Priests face death, living and thinking to the fullest
Live While You Can: A memoir of faith, hope and the power of acceptance by Fr Tony Coote (Hachette Books Ireland, €15.99 / £13.99) Dancing to my Death with the Love Called Cancer by Daniel O’Leary (Columba Books, €16.99 / £14.99)   It has often been said that in polite western society death is the last taboo, the subject never mentioned. These two courageous books, recounting two different but parallel experiences of approaching death, shatter this convention completely. But sharing their experiences two accomplished writers are able to share their intimate feelings and so inform others, for death is the common fate of all. But as Christians they are also able to open up the meaning of faith and the experiences of life in ways which will inform and aid many, many people. Influence Daniel O’Leary was from Rathmore in Kerry, but worked aboard mostly in Leeds and London, preaching, teaching and writing. His influence was worldwide. He was the author of a dozen books (mostly published in Ireland), and many articles. In his last article before his passing he expressed his profound belief that clerical celibacy was a damaging to the humanity of the clergy. This was in keeping with what he had already written about the nature of the Incarnation. Fr Tony Coote was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in the summer of 2018. Quickly he became confined to a wheelchair, but did not let this stop him making a cross-Ireland pilgrimage to raise money for charity. There are lessons and insights into dying and living to be gained from both these courageous men Writing this book, recounting the impact of the illness on his life, is another way of continuing his lifelong ministry. In the past he had not always met with the approval of some with a narrow view of the loving embrace of social minorities. But that too was is part of his life, his way. These books are not really about death. They are about life, and how it should be lived to the full every day, and by everybody. This is a message which everyone of whatever age they, are can embrace and actually try to live out. And this full life has to be lived out in the sense that it has to be lived through a love of others. These are two very different books, but both have vital and important things to say.  Fr Tony Coote’s book is more autobiographical; O’Leary’s less so, but more reflective. I was struck by the agreement over some aspects of life and faith today. Both were shaken by the abuse scandals of recent decades, especially as Fr Coote had had a violent father and was later molested by a teacher; by the need not just of a greater role for women, but an equal role for women in the Church; and though Fr Coote speaks well of the kindness he received from the Diocese of Dublin, Daniel  O’Leary writes harshly of  what he sees as the “rotten clericalism” at the heart of the Vatican. There are lessons and insights into dying and living to be gained from both these courageous men, but some of their views are also to be seen as signs of the times which need to be heeded, and not calmly ignored. But the reader is left with a deep sense of having been put in touch with two incredible men who have matched their experience and understanding of life, with even greater insight into the experience of death. One feels a sense of privilege in having, through these pages, shared their thoughts and feelings. These are important books and deserve to be widely read. The post Priests face death, living and thinking to the fullest appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
The struggles of a ‘happy warrior’ for a better State
Richard Devane SJ: Social Commentator and Advocate, 1876 – 1951 by Martin Walsh (Messenger Publications, €19.95) Thomas J.
 Morrissey   This is a welcome tribute to a man of great zeal and energy, of strong social and religious commitment, who influenced many people, but alienated some by his impatience to bring about change. Born and educated in Limerick, he became a priest in the Limerick diocese, and served for a short while in England before returning to Limerick. As a curate he became involved in a variety of activities: working with the Vincent de Paul Society, the temperance movement against the abuse of alcohol in the city, and working towards providing leisure outlets for the less well off. He was active in St Michael’s temperance institute, which provided a variety of clubs for members: clubs in drama, in cricket, rugby, Gaelic games, rowing; and also there were public lectures, a library to encourage reading, and excursions in the summer months. Devane was responsible for the cricket and drama, but he also availed of the amenities of St Michael’s to run a series of public lectures on social justice and the teaching of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum.  The lecturers were Dr Alfred O’Rahilly and Prof. Smiddy of University College Cork. Trade 
unions Devane supported the trade union movement for workers and especially for women workers in the city factories who were ‘sweating and white slavery without a doubt’. In November 1917, Devane and two members of Limerick Trades Council called on Frederick Cleeve of Cleeves factory to seek better pay and conditions for its women workers. They got an improvement in both areas. Devane also set up St Ita’s Association to fight for women’s rights in industry. It represented 400 workers when he left the city in 1918 to join the Jesuits. Why he joined the Jesuits is not clear. He had been at school with the Jesuits, and he also may have been influenced by the work of individual Jesuits in the field of social justice – Lambert McKenna in his pamphlets on Trade unions and on social justice, the work of Tom Finlay in the Irish co-operative movement, and of Edward Cahill in his promotion of the principles of Rerum Novarum. As a Jesuit, Devane, like so many in the 1920s, viewed the new Irish state as an opportunity to produce a state that would be fully Irish and Catholic and something of a beacon to the world. The ideal found expression in the lay organisation set up by Fr Cahill, An Rioghact, and in various expressions of the Catholic Action movement that sought to influence public life. Devane became intensely active in a variety of directions. He actively campaigned against evil literature and the bad influence of English newspapers, against the danger to moral and physical health of the dance hall craze in the ‘hideous shacks’ across rural Ireland, he disapproved of mixed bathing, sought an extension of the school leaving age, sought to protect Ireland from the false values being promoted on the cinema screens and argued for and may be deemed a founder of the Irish Film Institute. Devane supported the trade union movement for workers and especially for women workers in the city factories Speaking generally, he sought to protect youth from what he saw as the degrading influences coming from Britain and America. He hoped for the development of generations of young men and women who would be deeply Christian, proudly Irish, self-disciplined and an influence for good in the wider world. In his most celebrated book The Failure of Individualism, published in 1948, which received a prominent and favourable review in the Times Literary Supplement, he argued that since the Reformation the socially united rural world had given way to individualism in social, business and religious practices, which was intensified by the industrial revolution and the migration from the countryside into the cities. This individualistic, materialistic world had brought about the disaster of two world wars, and that now, in the disastrous condition of post-war Europe, was the time for new structures, new beginnings. He looked to the middle-class youth of Ireland to provide the leaders needed in the new post-war world. They, however, it proved, had been largely influenced by the individualism he deplored. Ill for much of his life, Devane kept going, thriving on opposition, not worried at being termed a bigot or a hellfire revivalist. In fact, his contemporaries in the order termed him a ‘happy warrior’ bent on reforming a world that was out of joint and protecting Irish youth from it. Just before he died in 1951 he was writing a history of the Vincent de Paul Society and discussing the state of Church and state in Argentina. Peter O’Curry, the celebrated editor of The Standard, on June 8, 1951, dedicated an article on Argentina and the Catholic Church to the memory of Richard Devane. Committed Devane was very committed to trying to improve the lot of women, especially unmarried mothers.  He carried a placard in their support walking up and down in front of the Dáil. Inevitably, he was termed ‘the father of unmarried mothers’. He strongly argued for better basic education for the workers, and the Catholic Workers’ College in Dublin was one response to that; he impressed on some younger Jesuits the need to help the young boys of the working class and the unemployed, and some responded by going to live with the poor and arguing for the improvement of their housing and their human rights. Among those younger men was Peter McVerry, who in turn has passed on the baton to a committed body of lay men and women. This interesting book is marred by one great deficiency: it does not have an index, a serious failing in a historical biography. The start of the book is slow, having too much padding about relations who might have had some  influence on him. His contemporaries in the order termed him a ‘happy warrior’ bent on reforming a world that was out of joint and protecting Irish youth from it There are some errors in the book to be noted. The phrase “Catholic action” is used ambiguously, covering all sorts of social activity undertaken by Devane without reference to its parameters set out by Pope Pius XI, in the 1920s not, as suggested, at the end of the 19th Century. The native place of the Catholic Unionist William Monsell, the first Lord Emly, is usually spelt ‘Tervoe’. In this biography Martin Walsh has given new life and relevance to a form of “happy warrior” that is very rare in this century. The post The struggles of a ‘happy warrior’ for a better State appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Eagerly-awaited visit by London Symphony Orchestra
Pat O'Kelly   The final programme in the NCH’s 2018/19 International Concert Series on June 14 brings the welcome return of the London Symphony Orchestra. Under Italian maestro Gianandrea Noseda, the concert features music by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Berlioz. Russian Daniil Trifonov is the soloist in Shostakovich’s 1st Piano Concerto with UK trumpeter Philip Cobb playing the unusual trumpet obbligato. French musician Antoine Tamestit tackles the extended viola part in Berlioz’ Byron inspired Harold in Italy. This final event promises to maintain the high standard experienced so far with, for me, the recent appearance of Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin being a particular highlight. Hamelin was here in 2017 partnering Norwegian Leif Ove Andsnes in a programme including a stunning account of Stravinsky’s own version for two pianos of his ballet The Rite of Spring. This time Hamelin was alone. Schumann’s C major Fantaisie with Chopin’s A flat Polonaise-Fantaisie and 4th Scherzo were the principal Romantic works but Hamelin moved into the last century for the unfamiliar Cipressi by the Italian-born American Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and six songs sung by Charles Trenet arranged by Bulgarian-born pianist/composer Alexis Weissenberg. Trenet’s popular La Mer, recorded by many artists including Trenet himself, failed to get into the mix but it really didn’t matter, as Weissenberg’s selection was highly engaging when played with Hamelin’s sophistication and panache. Sounding totally French, melancholy and nostalgia were offset by bounce and eccentricity. In Hamelin’s interpretation, the pieces had a chic of their own. Cipressi (Cypresses) were no less atmospheric. Occasionally they became agitated and even aggressive. At times, too, the music recalled Debussy and Ravel in its impressionism and certainly Hamelin etched the scene of the mostly gently swaying branches with imaginative insight. Passion Hamelin’s approach to the Schumann and Chopin was all I could wish for as he reached the emotional hearts of both composers through playing of utmost sensitivity. But power and passion were also there with weighty intensity that was neither harsh nor abrasive. The RTÉ NSO’s subscription season is also drawing to a close with Korngold’s Violin Concerto and Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony in the final concert on May 31 when Japanese conductor Kazuki Yamada takes to the rostrum. In somewhat of a coup, the NSO latterly enticed the laureate US conductor Leonard Slatkin on to its podium. He opened the evening with a short piece by his wife, Cindy McTee. Including a clattering percussion battery, although without timpani, Circuits buzzed with electrifying animation. Russian-born, London-domiciled Alina Ibragimova joined the orchestra for Richard Strauss’ teenage Violin Concerto. The work is a bit of a curate’s egg, with the many lovely things in it just failing to coalesce into a satisfying entity. Elements of Brahms, Bruch and Dvorák creep in with the finale almost pure Mendelssohn. Still, interesting to hear when played beautifully and the sweet toned, if at times somewhat over delicate, Ibragimova obliged with Slatkin and the NSO supplying composite artistry in their accompaniment. Elgar’s Enigma Variations had elegant finesse and magisterial grandeur after the interval. The magnificent performance kept resounding in my head for days. The post Eagerly-awaited visit by London Symphony Orchestra appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Monte Cassino: a crime against civilisation
Mainly About Books By the books editor   The other day there came into my hands a unique book, quite unknown I think to readers outside Italy. It is called Monte Cassino under Fire: War Diaries from the Abbey, by Eusebio Grossetti and Martino Matronola, edited by Faustino Avagliano (Abbazia di Montecassino, 2018). My father often used to mention the attack in February 1944 on the ancient monastery on the summit of Monte Cassino as one of the great crimes of the Allies, here in particular the Americans, in the course of World War II. The monastery stood, unfortunately for itself, overlooking the main road of advance from the south towards Rome and the north for the Allied armies moving north from Salerno. It was not in the hands of the Germans at all, as the German commander was anxious that it remained above the struggle. But the Allies feared it would be. If they were in the position of the Germans they would have used it. This book consists of the journals kept by two of the monks through the period, and is a harrowing account of total war The documents in this book provide a deeply moving account of what was done by the Germans to save the treasures of Monte Cassino. But there is a final chilling moment when the medical officer who did this is reprimanded by his superior. After staying silent, he said he had done it for civilisation. The officer flared up. If he was so anxious to defend civilisation the place for him was on the Russian front (where near certain death might have overtaken him). Misreading Why was the abbey bombed? This only came to light later.  Indeed what happened seems little known, even to World War II enthusiasts. A British officer intercepting German radio traffic misinterpreted messages in German, misreading a text which said the abbot (abt in German) was with the monks in the abbey, as the ABT (the German officer commanding a military unit) was in the monastery with the monks. On this basis, that the abbey was being used by Germans as an observation post, they decided to attack.  A ‘fake news’ trail was laid in papers like the Daily Mail to say that German soldiers were occupying the place. The US planes went in February 15, 1944 and totally destroyed the abbey, the historic first house of the Benedictines, founded in 529 by St Benedict himself. Only then the Allies having broken the agreement to protect the place did the Germans move in, to make use of the heights and so delay even more the Allied advance. The attack on Monte Cassino, was not just a crime, it was a mistake. US General Mark Clarke (a friend of Eisenhower) disobeyed his British superior  in his overweening desire to “liberate Rome”, which had been declared an open city, which allowed the Germans to retreat further north to another prepared line and so add more delay to the end of the war. The treasures of the abbey, chiefly its incredible library, were largely saved, both from Allied bombs and the rapacity of Field Marshall Goering. The Abbey was rebuilt in the 1950s and stands today a monument not just to Christian humanist scholars, and the monastic life, but to the futility war, whoever wages it. A ‘fake news’ trail was laid in papers like the Daily Mail The German officer Becker prepared his memoir of the salvation of the treasures in Dublin in 1964 where he had gone to live after the war. This is one of the attached documents in support of the diaries. Towards the end of this he writes: “It was the noble and blameless behaviour and attitude of the ordinary soldiers and common people which made the rescue operation so worthwhile and made it such a shining example to emulate.” Yet he concluded: “This peaceful rescue operation may perhaps, in the following period during the last phase of the war, have led the way for similar ideas and operations. But the destruction of the Abbey invites us to consider the tragic victims of hasty, reckless decisions, which should give pause for thought.” Address requests for copies to the Gift shop, Abbazia di Montecassino, Via Montecassino s.n.c., 03043 Cassino ( Fr), Italy; [email protected] The post Monte Cassino: a crime against civilisation appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Tragic story highlights short-sightedness
It was inevitable – every time abortion is introduced into a country, horror stories follow. And it’s not like people weren’t warned. The story broke last Thursday but on Today With Seán O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1) last Friday; the host’s introduction summed it up – “abortion of baby that did not have a fatal abnormality”. The circumstances of the case are hugely sad for all involved, especially for parents and baby. Keeping in mind that the full story has yet to come out, it seems a termination was carried out on a baby of 15 weeks gestation after initial tests suggested a so-called ‘fatal foetal abnormality’. A later test showed the baby did not have the abnormality – a huge injustice, but, curiously, without the usual intense outrage in the media. That show featured Dr Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda, explaining the medical technicalities. I was glad to hear him using the terms “baby” and “foetus” interchangeably, as is normal when anything but abortion is discussed. Then, the ‘b’ word sticks in many gullets – I’ve heard pro-choice  activists, arriving at a point where the word ‘baby’ is obviously the next word, and they pause, divert and obfuscate. The discussion was useful in providing background on the various forms of screening and diagnosis, and the desirability of not acting on the initial test alone. However Dr Malone, I thought, was too much in reassuring mode but his euphemism “full treatment options” wasn’t at all reassuring. More worryingly, he told us that in the Rotunda, around two-thirds of those with diagnoses of what are perceived as ‘fatal abnormalities’ opted for terminations. Good grief, despite all the platitudes about inclusiveness we aren’t very welcoming of those with serious disabilities. The issue of inaccurate or inadequate diagnoses was raised during last year’s referendum, but didn’t gain much traction (the media didn’t push it). Yet what has happened is so predictable and was, indeed, predicted. Surgery This story contrasted sharply with an item on BBC Radio 4’s Today show earlier that morning – here we got the celebratory and life affirming story of  keyhole surgery on a baby in the womb to ease the effects of spina bifida – the operation in the womb could make the difference between the child being able to walk or not. On another one of the controversial social issues, I haven’t heard much media debate of the divorce related referendum. In a way it’s understandable – once the electorate has given up on the idea that marriage is a lifelong commitment, or that marriage is between one man and one woman (yes, gender balance fashionable everywhere but in marriage), or that new life is a gift not to be terminated, those with reservations must feel deflated and lacking in the energy to complain or campaign. The issue surfaced on The Last Word (Today FM) on Monday evening of last week, and it was one of the better discussions. Margaret Hickey, described as “faith and social commentator” was calm, cool and collected in raising concerns about the proposed constitutional change. Journalist Karl Dieter had interesting angles on the financial aspects, while Minister Josepha Madigan defended the proposed change. She also appeared on Ireland AM (Virgin Media 1) on the Wednesday morning, in debate with Mark Hickey, described as a “marriage campaigner” but this was too short and a more aggravational affair, with  lots of interruptions and the participants talking over each other. On last Monday’s Morning Ireland  (RTÉ Radio 1) the chairperson of the Referendum Commission, Ms Justice Tara Burns stressed that primarily we were voting on whether to give the Oireachtas the power to change divorce legislation as politicians see fit, within the limits of other constitutional protections for marriage, rather than specifically on reducing the four-year wait to two years – that’s only what the current Government proposes, and for all we know they may not be in power long enough to effect this change. But then, shortly after, the host introduced the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) stating that it was about reducing the four years to two. Worse still the show had a ‘personal story’ where the woman interviewed urged a ‘Yes’ vote. After text complaints about lack of balance, Kenny said he had David Quinn on recently arguing against the change. So, an emotionally-charged story on the week of the vote is balanced by a more intellectual argument well before it? I think not.   PICK OF THE WEEK SONGS OF PRAISE BBC1, Sunday, May 26, 1.15 pm Second semi-final of the Young Choir of the Year. CATHOLIC IRELAND EWTN, Monday, May 27, 2.30pm, also Friday, May 31, 10 pm Exploring the Glendalough settlement founded by St Kevin, the relics of St Valentine and the history of the Legion of Mary. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND Channel 4, Thursday, May 30, 7.20 pm The whole family meets Fr Hubley  to uncover what – and who – is to blame for the constant bickering between them. The post Tragic story highlights short-sightedness appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Review: Canada’s undivine comedy
Review: Canada’s undivine comedy How do you write a comedy about listening to God? In Randy Boyagoda’s Original Prin, the answer lies in God’s silence and the attempts, by a man, to fill it. The titular Prin lives a tested but mostly pedestrian life. He “is a forty-year old associate professor of English with early-stage cancer” who works at a financially endangered Catholic university in Toronto. And the unexpected return of his ex-girlfriend, along with the promise of travel to a Middle Eastern country called Dragomans, threatens his relationship with his “Catholic everything” wife.Advertisement He inhabits, in short, a modest existence touched by massive forces but one that has unfolded (at least at first) undramatically. Much of the novel’s humor arises in Prin’s response to this state, a constant and almost bottomless capacity for self-inflation that can find prophetic significance anywhere. Naturally, as we learn, Prin makes an obsessive, almost dangerous reader. Boyagoda, an English professor himself, deliciously eviscerates Prin’s academic “presentations on the penis shaped like a sleeping Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.” That Randy Boyagoda can take on faith, global capitalism, religious terrorism, upper-middle-class preciousness and self-delusion—all the while implicating Canada in traditionally “American” problems—attests to his talent. But for all its campus-novel punches, Original Prin most succeeds in limning the ways Prin’s faith bends to his needs. While ignoring the advice of priests and his wife, he reads “signs” everywhere he wants them to appear. “God use[s] a winter weather event to tell him this was the perfect day” to tell his daughters about his diagnosis. Letting his wife sleep “across his small, bony midriff” is “an opportunity for solidarity with Christ.” As the novel continues through Prin’s slow (but for now incomplete) radicalization, it becomes clear that he came to it already a bit fanatical. That Boyagoda can take on faith, global capitalism, religious terrorism, upper-middle-class preciousness and self-delusion—all the while implicating Canada in traditionally “American” problems—attests to his talent. It also manages to be a taut and funny novel throughout, if maybe too arch. Jokes fly almost unsustainably, exhausting not just the reader but often their own vitality. If we get the sense that Boyagoda respects our time—and wants it to be a good one—we cannot help but feel, when he overplays his hand, that he may not trust our patience. Prin’s journey, Boyagoda makes clear, does not end with this book. This is the first volume of a planned trilogy. If I could hazard my own divination of signs, I would bet Boyagoda could take him anywhere. Sadly (or funnily) enough, it looks like Prin’s faith could, too. keane Wed, 05/15/2019 - 13:22 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
Poet Gregory Pardlo on growing up with a complicated father
Poet Gregory Pardlo on growing up with a complicated father Gregory Pardlo’s new book about his complicated relationship with his father, an air traffic controller fired by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, is a clinic in storytelling. There is a reason Pardlo won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for his book of poems, Digest. The man can write. “By some concoction of sugar, nicotine, prescription painkillers, rancor, and cocaine, my father, Gregory Pardlo, Sr., began killing himself after my parents separated in 2007,” Pardlo begins, and the prose never lets up.Advertisement The son was shaped by a man whose life was dramatically shaped by his job. Read the title chapter, “Air Traffic,” where Pardlo Sr. describes to his son just how demanding and involved the job of an air traffic controller is, and you will never again take for granted a soft landing on a runway: intelligence, perfect recall, acting quickly but calmly while performing hugely complicated tasks under immense pressure. Being an air traffic controller shaped how Pardlo had to talk when on the job—blunt, emotionless, no nuance—which led in some ways to how he talked to his kids. Work was intense; he came home and wanted to be left alone. Even beyond the rhythms of his speech, the author was shaped by a man who in his sparkling prose would ask questions that “were abrupt and random.... What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, he’d ask. My father’s game was cruel. His oppressive shadow gave my life purpose and meaning.” Pardlo Sr. could manipulate the son at will. When he was in high school and wanted a car, he received a Hot Wheels toy car instead. And then he was showed his actual car. “My dad believed that the greater the depth of disappointment he could provoke in me initially, the greater my experience of joy would be once he rescued me from that disappointment.” The key historical event in the book is the 1981 strike by PATCO, the union of air traffic controllers who were demanding better pay and benefits, among other things. Pardlo’s father was a leader in his union’s local and became a spokesperson for the cause in the Northeast. He took his son on a picket line. It was an illegal strike according to the strictures of the Taft-Hartley labor bill, but the illegality of similar strikes had usually been overlooked by authorities before. It had always been in everyone’s best interest to find common ground between workers and owners and resolve their differences. This time the workers, federal employees, were fired by Reagan. If you’ve worked or moved in organizing circles, you hear about the firing of the PATCO workers all the time because it effectively started a downslide of the union movement from which it has never fully recovered. Firing employees out of hand suddenly became a “legitimate” answer to labor disputes. There is no clean through line to the Pardlo narrative. Father with outsized talents devastated by losing his job is crushed by life, leading son to be crushed, wander into squalor and addiction and create great poetry out of it all. In some ways that narrative may be appropriate, but Pardlo is too smart to try and manufacture such a simplistic cause-and-effect storyline. “In studying my family’s destruction,” Greg Pardlo writes, “I am studying my own.” Air Traffic clips quickly along and burdens the reader with almost no slow moments. Pardlo has a way of perfectly summarizing an entire social problem in just a few words. Speaking of his mother’s attempts to keep his brother Robbie in the world’s good graces, Pardlo writes, “My mother knew that, unprotected, black boys could get lost like a marble in the Rube Goldberg machine of public education, only to be quietly collected in the eager baskets of the criminal justice system.” Writing of his father’s final days, Pardlo shows us his father decamped to Las Vegas, addicted to opioids; he has a view of the Strip as if it were an airport runway. Air Traffic goes on to detail Pardlo’s own struggle with alcoholism, his thoughts on poetry, race relations and finding the right elite grade school for his 6-year-old. He dissects his sexual relationship with an old girlfriend as refracted through an analysis of the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas, the performance art of Marina Abramovic, the writings of Frantz Fanon and Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage, but all are done with style and verve. Pardlo talks about his brother Robbie’s addiction through which he weaves a painful story of his own struggle with alcohol and movement toward recovery. “In studying my family’s destruction,” Pardlo writes, “I am studying my own.” keane Wed, 05/15/2019 - 13:17 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
Review: What if Noah’s ark was told through his wife’s perspective?
Review: What if Noah’s ark was told through his wife’s perspective? Stories from the Bible springboard novelists’ imaginations in part because they are so spare. Often they sketch the basic details but elide mention of how all the people involved felt about these events. So it is with the story of Noah in Genesis. “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood,” God tells Noah. Cover it with pitch, fill it with pairs of animals, and take your family and set sail on the floodwaters. O.K., we infer that Noah replies, I’ll get right on that. Advertisement We know from Genesis that in a world full of wicked people, “God found favor with Noah.” But we have no idea how God felt about Noah’s family, including his wife, who is not named. The Jewish midrash Genesis Rabba says that Noah’s wife is Naamah, and Sarah Blake uses this name for the title and protagonist of her dream-like and intriguing first novel. Generations of Genesis readers have probably imagined Noah’s wife as obedient, chaste and reverent: so unobjectionable she does not merit much mention. Blake depicts Naamah as someone much wilder, sharing more in common with the animals she cares for. She is a practical, capable worker—it is Naamah who mucks out animals’ pens and kills newborn lambs to feed to large predators—but is also sensual and fanciful. Naamah, in Blake’s imagining, swims in the floodwaters and explores. She is also bisexual, adulterous and prone to seduction by an aquatic angel. Naamah is the only one of the eight people aboard the ark who is comfortable with every aspect of living in a body—including sex, childbirth, nursing and death. When preparing the ark, Naamah realizes, “They would need a sealed bucket to [defecate] in, to clean up with, and she knew no one else would think of this.” The others do not venture into the floodwaters, fearing they will find bodies of those who perished, but Naamah dives in because she has to know. “It feels freeing, to swim, to be a part of the flood,” she tells Noah. “We’ve been so separate from it, from everything.” She asks Noah why the ark has not sunk with all the heavy animals inside, and he insists he does not know. The mystery of this situation suffuses Naamah. Noah takes everything on faith, but Naamah is not able to. She has to see and touch and learn. Naamah’s dreams mingle with reality and transport her to other times and places. Blake writes in concise, honed prose, leaving abundant white space on each page. She imagines details about some of the mysteries behind the Noah story—like, did gnawing gerbils escape their wooden pens? (Yes.) But she leaves other questions unanswered: Just how did they lure the appropriate number and kind of animals onto the ark? In Naamah, there are more than one pair of some kinds of animals, which makes sense, given the chances of them getting sick and the need to feed smaller animals to larger ones. In one of the most beautiful scenes, Naamah communes with a thousand atlas moths. When they die, she gathers their bodies to feed other creatures and waits for their eggs to hatch and fill the room again. Naamah is the only one of the eight people aboard Noah's ark who is comfortable with every aspect of living in a body—including sex, childbirth, nursing and death. “When the rains began, Noah’s doubt left him,” Blake writes. “When the rains continued, his guilt left him.” But Naamah’s doubts and guilt endure. It seems she commits some moral transgressions out of despair that she is not worthy of having been saved from the flood, as a sort of challenge to God. She eventually tells God: “I’m starting to accept that You will not judge me. Or that You have already passed judgment, and it doesn’t have much to do with me. I get it! You determined me not wicked, even if I feel otherwise.” Blake’s vivid imagining of the life of a woman the Bible left unexplored takes some unexpected turns, but in doing so plunges readers more deeply into the mystery of God’s relationship with humanity’s second-chance Eve. keane Wed, 05/15/2019 - 12:21 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
‘The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible…’
The Badly Behaved Bible: Thinking again about the story of Scripture by Nick Page (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99) This is a book which many people really need, but do not realise that they do. Anyone truly interested in the power of the Scriptures should read it. I suspect that for many people it may have a life-changing effect. I enjoyed previous books by Nick Page, especially Revelation Road, his decoding of the Apocalypse of St John, or what many Christians call ‘The Book of Revelation’. Here, however, it is the whole Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments, that passes under his scrutiny. He writes in a lively, very personal, down to earth style. There are even jokes – though perhaps a tad too many even for my taste – but everything he says is in line with current academic and theological thought. Only it is expressed in a manner that few academics or theologians would use. Activity But what the scholars think they know is often beyond the ken of the people in the pews. At one point Page says that after many years of writing, preaching and counselling, he has given up on Biblical study. It is that activity that he identifies as the real problem. Modern translations of the Bible, no matter whose auspices they are published under, tend to concentrate on getting every grammatical and rhetorical minutia out of the ancient texts in Hebrew and Greek. This, he suggests, kills the meaning of the Bible. Most Biblical translators simply cannot write, he claims. They end up depriving the Bible of its power to affect the reader, or listener (the scriptures were for centuries intended to be heard and not read privately). But there is also the way people approach the Bible. It is rarely read as a whole. Evangelicals at their services, for instance, will be obediently turned to whatever passage in the Old or New Testament the preacher alludes to. Yet do they settle down to read for their own pleasure the full text? Rarely, he thinks. Study groups also deprive the Bible of its power, again by picking it apart, and not seeing it whole. As regards the man-in-the-street language of the Bible, that is all too often tidied up to make it acceptable for modern polite readers. If you want to see the kind of language he means look up your Douay version of I Kings 25:34 – where the word ‘male’ is used to avoid reference to a natural function. Mark 7: 19 is another instance. On which Mr Page comments: “We mustn’t let the Bible be what it is. We have to censor it. Even when it comes out of the mouth of Jesus.” But the theme of this book is that we look to the Bible for answers, but what it provides us with are not answers, but more questions. We have to think it out for ourselves. We should not be put out by this. The translation can be misleading. In Matthew 28:17, the apostles encounter the resurrected Jesus: the translation says “they worshipped him, but some doubted”. Actually the text says “they worshipped him, but they doubted”. In this apostolic manner he urges us to embrace our doubt, and in that way realise the fullness of faith. His last word: “The Bible is an invitation. The Bible is a call. The breath of God lifts its pages.” Yet we want always to master the text, to control it. Rather than letting its stories change us, we try to change the Bible. “We want to make the Bible dance to our tune, but the Bible has music of its own.” It escapes our control, and Christians should follow where it indicates. The post ‘The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible…’ appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
The Irish as achievers
What Have the Irish ever Done for Us? by David Forsythe (Currach Books, €14.99). This is an interesting collection of brief biographical accounts of Irish people who have made a significant impact on the world at large. The author defines an Irish person as one born in Ireland, or residing in the country, or identifying as Irish. His list includes men and women, some well-known, some not so well-known. The listings are under 20 headings. The list under the ‘Irish at War’ is headed by the Duke of Wellington. It is frequently stated that when reminded that he was Irish he responded that one could be born in a stable and not be a horse. However, it was not he who made this remark, but Daniel O’Connell who said it about him during exchanges in the House of Commons. Under ‘Engineering Pioneers’ there are two well-known names: Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company and Harry Ferguson of the Ferguson Tractor Company. The genius of James J. Wood is also noted. His innovative inventions delivered suspension bridges, elevators and refrigerators. Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the first wire suspension bridge, is a monument to the technology he developed. Also included are others who were responsible for equally memorable monumental structures. James Hoban built the large white house in Washington DC and Kevin Roche, the doyen of modern architecture, designed iconic buildings across the US and the ultra-modern convention centre in Dublin. Speculation George Boole is probably the least known of those listed yet it could be argued that he made the most significant contribution to our modern scientific world. He was a professor in the Queen’s College in Cork (later UCC). Acknowledged as the father of pure mathematics, his speculation and published work laid the ground work for electronics, the internet and the world wide web. In this context the author lists two Irish-American women who were beneficiaries of his mathematical speculation: Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan and Eileen Marie Collins, veterans of the US Space Programme. The list of those who excelled in the world of entertainment is a parade of familiar names: comedians (Spike Milligan and Dave Allen), playwrights (George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett), poets (W.B. Yeats and Séamus Heaney) and ballet (Ninette de Valois). Less familiar are the names on the list of women who spent their lives combating social injustice. Their struggle for the rights of women and children, workers and the oppressed was conducted outside Ireland. Mary Lee was a women’s suffrage pioneer in South Australia. Mary Fitzgerald was a champion of the mine workers in South Africa. Mary Harris, known as Mother Jones, became a figurehead for workers in the mines, textile-mills and railways across the US. Under the heading ‘Adventurous Irish Women’ the author recalls the story of Kate Shelley. During a violent storm in the US a railway bridge over a deep ravine was severely damaged. She managed to cross it on her hands and knees and warn those in charge of an oncoming train, thereby saving the lives of more than 200 passengers. Here also an account of Lizzie Le Bond, a trailblazing mountaineer. But the author’s female readers will not be impressed by his inclusion of Lola Montez, a celebrity who was famous for being famous, or as some might claim, for being infamous. Others will be prompted to compile their own version of this publication.  One from a Catholic perspective would surely include Daniel O’Connell as a leading protagonist of the democratic process. And it would not be difficult to select heroines from among the foundresses of the various female religious orders whose members provided education and care for the poor and the oppressed for more than two centuries across the world. Available from Currach Books. The post The Irish as achievers appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Not just a hospital but a site that illustrates social improvement
The History and Heritage of St James’s Hospital Dublin by Davis Coakley & 
Mary Coakley (Four Courts Press, €40.00) These days the site at St James’s Hospital has become a controversial place due to the development scheme for the National Children’s hospital, which has in recent times been taking up so much space in the newspapers. This, book, however is a backward look at the long and involved history of St James’s Hospital, the largest teaching hospital in Ireland. Prof. Coakley and his wife have devoted themselves to researching, untangling and recreating the centuries of development that led to the emergence of that establishment. They are both established writers, on cultural matters in Dublin and Cork. But this is an institutional history and aims to provide a history of St James’s, but also to explore and reveal the social and political nature of what went before. It began in 1603 as a Foundling Hospital and Workhouse for Dublin. The notion of a workhouse now appalls us, but it reminds that social improvement cannot be obtained unless we know what went before. The impact of the Great Famine on the city of Dublin is described, and this for many readers may well be quite unfamiliar as most of what is written about the “Great Hunger” is founded on rural Ireland. The emergence of the present hospital in the mid 19th Century and the role of the Sisters of Mercy in its organisation are described. Here again reminding us that so much of the good that was done in the past was depended on voluntary work and contributions, and not on the often fickle support of the state – indeed the state then did not always see it as its duty to do anything, Important I have a friend who always described the South Dublin Union as ‘Kent’s Fort’, and indeed the role of this strategic bastion of buildings was important, not just in 1916, but later. But with the coming of a new State the treatment for the sick poor reflected a change of emphasis from the mentality that created the workhouses. The final chapters cover the developments of health treatment and hospitals over the last 70 years or so. These are important but of perhaps less interest to the general reader. In the controversies of today we often fail to see how far we have come in the provision of care and welfare. But there will also be some who will mourn the loss of the role of the nuns in this area. The modern hospitals so often seem well provided with treatment, but nursing care can sometimes lack the human warmth that is so essential (as the Mercy Sisters knew) to the healing process, or sustaining people in their last days. The post Not just a hospital but a site that illustrates social improvement appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
What we have made of our country
Shaping Ireland: Landscapes in Irish Art National Gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square, Dublin Beit Wing Rooms 6-10, Exhibition runs to July 7 These days, when everyone is so conscious of the world around them and with environmental matters, it will come as a surprise to many to discover that the admiration of landscape is quite a recent development. It was unknown to the ancient or to the middle ages. Then what was admired was farmed land, made-use of land. The mountains and forests were seen as the wilderness, dangerous places, filled with dangers and outlaws. The show presents a creative selection of artists’ responses to the landrace both wild and cultivates over the last 200 years or so, illustrated by veering from paintings and etchings to videos and photographs. These works of art are responses; to the viewer they pose questions in their own way. They do not provide answers. What we did, and are doing, to what has been called “our common home” is often dismaying. But that common home is not just the common home of humans, but of all living things. It would have been good to see a few more images of animal life to fill out the emphasis on a common use for all creation. We need to think to that just as we demand privacy, perhaps nature does too. There will have to be places set aside where people simply do not intrude. There is much to enjoy in this show, but many of the items and their possible significance will linger long in the memory. The post What we have made of our country appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Wild accusations and ignorance not worthy of scholars
Francis Derangement Syndrome hit a new low over the last fortnight, with the publication of a preposterous open letter from a handful of Catholics calling on bishops to “address the situation of Pope Francis’ public adherence to heresy”. Published on the ever-untrustworthy with the tagline ‘Prominent clergy, scholars accuse Pope Francis of heresy in open letter’, it is hard not to sympathise with Michael Sean Winters of America’s when he says: “I think all the names but one, Dominican Fr Aidan Nichols, are more accurately described as obscure.” “Later,” he continues of the report’s reference to the scholars as “well-respected”, “I think Fr Nichols was respected. After this foray into ecclesial politics, perhaps not so much.” Winters’ analysis is patchy at best, but he’s surely right to describe the letters’ authors claims as assertions, rather than statements of indisputable fact. “It takes a particular interpretation of the Catholic tradition and makes an idol of it, insisting that it and it alone is the only valid interpretation,” he writes. Better 
readings Jimmy Akin and Ed Condon offer rather better readings in ‘On charging a Pope with heresy’ at and ‘Analysis: serious and unserious allegations of papal heresy’ at “If you are going to charge anybody with heresy – but especially if you are going to charge a Pope with it –  you need to prove your case, and this letter doesn’t,” writes Akin, clearly mapping out how the case laid out in the open letter fails in a number of ways, not least by failing to show that Pope Francis obstinately doubts or denies dogmas. “One of the requirements for doing this is showing that his statements or actions cannot be understood in another sense. If they can be understood consistently with dogma then the obligation of charity –and Pope Benedict’s ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ – requires that they be taken this way,” he writes, before pointing out that relevant statements in the letter have already been shown by Cardinal Gerhard Müller as being possible to read in harmony with Church teaching. “You can’t make a successful charge of heresy as long as this is the case,” he points out. Condon, meanwhile, observes that “despite the letter’s strident claims, the arguments advanced by its authors do not appear to make a legal, or consistent, argument against the Holy Father regarding the specific charge of canonical heresy”. Although the letter’s authors claim the Pontiff has committed the “canonical delict of heresy”, Condon says they “appear unable to distinguish between the crime of heresy and what their letter actually appears to allege – material heresy”. Even Fr Thomas Weinandy, who has previously written to the Holy Father, declaring his papacy marked by “chronic confusion”, has criticised the letter in as being “extreme in its appraisal and intemperate in its approach”. Confusion, presumptuousness and arrogant accusations may be par for the course for some of the letter’s authors, but Fr Nichols’ involvement may seem to give the affair a hint of gravitas. Venerable reputation, sadly,  offer no guarantee against theologians going off the rails, as Henry Karlson spells out in ‘Being a prominent scholar or theologian does not give one authority to denounce the Pope’ at Some, of course, will point out that Fr Nichols has form for criticising Pope Francis, but as Mike Lewis writes at, this new letter is no simple request – or demand – for clarity, that watchword of the Pope’s antagonists over recent years. “This letter makes specific claims about Pope Francis, and it requests the bishops of the world to take specific actions, with an explicit purpose,” he writes, directly addressing those who would excuse the letter even if they do not wholeheartedly back it. “If you are going to defend the letter, do so with a clear understanding of what you defend. The authors are stating that Francis is no longer Pope, and are asking the bishops of the world to confirm this in an official declaration.” The post Wild accusations and ignorance not worthy of scholars appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
A welcome early start for Harvest time
I’ve often wondered why Ireland doesn’t have a dedicated high-profile Christian arts festival. There was plenty of arts content during the Eucharistic Congress and the World Meeting of Families, but an annual event would be in order. A few years ago Glenealy, Co. Wicklow, had its MAD (‘Make a Difference’) festival thanks to the late Tim Philips and it was wonderful, but now there’s a gap in the market. These thoughts were prompted by last Sunday’s Songs of Praise (BBC1) which paid a visit to Spring Harvest, one of the UK’s most prominent Christian festivals, now in its 40th year. Participants described it as a spiritual “boot camp”, a life-giving place, a place where you can learn a lot about faith and get to know God. It was good to see songwriter and worship leader Graham Kendrick still going strong – he credited Spring Harvest with inspiring his ministry from the early days, though his performance of his song ‘Meekness and Majesty’ came from a different church location. Surely there must have been enough performances at the festival to fill the programme without showing songs recorded elsewhere. There were however some good stories of faith-inspired people who, like Kendrick, credited Spring Harvest for their inspiration – for example a young couple who helped community relations and social problems on a one-to-one basis in a Manchester suburb. Of all the songs I particularly liked ‘Knowing You Jesus’ which I hadn’t heard before – “all I once thought gain I have counted loss”. Blessed In the West we’re blessed to have relatively stable countries, with the opportunity to have arts festivals. In the developing world the problems can be more basic and pressing, with the focus often on survival. Tuesday of last week saw the return of What in the World? RTE’s series about the developing world. The opening episode focused on Somalia – deemed a ‘failed state’ ravaged by war, poverty, hunger, climate change, drought and Al Shabaab an Islamist terrorist group. It was disturbing to watch ordinary people trying to go about their lives under such conditions. Worst scene of all was the aftermath of a suicide bomb that killed 600 in Mogadishu. Also graphic but with a happier ending was the scene of an emergency Caesarean – the mother had been told her foetus was dead, but was thrilled when the baby was alive on delivery. Much of the documentary was shot in a camp for internally displaced citizens – some had been there for over seven years. It was heart-breaking to hear mothers telling of their children who had died, of malnutrition or cholera or other ailments. A government minister said the main problem in the country was lack of clean water and it was unnerving watching young men drinking from a very dirty-looking river. Documentary maker Peadar King took a low key approach and didn’t make a big deal of his own presence. I would have liked more political context along with the painful personal stories, but it was good to see the Trócaire label on some of the supplies. Channel 4’s Unreported World series also brings us stories from the developing world, though the reporter/presenter tends to be much more prominent. In last Friday’s episode,   conveyed empathy in the story of young girls in prison in Madagascar, described as one off the poorest countries in the world, where adults can be held in jail for five years without trial, with under 18s potentially incarcerated for three years. The programme went for a subjective approach, focusing on just one teenage girl, Saholy, who had been accused of petty theft, which she denied. The programme makers inserted themselves into the story and helped to locate her parents who, in a faraway village, weren’t aware of their daughter’s plight. Apparently some parents disown their jailed children, but Saholy’s parents came to visit her and there was a tearful reunion. It was a moving event, though I’m always uneasy at the intrusiveness of the camera on such occasions. They confronted Saholy’s employer who had accused her but not informed her parents of her whereabouts (they made out this was the girl’s own wishes) – in fact, even as the parents visited her in jail, the employer, a doctor, said that Saholy was in church! Unfortunately we were told at the end that she was still in jail without trial. No happy ending there. Pick of the week MARCH FOR LIFE IN ROME EWTN, Saturday, May 18, 2 pm Live coverage of the pro-life event from Rome. QUEST FOR SHAKESPEARE EWTN, Sunday, May 19, 9 am Host Joseph Pearce examines Shakespeare’s Catholic motives in Hamlet. HOW TO BUILD A CATHEDRAL BBC4, Tuesday night, 1.50 am Architectural historian Jon Cannon goes in search of the clues that shed light on how our medieval forebears were able to build the wonders of their world. The post A welcome early start for Harvest time appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Portrait of the artist as a young man in love and war
(12A)   We’re in World War I. A soldier stands in the trenches in the heat of battle. Memory and desire percolate in his brain. He has a fever. He’s looking for a lost friend. His mind wanders back to the past – to the poverty of his childhood, the death of his mother, finding love…and then sacrificing it to go to college. When he gets to Oxford, JRR Tolkien – for it is he – becomes friendly with three kindred souls. They’re all idealists. Artistic eccentrics, they form a society they believe will change the world. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” wrote Wordsworth, “to be young was very heaven.” But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. The war will change their lives irrevocably. Paradise has to be postponed, if not renounced altogether. Nostalgia becomes the substitute for idealism. The orphaned author finetunes his love of language against the backdrop of a burgeoning love. A kindly priest (Colm Meaney doing a fine British accent) oversees his path towards self-definition. A university professor (Derek Jacobi) becomes a different kind of Svengali later on. War is the conduit through which the emotionally vulnerable Tolkien stripmines the mother lode of his imagination. Soon he will write the magic sentence: “In a hole under the ground there lived a hobbit.” It will change his life, leading him to the “sacred place” of Middle Earth with Lord of the Rings. Slow 
burner This is a slow burner of a film. Some people might find it too leisurely but therein lies its charm. It doesn’t throw itself at us, maturing like a fine wine. In Nicholas Hoult we have a new Hugh Grant. Or maybe even a new Daniel Day-Lewis. He bathes himself in his character without trying too hard. As Edith, Lily Collins is the ideal wife to help him realise his potential and become the person he has to be. Dome Kanukoski’s film captures Tolkien before fame found him. The formative years of any icon’s life are often the most interesting. So it proves here. Tolkien is respectful of him both as a man and an artist. That’s why I’m amazed the (litigious) Tolkien estate issued a statement saying it doesn’t endorse the film in any shape or form. “Tolkien (sic) has become a monster,” his son Christopher stated, “devoured by his popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time.” I find this statement both melodramatic and precious. Authors are public property. Their families can’t expect people to read their books and not be interested in their lives. If we take something like the recent Detainment, which exploited the horror of James Bulger’s death unashamedly without consulting his family, Christopher Tolkien’s point would be relevant. Tolkien is a totally different kettle of fish. Don’t expect any fireworks – except on the battlefield – but this is still a quietly powerful biopic of one of the most groundbreaking authors of our time. Or any time. Very Good **** The post Portrait of the artist as a young man in love and war appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Review: Northern Ireland’s painful past is far from over
Review: Northern Ireland’s painful past is far from over They were out in the streets of Derry during Holy Week this year, as locals from the city’s Creggan neighborhood hurled petrol bombs at the police and hijacked their vehicles. The police were searching homes for weapons and explosives, for they had reason to believe a terrorist attack of some sort was imminent. Advertisement Then there were gunshots. A 29-year-old woman from Belfast fell. She was standing near police officers, raising her phone above her head, recording images of the chaos, and dispatching them digitally to the world outside Derry. She was a journalist named Lyra McKee. She died that night, on the eve of Good Friday, slain by two teens linked to a paramilitary group called the New I.R.A. You will be forgiven for thinking that the Troubles in Northern Ireland are over. It was on a Good Friday 21 years ago that its political leaders signed an agreement that seemed to relegate violence and terrorism to the province’s past. William Faulkner’s famous quote about the American South applies to the north of Ireland as well: “The past is not dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” But as Patrick Radden Keefe implicitly reminds us in his new book, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, William Faulkner’s famous quote about the American South applies to the north of Ireland as well: “The past is not dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” Keefe, a writer for The New Yorker, spent four years researching and writing a book that focuses on one of the most shocking crimes of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the kidnapping and disappearance of a woman named Jean McConville just before Christmas in 1972. She was a 38-year-old widow with 10 children, the oldest a teenager. The Irish Republican Army’s Provisional wing saw itself as fighting a war of liberation against British troops and their allies. They concluded that McConville was an informer. Those who were even suspected of informing during the Troubles were at risk of ending their days in a shallow, unmarked grave. And that was indeed McConville’s fate, although decades would pass before the mystery of her disappearance was resolved. People at the time knew they should say nothing—a code commemorated in a Seamus Heaney poem and repurposed for the book’s title. But Keefe has written something more than a murder mystery. As the subtitle indicates, this is a book about the battle over how memory is preserved and transmitted. That battle is ongoing. From the moment the I.R.A.’s political leadership, led by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, entered into peace talks in the early 1990s, various parties have sought to shape how the conflict is to be remembered, and whose memories would inform the narrative. Keefe’s book is as much about that battle as it is an account of the Troubles. Into this maelstrom, Keefe writes, strolled several administrators at Boston College with admirable intentions. Two years after the Good Friday Agreement, with the Troubles seemingly relegated to the old millennium, they set out to create an oral history of the conflict, told in the words of protagonists—the mostly Protestant Unionists and Loyalists (who were divided by class but united in their resistance to the I.R.A. and its allies) and the mostly Catholic Irish nationalists. The initiative was kept secret, at least for a while, and in Keefe’s description, it seemed to address an obvious shortcoming in the Good Friday Agreement. In their effort to bring about peace, the negotiators had focused on the future rather than the past.… [There] was no provision for the creation of any sort of truth-and reconciliation mechanism that might allow the people of Northern Ireland to address the sometimes murky and often painful history of what had befallen their country over the previous three decades. Such was the intention. That’s not how it worked out, in large part because of the unsolved disappearance of Jean McConville. People who claimed to know what happened to her spoke with Boston College’s researchers with the understanding that their interviews would remain sealed until they died. But when the authorities in Northern Ireland heard about the project and the possible clues the interviews might contain, they demanded access to the tapes. That unanticipated development put Boston College in a difficult situation, leading to a trans-Atlantic legal battle that involved high-minded concepts like privacy and academic privilege. But ultimately, it was about contested memories. (Eventually, a beleaguered Boston College offered to give back the tapes to interview subjects.) Two I.R.A. members, Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, said in their oral histories that Adams ordered McConville’s murder, a highly inflammatory assertion and one that became public several years ago. Adams, who refused to participate in the Boston College project, has long insisted that he was never a member of the I.R.A., an assertion that Price and Hughes deeply resented and that helped turn them against him. Gerry Adams has long insisted that he was never a member of the I.R.A., an assertion that Price and Hughes deeply resented and that helped turn them against him. Price, Hughes and Adams are central characters in this tale of murder and memory. Price’s story is perhaps the most mesmerizing. She and her sister, Marian, were reared on the family’s tradition of violent resistance to Britain’s presence on the island. In one of the book’s more haunting passages, the two sisters (just young girls at the time) are sent to visit their Aunt Bridie, who had been left with no eyes, no hands and a scarred face when explosives she was handling for the I.R.A. went off by accident in 1938. She was 27 at the time. More than a quarter-century later, “Dolours was given the job of lighting Bridie’s cigarettes, gently inserting them between her lips.” On more than one occasion, “she would ask Bridie, ‘Do you not wish you’d just died?’” Their aunt’s fate did nothing to deter Dolours and Marian Price from carrying on the family legacy. They went on to become hard-edged soldiers for the I.R.A., and their stories overlap with those of Hughes, Adams and Jean McConville. Keefe seeks to explain what drove these women to put their lives on the line—and to be willing to take the lives of others—in his dark and skillful description of the despair in the Catholic neighborhoods of Belfast and Derry circa 1975. His portrayal of Adams as a shrewd and calculating operative intent on rewriting his past is not particularly flattering. But ultimately, as Keefe suggests, it is Adams—who declined to be interviewed for the book—who emerges on the right side of history. Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes opposed the I.R.A.’s decision to give up its armed struggle, joining a small band of dissidents. They are dead now, but people who share their belief in the power and righteousness of the gun and the bomb remain very much a presence in the north. Patrick Radden Keefe delivers a searing portrait of Irish women and men struggling to make sense of their past and their memories. Those who wish Ireland well can only hope that it gets sorted out quickly, for the future depends on it. keane Wed, 05/15/2019 - 11:58 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Rhett Segall46 min 30 sec ago I read Keefe's book. It's excellent!I One of my regular prayers is “Help me find good books.” “Say Nothing” is a prayer answered! The Prices, the McConvilles, Brendan Hughes, etc., really became my brothers and sisters. Sadly, I realized how much good they wanted and how devastated they became because of the chosen means to that good. I hate the expression “a good read”. It’s condescending as far I’m concerned. No, “Say Nothing” was not a “good read”. It was an entrance into a life still far from many of us and yet so much at our own door steps. It’s a gift to find a way that helps us to come to terms with it. Advertisement
Who was the priest who helped raise J. R. R. Tolkien?
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Review: In ‘Wild Nights with Emily’ love casts out fear
Review: In ‘Wild Nights with Emily’ love casts out fear cfreeman Wed, 05/08/2019 - 15:12 Advertisement
The Secrets of The LEGO Movie 2
It's an Australian perspective on the LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, as Lindsay Sant, Caroline Knight, and Gerard Trapnell of the Catholics of Oz podcast discuss the pop cultures references and in-jokes of this sequel, whether it measures up to the original, and the themes the movie explores. The post The Secrets of The LEGO Movie 2 appeared first on
‘Sneaking regarders’ – support for the Provos in the Republic
A Broad Church: the Provisional IRA in the Republic of Ireland, 1969-1980 Gearóid Ó Faoleán (Merrion Press, €19.95 / £16.99) Felix 
 Larkin   The controversial – and, for some, uncomfortable – argument of this book is that, to quote from it, “there was a sizable though ultimately immeasurable [sic] body of tolerance, if not support, for militant republicanism throughout the Republic of Ireland” during the Troubles – at least in the initial phase of the Troubles, the years covered in this book. The author, Gearóid Ó Faoleán, is a recent PhD graduate of the University of Limerick. To substantiate his argument, Dr Ó Faoleán points to such manifestations of support as safe houses for Republicans on the run, financial contributions to the Republican cause, acquittals of Republicans in the Courts, a “blind eye” being turned by local communities to IRA training camps in the Republic, an absence of zeal on the part of both the Gardaí and the (legitimate) army in suppressing Republican activity, public demonstrations at IRA funerals and protests against policy blunders like internment and against atrocities like ‘Bloody Sunday’. Dr Ó Faoleán claims that the Republic of Ireland served “as a hinterland to the conflict” and that the Republic was “dotted from the top of society to the bottom with sympathisers and supporters” of the IRA. He goes so far as to assert that “no political party in the South had a membership or support base that rejected militant republicanism in its entirety”. He may well be right. We are all aware of “sneaking regarders”, those who sympathise with and/or give support to physical force republicanism without actually participating in its activities. Evidence The evidence adduced by Dr Ó Faoleán in his book is, however, largely circumstantial or anecdotal. He relies heavily on Republican sources, especially memoirs and previous studies by scholars who have had close contact with the Republican movement – such as J. Bowyer Bell. Moreover, while admitting that there were instances of intimidation by the IRA, he too easily rejects that as a factor in the support and tolerance of violent republicanism that he posits. But is it really not possible to quantify the level of support in the Republic for IRA violence, as Dr Ó Faoleán suggests? His best effort in this regard is to quote from the research of Fr Micháel MacGréil, published in 1977, which showed that 70-80% of the Republic’s population favoured reunification. He implies that this signifies support for the aims, if not always the methods, of the IRA – which, in turn, prompted a high level of tolerance of their activities. There was, however, another survey in the 1970s which specifically addressed the question of support for the IRA’s campaign of violence. Conducted by Earl Davis and Richard Sinnott, and published by the Economic and Social Research Institute in 1979, it found that about 20% of the Republic’s population were to some degree in support of IRA activities – but only 8% moderately or strongly in support. Inexplicably, Dr Ó Faoleán does not refer to this survey in his book. It is a grievous omission, as it would have provided solid empirical data to inform his analysis. The post ‘Sneaking regarders’ – support for the Provos in the Republic appeared first on The Irish Catholic.