A Church teaching at the crossroads

A Church teaching at the crossroads St Peter's, Phibsborough

Christ’s Illumination Upon Every Heart
by Eamon Flanagan
(Kolbe Publications, €7.50)

The author of this handbook is a Vincentian who works in Dublin; indeed the landmark spire of his church, St Peter’s, Phibsborough, standing at a major crossroads, decorates his cover. That notion of  serving the church at a crossroads is a theme which might be said to dominate this book.

What Fr Flanagan hopes to provide in his little book is “a complete context of our Church teaching for families and everyone.”

This is a laudable aim, and he goes about in a systematic way. The book falls into four parts, beginning with the Faith life of the Catholic Church before moving on to the sacramental life of the church and then daily life in church, before concluding with two chapters on prayer in the daily life of the Faithful. He is generally inspired by the great mystics of the Spanish tradition, of whom he has made a special study.

A generation ago what he writes would have been very familiar; but not so any more. Certainly in the follow-up to the papal visit he provides food for thought.

Like so many Catholics he must lament that the faithful are now fewer in the pews, and not too many of them seem to belong to the rising generation. This book will certainly inform every generation with what inspired the Church for centuries.

Yet if there is one thing clear from the gospels, which are the foundation of faith for Christians and the source of the precepts which the Catechism of the Catholic Church expounds, it is that faith must live, act and inspire others in the world in which it actually finds itself, and not the world as it would like it to be.

This book will help many to realise what it is that the Church teaches; but the problem for the Faith in the modern world will be how these teachings are to be carried out.

The young people are aching to change and save the world, but not to engage with religion. In Phibsborough the social changes of  Ireland are all too evident. It is not only St Peter’s that stands at a crossroads, but also Irish society. Fr Flanagan points to one direction, but whether those around him will take the path he indicates is a moot point.

Readers might like to know that this current book is only one of Fr Flanagan’s many publications. Two others are perhaps of particular interest now.

Living Stream of Catholicism: View of the Catholic Church Through the Centuries, by Eamon Flanagan (St Paul’s, £7.95), was reviewed in these pages on May 4, 2017 (the text can be read in The Irish Catholic on-line archive); and Church at the Heart of the World: The Catholic Church in the Midst of the People (St Paul’s, £6.99) can be read in sequence with this new book to gain a wider perspective on the Faith in Ireland as expressed by the Irish people.

But here again the past can only be a partial guide to what Catholics need to know and do to maintain the presence of their faith in the modern world.