Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
Dear England: Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World by Stephen Cottrell (Hodder Faith, €11.50/£9.99)

This little book, by the Anglican Archbishop of York, might provide an object lesson to some Irish Catholic bishops. It is basically a letter answering a query to him by a complete stranger: ‘What made you become a priest?’

He certainly answers this in a very straightforward way the reasons why for him and so many others, Christianity or perhaps just the figure and person of Christ, is still very relevant, very much the answer to the fears and needs so many have in these often desolating days.

Of course he writes in a British setting, which is very different to what we have in Ireland and getting more different every day, as the long accepted conventions of British society seem to be withering away in a climate of crude opportunism.

But the lesson from the Irish clerical leaders is different. It is hard to imagine many of them opening their hearts in this way. Over the years I met Archbishop-emeritus Diarmuid Martin many times, but found him a difficult man to make a personal contact with; he seemed very remote.

Yet after his retirement he made an extraordinary little documentary with RTÉ about his Dublin working class childhood. This was deeply personal and revealing, and altogether admirable. Where was this inner man hiding all these years, one asks. If Stephen Cottrell can find the words and the inner spirit and freedom to express himself as a real person to explain his vocation, surely the bishops of Ireland can too. Reading this book might help them understand what might work for them too.



Willie Doyle SJ: ‘Much in the Presence of God’ by Patrick Corkery SJ (A Messenger Booklet / Messenger Publications, €4.95/£4.50)

To earlier generations after the Great War, ‘Father Willie’ was an uncanonised saint. But with changing times and attitudes all that changed.

He seems to be little mentioned these days, and in some way he has been overshadowed by Blessed John Sullivan. Patrick Corkery recognises this change, but he has written this little booklet (very much like the old CTS pamphlets) to give a more realistic image of the man, who he reminds his readers was “an arch-prankster, both loved and loving”.

He develops an image of Willie Doyle as “a complex and moving figure for our time”. Some see Willie Doyle as on the path to sainthood. Fr Corkery will give a younger generation a sense of why this might be so.


Called into Light: Meditations with Bishop Richard Challoner for the Christian Year by Stafford Whiteaker (Gracewing, €29.00/£25.00)

The other week visiting a friend’s house she showed me a family heirloom the leather binding of which had been professionally repaired. It was an early 19th century copy of Bishop Challoner’s great book about the English Martyrs.

Did I know anything about the author? I said I knew a little, and filled out the historical relevance of his one famous edition of the Douai-Rheims Bible for my friend.

The book under review here was inspired by another book of Challoner’s, a volume of meditations for the course of the Christian year. Let there be no confusion, this volume is not a text by Challoner, but a new book of meditations inspired by the spirit of the original work.

Some 600 pages long, it looks formidable. But of course you are only meant to read it a day at a time. The outlook is very traditional (though I can see it dismaying many others too, as perhaps outdated). It is worth remembering that Bishop Challoner lived in an earlier conflicted era for the Church in Britain.