“bad news stories can become an excuse for doing nothing”, writes Andrew O’Connell
I was on a train from London’s Victoria Station to Ramsgate in Kent a few years ago. Midway through the journey an announcement reminded us that the first four carriages would be breaking away at the next station and heading for Dover. The remaining four carriages would continue to Ramsgate. The announcement had been made several times since boarding but one group of tourists appeared to be hearing the news for the first time and started to panic, unsure if they were in the appropriate carriage.
Panic is contagious and it wasn’t long before everyone was searching for some clue to confirm the carriage was not destined for the White Cliffs. A helpful ticket inspector soon appeared and the tourists, who were indeed in the wrong carriage, bundled their way noisily further down the train. Calm was restored and everyone returned to their newspapers.
Now, if an Irish train had a habit of dividing in two like that I’m sure it would be presented regularly as ‘Exhibit A’ in demonstrating that the country is a Banana Republic. Perhaps it’s a post-colonial inferiority complex, maybe it’s just sheer crankiness, but we have a habit of amplifying all that is wrong and presenting it as proof that we’re the worst in the world.
Something similar tends to happen from time to time in some Church circles. Last summer I brought a visitor from England to a Catholic youth gathering in Dublin. The event included a talk by a priest on the challenge of living the faith in our daily lives. He bemoaned the decline of Catholicism in Ireland, delivering a litany of all that is wrong with modern society. Nobody in the audience seemed to mind but afterwards my perceptive friend commented: “You guys are very hard on yourselves.”
Another friend – a religious sister – who teaches in the north of England shared her experience of speaking about religious life to teenagers in Irish schools. In her experience, the young Irish tend to be positive and engaging.
They don’t dismiss religious life as odd or outdated and many are open to the idea that God might be calling them to a religious vocation.
She contrasted it with the response in some English schools where the students she meets are unfamiliar with the concept of a religious sister and have no grasp at all of religious life. “You have a lot of positives to build on here,” she observed.
These are stories we need to hear and share. While not glossing over the tremendous challenges we face, we shouldn’t talk ourselves down. That can very quickly become an exercise in self-indulgence and self-pity; it fosters despair, and despair very quickly sours into cynicism. The bad news stories can become an excuse for doing nothing.
The harvest remains rich and our quarter of the vineyard is no better or worse than any other part.
“We are broken hearted tonight,” the Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council told the large gathering who had turned out in Lucan South for a Farewell Mass for the Presentation Sisters. The nuns are leaving the parish after 22 years of service.
Sisters Paschal, Carmel and Regina have departed for convents in Clondalkin, Galway and Thurles. They leave behind warm memories of dedicated service and prayerful presence. The departure of a religious congregation prompts mixed feelings: gratitude, sadness, satisfaction at a job well done and dismay that they will not be replaced.
While lay ministry is coming of age, the witness of consecrated life is distinct and irreplaceable.
Check out iCatholic
Video has become the language of the Internet and Fr Bill Kemmy’s ‘iCatholic’ project is ensuring that a rich selection of Catholic-themed video content is now available online.
Fr Bill’s vision is ambitious: iCatholic aims to be the RTÉ Player of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Already several groups have their own video channel on the site including The Irish Catholic, Trócaire, The Society of St Vincent de Paul, in addition to several dioceses and religious orders.
The site also offers live streaming services.
iCatholic is a positive development with huge potential. Check it out on www.iCatholic.ie