This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's lecture in Würzburg on the feast of St Kilian makes for interesting reading.
The following excerpt gives a sense of what he was saying. Reading it one gets the impression here is a man who is trying to sense where things are and then say something about the reality.
"The sexual abuse scandals have affected the faith of many and at the same time they were an indication of an underlying crisis of faith where the self-protective institution had become in many ways decoupled from the horror which ordinary people rightly felt. The emerging post Vatican II new religious culture, with its stress on the role of the laity, found itself once again betrayed by a culture of clerical self-protection.
"All of this indicates how Ireland needs to do much more to incorporate a broad spectrum of activity of laymen and women in the life of the Church and to be witnesses to their faith in the emerging Irish culture."
He talks about Christian faith not just being a faith of doctrines or about rules and regulations. The archbishop understands faith as involving the ability to preach and witness to the message of Jesus.
The Sunday before Diarmuid Martin gave his talk I was in West Kerry. Early that morning I was down in the local Spar shop. The young man at the till said hello but it was a second or two before I recognised him. He recognised me before I knew who he was. I had taught him English probably eight years ago. And just as I was leaving the shop I met another past pupil. They are now at university.
Two outstanding young men. They were two lovely young fellows when I taught them English. And now they are two fine young men, full of life and enthusiasm. I left the shop wondering what God means to them.
Later that morning I was on a train to Dublin. I was expecting it to be a quiet train so to my surprise I was amazed to see crowds of people at the station. The penny dropped: it was Munster Final Day in Killarney and they were hanging out of the rafters en route to Fitzgerald Stadium to watch Kerry beat Cork.
There was a crazy atmosphere on the train. Jokes, laughter, football talk, excited children running up and down the train. Great fun but I was relieved to know that they would all be getting off in Killarney.
Off the train at Heuston and back on my fold-up bicycle I called into a church on the way home. It was a short visit. Mass was on. There were two or three people in the porch with small children. I wanted to get a copy of 'The Irish Catholic'. I stayed a minute or two but in that short time I got a sense of the place and the service that was in progress. It all seemed odd and sad. The priest was preaching. It was difficult to hear what he was saying, though I did hear the word -'doctrine'. There was something profoundly dead about what was taking place.
My experience in the shop and on the train were fabulous human encounters, genuine too. There was a sense of optimism and hope in the air. Whereas the church was uninspiring. There was something controlled about it all, so far removed from the sense of hope and enthusiasm I experienced in the shop and on the train.
Reading Diarmuid Martin's Würzburg lecture I kept thinking of my three Sunday experiences. Martin is saying something extremely important.