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Fr Billy Swan

I heard it said recently that while we are trying to hug people into the Church, atheists are arguing people out of it. And the atheists are winning. There has been much talk recently of respectful listening and dialogue in the Church and of course this is important. But we mustn’t lose sight of our fundamental calling to proclaim the Gospel and to ‘always be ready for an answer for the reason for the hope you have’ (1 Peter 3:15). Therefore, the importance of sharing our faith will need to be matched by the importance of knowing and understanding what we believe. If hot button topics are obstacles to people coming to faith, then we need to do a far better job at making the argument of why we teach what we do. This need highlights the importance of adult faith formation and creative apologetics to help us lead others to Christ who is ‘forever young and a constant source of newness’ (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 11). We need to offer young people far more reasons to believe. The split between the theological and the pastoral in the life of the Irish Church since the Council has been a disaster [1]. We need to show how faith is a reasonable choice and the best fit in a world that does not explain itself. In doing so, we simply cannot afford to ignore the vast reservoir of wisdom left to us by intellectual giants of the past such as Augustine, Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Edith Stein, John Paul II, Benedict XVI to name a few. These great figures inspire us to engage truthfully with the great questions of our day as they did in their time.

[1] ‘Theology needs to be rehabilitated in the service of the Catholic Church and in Irish society. Without some such rehabilitation of theology, we will end up having a Church that is un-theological and a theology that is un-churched’. D. Lane, ‘Vatican II: The Irish Experience’, The Furrow, Feb. 2004, Vol. 55, 67-81, 80.


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