Monday 29 March 2021

The Irish Way - Edited by F.J. Sheed - Studies in Irish Sanctity from St. Patrick to Matt Talbot

The Irish Way: 
Studies in Irish Sanctity from St. Patrick to Matt Talbot
F. J. Sheed (Editor)
ISBN 9781952826528

I picked this up for three main reasons. First a few years ago I encountered the writings of Alice Curtayne and have been trying to track down all of her works since. She contributed two of the pieces in this collection. Second, I am well away of the Sheed and Ward publishing, I have tracked down many out-of-print volumes from that press. And this one is edited and even has a piece contributed by Frank J. Sheed. And finally, I have a great fascination with my Irish roots, Irish Catholicism, and Irish Saints. And this volume gives us snapshots, or portraits of 18 Irish saints. The description of the volume is:

“The Irish Way, edited by F. J. Sheed, one of the pre-eminent Christian intellectuals of the twentieth century, looks at the lives and legacies of eighteen great Roman Catholics of Ireland. Under Sheed’s sure-handed editorial guidance, the essays collected in this volume combine to show what Catholicism is in the Irish people. These studies are not truncated biographies but portraits whose subjects were simply - in the words of Sheed - “good Catholics, who were Irish, from whom, therefore, something might be learnt of Irish Catholicity.” From Saint Patrick to Matt Talbot, from Theobald Mathew to Margaret Mary Hallahan, all the men and women in this book served the Church faithfully and with great zeal. The contributors to The Irish Way include such luminaries of twentieth-century Irish-Catholic letters as Alice Curtayne, Vincent McNabb, O.P., Philip Hughes, and F. J. Sheed himself.”     

The complete list of contributors in this collection in the order they appears are:

Alice Curtayne
Donal O'Cahill
Raymond O'Flynn
Vincent McNabb, O.P.
C.P. Curran 
Myles V. Ronan, C.C.
Aubrey Gwynn, S.J.
Victor Shepphard, O.M.F.
Philip Hughes
Fergal McGrath, S.J.
James O'Mahoney, O.M.Cap.
Thomas O'Donnell, C.M.
Eve Healy
James Brodrick, S.J.
F. J. Sheed

Sheed writes both the introduction and the final installment in the volume a piece on Matt Talbot. In the introduction he states:

“The aim of this book is to show what Catholicism is in the Irish, and the method has been to take a number of great Catholics who were typically Irish and show what manner of people they were. These studies are not compressed of biographies but portraits: their purpose is not so much to tell the reader what certain people did nor even what they were; but simply to show them to him.”

Further on informs us about the selections that:

“In the choice of people to be studied, no fixed rule was followed save that they should be Irish and should be noted beyond the average for love of God. The idea came into being during a holiday in Kerry last summer, and the first concern was to find the writers rather than the subjects. The only condition here was that the writers should be of Irish blood.”

The first line of the introduction is:

"Every nation has its own way of being Catholic, for the life of the Faith does not destroy the natural life and take its place, but elevates the natural life to a new level of activity.”

And the last lines of that introduction are:

“Every nation has its own way of being Catholic. The Irish way is St. Patrick’s way. And this book proves it.”

And this volume gives us these 18 portraits in being Irish Catholic:

Saint Patrick - Alice Curtayne
Saint Brendan - Donal O'Cahill
Saint Columbkille - Raymond O'Flynn
Saint Columbanus - Vincent McNabb, O.P.
Saint Malachy - Vincent McNabb, O.P
Saint Laurence O’Toole - C.P. Curran 
Dermot O’Hurley - Myles V. Ronan, C.C.
Thomas Fihilly, S.J. - Aubrey Gwynn, S.J.
Michael O’Clery - Victor Shepphard, O.M.F.
Blessed Oliver Plunket - Philip Hughes
Thaddeus Moriarty, O.P. - Alice Curtayne
Catherine McAuley - Fergal McGrath, S.J.
Mark aikenhead - C.P. Curran 
Theobald Mathew - James O'Mahoney, O.M.Cap.
John Hand - Thomas O'Donnell, C.M.
Margaret Mary Hallahan - Eve Healy
William Doyle, S.J. - James Brodrick, S.J.
Matt Talbot - F. J. Sheed

This book was a fascinating read. And to be honest I jumped around a bit while reading it. I will likely return to it and reread it in order. My first time through I read the pieces by Curtayne. Then Sheed’s contribution of the final piece. Then went back read the rest. It was a wonderful read an eye opening for some of the people who I was less familiar with. And even for those that I have read much about there were some new gems to gleam. I have found that after reading this book I not only want to read more from some of the contributors but also more by or about the subjects. An excellent new edition of this book.

It should be noted that this reprint edition from Cluny is very well done. Unlike many book brought back from the public domain, this volume went through a process of a high quality scan. And a complete re-typesetting. Cluny is dedicated to restoring quality editions of old books, focused on the Catholic Tradition. Their motto is: ‘Promote the tradition. Preserve the Past.’ Which is a very worthy cause. Unfortunately, there is not an eBook edition of this, nor of any of the other five Alice Curtayne volumes they have resurrected. It seems to be rather random which of their books end up with electronic editions. More the pity. 

This book was a fascinating read. From the wonderful introduction and statement of purpose by Sheed. To the many varied contributions. It is wonderful that it is back in print. And will serve as a blessing to all who read it. From the academic, to the casual scholar, to the layperson with an interest in Irish saints this book is an excellent read. I highly recommend it and will be trying to track down other reads from some of the 15 contributors. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

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