Tuesday 12 November 2019

Prayers are answered as faithful watch battle from church's pews

Mark Hilliard

GOD trains her hands for battle, makes her feet nimble as a deer and shields her from the punches of her opponents.

Katie Taylor's deep religious faith is a surprise to nobody, but at St Mark's Pentecostal Church in Dublin yesterday, its central role in her life was obvious.

More than 200 people jammed themselves in front of the big screens to cheer and pray in this very personal holy war.

For Katie, Psalm 18 -- known among the congregation as 'Katie's Psalm' -- is her pre-fight ritual. After she's warmed up, her mother Bridget ties her hair back and together they recite parts of the verse before she enters the ring.

On her robe are the words "The Lord is my strength and my shield".

"They are incredible verses that would be strength for every boxer," said St Mark's Pastor Sean Mullarkey, who has known the Taylor family since he joined the church eight years ago.

"She has some of the verses hanging up in her training centre in Bray. A lot of athletes can lose their focus or lose their peace. Katie has an amazing peace about her.

"All of these things (in the Psalm) are in her head and her heart as she goes into battle and she knows she is not alone."

St Mark's has been in existence for 27 years, and the Taylors are always among the 750-strong congregation who worship there every Sunday.

Moments before yesterday's fight Pastor Mullarkey led everyone in prayer, just as he has during world and European championship finals.

He prayed for strength in Katie's arms and nimbleness in her limbs.

"Oh Lord God, we would like her to bring back a gold medal," he shouted to rapturous applause.

The prayers continued during the fight and after -- the very thoughts Katie thanked her fans for in the immediate aftermath of her victory.

"I was praying 'Give her an opening' and 'Help her land the punches'," said churchgoer Martine Curtis from Lucan.

It is the religious aspect of Katie's life that those here believe keeps her focused and humble.

"She is just amazing because she comes here every week and she is so friendly," said Martine's 16-year-old daughter, Leah.

Rebecca Kenny (21), from Ballyfermot, said: "She is a superstar, but she doesn't carry herself that way. In the Bible it says God gives you your heart's desire and that (victory) was hers."

St Mark's opened its doors yesterday to anyone who wanted to share Katie's penultimate moment in her spiritual home.

Green, white and gold balloons hung from the railings and passing drivers sounded their horns.

Churchgoer Des Curtis (34), a family friend from Greystones, Co Wicklow, said: "You saw her dancing at the end, that was just relief and the release of the emotions.

"It's a great day for her, for her family and for the country."

Irish Independent

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