'Integrity, faith, hope and love are what make a good Catholic'


MY FAITH:MY FAITH is very important to me. It’s something passed on to me by parents and grandparents and teachers. It’s something I began to study as a teenager.

Catholicism seemed to me to be a whole world of ideas and thinking and experience that was new. It was academic in a way but it was personal as well; about the meaning of life.

I was involved in a charismatic prayer group as a teenager. I went off it in my later teens, because I got interested in music. Then I found out there was a course for teaching religion in Mater Dei and when I heard that, I knew immediately that was for me.

In my teens, people assumed I was going to be a priest and I thought about it, but I came to the conclusion that you didn’t have to be a priest to be interested in religion.

I’d describe myself as a strong Catholic. I’m very involved in my parish; I play the guitar at a family Mass every week.

Because I’m studying theology so much, I do a lot of thinking about faith, and I’ve become more sophisticated about it. When you study the Bible, you find how complex it is.

The darker history of the church – especially in Ireland – hasn’t destroyed my faith in any way, but it has disappointed and angered me greatly. There has been a failure of leadership.

But I would be aware of the church as an organisation of people like myself and, like me, they’re not perfect. I don’t expect everyone in the church to be perfect but that is not an excuse for any crimes at all, in any way at all.

I believe in heaven, but I’m not sure there are any words to do it justice. The images are beyond description. It’s a place of harmony and peace; a perfection of this life in a way that goes beyond our wildest imaginings and yearnings. All the good things are found in heaven.

Heaven is a wedding feast; it’s one of the big images used in the Bible and is the final image of the Book of Revelations.

There is no imagery in the Bible of floating around on clouds, playing harps.

Integrity, faith, hope and love make a good Catholic; the traditional theological virtues. Having a positive outlook. Being joyous. I very much believe in free will, because if there is no free will, there are no ethics.

John Murray was in conversation with ROSITA BOLAND. He is a lecturer in moral theology at Mater Dei Institute of Education.

Your faith: share your experiences with us

As part of the Catholicism Now series, The Irish Times is inviting you to write about your relationship with God and the church. You can be Catholic, of any other faith or of no faith. You can tell us your views, in up to 500 words, at irishtimes.com/myfaith, where you can also find out more about this project. You can also email us at myfaith@irishtimes.com