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Gene Dalton - Irish Times Catholicism Series (June 2012)
I was 14 when Mother Teresa died in 1997. I had always admired her, and her death sparked a crisis for me as I faced a storm of questions about my life. What was the point of studying for my Junior Cert, of planning to go to college and embark on a career? Should I not just drop everything and move to India where I could make a difference to the poor and dying? This seemed the most heroic thing to do, but the problem was that I had a tendency to faint at even the thought of blood or sickness, I hated getting my hands dirty and I didn't really want to be a nun.
Thankfully, when I turned to God with this teenage angst, I found an unexpected and liberating message that has shaped my life ever since. I remember flicking through a school Bible and reading about how each one of us is a unique child of God who is given different gifts to serve the community in individual ways. This was the answer – I had to find my own path in life and put my unique gifts at the service of others, just as Mother Teresa had done in such an inspirational way.
As a scientist by training, I will always be searching for answers to life's hard questions. But in the lived experience and teachings of the Church I have found a wisdom that continues to challenge me, while always pointing to the great dignity of the human person. On my journey of faith, the core message of Catholicism that I have discovered is that I am loved by God and that my life has a purpose. This has sustained and guided me through many ups and downs in life. I have found a sense of community and belonging in my parish and in different youth movements in the Church.
The experience of being loved by God and being part of a Christian community has inspired me to see how I can make a positive difference in the world around me. Sometimes it has been through volunteer work with the elderly or children with special needs. Other times it could be as simple as trying to be cheerful in work when I feel like complaining. My faith has motivated me to get actively involved in the Church – most recently as a member of "Catholic Comment"; a new group of lay people who are available to engage with the media and give a Catholic perspective on topical issues.
As a Catholic, my faith is not confined to my local church. It starts in my own heart where I encounter the love of God. It is nourished through the Eucharist and the community I find in the Church. It continues every day in my work, in my socialising, in the time I spend with friends and family as I try to live out Christian values and bring love, kindness, honesty and integrity to whatever I do.
Originally published: http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/myfaith/2012/06/06/gene-dalton/