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Column: Keeping my faith can be challenging at times, but it's my safe haven

The choosing of a new pope has brought a positive feeling about the Roman Catholic Church and a sense of new beginnings, says Patricia McNally, who explains why her faith is so important to her.

Following the appointment of a new pope, Catholic Patricia McNally talks about her hopes for the future of the Catholic Church and the challenges and joys of her own spiritual path.

FAITH IS A SAFETY net in a challenging and stressful world. Everyday life has become busier, we are living in ‘fast-forward’ mode and faith is the pause button that everyone needs. We all like to have a certain amount of control over things in our lives and we like things to turn out the way we want them to, but very often this doesn’t happen.

Families are struggling to make ends meet, young people are facing emigration. Depression, loneliness, and feelings of isolation and detachment from society are becoming increasingly common amongst people. Why is this happening in an age when methods of communication couldn’t be better? We mail, we text, we Skype, we tweet each other regularly but what we are losing sight of is the personal touch, the real life conversation with another person, and being fully present with them in that moment. Faith keeps us connected to God and to one another and prayer is our communication line to heaven.

I strayed from my faith before

Faith is the light at the end of the tunnel that so many people need to see and experience. It is very real, it fires up your whole being. It brings with it a new hope and a sense of trust in God. It is very easy for all of us to get caught up in the world and leave our faith and our belief to one side. I strayed unintentionally from my faith some years ago when I became involved in new age activities such as meditation, angel readings, reiki, bio-energy healing and a wide range of other practices.

I didn’t realise that this was going totally against everything I had believed in and grew up with. The dark cloud of new age philosophy hung over me to the point where it blinded me from the truth. I continued along this path for quite some time, always searching for something but never finding it. Eventually I came to the end of this road and discovered that there was nothing there.

Finding my way back

I felt terrified, alone and overcome with such a state of anxiety that I dreaded even having to leave the house. I called out to God for help. I felt like I was crying out to him from the wilderness. Shortly after, a series of miraculous events happened that enabled me to walk away from everything to do with new age. I walked into a church for mass. The altar was beautifully lit with candles and when I heard the priest say the words ‘Jesus is present’ something stirred inside me and I felt safe. The sermon that evening was about new age. It was no co-incidence. It was everything I needed to hear right at that particular moment.

Mass became my safe haven, my breathing space, where I could get relief from all the anxiety and the terrible fear that encompassed me. Through the amazing power of the Eucharist I got the strength I needed to break away from all the snares and deception that surrounded me because of my involvement with new age. I can relate to the story of the lost sheep as I feel I was lost – we all stray away from the flock but Jesus really will welcome you back with open arms no matter how far you have strayed. He will heal the wounds and make you strong again through the sacraments.

The Church is my community

The church is the heart of the community and it is our place of connection, where we can experience the love of God through others who reach out with a helping hand when we need it. I am blessed to be living in a parish where we have a vibrant faith-community. This is down to the support and encouragement of our priests who work alongside the people, ever-ready to support and encourage and build anew.

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The challenge the Church faces today, I believe, is in creating a bridge to the community to meet people where they are at on their own particular faith journey. For some, coming back to mass may be too big of a step for them to take but they may come along to a witness talk or even to a parish coffee morning. The church is going through a new evangelisation right now and it is the most opportune time to give your faith a chance to grow.

It’s okay to take stepping stones. Everyone needs to walk at their own pace. We all have a light inside us, it is how we nurture that light that matters, and our faith is like that, it needs nurturing and then that little wavering light will become a blazing fire inside your heart.

Patricia McNally is helping to organise the Faith Festival in Enniscorthy, County Wexford from 31 May – 2 June 2013.

The celebrations organised by the parishes of  St Aidan’s and St Senan’s, will be officially opened by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and closed by Bishop Denis Brennan. Enniscorthy castle will play host to an exhibition of various religious artefacts and photographs showcasing the celebration of faith in the diocese throughout the ages. The weekend will also be packed with a wide range of events including witness talks by John Waters and Micky Harte and Maeve Carlin. If you would like more information on the festival please email Patricia at p.mcnally@live.com.

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About the author:

Patricia McNally

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