How do we make sense of the world in which we live? One way is by seeing it reflected in contemporary writing. Eamonn Maher who is Director of the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies in Tallaght University Dublin, looks at the work of some contemporary Irish writers. For 20th century Irish novelists, Catholicism was an ever-present backdrop to their world. The wheel has now turned full circle, and it is more commonplace for Irish novelists to either ignore religion, or to criticise it relentlessly. He looks at the work of writers such as John Boyne, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright and Bernard MacLaverty. His conclusion is not without hope, for the moment might have come for Irish writers to explore the human race’s perennial fascination with the transcendent from a new angle.
We begin this month a new series of reflections on the Lord’s Prayer led by Mike Daley who has been a frequent contributor to Reality. Maria Hall takes us on a tour of the church’s sanctuary and its furnishings, which might be of special interest to those preparing children for the sacraments. Two articles speak of the contribution of two remarkable Irish women to human development. Cork woman Mary Aikenhead, born and raised a Protestant entered the Catholic Church at the age of 15. She went on to found the Irish Sisters of Charity who made such a contribution to Irish life through their schools and pioneering work in establishing hospitals for the poor, such as St Vincent’s in Dublin. They were also pioneer in developing palliative care for the terminally ill. Providing water and other essentials seems like a far cry from a Dublin business office. Elaine Bannon was a high-flier in business when a holiday in Kenya brought her face to face with poverty among the Maasai people. For almost 20 years, she had been dedicated to among them and establishing projects for development and clean water. In his monthly letter from the Philippines, Fr Colm Meaney introduces us to Avocado (the parish, not the fruit, as he stresses) and opens windows into the grinding poverty and labour that is the lot of so many people in the mountain villages of the Phlippines. The regular features are here of course, from Fr Peter McVerry, Jim Deeds and Carmel Wynne. Over the past few years we have run a short feature in every issue on the saints. Fr JJ O’Riordan took us through the lives of many Irish saints. This was followed by a series on Redemptorist saints. This year, it will be dedicated to women of the spitir – saints, mystics and wise women and the articles will be written by women. For Redemptorists this is a special year – the second centenary of the death of St Clement Hofbaur, who might rightly be termed the second founder of the Redemptorists. We plan to tell more of Clement’s story in the months ahead, but this month’s editorial will introduce him to those who scarcely know him.