Wednesday 16 May 2018

St. Brigid of Ireland - Alice Curtayne

St. Brigid of Ireland
Alice Curtayne
Sheed and Ward (1954 Revised Edition)
Browne and Nolan (1934)

I first encountered the writings of Alice Curtayne through her book Twenty Tales of Irish Saints, I was captivated by her writing style and her style as a hagiographer. And I started tracking down her other writings. This is not proving an easy task. The first problem is that only 2 of her works are currently in print. Second many of her books never had North American editions. Her first book was published in 1929. She wrote histories, most focused on saints. She wrote a few novels. And she wrote extensively for newspapers and magazines. I have also found that she wrote pamphlets for the Catholic Truth Society. To date I have been able to track down 9 of her works. But even that has not been easy. But back to this specific title. Alice Curtayne has two works with the title St. Brigid of Ireland, this one a full-length history originally published in 1934 and revised in 1954. And also, one of her Catholic Truth Society pamphlets called 'Saint Brigid, The Mary of Ireland'. I have read both and the pamphlet is a separate work.

I have loved both the collections on saints by Curtayne that I have read. As such some of the incidents in this book are familiar both historically and in style. And this book also crosses over and touches upon a number of other Irish Catholic saints, of course Patrick, but also others that came after Brigid. I greatly appreciated the comparison between Saint Brigid's spirituality and that of Saint Francis of Assisi. This book begins with the words:

"St. Brigid, who ranks with Patrick and Columcille in Ireland's Great Triad of Saints, arose in that period where certainty begins in our record. She stands in that first shaft of light that illuminates our history, literature, topography, art and architecture. The strength of Irish devotion to her is expressed in the very repetition of our Kilbrides, Templebreedys, Tobarbrides, Kilbreedys, Rathbrides, and Drumbridges. No one having the slightest acquaintance with Ireland can miss her name, so hugely is it scrawled across the landscape. The ancients affixed it to enduring things, like running water and glens that should witness to her forever."
But this book is much more than a geography lesson on the impact of this saint. Brigid is an unlikely leader, the illegitimate daughter of a minor chieftain. And yet she transformed a country. She built the first religious communities for women in Ireland. And often built them along side monks. She was generous to a fault, and many did find fault with her giving. She has a way with animals, and also a way with people. She lived a life of service. And she lived to make the lives of others better.

This is one of those books that I could easily read again right away. Like the works of some of my favorite authors I see myself returning to this book and other writings of Alice Curtayne often. There is something in the writing that speaks to my spirit. Her way with words, her devotion. The way she balances legends, against known facts, and with faith and trust. Saint Brigid is an example to us all, even more so at this time, 80 years after the writing of this book, and almost 1500 years after her death.

In the Catholic Truth Society booklet on Brigid by Curtayne there are two prayers. One I have been praying for myself and over my daughters daily. There are no prayers to Brigid in this book but this book still is a gem. It made me want to read more about Saint Brigid of Ireland, and more by Curtayne, no matter how hard to track down they are. This book is a little treasure of faith and it will inspire you, and likely challenge you. It is well worth the effort to track it down and to give it a read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books and Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
A Recall to Dante
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

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