11Aug Jo O’Sullivan on Katie Taylor

As a person who tends to be somewhat bemused by the hysteria caused by sporting events, I find myself incredibly moved by Katie Taylor’s Olympic success.
I don’t mean to be dismissive in any way about the national euphoria or despair that seems to be felt in the wake of Irish success or failure in such events, I just don’t feel it personally. At the risk of being lynched, it’s only sport – it’s only other people’s success or failure – why do so many people take it PERSONALLY?
I watch such events with a desire for our national representatives to succeed, but not because I feel I have any right to share in their success – but because I know what it means to my nearest and dearest – as well as to what appears to be the whole of the nation around me.
So, today, I am more than happy to feel the uplift of spirit that Katie’s success has given us.
But my reasons for feeling uplifted so much might be rather different than those of a lot of others.
I feel such an enormous pride in a girl whose first thought after such a victory is to give praise to her Creator. In an era when it’s almost a cause for shame to admit a belief in a loving, divine Creator, it was truly wonderful to witness a girl, having achieved the pinnacle of success, humbly giving thanks to God.  I feel pride and also a certain sense of regret. The regret is that I knew immediately Katie spoke that she didn’t adhere to Roman Catholicism – Catholics don’t praise God so publicly!

And Irish Catholics certainly don’t!
Like so many Catholics here in our wee island these days, I’ve become almost schizophrenic about my particular Christian Tradition. I want to be proud of being Catholic, but I’m truly ashamed of parts of my church. I see myself as part of the struggle to continue practicing Catholicism while challenging those teachings and structures I simply cannot accept any more.
I read everything that appears on the ACP website and struggle to discern where exactly I stand in the midst of it all. I read articles written by people who have played a much more proactive part in studying their faith than I ever have. I read pieces written by those who are certain that the current hierarchical structures and some of the teachings of the Magisterium of the church are totally contrary to what was begun by Vatican 2. And I also read the pieces written by those with equal certainty that the Magisterium is the only valid teaching authority within our church and anyone who disagrees has lost the right to call him/herself Catholic.
I note that all the writers, on each side, can quote Canon Law, Scripture, teachings of Saints and Councils etc. etc. to illustrate the validity of their particular argument.
So I have had to come to the conclusion that becoming a student of Catholicism will not lead me to the ‘full truth’. It would all depend on whom I chose as my teachers! No matter how much I desire to know ‘the right truth’, I realise the most honest place I can be is in acknowledging that I can only ever be a person of faith – full of honest doubt, open to learning all the time while adhering to the basic tenets of my religious code to the best of my ability.
I can never again claim that I am part of the ‘one, true church’. What arrogance it is on the part of our tradition to claim that! How we should bow our heads in shame in front of our Pentecostal brothers and sisters when we see that one of their brethren can so naturally proclaim her utter reliance and trust in Jesus Christ, for all the world to see and hear. Isn’t that just wonderful? Isn’t that real Christian living? Hasn’t Katie Taylor shown us all what it means to be a practicing Christian?
Together with the horrific abuses, some of our Catholic religious practices and teachings have disgusted a whole generation of Irish young people – young people who have turned their backs on such practices as a result. They were not brain-washed by the fear of eternal damnation if they don’t adhere with blind obedience to those practices and believe, without questioning, those teachings. So they think for themselves and find such things deeply wanting.  Young people accept that discrimination in any form is simply wrong, so they cannot accept the misogynistic, homophobic aspects of Catholicism. And who can fault them for that?
Unfortunately though, many have concluded that any form of religious practice is erroneous and even a belief in a creator is simply an indication of deep indoctrination or a lack of intelligence! How could anyone believe in a God when religion and religious practices seem to be the root cause of so many of the world’s problems? 
So, seeing the true meaning of religious belief in the whole person of Katie Taylor (I don’t know the girl personally, but I’ve been struck by those who claim her to be a truly good, honest, down-to-earth person) causes me to have a real burst of optimism. Katie just might lead young people back to God in a way that the whole might of the Roman machine has failed to do.
There’s a delightful irony in that a young WOMAN, participating in what many would claim to be a MALE sport just might have a more positive spiritual effect on a generation that the male dominated Roman Catholic church can’t reach!
And it matters not a whit to me that Katie’s Christian tradition is not Roman Catholic – I wonder if God cares?
Katie has earned herself a place in Irish sporting history for her success in her chosen sport and I salute her for it.
But, as far as I’m concerned, her real gold is in showing a generation of cynical, jaded, anti-religious Irish young people that it IS possible to live a life wherein we can put our trust and faith in our loving Creator. I honour her for that.
Oh God! You DO work in mysterious ways! And You have a wicked sense of humour!

8 Responses

  1. Carmel Devine

    Well what similiar thoughts to my own.
    I was deeply moved by the way Katie so joyfully spoke about her faith.
    It left me wondering why oh why have her peers, those who adhere to the catholic faith, such a very different experience of God, of their faith community and of religion?
    Apart from a small group of very conservative young people, most of them- my own children included- just wouldn’t share, understand or connect with her sense of delight in knowing Jesus Christ. And certainly on a public stage few of them would remember or want to sing his praise.
    After a lifetime of bringing my children to Mass, saying prayers as a family and all that goes with raising children as a catholic family, I have to accept that they and many of their friends, who are baptised catholics, just don’t see their religion as central to their lives.
    They may do the ‘religious thing’ now and again but faith like Katie Taylor displayed which is deep and personal, I fear, eludes them.
    How have we come to this I often wonder?

  2. Sean O'Conaill

    Catholicism is surely paying the penalty for centuries of complacency about the adequacy of our school and sacramental system for forming adult Christians. We place children on the conveyor belt for three sacraments of ‘initiation’ before adolescence. What is available later for a cradle Catholic who meets the deepest challenges of life as an adult, prays about that, and wants then to make an adult commitment to Christ? And to ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to meet those challenges?

    Usually nothing.

    The preacher to the papal household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, has been converted to the need for an adult ceremony of affirmation of baptism, a baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don’t quite understand why the pope and the magisterium haven’t yet taken that up fully, as part of the project to launch a New Evangelisation. Perhaps that could still happen if organisations like the ACI and the ACP expressed a desire for it.
    To read and hear Fr Cantalamessa on this:

  3. Alice Merl

    The author highlights the real need for a supreme authority on earth to decide definitively on matters of faith and morals and to say what is and is not Catholic faith. Without the Papacy, we are truly adrift, not knowing what to believe or who to trust. Didn’t the Lord know all this when He established the Church?

  4. France's Donovan

    I enjoyed your thoughtful article. I did not hear her actual statement. I have no problem with anyone thanking God for the strength, health, talent, and training which led to this win. I am put off however if any part of what she said indicated that God gave her the victory because she was the born-again in the pair. As I am American, I am accustomed to born-agains making these claims. I don’t think this is helpful to my nation as it leads to a type of chauvinism as well. Any Christian should be aware that Jesus died for non-Christians and that he loves the Russian opponent and has as many plans for her welfare as He does for Katie’s.

  5. Jo O'Sullivan

    Thank you to all who commented on my piece. Alice, you and I will have to disagree as to Who is the Supreme Authority we try to follow. I have got to the stage where I feel ALL human endeavours to discern the mind of God are simply that – HUMAN – and I cannot take what, for me (and I only speak for myself), would be the lazy way out by having others decide my moral and spiritual path. I have to take responsibility for my own decisions and I simply cannot accept some of current teachings of the Catholic Church.

    France’s (should that apostrophe be there?), to the best of my knowledge, Katie didn’t intimate in any way that God was “on her side” in the contest. If anyone else knows otherwise, please correct me. What I CAN say is that I heard the pastor of her (Pentecostal) church being interviewed on radio, and, I must say, I was impressed by him. He certainly said that Katie’s chuurch community prayed for both herself and her opponent.

    I saw a little bit of her return to Bray on the television earlier today, and as she thanked her home crowd for their support, she said she felt God was present in the arena last week. It was so uplifting to hear a girl speak so naturally about the place of God in her life.

    I can only rejoice that such a role-model exists in Ireland today for our young people.

  6. Frances Donovan

    You are right, Jo, I have since listened and she gave nothing but simple thanks. It would not be uncommon in the U.S. however to hear an athlete claim “victory in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

  7. Eilis

    I like Jo was uplifted by Katie Taylors success at the Olympics. The crowning moment was hearing her praise God following her medal win.She shure wasnt seeking more ‘gold’ with her joyous words of thanks to God for her success. Katie was offered a gift, which she willingly accepted,and through sheer endeavour, committment and dedication she turned this gift to gold. In turn she offered the fruits of the gift back to God when she proclaimed him to the world in the Arena that night. For me the girl is an inspiration. She has reminded me of the many gifts i have been offered in life which i have not made use of. No pulpit high could have brought me to this realisation as Katie has. She has reminded me to stay awake to hear the word of God, which may come from anybody, at any time, in any place, yes even in a boxing arena at the Olympic stadium.

  8. George

    I am an Indian Christian living in Ireland and I am so much excited about the success of Katie Taylor. I am even more delighted at the response of my Catholic brethren towards her success and her faith. Indeed God has no religion and neither He has established any. All the religions are man made. People have asked about my religion since I am a “non-catholic” and I have always wanted them to know that I do not belong to any religion but to “a person” JESUS CHRIST. Yes, “born-again” brand has also become a religion in USA. I would like my brethren to refer to

    John 3: 2-4

    He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is BORN AGAIN.” How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

    Being born again is not the conversion of a person to a particular religion but rather a renewed life where one dies to his own self (stop doing his on will), cease to be a child of Adam and born again to become a child of God (Doing God’s will alone). He is a new creation…..and religion has nothing to do with it.

    Please do call me a “Catholic” cos being a catholic only means a member of the “Universal Church of God “. God Bless you all !!

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