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June - Why I Think Adult Faith Formation is Important

June - Why I Think Adult Faith Formation is Important


The two times I’ve actually spoken to Professor Richard Dawkins—probably the best-known atheist in our part of the world—we’ve both got on quite well. Maybe because I’ve never had a problem with evolution and have been able to admire some of the things I liked in his writings. Since he seemed to feel that believing types and scientific types could never get on, during my one face-to-face meeting with him, courtesy Ryan Tubridy’s Late Late Show a few years back, I mentioned my mother’s reading habits. Bringing up four boys cut down her serious reading time to that magic hour when we’d all left for school, between nine and ten in the morning. I told Professor Dawkins that, being a good old-school Catholic, my mother had never read the Bible, so after her beloved delinquents had left, she propped up the Jerusalem Bible on the table, and over a few years covered the whole thing from Genesis to the Apocalypse. Another year, spotting a further gap in her education, she worked through Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Without having an argument, I was just making a point—that Catholics aren’t threatened by science or evolution.


Another point of course was that my mother, born in 1906, couldn’t afford to go to secondary school, but never gave up on her thirst for relevant knowledge. What I think is great about this brand new Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults is that it’ll be a great resource for anyone who’d like to catch up on what we Catholics actually believe. In 2012 (Daily Telegraph, Feb 14) Richard Dawkins triumphantly announced that an “astonishing number [of Christians] couldn’t identify the first book in the New Testament.” Well, my mother could have answered that after her Bible-reading marathon. When Dawkins was asked by an interviewer if he could reel off the full title of his ‘Bible,’ Darwin’s Origin of Species, he couldn’t remember the whole thing and actually said ‘O God!’ Maybe my mother could have helped him out there.


All I’m saying is that we really do need to get our teeth into our development as educated Catholics, and this new Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults has a great mix of concrete examples—often drawn from Irish sources—and of accessible theological discussion. There’s also a definite pointing towards both life and prayer.  So next time we meet up with the Richard Dawkins’s around us, or even the bit of Richard Dawkins in ourselves, we’ll be able to do what St Peter encouraged the first Christians to do: ‘always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Pt 3, 15). My mother would have said ‘you bet!’


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