06 March 2024

The Dominicans mark
800 years in Ireland
with a new journal from
Dominican Publications

Saint Saviour’s Church, Dublin … the Dominicans are celebrating 800 years of their presence in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This year, the Dominicans are celebrating the 800th anniversary of their arrival in Ireland. The Dominicans were the first order of friars in Ireland, arriving in Dublin from Oxford in 1224, three years after the death of their founder, Saint Dominic.

Since then, there has been a continuous Dominican presence in Ireland for 800 years, unbroken through times of great social change and religious persecution.

As part of the 800th anniversary celebrations in Ireland, the Master of the Order, Father Francis Gerard Timoner, celebrated Mass in Saint Saviour’s Church, Dublin, last month (11 February 2024), the Tallaght Choral Society is giving a jubilee performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Helix Centre, Dublin City University, next month (14 April 2024), and Dominican Publications in Dublin have launched a new journal, Conversations, published by six times a year.

The name of the new journal Conversations is inspired by an event in the life of Saint Dominic when he was accompanying his bishop on a diplomatic journey from Spain to Denmark in 1203.

Dominic de Guzman was living the ordered, contemplative life of a cathedral canon when he was asked to travel with his bishop to Denmark. On that journey, Dominic encountered anti-Christian thinking for the first time in Toulouse. The innkeeper where Dominic and the bishop were staying was a Cathar, and Dominic stayed up all night in conversation with him. For both, the outcome was profound: the innkeeper was converted, and Dominic was prompted to change his way of life.

Father Bernard Treacy, editor of the new journal Conversations, recalls how this incident in the life of Saint Dominic once prompted a joke by Timothy Radcliffe, when he was the Dominican Master, that the order was founded in a pub.

Saint Dominic became deeply aware that the deepest conversation is the one between the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. In an era of profound social, religious, political and intellectual change, he spent 13 years gathering teams around him to explore new ways to live and preach the Gospel.

He engaged in conversations as he sought ways to credibly live and present the Gospel in an environment where many people were drawn to a dualistic, life-denying world-view. He also attended the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 before founding the Order of Preachers in 1216.

The Dominican chapel in Blackfriars, Oxford … the Dominicans arrived in Ireland from Oxford in 1224 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Irish Dominicans have been associated with schools such as Muckross Park, Dublin, and Newbridge College, Co Kildare. Their houses include Saint Saviour’s in Parnell Square, Dublin, and Saint Mary’s Priory, Tallaght. The Irish Dominicans are also linked with San Clemente Basilica in Rome.

Conversations, the new journal from Dominican Publications in Dublin, builds on the work of two long-standing and well-respected journals, Doctrine and Life and Spirituality.

Dominican Publications were founded in 1897. The first publication was The Irish Rosary, a monthly journal that continued until 1961. The editors included Archbishop Patrick Finbar Ryan (1881-1975). He was a brother of the diplomat, Sir Andrew Ryan, and Mary Ryan, Professor of Romance Languages at University College Cork – she was the first female professor in Ireland or Britain, and a regular contributor to The Irish Rosary. Archbishop Ryan’s nephews included the Dominican theologian the Revd Dr Columba Ryan (1916-2009) of Hawkesyard Priory and Spode House, near Rugeley, Staffordshire, and John Ryan (1921-2009), the cartoonist best-known for his character Captain Pugwash.

Doctrine and Life was first published in February 1951. It was followed by Scripture in Church in 1970, and Spirituality was launched in 1994.

Doctrine and Life dates back to a remark by Alfred J O’Rahilly, President of UCC, who told Father Anselm Moynihan: ‘You should make available in English those excellent articles from La Vie Spirituelle.’ As a result, a section headed ‘Doctrine and Life’ began to appear in The Irish Rosary from late 1946.

Doctrine and Life became a separate publication in 1951, edited by Anselm Moynihan. Its mandate was ‘to explain the abundant riches of God’s grace,’ drawing on ‘the traditional sources of Catholic teaching – Sacred Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.’

Two years after Father Austin Flannery was appointed editor, Pope John XXIII called the Vatican II council in 1959. Austin realised that people would need help in understanding the teaching of Vatican II and the implications of this new epoch in the life of the Church, and he focussed Doctrine and Life on meeting this need. Bernard Treacy was appointed editor in 1989, when controversies on law and morality were prominent in Irish life, and Doctrine and Life became a forum for these debates.

Austin Flannery also identified a need for a publication to help people to deepen their Christian lives in a world where the practice of faith is diminishing. The first edition of Spirituality, edited by Tom Jordan, was published in 1994. It offered insights on the Bible and the liturgy, on the teachings of the great Christian mystics and theologians on the spiritual life and on prayer, and the spiritual experience of saintly men and women. Tom Jordan developed Spirituality creatively and effectively for almost three decades.

Windows by Johnny Murphy and Reiltín Murphy in Saint Saviour’s Church, Limerick, depicting the martyrdom of the Dominican Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien and the history of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Over the years, I have contributed six papers to both journals, with papers in Doctrine and Life in 1991, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002, and in Spirituality in 2001.

By summer 2023, however, it became clear that Dominican Publications needed to consolidate its magazine publishing. The decision was taken to replace Doctrine and Life and Spirituality with a new publication, bringing together the needs they had addressed separately.

Conversations arranges its articles under the same headings that made Spirituality helpful and clear – the Lived Experience; at the Sources, Bible and Liturgy; at the School of the Mystics and Writers; Learning to Pray; Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation; and Meeting Place – with the addition of a further section, ‘Seeking Understanding’, to provide for distinctly theological articles like those in Doctrine and Life.

Conversations offers opportunities for dialogue between the experience and inheritance of Christian faith and the concerns of today’s world, political, economic, artistic and religious. Its outlook is rooted in the Catholic tradition but is ecumenical as it analyses questions posed by current dilemmas and charts developments in Church life and Christian spirituality. The editorial team also wants to encourage conversation with readers and among readers.

Saint Mary’s Priory, Tallaght … I led a retreat there for Bray Churches Together in 2009 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The second edition of Conversations (March-April 2024) was published last week. To coincide with the celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day later this month (17 March), I have been invited to contribute the closing paper, ‘Did St Patrick Bring Christianity to Ireland?’

The other contributors to this edition of Conversations are: Francisco Timoner, ‘800 Years of Dominican Presence and Preaching in Ireland’; Phyllis Zagano, ‘Women, the Diaconate and the Synod: What Happens next?’; Isabelle Smyth, ‘Women’s Ordination: Are We Asking the Right Questions?’; Seán Goan, ‘Telling the Death of Jesus: The Passion as a Quest Story’; Ben Harrison, ‘Act like one’; Joanna Merry, ‘Clerical Perpetrators of Child Abuse: The Dilemma of Spiritual Care’; Michael Ford, ‘A Thomas Merton Pilgrimage to New York’; David Begg, ‘What Are the Possibilities for a Just Transition from Fossil Fuels?’; Paul Clogher, ‘A Cinema of Redemption: Martin Scorsese’s Cinematic Theology’; Vivian Boland, ‘The Impossible Necessity of Naming God’; and Frank Regan, ‘Freedom to Walk in Truth.’

Conversations is appearing six times a year. Each 80-page issue will offer opportunities for dialogue between the experience and inheritance of Christian faith and the concerns of today’s world, political, economic, artistic and religious.

The Editor of Conversations is Bernard Treacy OP, the Associate Editor is Tom Jordan OP, the North American Editor is Michael Downey, and design and layout are by David Cooke. The advisory board includes Dr Geraldine Marie Smyth, former director of the Irish School of Ecumenics. Conversations and Dominican Publications are at 42 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

In the courtyard of San Clemente, Rome, the Irish Dominicans’ church in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
22, 6 March 2024,
Saint Willibrord of York

Saint Willibrord of York, Apostle to Frisia and the first Archbishop of Utrecht

Patrick Comerford

The Season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday (14 February 2024), and this week began with the Third Sunday in Lent (Lent III, 3 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in Common Worship.

Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Willibrord depicted in a stained-glass window in the basilica in Echternach, Luxembourg

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 22, Saint Willibrord of York

Saint Willibrord of York (739), Bishop, Apostle of Frisia, is commemorated in the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship on 7 November. He was born in Northumbria, educated at Ripon and grew up under the influence of Wilfrid, Bishop of York. Later he joined the Benedictines. Between the ages of 20 and 32, he was in the Abbey of Rath Melsigi in Co Carlow, then a centre of learning.

But the main part of his life was dedicated to his missionary work in Frisia and northern Germany. He built many churches, inaugurated bishoprics and consecrated cathedrals. The cathedral in Utrecht, with a diocesan organisation based on that of Canterbury, is his best-known foundation.

With his younger contemporary Boniface, he began a century of English Christian influence on continental Christianity. Alcuin described him as venerable, gracious and full of joy, and his ministry as based on energetic preaching informed by prayer and sacred reading.

He died on 7 November 739 and was buried at Echternach monastery in Luxembourg, which he founded. He is the patron saint of the Netherlands.

A joint ecumenical diocesan pilgrimage of about 60 people travelled from Carlow to Echternach to take part in the ‘Dancing Procession’ in June 2017, when Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg presented a Relic of Saint Willibrord to Bishop Denis Nulty. Later that month, 29 people from Echternach visited Co Carlow to take part in the Walk with Willibrord, when the relic was walked from Saint Laserian’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Old Leighlin to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow.

A statue of Saint Willibrord in Echternach

Matthew 5: 17-19 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’

A statue of Saint Willibrord in Carlow Cathedral (Photograph: Sheila1988 / Wikipedia)

Today’s Prayers (Wednesday 6 March 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘International Women’s Day Reflection.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Right Revd Beverley A Mason, Bishop of Warrington.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (6 March 2024) invites us to pray with these words:

Pray for all women who are holding households, people, family, friends and businesses together. Where a woman has been silenced, may she find her voice; where she is abused, may she recover her dignity; where she is fighting for the vulnerable, may she find her strength; where she is tormented, may she receive healing; when she pleads for the life of another, may she catch the Lord’s gaze and know she is heard and they are loved.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Merciful Lord,
grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
of the world, the flesh and the devil,
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Eternal God,
give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: The Venerable Bede

Tomorrow: Saint Boniface (Wynfrith) of Crediton

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow … part of the ‘Walk with Willibrord’ pilgrim route (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org