The congress was seen by the editors as an occasion in which an overview of a millennium and half of Christianity in Ireland might be created for the ordinary readers. They have assembled some 80 contributors, so this might look a bit like the proceedings of an academic conference, but in fact the pieces are all more reflective than merely scholarly: they attempt to draw out from the people, places, images and texts of the subtitle some universal and persisting truths.
Many are focussed in some way, as seemed appropriate to the editors, on a Eucharistic theme. So though it casts a great deal of light on aspects of history, the book is at heart a theologically, spiritually centred book. And as such it is very accessible to the ordinary reader, and is enhanced by full colour iliustrations throughout the text.
Though some of the subjects may not be familiar many are very well known: St Columbanus and Columcille, the Books of Kells, the life and voyages of St Brendan, Cormac's chapel, Patrick Kavanagh, Sean O'Riada, the Fadden More psalter, the paintings of Aloysius O'Kelly. Even to list these topics is to demonstrate not only the wide range of what is written about, but the infinite variety of Irish responses to Christianity over this long period of time.
There are insights and new ideas to be found in every single essay, though as might be expected the reader may not agree with every - such as the idea that the voyages of St Brendan is not based on actual explorations.
There are also contributions from Anglicans, Methodists and Quakers, which is also appropriate. I would have liked to see, to match the essays on art architecture and music, something like an account of St Finbarre's Cathedral in Cork to enlarge upon the Anglican aspect of the themes dealt with.
There might also have been I think some thought given to the actual situation of faith in modern lreland, in an increasingly secular era; and the effect which the new Catholic and Christianity communities, the Poles, Rumanians, Indians, Filipino's and Nigerian and others, have had in imparting a different sense of devotion and worship than had become common here, a more vivid enthusiasm for the heart moving aspects of religion.
Indeed the two last essays here, one by Brendan Purcell on the longer perspective of religious belief in cosmic time, and by Donagh O'Shea on the wooden cross that stands in the garden of Integritas, a centre for domestic spirit in Kilkenny, which integrates the ideas of different traditions in its representation, develop ideas that are important for the future.
So there is here both knowledge and food for thought, and ideas which will prompt in many new ways of spiritual development. When this book was noticed it was commended to the congress pilgrims; it is now recommended heartily to the widest possible readership.
- Irish Catholic, 12 July 2012
This is a wide-ranging and lavishly-illustrated collection that draws from the major Christian denominations in Ireland. These essays should help illuminate often little-known aspects of the people, places, images and texts that have helped shape Irish Christianity.
- Ireland’s Own, August 2012
This volume takes its cue from the theme of the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Dublin in June 2012, ‘Communion with Christ and with one another’. In almost eighty short articles, a host of leading scholars from the worlds of history, liturgy, theology, philosophy, art history and Celtic Studies reflect upon aspects of the history of the Christian tradition in Ireland from the fifth to the twenty-first century, with a special emphasis on the relationship between the Irish people and the Eucharist. This is a wide-ranging illustrated collection which draws from the major Christian denominations in Ireland and includes entries on significant people, texts, images and events that have shaped the Irish Christian experience.
This is rather nice. 80 short articles by a number of leading scholars delve into the worlds of history, liturgy, theology, philosophy, art history and Celtic studies. They choose aspects of the history of the Christian tradition in Ireland from the 5th to the 21st century. There is a special emphasis on the relationship between the Irish people and the Eucharist. The book is beautifully illustrated with colour photographs and includes entries on significant people, texts, images and events in the Irish Christian experience. There are articles, for example, on the Quakers and Ballytore by Rachel Bewley Bateman, on the “Wesley Silver” by Gillian Kingston and the North Portal of Cormac’s chapel in Cashel by Dagmar Ó’Riain-Raedel.
- Church Review, August 2012
This beautifully designed and illustrated book was published to coincide with the international Eucharistic conference which was held this year in Ireland for the first time since 1932. It takes the same theme as the conference, communion with Christ and with one another. In a sense it is an interdisciplinary history of Christianity in Ireland from the fifth ' century to the present as exemplified by people, objects of art, images, ideas and writings. The eighty papers are written by scholars in the fields of history, liturgy, theology, philosophy, art and Celtic studies and they use their studies to explore broad themes relating to the Eucharist and the Christian community.
- Books Ireland, September 2012
Benedict XVI noted in a letter to the Catholics of Ireland how Irish 'ideals of holiness, charity and wisdom' have underpinned she spiritual identity of Europe. He hoped that reflection on this contribution of past generations might result in a committed plan of ecclesial and individual renaissance at home.
'Communion with Christ and with one another' was the Theme of the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress, and this book with its many contributors is a response to that theme. Foremost scholars from the worlds of history, theology, Celtic studies, art history, liturgy and philosophy have drawn on their accumulated knowledge to give us 80 short chapters under four broad headings, Foundations, Flowerings, Fragmentations and New Realities. All contributors offer a reflection on a specific feature of the Irish Christian experience that they feel to be significant.
The editors have avoided the well-known gems of Irish Christian heritage and have focussed instead on some unusual and lesser-known subjects, all of which underscore the relationship between the Irish people and the Eucharist.
St Patrick's fifth-century letter to British warlord, Coroticus, is our starting point and each writer moves us forward in time to the present day. On the way, we read about the early groundwork of Christianity in Ireland, moving on through the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the repeal of the penal code and Catholic emancipation, toward a contemporary Ireland which is moving beyond its sectarian past. These essays come from the major Christian denominations in Ireland and draw attention to some of the obscure people, texts, places and images which have been described as the unnoticed and unacknowledged 'living stones' of 1 Peter 2:5, which will take the Irish Christian story into a more optimistic future.
- Kate Barrance, Reality, September 2012
This is a beautifully produced anthology of 80 short essays on a vast array of topics germane to lrish Christianity and Catholicism, from St Patrick to the present. Written to accompany the 2012 Eucharistic Congress, it has contributions from a wide range of clerics, scholars and lay Catholics, and would certainly repay a browse, regardless of one’s beliefs.
- History Ireland, September/October 2012
Treasures of lrish Christianlty must be one of the most worthwhile publications inspired by the 2012 Congress. ln almost 80 short articles, leading scholars from various fields and different Christian traditions focus in a special way on the relationship between lrish people and the Eucharist since the time of Patrick.
The contents of the 'treasures' are not merely a check list of famous artefacts but consist of a much wider array of items than might initially be expected from such a title. These include customs and traditions like the First Friday sick call and Station Mass and the penitential isle of Lough Derg and ancient pilgrim paths in various places. Short reflections and succinct summaries on the traditional Corpus Christi processions and the lrish Book of Hymns and even the stained glass of Evie Hone all help to construct an overall vision of the spirituality which animated lrish life for almost 1,500 years.
Famous artefacts such as the Book of Kells, the Ardagh Chalice, the Derrynaflan Paten or the most recent bog discovery of the Fadden More Psalter are not forgotten nor the architectural heritage of structures like 5t Mary's Church of lreland, julianstown, Co Meath or the NorthPortal of Cormac's Chapel in Cashel, Co Tipperary and others. But of equal mention are the importance of individuals like Matt Talbot, Frank Duff, John Henry Newman and Mother Martin to name just a few of those more recent influences on the lrish Christian tradition.
The common thread throughout is the Eucharist. At a time in lrish history when the place of Christian spirituality is faltering and its future uncertain if not indeed bleak, this 'treasury'serves as a powerful reminder of the rich spiritual tapestry which has helped to shape the lrish psyche and which continues despite increased secularisation, cynicism andrelativism to weave a positive and creative influence in the lives of many people.
Particularly pleasurable for the regular reader in this paperback volume is the high quality of print and paper which is more often reserved for collector's editions. The photographsand other illustrations enjoy a similar standard and clarity. Highly recommended.
Fr Paul Clayton-Lea, Intercom, February 2013