I did not grow up in a religious family; quite the opposite in fact. But I was regularly cared for by the mother of a family friend who formed part of an extended Irish Catholic family. Although only a small child at the time, something I always felt being brought into their midst was an incredible sense of warmth and belonging. I was very much encouraged to believe that I was part of that family too – this little English, non-religious boy.
As I grew older, I came to understand how it was their Catholic faith – a faith which permeated right through the family to differing degrees of intensity – which created the social, cultural and emotional framework governing their relations to one another within the family as well as those outside of it.
A genuine desire to ‘feel’ and to ‘see’ as they did set me on the path to discover faith for myself. Initially this was more of an intellectual exercise, but I steadily came to realise that it was only by moving beyond the ‘dry bones’ of scholarship to a place of true belief did I begin to see the world as they had done. To always begin with ‘love.’
A simple principle maybe, but one that can so easily be forgotten. Indeed, an all too prevalent feature of our modern society would appear to be a desire to actively (and aggressively) reject the notion of prioritising the good (beginning with ‘love’) in human relations in favour of propagating a vision of our society as being a near constant battleground of hate and exploitation.
The unremitting multi-media amplification of such negative attitudes only serves to drive a prevailing sense of cynicism and despair. A reality that is made manifest by the burgeoning mental health crisis exhibited amongst so many of the Gen-Z generation.
I find my faith offers a light in this darkness. It offers a counter charge of assertive positivity against the relentless barrage of the negative. Where some seek only to destroy, my faith wants me to build. When we are told that we cannot escape a fast-approaching doom, it reassures me that all is not lost.
Love (or prioritising the good) helps to empower me to challenge this narrative in all that I do and all that I say, and hopefully to inspire others to join me in this enterprise. For by practicing small acts of ‘love’ every day we can all contribute to making our community, society and nation a better place for all. To build that New Jerusalem.