Friday, October 30, 2015

Towards Ecological Conversion

Fr Sean McDonagh

Earlier in 2015 Pope Francis issued his encyclical Laudato Si. This papal study of environmental issues precedes the 2015 UN Climate Change conference, which is due to take place in Paris from 30th November to 11th December. To mark these events, we have invited Fr Sean McDonagh SSC to give the second lecture in our autumn series. 

Sean McDonagh is an Irish Columban Father who has earned an international reputation as an eco-theologian. He has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the links between the values of justice and peace, environmental sustainability and faith. 

In his books and lectures, he has voiced his deep concern about a number of ecological issues, including access to clean water and an adequate diet in the developing world, nuclear power, genetic engineering, loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species.

His published work includes Patenting Life? Stop! Is corporate greed forcing us to eat genetically engineered food? (2003), The Death of Life: the horror of extinction (2004), Climate Change: the challenge to all of us (2006), and Fukushima: the death knell for nuclear energy? (2012). Fr Sean is also patron of Christian Ecology Link and writes a weekly column in Catholic broadsheet The Universe.  

The title of his lecture in the Central Catholic Library will be:  “Laudato Si: does it contain new teaching on the environment?”

The lecture takes place at 6.30pm on Tuesday 3rd November and all are welcome.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Celebrating St Kevin's Church with Adrian Kenny

Adrian Kenny
The Church of St Kevin in Dublin's Harrington Street marks its 150th anniversary this year. For the first lecture in our autumn series, we have invited author Adrian Kenny to talk about this church and the ancient Dublin parish which surrounds it.

Adrian has researched and published a history of St Kevin's. He is a member of Aosdána, and his previous books include both fiction and autobiography, ranging from the novel The Feast of Michaelmas and  the memoir Istanbul Diary to the short story collection Portobello Notebook. Adrian has also translated and edited for Raven Arts Press Eachtra Tomás MacCasaide, a text preserved in an 18th-century Irish manuscript.

Adrian's lecture takes place at 6.30 pm in the library on Tuesday 13th October. All are welcome.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Priest in Fiction: an exploration by Eamon Maher

Eamon Maher

 The closing lecture in our spring series will be given by Dr Eamon Maher, who is lecturer in French and director of the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies at the Institute of Technology Tallaght. 

The dominant focus of Eamon Maher’s work is the cultural, literary and historic links between France and Ireland.  In connecting the two countries, and setting their literary art in parallel, he has richly illuminated our understanding of their shared artistic and religious concerns.  Just two examples: in his early publications on French priest and writer Jean Sulivan (1913-1980), he identified a parallel between the rural Brittany of Sulivan’s roots, and the Ireland of the 1950’s.  In later work on John McGahern, Maher explored the profound influence of 19th century French novelist Flaubert on the Leitrim writer.

Eamon Maher’s own books include his translation of Jean Sulivan’s memoir,  Anticipate Every Goodbye (Veritas, 2000)  and  The Church and its Spire: John McGahern and the Catholic Question (Columba Press, 2011).  He has also edited or co-edited over twenty monographs, and publishes widely in newspapers and periodicals such as The Irish Times, Doctrine and Life, The Month and Études Irlandaises. In 2013, he broadcast five short presentations on Jean Sulivan for RTE Radio as part of the Living Word series. His guiding interest in the influence of faith on 20th century literary culture is evident in work such as his 2014 article exploring Catholic sensibility in the early novels of Edna O’Brien.  

He is currently contributing a series of articles on depictions of priests in fiction to the journal Spirituality. He will draw on this research for his talk in the Central Catholic Library. Entitled "Life in a Roman Collar: some clerical figures in modern fiction", the talk begins at 6.30pm on Tuesday 28th April, and all are welcome.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Legacy of the Second Vatican Council


The second lecture in our spring series will be given by Fr Gerry O’Hanlon, whose topic will be the legacy of the Second Vatican Council. December of this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the council.

Fr O’Hanlon is a Jesuit priest and theologian who works at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin.  Previously he was Dean of Theology and Vice-Chancellor of the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy. His books include Theology in the Irish Public Square (2010) and A New Vision for the Catholic Church: a view from Ireland (2011). Fr O’Hanlon has also published many articles in journals such as The Furrow and Doctrine and Life. These include the article “Contested Legacies” on the contribution of the recently canonised John XXIII and John Paul II to church reform and renewal (The Furrow, July-August 2014).

All are welcome to Fr O’Hanlon’s lecture, which takes place in the library at 6.30pm on Tuesday 31st March.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fr Eugene McCaffrey O.C.D.
Celebrating St Teresa of Avila

Our spring lecture series this year takes as its motif "remembering and imagining", with the first two lectures celebrating significant church anniversaries, and the final two exploring some of  the links between Christianity and the arts.

For the first lecture, we have invited Fr Eugene McCaffrey to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila. All are welcome to the talk, which takes place in the library at 6.30pm on Tuesday 10th March.

Fr McCaffrey is attached to the community of Discalced Carmelite Friars at the Avila Centre in Dublin  In 1998 he published a book on another great Carmelite saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, in the year in which she was declared a doctor of the church.

Fr McCaffrey's  books on the Spanish Teresa include an introduction to her writings, brought out by the Teresian Press in 2014. This year, Columba Press has published a second book Let Nothing Trouble You: Teresa - the woman, the guide, the storyteller

All of these titles by Fr McCaffrey are available for borrowing from our lending library.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Talk on Fr F. X. Martin and the 1916 Rising

Felix M. Larkin
Our autumn lecture series this year will take as its theme the Irish priest in history and society.

The first lecture in the series will  take place at 6.30pm on Tuesday 30th September, and our speaker will be Felix Larkin. Felix will explore F. X. Martin's contribution to the historiography of the 1916 Rising.

F. X. Martin (1922-2000) was an Augustinian priest and professor of Medieval History in University College Dublin. He is today best remembered for spearheading the campaign in the late 1970s to save the Wood Quay archaeological site in Dublin. In the 1960s and early 1970s, however, he published an impressive series of books, edited collections and essays on the 1916 Rising and related issues. He claimed - correctly - that these were 'the first attempt at a cool appraisal of the Easter Rising in the context of the Ireland of its time'. His work challenged not only the conventional historical view of the Rising, but also the view of Irish history generally that Pearse and his followers had put forward in their proclamation of the republic, read out at the GPO on Easter Monday 1916 and which had subsequently taken hold of the public mind. He is accordingly regarded as one of the 'two godfathers of revisionism', to quote Pádraig Ó Snodaigh. The main purpose of Felix Larkin's paper is to review Martin's work on 1916 and to consider its continued relevance as we prepare to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Felix M. Larkin is academic director of the Parnell Summer School. A retired public servant, he now works as a historian and freelance writer. He has written extensively on the press in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he is a founder member of the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland. His publications include Terror and Discord: the Shemus cartoons in the Freeman's Journal, 1920-1924 (Dublin, 2009), and, as editor, Librarians, poets and scholars: a Festschrift for Dónal Ó Luanaigh (2007). Forthcoming in 2014 is Periodicals and journalism in twentieth-century Ireland, jointly edited by Felix Larkin and Mark O' Brien.

Felix is a member of the council of the Central Catholic Library, and also serves on the statutory Readers Advisory Committee of the National Library of Ireland. His is chairman of the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers Society, Dublin's oldest charity.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lessons from a Publisher's Emblem

One of the anthologies of French poetry held in our collection was published by Alphonse Lemerre under the title Anthologie des poëtes français depuis le XVè siècle jusqu'à nos jours. 

Lemerre was born in Normandy in 1838, and from 1860 pursued his career in Paris, becoming one of the leading literary publishers of the day. He was esteemed in particular for his editions of work by the poets of the Parnassian movement. Inspired by the "art for art's sake" thesis of Théophile Gautier, these writers viewed poetry as being primarily concerned with the celebration of beauty, rather than a medium for discussing social issues or transmitting moral values. Oscar Wilde would absorb and refract into literature in English is own interpretation of Parnassian ideas.

There is no date of publication given in our anthology, but from the evidence of the poets included, it would have come out between 1880 and 1895.  What is included on the title page is the emblem shown above: a visual and verbal hallmark which Lemerre made use of across the range of books published by his firm. The significant elements of the image are the act of digging to prepare the ground for planting, the town glimpsed in the background, and the rising sun. The Latin motto "Fac Et Spera" means "Do and Hope", and at the base of the image are Lemerre's initials, "AL".

The origin of this emblem can be traced back to collections of emblems first produced in Europe in the 16th century. Patricia Flemming has explored the "Fac Et Spera" image in particular, and her article can be read at

The emblems were designed to communicate a message: political, amorous, or religious. The original, slightly different, version of Lemerre's image first appeared in 1615. The figure digging is a woman, possibly representing Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture. The Hebrew word "Adonai", another name for  God, also appears in this version of the image. Fleming emphasizes that readers would have absorbed a religious message here; prosperity comes from work and from faith in God. The town is the social unit that will thrive through the working figure depicted. The sun symbolizes both prosperity and the divine presence explored through faith.

Lemerre has adapted this image; filtering it through the lens of his own political, moral and literary sympathies. He believed in the French republic, supported anti-clerical positions on both freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state, and published writers for whom literature was an aesthetic, rather than a moral reality.

Yet the "Fac Et Spera" emblem, which had drifted through to him from another cultural epoch, is appropriated in order to present values which Lemerre lived by and wished to be known for: a work ethic, the moral courage of hope. The Parnassians did not teach, but there were still lessons to be learned.