Dom Marmion Centenary: the upcoming great commemoration of 2023

Dom Marmion Centenary: the upcoming great commemoration of 2023
Becoming Human, Becoming Divine: The Christian Life According to Blessed Columba Marmion, by Columba McCann OSB (Veritas, €9.99/£8.50 – prices subject to change)

This year marks the centenary of the death of Blessed Columba Marmion in 1923. This is an anniversary which will be of great interest to many across Ireland, given his Dublin birth and his service to Dundrum parish (then a place in the country), where there is an active devotion to him, which means much to the older parishioners.

This book will play, I suspect, an active part in the upcoming celebrations. Over that century, which coincides with the decade of commemoration we are passing through, has Ireland as a whole greatly changed?

The state of religion, not just Catholicism, but all religions has changed greatly. Blessed Columba would find it hard to recognise the places he had once known, and indeed the nation.

The street he was born in, Queen’s Street off the north quays, dates back to the 17th century, but in 1859 its appearance was typical of inner city Georgian Dublin. Today it is totally changed, a place with an unsettled atmosphere and a strange unpopulated appearance, a place to pass through rather than linger in, after most of the former inhabitants migrated or moved out to the new suburbs.


These indications of change may well affect the current reception of this book. To my mind the editor Columba McCann, a monk at Glenstal, has managed to create an excellent and readable resumé as an essential expression of Marmion’s three famous books.

The content of these was based on talks that he gave to his monks in the years just before his death in Belgium. On publication they became immediately popular all over Europe and remained so until the 1960s. They are preserved in English still in a collected edition available in an edition published in Paris.

This present book will form not only a fine introduction to his spiritual thought, but also to those aspects of it which are relevant to today, a flexibility to allow the individual to draw from this deep well.

But what will be the effect of his writing on the present and rising generations? That the historian will watch over the next 12 months with great interest.

He stands out as one of Ireland’s most engaging spiritual writers of the last hundred years. There are those who will pray that his influence, so strong in the past, will remain so into the coming century. It will be the work of 2023 to develop a better knowledge of the man himself, his writings, and teachings and so renew those aspects of them that can infuse with the present day and inspire the future.

Certainly a book to read now and to be inspired by for the present. But does the changed Irish scene imply a changed Irish psyche as so much public discussion seems to imply?