We want to see what we believe

We want to see what we believe Sr Kate McCarthy

Resistance is sometimes easy, when you have public or cultural support, or difficult when you’re up against public disapproval or Government oppression.

On Liveline (RTE Radio 1, Friday) we heard the fascinating story of Sr Kate McCarthy, an Irish religious sister who was part of the French resistance during World War II. Her story was told to Joe Duffy by historian Catherine Fleming who was heading off to attend a ceremony in France to mark her heroism. Her story is further told by a book, unpublished yet, Catherine has written. Sr Kate was put into solitary confinement while awaiting her trial, and into Ravensbrück Concentration Camp from where she liberated by the Swedish Red Cross. She also had to struggle with ill health but after the war she was involved in an institution to look after elderly. Such an inspirational life.

Another inspirational Catholic is Blessed Carlo Acutis, the young student who is further on the way to being declared a saint now that two healing miracles credited to his intercession have been approved. The news was covered very positively on Henry Bonsu (Times Radio, Saturday). We heard from Times reporter Kaya Burgess who had interviewed Carlo’s mother and from Fr Alan Robinson in whose church there is a relic of Blessed Carlo. In a reversal of the norm, he influenced positively the faith life of his parents. We learned of his faith devotion and his altruism – he was particularly concerned for the migrants and the homeless.

There was quite a contrast between their sacrifices and the campus protests about the war in Gaza. On the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Friday) roving reporter Henry McKean spoke to some of the student protestors at UCD and brought along former Government minister, Alan Shatter, a member of the Jewish community. The students did not impress – some didn’t even know what the pro-Palestinian slogans on placards meant. Some were quite inarticulate – such activists are not used to such close questioning. I often wonder, however, if vox-pops are fair –prone to editing and not always representative. As if to provide some balance the show played an interview with a US student activist. At least he was articulate but could have been more robustly challenged.

Meanwhile, the latest edition of Songs of Praise (BBC One, Sunday) focused on the interface of art and religion in the context of the 200th Anniversary of the National Gallery in London. Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the director, explained to presenter Aled Jones how central religious art was to collections in the Gallery. He described the ‘astonishing array of imagery’, saying ‘we want to see what we believe’. Artist Sophie Hacker spoke of capturing transformative moments, sparks of divine encounter. She described how her work was suffused with the fact that she lived a life of faith – she prayed with her hands and her imagination.

Catholic priest Fr Patrick van der Vorst was another enthusiast and showed Aled Jones around some of his favourite paintings in the Gallery – including Caravaggio’s striking ‘Supper at Emmaus’. He founded the Christian.art website to bring together works of art and relevant gospel readings. He wanted to get the word of God out there through the way of beauty.

I particularly liked the two songs from the Gallery itself – Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ sung by the BBC Young Choristers of 2023 and ‘Praise My Soul the King of Heaven’ by the vocal group Apollo 5. The prayers at the end were from contributors to the show – Fr Van Der Vost prayed for the courage to share God’s love with the world; Dr Finaldi gave thanks for the gifts of art and music; Sophie Hacker that we would feel God’s presence in all things.

Finally, Blue Lights (BBC One, Monday), the police drama set in Belfast, finished last week with a very gripping and emotional episode. The programme makers are blessed with an outstanding cast and a real empathy with human beings and their very believable problems. The opening scene of a child with a gun being confronted by the police was tense beyond measure, and a reconciliation scene related to legacy crimes from The Troubles, was very moving. I’d still hold on to my previous negative comments about the gratuitous bad language and the lack of any character motivated by a genuine religious faith, but this must be one of the best drama series of the year so far.


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Seven members of the Courage group share their personal stories about same-sex attraction and how they transformed their lives by understanding and embracing the freedom of chastity.