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An Introduction

Veritas Publications, 2017
ISBN 9781847307996
pp. 64 • €4.99/stg£4.49

‘Holiness is nothing if not diverse in its manifestations’. (p. 39)

     Before reading this short book, the story of Matt Talbot with the ‘chains’ and the general thrust of an initial life of chronical alcohol abuse and poverty is as much as I could muster in knowledge of the figure of Matt Talbot. I was vaguely aware that he had become a by-word for an ascetic spirituality of times past and for total conversion from a dissipated life to one of total abasement. Patrick Kavanagh was familiar with Matt’s reputation and story but not perhaps by imitation.

And he cried for his own loss one late night on the pillow
And yet thanked the God who had arranged these things.
Was he then a saint?

A Matt Talbot of Monaghan?

(The Great Hunger)

The story of Matt Talbot and of this family in late nineteenth-century Dublin is history in microcosm. It is still difficult to enter into the squalor of the housing and the general hardships of life as it was lived by the poor of the time. It is equally difficult for us to enter into the religious or spiritual atmosphere and to appreciate the devotional intensity of the time. The story of Matt’s conversion to sobriety and his growth in literacy and the intensity of his spiritual journey are told in a matter of fact way that is not, as we love to say nowadays, ‘judgemental’. I have no doubt however, that had Matt lived long enough, he would have been assessed as having an ‘addictive personality’, as having a compulsive or borderline personality or some such label and his emotional freedom would be questioned. It’s a futile exercise as we have to simply learn from the life and death of the man the diversity of holiness that expresses itself in different places and times. The real test is the quality of his subsequent life and the personal growth into maturity of the man. All we can say is that he used the freedom that was given to him in an exemplary manner and that he has become an unexpected intercessor and focal point for the many in our own age whose lives are blighted by addictive habits and substances in a way that would have been unthinkable in Matt’s age and time. This little hand-book is a moving and succinct account of the life of Matt Talbot and an open invitation to learn more about and from the man.


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Reflections on the Knock Apparition

Nigel Woolen  

Veritas Publications, 2017
ISBN 9781847307897
pp. 120 • €9.99/stg£8.99

The subtitle of this hand-book is ‘Reflections on the Knock apparition’. This is an accurate description of this little book which, despite its compact format, punches above its weight in terms of spiritual content. Taking the central figures of Saint Joseph; John the Beloved One; Mary the Bride of the Spirit and the Lamb whose love conquers all, the author offers a succinct menu of spiritual precedents and scriptural parallels that helps the reader to a greater insight into the underlying message of the vision.

     The style of the book is devotional in an accessible way with short chapters that might be used as devotional exercises as during a retreat or as homily aids in any Marian setting or otherwise. The cultural cues and the scriptural underpinnings are presented in a digestible manner and without any of the spiritual saccharine that can afflict such devotional material. In short, this is a retreat between book-bindings and a little treasure in itself which will repay a little study and reflection with the gift of insight and increased discernment. 



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Fr James O’Kane


Many clergy will remember having their homilies assessed by a former and august teacher of Homiletics in Maynooth as, ‘good-ish’. These two volumes are self-described as ‘shortish’ and they live up to that promise. I confess that I am not a fan of homiletic material that has not passed through my own reflective recesses and I find it difficult, if not impossible, to regurgitate another’s thoughts.

     These homilies, however, are not of the ‘ready for use’ kind. They are, rather, springboards for thought. Each occasion is given two pages of largish type with a simple overview of the great themes of the day. Each presentation offers a catalyst for thought with pithy insights. These homilies are like the reflected rays of the scripture scattered through the prism of one prayerful scholar and teacher. They constitute a specialist resource that may make that task just a shade easier for a contemporary harried preacher.


M. Murtagh

Dunleer, Co Louth


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