In the third of a ten part series, I explore the features of what a 'New Irish Catholicism' might look like. This week, we highlight the truth that our faith grows with us throughout life. Faith is not a once off but is something called to mature and grow over time and with the experience of life.
In the words of St John Henry Newman: ‘To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often’. In the Gospels, Jesus pointed to the essential organic quality of the Christian life. To illustrate this, perhaps the best-known metaphor he used was of the vine and the branches (cf. John 15). There he teaches how the lives of Christians are ultimately fruitful because of our communion with him and his grace. This relationship is not static but growing. For there to be
fruit there must be change; there must be pruning. To be Christian is to embrace growth and engage in a lifelong process of formation. In the words of St Paul, the Christian adventure is to grow in our knowledge of God, becoming ‘fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself’ (Eph. 4:13).
This organic quality ought to excite us and influence our witness to Catholic Christianity as something dynamic and alive – an enterprise of growth in holiness, virtue, maturity, the art of social interaction, communication, wisdom and joyful love. We are moving away from an overly static concept of Irish Catholicism towards an understanding of the Christianity as a way of life that is sustained by the transformative power of the Spirit as a life-long process. The crucial understanding of Christianity as a way of life to be trained for and initiated into highlights the role of families, parishes and school communities that facilitate and cultivate good habits and human virtue. Formation is a concept that doesn’t belong exclusively to priestly training but properly belongs to Christianity itself. It concerns every aspect of our humanity being formed and conformed to the likeness of Christ. Change is part of life. Catholic Christianity offers light and hope by offering a narrative that makes sense of change and that celebrates those moments with the Church’s rich life of rites, prayers, sacramentals and sacraments.
Part four next week