of change in Irish society and in the Church.
We know that the Church is not, and will not be able to be as present in society as it was in the past. But we are also confident in the knowledge that – in the words of St Paul – God has great things in store for those who love him.
Like the Israelites of old, we also know that the only way ahead is to go forward in joyful hope. The story of salvation is a story that assures us that the Promised Land is always ahead of us – never behind us.
As I take this sojourn and step back from my responsibilities with The Irish Catholic I hope to find the time and space to recharge my batteries physically, emotionally and spiritually.
I look forward to taking up the challenge anew in August.
Please pray for me.
Michael Kelly is co-author of a new book with Austen Ivereigh How to Defend the Faith – Without Raising Your Voice – it is available from Columba Books.