I am a Catholic, but...

Many people in Ireland today describe themselves as Catholic while not accepting or fully understanding the teachings of the Church. How many of us insist on confirmation for our children, full church weddings and funerals, baptisms and Christmas mass while publicly or privately having deep reservations about what the Church says?

How many of us regularly attend Mass, and how many take communion while in a state of sin? How many of us pause to consider whether we are truly behaving like Christians?

Now you might say it was always so, but that's not the truth. A steep decline has taken place in the understanding of the bare essentials of Catholicism among Irish people, with 95% of adolescents being unable to name the first commandment or many other basic elements of Catholic teaching. And this despite over 90% of primary schools and 50% of secondary schools being under Catholic patronage and religious education being allocated 2½ hours a week in Irish primary schools, almost as much as history, geography and science. Mass attendance is also in a state of decline.

And while Irish people aren't being taught the essentials of the Faith, there are also strident voices in the media, academia and among the political class who condemn and try to suppress even bare curiosity and any desire to learn more, never mind taking practical steps to advance in the Faith.

In such an environment it's not fair to point a finger of blame at anyone who might be lukewarm about Catholicism, who might not know what the Church teaches or why, and who has no knowledge of the benefits to be enjoyed by coming to a greater understanding of their religion. It is certainly unfair to accuse Irish people of being "lazy hypocrites who treat Catholic sacraments as festive conveniences and do not engage in any meaningful debate about faith". And this from a professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin, no less.

With such snarling denunciations from the high pulpits of the Irish media and academia, you could well be forgiven for wanting to keep your head down!

Ireland's story is a Catholic story

The Catholic story in Ireland is the story of Ireland. The Church is deeply, inextricably woven into the tapestry of our society. To say hello in Irish is to say God be with you, to which the response is God and Mary be with you.

There have always been powerful individuals and organisations who sought to destroy Irish identity and Ireland's faith, from the pagan Vikings with their red altars to Cromwell, to the Penal Laws, complete with priest hunters, to the British empire and to the modern left with its many acolytes in universities and the media.

But where is Cromwell now? Where are the Penal Laws?

The world-conquering British empire...?

Do not be afraid of vitriolic demagogues filling the newspapers and television shows with lies and half truths, trying to undermine what the Irish have held to in the face of terrible storms and hatred for many centuries, at great cost and sacrifice. They have no answers to life or death and their words will pass like dust in the wind, leaving nothing behind. They always have and they always will.

The reality is, those of us who want our church weddings and confirmations are staying true to the traditions and culture of Ireland while, knowingly or otherwise, moving towards a liminal space which promises deeper and more sublime truths, like a shimmering vision of heaven.

This instinct to reach for the divine is a fundamental part of the vibrant living fabric of Irish culture. It is a doorway beyond which can be found incredible treasures and wonders, not only for ourselves but for our children and their children, just as were passed down to us by the countless generations who came before, through suffering and persecution. This is the light which guides and the shield which protects, and it is our right and heritage, if only we step through the door to claim it.

Those who came before us knew the beauty and wonder of Catholicism, and they gave everything so that we could know the same. How much easier would it have been for them if they had simply surrendered, thrown up their hands and said enough, we will abandon our belief? What did they understand that so many have forgotten today?

You are not alone - many walk beside you whether you see them or not. Don't be afraid to learn and grow in your Catholic faith, for the rewards are endless.

The most beautiful journey

If you would like to learn about practical everyday ways you can grow in the Faith, you can find some thoughts and suggestions in the fundamentals section. If you have questions or reservations about Catholic teachings, take a look at the section on understanding.

"All is not well with Ireland yet. You gave us the money, you gave us the guns. But let me tell you every house in Ireland is a house of prayer and when I bring these fanatical Irish before the muzzles of my guns they hold up in their hands a string of beads and they never surrender."

Oliver Cromwell, attributed

Explore Saints and Scholars

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Saint Patrick's Breastplate is an Old Irish prayer of protection of the "lorica" or breastplate type, attributed to Saint Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland.

Its title is given as Faeth Fiada in the 11th-century Liber Hymnorum that records the text. This has been interpreted as the "Deer's Cry" by some scholars, but it is more likely a term for a "mist of concealment".

Saint Patrick sang this when an ambush was laid against his coming by Loegaire, that he might not go to Tara to sow the faith. And then it appeared before those lying in ambush that they (Saint Patrick and his monks) were wild deer with a fawn following them.

I bind to myself today,

The strong power of the invocation of the Trinity:
The faith of the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the elements.

I bind to myself today,

The power of the Incarnation of Christ, with that of his Baptism,
The power of the Crucifixion with that of his Burial,
The power of the Resurrection, with the Ascension,
The power of the coming of the Sentence of Judgement.

I bind to myself today,

The power of the love of Seraphim,
In the obedience of Angels,
In the service of Archangels,
In the hope of Resurrection unto reward,
In the prayers of the noble Fathers,
In the predictions of the Prophets,
In the preaching of Apostles,
In the faith of Confessors,
In purity of Holy Virgins,
In the acts of Righteous Men.

I bind to myself today,

The power of Heaven,
The light of the Sun,
The whiteness of Snow,
The force of Fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The velocity of Wind,
The depth of the Sea,
The stability of the Earth,
The hardness of Rocks.

I bind to myself today,

The Power of God to guide me,
The Might of God to uphold me,
The Wisdom of God to teach me,
The Eye of God to watch over me,
The Ear of God to hear me,
The Word of God to give me speech,
The Hand of God to protect me,
The Way of God to prevent me,
The Shield of God to shelter me,
The Host of God to defend me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the temptations of vices,
Against the (lusts) of nature,
Against every man who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
With few or with many.

I have set around me all these powers,

Against every hostile savage power
Directed against my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of smiths and druids,
Against all knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today

Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot-seat,
Christ in the mighty stern.

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears me.

I bind to myself today,

The strong power of an invocation of the Trinity,
The faith of the Trinity in Unity
The Creator of the Elements.

Salvation is the Lord's

Salvation is the Lord's
Salvation is Christ's
May thy salvation, Lord, be always with us!


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