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Fr Billy Swan

In a recent edition of The Irish Catholic, David Quinn pondered ‘Where the next Easter might come from’ and wrote: “We might eventually have a social revolution, one that will point us once more in a pro-life, pro-family and very possibly a pro-religion and pro-Christianity direction again” (March 28, 2024). Here is the dream that ought to burn in the heart of every committed Catholic Christian – that our culture and society be transformed by the power of the Gospel. But how can this dream be realised? How can this ‘social revolution’ come about? By a spiritual revolution that comes first.

The modern default position in debate about Irish public life is to drive a wedge between the spiritual/religious and the secular/political. The problem with this exaggerated division is that it ignores the truth that political events do not occur in a vacuum but are preceded by spiritual undercurrents that influence cultural and social change. For them to have traction, political and social movements must resonate with key instincts, needs, drives and dimensions of human beings. In 1938, Maud Gonne, the Irish Nationalist and convert to Catholicism, wrote: “I believe every political movement on earth has its counterpart in the spirit world and the battles we fight here have perhaps been already fought out on another plane and great leaders often draw their unexplained power from this. I cannot conceive a material movement that has not a spiritual basis. It was this that drew me so powerfully towards the Catholic Church”.

This spiritual foundation of every social development was not lost on people like Pope St Leo the Great, St Augustine and our own St Patrick whose mission in the fifth century was not just to convert the Irish to Christianity but in so doing, to constitute us as a nation, joining us to the universal family of nations who would come to experience salvation at the end of time.

For Padraig Pearse, the concept of nationhood was inseparable from the concepts of spirit and soul. He argued: “I believe that there is a spiritual tradition which is the soul of Ireland, the thing which makes Ireland a living nation”.   He continued: “They have conceived of nationality as a material thing, whereas it is a spiritual thing”.  Pearse insisted that “a nation is knit together by natural ties, ties mystical and spiritual, ties human and kindly…the nation is the family in large…the nation is of God”.

These insights from our history and heritage ought to empower and inspire Catholic Christians today to be the spiritual revolutionaries required whose witness, words and actions will lead to the social revolution that will lead to our culture becoming pro-life, pro-family, pro-religion and pro-Christianity again. The entire civilization project born after the Dark Ages and based on equality, human rights, justice and peace, did not appear out of the blue. It emerged from the religious and spiritual revolution that began with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that was carried forward by his disciples. Where might the next Easter come from? From the spiritual revolution that was born at the first one.


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