17 May 2022

Column: Fr Vincent Stapleton pens a letter to congratulate Katie Taylor

"Your comments about the grace of God made me recognise that I was ashamed to acknowledge publicly that I too would be nothing without the grace of God. "

Katie Taylor fights in UL this Sunday

Fr Vincent Stapleton says that Katie Taylor has made him awaken from his own silence

Above: Fr Vincent Stapleton

Most illustrious Katie Taylor

I am just writing to congratulate you on your recent achievement – that epic victory in Madison Square Gardens last Saturday week.

Everything about the night was significant. The fact that this was the world-famous Madison Square Gardens … that you managed to fill that arena with screaming fans and tri-colours. The fact that this fight was the main event, the first time that a women’s fight was the main event at this iconic venue. The fact that you and your illustrious opponent, Amanda Serrano, are both at the top of your game … both trying to establish who is the top dog in the world of women’s light-weight boxing.

But really, you have established much more than that. The fifth round was hard watching. You took a severe beating from the Puerto Rican fighter in that round. It looked like you might not hang on for the bell. But you found reserves somewhere to keep standing and it was enough to see you through.

Afterwards you said, this was the greatest achievement of your career. By many measures this must be true. Undisputed champion of the world. People are rightly calling you an all-time great, a legend of the ring, in the same league as Mohammed Ali and other great boxing names.

However, for me, nothing will top the Olympic games of 2012, the coveted gold medal and your famous victory in London. That day stands out for many reasons. It is not just what you have achieved inside the boxing ring. Outside the ring you have been patiently punching your way through glass ceilings all your life. It was your dream to win a gold medal at a time when women’s boxing wasn’t even considered for the Olympics. You had to be as good and as popular as you are, to even bring this possibility to the table in the first place.

I am quite sure there was many the counter punch against your ambitions. Dear Katie, you truly are a beacon of perseverance for all of us. You show us that anything is possible with focus, determination, skill and commitment. And above all faith!

I will always be struck by what you said to Marty Morrissey in the moments after you were crowned the Olympic Champion, as all of Ireland looked on. You said – “I can’t believe the grace of God in my life right now. I just want to thank everyone for all their prayers. I’d be nothing without God and I am here because of the grace of God in my life and because of Jesus in my life. Thank you, Jesus, for such a great victory today.”

I don’t know Katie, if your faith today remains as strong as it was in 2012, but that moment remains a special moment. I think that you caught poor Marty by surprise for just a few seconds as well as the rest of the country … to hear the name of Jesus being celebrated publicly and honoured when quite often sadly the very opposite happens.

Unfortunately, the name of Jesus has often devolved into a slang word which is used with great disrespect. There was a time when every Christian who spoke the name of Jesus bowed their head in reverence. But today it is not so. There is almost an allergy to speaking about Jesus himself respectfully in the public sphere.

I get the feeling that it makes many people uncomfortable. That it is considered something for the radicals only. A secular vision of life has so succeeded in imposing its view and its terms on public discourse that we are now ashamed to publicly admit our faith in Jesus and the debt that we owe to him. We Christians believe that Jesus is Lord. We believe that one day, on the definitive day – every knee shall bow and every tongue, willing or unwilling, will acknowledge his name.

When you did this in London Katie, it woke me up to my own silence. It made me recognise that I was ashamed to acknowledge publicly that I too would be nothing without the grace of God. I too would be totally lost without Jesus.

Jesus said that for those who acknowledge him before others, he will acknowledge them before his Father in heaven. For those who are ashamed of him now, he will be ashamed of them when he comes in glory. It may seem like something impossible and unachievable to restore the name of Jesus to rightful respect … to renew reverence for the holy name.

Katie, you are well versed in overturning seemingly impassable obstacles. Every eventual victory begins in the heart. It begins with belief.

So Katie, enjoy your victory and savour every moment.

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