Saturday, 4 January 2014

Reading a book with pleasure ‘for
its cultural and confessional content’

Patrick Comerford

Dr Michael Ryan, former Director of the Chester Beatty Library, makes kind mention of my two chapters in Treasures of Irish Christianity, edited by Professor Salvador Ryan and Bishop Brendan Leahy, in a book review in The Irish Times this morning.

He says Treasures of Irish Christianity, which was published by Veritas earlier last year [2013] “defies easy description” for it is “at once a book of articles with a strong historical bent and a miscellany of devotional or contemplative essays.”

After referring to the 73 “authors, many of them well-known scholars,” he says this book shines a light on well-known and on comparatively obscure episodes in the history of Irish Christianity,” with “much to learn and enjoy.”

He refers to my chapter on Bedell’s Irish translation of the Bible, and goes on to comment:

“Patrick Comerford’s elegant essay on the religious aspects of the Celtic Revival sets out the historical context for the adoption of ‘Celtic’ Christianity as a foundational identity for the Church of Ireland after disestablishment in 1869. He might have gone a step further and attributed the invention of the ‘Celtic’ Church to Anglican divines and especially to FE Warren’s book of 1881 on its liturgy and ritual. Celtic spirituality is now a lifestyle choice with New Age overtones but a Celtic Church never existed – the ancient Irish and British churches were within a range of variation of practice widespread in early medieval Europe: standardisation on the Roman model came late and slowly.”

He concludes: “This volume wears its heart on its sleeve and it does what it sets out to do. It celebrates Irish Christian belief, tradition and practice over almost 1,600 years. It can be read with pleasure both for its cultural and confessional content.”

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