SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Michael Duggan

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February 21, 2019
On the Edge By Diarmuid Ferriter Profile Books, 400pp, £25/$27 When I picked up Diarmuid Ferriter’s history of Ireland’s offshore islands, I wasn’t expecting to come across John Lennon or Theodore Roethke. But here they both are, none the less. Lennon bought Dorinish, an island off the coast of County Mayo, in 1967. He visited it
February 07, 2019
Mary, Star of Evangelization: Tilling the Soil and Sowing the Seed By Jacob Phillips Paulist Press, 192pp, £24.99/$24.95 Pity the Catholic evangeliser. That is perhaps to press the point too hard, but early on in Mary, Star of Evangelization, Jacob Phillips puts his finger on an uncomfortable truth. Recalling the words of Paul VI, he
February 07, 2019
Tasting the Past By Kevin Begos Algonquin, 224pp, £20/$30 It all begins with a hotel minibar in Jordan. A restless Kevin Begos tries a wine whose label reads “Produced and Bottled by Cremisan Cellars Holy Land – Bethlehem”. A “hazy Catholic childhood” reminds him that people drank wine in the Holy Land in ancient times.
January 31, 2019
Christian Music: A Global History By Tim Dowley SPCK, 336pp, £14.99/$30 This revised and expanded version of a “global history” first published in 2011 begins with Tim Dowley piecing together an account of the ancient Jewish musical traditions out of which Christian practice must have grown. Nearly 300 pages later, Dowley wraps up his survey
January 10, 2019
How to Look at Stained Glass By Jane Brocket IB Tauris, 256pp, £12.99/$20 Almost as soon as I began reading Jane Brocket’s How to Look at Stained Glass, a certain feeling of melancholy crept over me, which I didn’t manage to shake off for the rest of the book. Why so? This is, after all,
December 20, 2018
Where the imagery of Christmas is concerned, I am an old fogey. I like to be surrounded by cards bearing paintings of the Holy Family by Old Masters; or, failing that, pictures of robins; or even, if it comes to it, snowy village scenes with a horse-drawn carriage pulled up outside the inn, the church
December 20, 2018
I haven’t been able to shake Patricia Byrne’s The Preacher and the Prelate (Merrion Press, 258pp, £13.99/$24.99) from my mind since reading it back in the summer. It recounts events on Achill Island before, during and after the Great Famine of the mid 19th century, when Edward Nangle, a Protestant clergyman, inflamed by his own
December 06, 2018
5 Years to Save the Irish Church Talks from the National Columba Book Conference, Columba Books, 94pp, £7.99/$10 Let’s cut to the chase. What exactly is needed to stop the Irish Catholic Church from going under? As I read through these essays, I tried to extrapolate what the contributors were proposing should be done. I
November 29, 2018
We have tested and tasted too much, lover – Through a clink too wide there comes in no wonder. These are the brilliant, audacious first lines of Patrick Kavanagh’s great poem, Advent. The brilliance comes with the skewering of hedonism’s fatal flaw in a near-rhyming, slightly freewheeling couplet that still gets unerringly to the point.
October 18, 2018
Michael Duggan steps into a time machine that takes him back to Humanae Vitae The Schism of ‘68 edited by Alana Harris, Palgrave, 400pp, £69 The Schism of ’68 is a European tour of Catholic opinion during the lead up to and aftermath of the publication of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical of Paul VI, which
October 18, 2018
Where will my countrymen find transcendence now, asks Michael Duggan In the middle of the last century, whenever they needed to experience the good, the true, the beautiful, most Irish people would have turned to the Catholic Church as the primary and unquestionable source of all three. How times have changed. Marie Collins, the campaigner
October 11, 2018
Catholic writer John Waters believes his country is blighted by mediocrity – but ‘a better day will dawn’