Saturday 26 February 2022

The Restless Flame, Daniel Lord, SJ - Stephen A. Werner - Thinking Big in a Parochial World!

The Restless Flame, Daniel Lord, SJ 
Thinking Big in a Parochial World!
Press, Press, Pull
ISBN 9798476470885

I first encountered the works of Daniel Lord, SJ several years ago. I was amazing when I discovered how much he had written. Previously about 45 of his booklets were available in Kindle format, and many were available on The Australian Catholic Truth Society Archive. Unfortunately the kindle editions cannot be found any longer and the ACTS site is undergoing a rebuild. I was approached about reviewing this volume because I had reviewed, Played by Ear. A priest I follow on social media, Fr. Edward Looney, once stated that ‘Daniel Lord wrote over a million words in his lifetime’. And I had not really heard of him. Shortly after that I started picking up his eBooks and my children had a couple reprints of his children’s books gifted to them. I later wrote a piece called ‘Three Great Catholic Writers That You Might Never Have Heard Of!  Curtayne - Lord - Powers’, and this volume just reinforces that sentiment. 

This book is written in part as a companion to the website And each chapter ends with links to that site for further information. But the book is much more than that. It is the story of an incredible life. A life lived large, a life lived in service. And a Life that completely surprised me. This volume is biography, it is also a soft of Curriculum Vitae. It is also a chronological bibliography or the plays, major articles, books and booklets that Lord penned. Lord wrote over 30 books and over 200 pamphlets. He wrote plays, pageants, drams, columns and more. He was a lecturer, public speaker, the National Director of the Sodality movement. He created the Summer School of Catholic Action, which was week long conference for sisters, priests, brothers, students and lay people. Many of his ideas were years if not decades ahead of his times. And yet central to his life was being a priest and serving God and the church.

Reading this it feels like Lord had the strength and stamina of several ordinary men. And he accomplished more in his lifetime than many. The end of the description of this volume states:

“Very likely, Daniel Lord, in his thirty-year career, had more impact on the lives of ordinary Catholics than any other religious figure. His life story and countless writings provide a unique window into the American Catholic world of the 1920s into the 1950s.” 

And I would absolutely agree. This book is a fascinating read about an amazing man. It is very detailed. Towards the end of the book Werner muses:

“The writings of Daniel Lord have been mostly forgotten. Lord did not write for the ages nor did he write for academics. He wrote for ordinary people in the moment. He had much influence on many people. Many millions of people read his pamphlets. However, pamphlets were cheap to buy and easy to pitch.

Most libraries, even Catholic libraries, did not buy them and certainly did not save them. As for The Queen’s Work magazine, only a few Catholic libraries kept them and bound them and later archived them. Both his magazine and pamphlets became hard to find. Also his writings were not taken seriously by most Catholic scholars. As for Lord’s many shows and pageants, he believed the actual play was what was important. Although some scripts were published, many were not and only exist as manuscripts.

The vast majority of what Lord wrote is not being read today. On the other hand, how many American Catholics today are reading classics such as Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness, and the novels and stories of Flannery O’Connor?”

As someone who has spent the last several years trying to track down books and booklets by Alice Curtayne, Lord and other volumes from The Catholic Truth Society finding booklets from 20 to 30 years ago is difficult let alone 75-100 years ago. I think it is a great loss and can only hope that at least a digital archive of Lord’s works can be complied over the coming years. We are informed the this book that Lord stated:

“I have never written with any hope that my writings would live. On the contrary, I am content that they die with the vast body of topical writings which profoundly affect the moment and the hour. I do not expect to be rediscovered in a hundred years by commentators who will discuss me learnedly and embalm me in footnotes. Who cares? I wrote for the Dicks and Sues I knew and loved. I wrote in the hope that someone who ran as he read might, because of my writing, run with a little more security and read with a sense that I had confirmed what he had hoped for and known without quite being able to put it into words.”

I know I have benefited from much of what I have read by Lord and will continue to try and track down more of his works, especially his booklets. Werner states after the above quote:

“Hopefully this book with its fair share of footnotes has not embalmed Daniel Lord but rather brought to light this fascinating man and his work. Much of what he wrote is still relevant to the great grandchildren of Dick and Sue.”

And I am certain anyone who gives this book a read will become fascinated with the man and the works of Daniel A. Lord. This is an excellent biography, and worth the read. I give it top marks.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Stephan A. Werner:
Prophet of the Christian Social Manifesto: Joseph Husslein, S.J., His Life, Work & Social Thought
The Handy History Answer Book: From the Stone Age to the Digital Age

Books by Daniel A. Lord:
Father Finn, S.J., The Story Of His Life Told By Himself For His Friends Young And Old
Played by Ear

Children's Books:
The Our Father: Our Prayer to God
The Hail Mary Our Mother in Heaven

Red Arrows in the Night

Our Nuns: Their Varied and Vital Service for God and County
I can read ANYTHING!? All right! - then read THIS!
Confession is a joy?
Religion and Leadership
Fashionable Sin - A Modern Discussion of an Unpopular Subject
My Mother, The Study of an Uneventful Life
You Can't Live That Way
The Call to Catholic Action
Our Part in the Mystical Body
I Don't Like Lent

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