Sunday 1 August 2021

Blessed John Sullivan SJ - Fergal McGrath SJ

Blessed John Sullivan SJ
Fergal McGrath SJ
ISBN 9781788121262
ISBN 2nd ED 9781910248294
eISBN 9781788121514
eISBN 9781788121507

This is the second book published by Messenger Publications that I have read in as many days. The first I read was, Saint Ignatius of Loyola: A Convert's Story by Patrick Corkery SJ, and this was one of 4 I picked up while writing and researching for the review of that one. This book was originally published in 1942, a second edition in 2016, and this third edition and eBook released in 2020. There appears to be several other volumes written by Father Fergal but I believe this is the only one currently in print. Which seems a pity based on the titles and topics of some of the other volumes. I had briefly encountered Fergal’s works in The Irish Way edited by F.J. Sheed, where he contributed a chapter on Catherine McAuley. But let us return to this volume. The description of this booklet is:

“John Sullivan SJ was born in Dublin in 1861. Once dubbed 'the best dressed man about Dublin', he seemed destined, like his father, for a career in law. Then, following a conversion to Catholicism, at the age of 35 he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Immediately after his ordination, he was sent to Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare, where he spent most of his remaining years. At Clongowes, he became renowned for the hours he spent in prayer, his asceticism, and for his kindness and wisdom. His reputation spread outside the college walls, with many people calling on him in their hour of need. His love of the poor and sick led to miraculous cures being attributed to him. After his death in 1933, devotion to him continued to grow, and in 1947 the first stage of the process of Canonisation was introduced. The large numbers who visit his tomb in St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner Street, Dublin, bear testimony to the continuing belief in the power of his intercession with God. John Sullivan SJ was beatified in Dublin in May 2017.”
The chapters in the booklet are:

The Lord Chancellor’s Youngest Son
The Best Dressed Young Man About Dublin
A Mother’s Prayers
The Middle-Aged Novice
‘We Call Him The Saint, Mum’
The Friend Of The Afflicted
The Preacher By Practice
How To Die Well

The introduction to this third edition is written by Donal Neary SJ was written on of after May 13th 2017. In that introduction we are informed that:

“God, who called him to sanctity by a strange path, was for his priestly life the centre of life and motivation. His life was simple: even simpler than those he ministered to.

Fr Brian Grogan SJ writes, ‘He challenges us to explicitly choose the path of loving as against the path of greed. It is remarkable to know of someone who actually lived out a life of radical simplicity: bread, porridge, water, poor clothes, an old bike … Gandhi and John perhaps have much in common.’ Both were men of God sent to those with the deepest need, to bring the love and care of God among them.

He left few notes behind, but his attitude to every day is often quoted, ‘Take life in instalments, this one day now. At least let this be a good day. Be always beginning’.”

Prior to reading this volume I will admit I was familiar with the name of Blessed John Sullivan. And with my own Irish heritage had heard a few things, but this little volume had encouraged me to dig deeper. And to seek out the intercession of this holy man. Based on the length of this volume I was not expecting it to take long to read. But once I started I could not put it down. The story of Father John’s life is so inspiring. Reading this book I could not help but think about ways I could live and serve God better. In my home, in my parish, in my community. 

Reading this I could not help but think about Saint John Henry Newman. Blessed John Sullivan is the type of priest we need today. He can serve as an inspiration and example to our generation and to generations to come. And this little booklet is an excellent introduction to the man, his faith, and his life.

Another great read from the Messenger Booklet series. I was blessed to have read this and I am certain you will be as well. 

(Note: as mentioned there are three editions of this booklet, the cover above is the current edition.)

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For all review of Messenger Publications books and booklets click here

Books by Fergal McGrath SJ:
Blessed John Sullivan SJ
Newman's University: Idea and Reality
Tenement Angel and Other Stories
Education in Ancient and Medieval Ireland
Consecration of Learning
Adventure Island
Life in Christ: Religious Doctrine For Secondary Schools Part 1
More Memories of Father John Sullivan 

Contributed to:
The Irish Way – Edited by F.J. Sheed

Cover of second edition.

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