Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
St Patrick in his Own Words

by Joseph Duffy with a new foreword by the author (Veritas, €12.99)

This is not exactly a new book, but a reissue of a book for which there will be a noted demand, by both academics and general readers. It contains, with an appropriate introduction and notes, all the surviving documents which can be attributed to St Patrick.

Though the saint is inevitably associated with Ireland and with Irish identity, it is worth bearing in mind that the voice, the very individual voice we hear in these pages, is not an Irish voice, either by rearing or culture.

It is the voice of a Romanised Briton, a very dissociative culture indeed. It is the product not of a tribal pagan society, but of an urbanised, educated person emerging from a culture of the Roman Empire, who was able to read and to write. These were not, in the 5th Century, common characteristic in Ireland.

If we are impressed and interested in the person behind the voice is perhaps because it is so very different from what we hear in the actual literary products of tribal rural Ireland then.

These pieces, though written in Latin, are in fact the earliest writing in Irish literature. The epics, romances and poetry of which we make so much were not set down on paper (or rather vellum) until sometimes after the 9th Century hundreds of years later.

And because St Patrick’s is also a Christian voice it can be heard today as well, trying to making itself heard against a background of the pagan tribalism we find, in say The Cattle Raid of Cooley.

The tune of much of what is written in Ireland today is an odd mixture of these two literary traditions. There are days on which it must seem to many heirs of St Patrick, who are a dwindling band these days, that the revived paganisms of recent centuries has drowned out the voice of the saint.


16 and a half Ways to Upgrade Yours Faith

by Bob Wallington (SPCK, £9.99)

Chrstians of all traditions must often be discouraged about keeping thier faith aglow. That pilgrimage, that pastoral event, that Christian Youth Day: these all produce a feeling of elation. But for many it quickly fades.

In this book Bob Wallington presents a revitalising programme for daily use. He writes as an evangelical pastor, but what he says makes a great deal of sense. His formula combines prayer, Bible reading, thoughtful times out, but also advice for keeping involved and most importantly being of service.

It all comes in what he calls “bite sized chunks” so as to be easily digested and put into action. Wallington’s “clear, engaging and practical” manual is aimed primarily at young people in their teens and 20s which is also enhancing.