Fr Billy Swaw
St Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Patick In His Own Words Joseph Duffy Veritas Publications, 2019 ISBN 9781847309372 pp. 152 • €12.99/£11.95
Patrick in his Own Words,’published in 1972, was one of the first titles issued by Veritas Publications. To mark fifty years since the Catholic Truth Society and the Catholic Communications Centre merged, Veritas have just published an exclusive commemorative edition of the book, that presents the writings of our national apostle in the original Latin, Irish and English. In doing so, Bishop Duffy’s work gives another generation of Irish Christians direct access to the remarkable story and faith of Saint Patrick.
St Patrick’s life, writings and legacy have been the subject of a lifelong labour of love for the author. Prior to becoming bishop of Clogher in 1979, Joseph Duffy was chaplain to St Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg. He has been a consistent advocate of seeing beyond the snakes and shamrocks to the substance of the saint who stands at the beginning of the Irish Christian Tradition. In Bishop Duffy’s words in the foreword to this latest edition, ‘Patrick’s is a fascinating story, full of human interest and energy.’ Indeed this humanity and lively faith is what makes Patrick’s story so engaging even today.
Patrick is no plaster saint, but someone whose faith was formed in the crucible of suffering and in the task of interpreting the events of his life through the lens of the Christian faith. Finding himself the victim of human trafficking at the age of sixteen, as a slave, Patrick is pushed to the limits of survival. This traumatic event initiated Patrick’s conversion, the re-birth of his faith in God and the integration of his life within the overall providence of God’s saving plan. As we know, this journey of faith later led him back to the land of his captivity as a missionary bishop, where he proclaimed the Gospel of mercy to the Irish. This began a series of events that led to the rapid spread of the Christian faith in Ireland, and the great missionary movement that saw pilgrims for Christ leave this island to bring the Gospel to distant shores.
What Patrick’s story teaches us is the importance of our response to God’s grace and our ‘yes’ to his plans for us. The story of Patrick includes suffering, love, vocation, meaning, forgiveness, mission, hope and providence. These remain the fundamental categories of what it means to be human today, of how our faith can shed light on our existence and give it purpose. For this reason, Patrick’s story deserves to be told and re-told to every generation of Christians, who can find in it inspiration for their own lives and our collective vocation as Church. This inspiration is made easily accessible to the reader by Bishop Duffy’s extensive commentary and explanatory notes on Patrick’s Confessio and Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, in chapters two and three of this book.
The author is a respected Patrician scholar whose love for Patrick and his writings imbue the volume. The Irish Church is indebted to him for his efforts to introduce Patrick ‘in his own words’ to Irish Christians seeking inspiration to live the Gospel today.
ON LOUGH DERG Words by Deirdre Purcell with Photographs by Liam Blake Veritas Publications, 2019 ISBN 9781847309365 • pp. 88 • €12.99/£11.95
On Lough Derg is another commemorative edition that marks the Golden Jubilee of Veritas Publications. It is a testimony to the enduring place of this ancient pilgrimage site – a remarkable cultural artifact in its own right – in the history of Irish Catholicism. The book features excellent and creative photos in black and white, by Liam Blake, that capture the austere experience of Lough Derg as a place of penance. Each photo visually represents something from the Lough Derg experience that anyone who has been a pilgrim there will identify with – the bare and wet feet, the rain, the chapel, the vigil, the beds, the boats, the shop and most of all, the people who come faithfully to Lough Derg every year.
Intertwined with the photos is the text by journalist Deirdre Purcell, whose words imaginatively capture the Lough Derg experience. Her words and her interviews with fellow pilgrims convey the reality of this penitential pilgrimage: the hunger and fatigue that compete for your attention; the polar opposite thoughts of ‘this is mad’ to ‘God has worked through me through this. I’m glad I came’.
With so many distractions and attachments that are part of our lives today, Lough Derg still beckons us to come away, face ourselves and be with our God. I recommend this book to anyone who has been to Lough Derg or anyone interested in Ireland’s rich Christian heritage