Archives For Ireland


St. Brendan

Today, May 16, is the feast day of St. Brendan the Navigator, who is believed to have lived in the sixth century.

Saint Brendan of Clonfert (c. AD 484 – c. 577), called “the Navigator”, “the Voyager”, “the Anchorite”, and “the Bold”, is one of the early Irish monastic saints and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He is primarily renowned for his legendary quest to the “Isle of the Blessed”, also denominated “Saint Brendan’s Island”.

READ MORE about St. Brendan’s life, including an outline of the story of his voyage, on Wikipedia.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Poem:
The Death of St. Brendan

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[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0199372586″ cloaking=”default” height=”333″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”238″ alt=”Philip Freeman”]New Eyes to see the Marvels in our own Time and Place

A Feature Review of

The World of St. Patrick

Philip Freeman

Hardback: Oxford University Press, 2014
Buy now:  [ [easyazon_link asin=”0199372586″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link asin=”B00LEAL05O” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]

Reviewed by Alden Lee Bass


“I am Patrick, a sinner and a very ignorant man.” With these words Patrick begins both of his surviving works, which do much to make strange this saint we think we know so well. In the first place, Patrick was not Irish as all, but British; as a child he was dragged to Emerald Isle against his will by a band of pirates, and he spent the years of his early manhood enslaved there. He was also an atheist during those early years, despite the fact that his family had been leaders in the British Church for several generations. When he as 22 years old and still a slave, he received a heavenly vision outlining a plan for escape, which he followed, eventually ending up back home in Roman Britain. Patrick did not immediately return to Ireland, but traveled around Europe several years before returning to the land of his captivity. Once there, he never turned back, and with the help of a few friends Patrick is said to have converted most of the island to Christianity by the close of the fifth century.

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Here are five Kindle ebook bargains for St. Patrick’s Day that range from FREE to $2.99…

(Prices are subject to change after today, March 17)


 [easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”B006J0MCOM” locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”232″ alt=”Kindle Ebook Bargains” ]

[easyazon-link asin=”B006J0MCOM” locale=”us”]Ireland’s Saint: The Essential Biography of St. Patrick[/easyazon-link]

By J.B. Bury


 [easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”B00BJCNBOA” locale=”us” height=”250″ src=”” width=”193″]

[easyazon-link asin=”B00BJCNBOA” locale=”us”]Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland[/easyazon-link]

Tomie dePaola


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The Powells Books Review of
Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture
by Darrin Nordahl

America’s relationship with food is dysfunctional. Obesity, childhood malnourishment, fast-food addiction, E. coli and salmonella outbreaks — the list of problems is as familiar as it is dismaying. Though average Americans are fundamentally disconnected from the vast industrial networks that disgorge their daily meals, they were not always so removed from food production. Even after the United States converted from an agrarian to an industrial economy, there were periods when large numbers of the country’s citizens helped to grow the food they ate. During World War II, the public heeded the U.S. government’s call to raise “victory gardens” to ease the strain of supplying canned goods to overseas troops. In 1944, an estimated 20 million victory gardens yielded eight million tons of food.

In Public Produce, city designer Darrin Nordahl describes how towns and cities are working diligently to tap that spirit again and create civic cornucopias. He has more in mind than the occasional community garden. He wants the largest landlord in most cities — the municipal government — to expand the uses conceived of for public places beyond recreation and aesthetic pleasure to include farming.

Read the full review:

Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture
Darrin Nordahl.
Paperback: Isaland Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

THE NY TIMES Review of
the new animated movie

There is a lot to look at in “The Secret of Kells.” Nearly every frame of this 75-minute animated feature is dense with curlicued and cross-hatched patterns and figures. Your eye travels over Celtic crosses and through forest glades, studies architectural schematics and drinks in delicately washed landscapes. The human characters come in a variety of shapes and hues. Some are cute, some are sinister, some angular, some roly-poly. A few resemble science-fiction robots, while others look like pixies out of Japanese anime.

But you might take special notice of their hands, which are squared off and elongated in a way that suggests both crudeness and grace. These appendages are also large, appearing slightly out of proportion to the bodies, which makes sense given that the subject and method of this film is handicraft. “The Secret of Kells,” directed by Tomm Moore, concerns the Book of Kells, a medieval illuminated manuscript that ranks among the most important artifacts of Irish civilization. And it is only fitting that a movie concerned with the power and beauty of drawing — the almost sacred magic of color and line — should be so gorgeously and intricately drawn.

Read the full review:

Now playing in select US cities…


Thanks to Thomas Nelson, we are giving away a copy of St. Patrick by Jonathan Rogers (our review) and Isaac Newton by Mitch Stokes (our review).  Both of these books are a part of the new series “Christian Encounters” from Thomas Nelson.

One lucky winner will win a copy of both books!  How to enter to win:

  1. Announce the contest on Twitter, Facebook or your blog: I just entered to win  bios of St Patrick & Isaac Newton from The Englewood Review (@ERBks ). You can enter too:
  2. Post a comment to this announcement with your name and a link to your post for #1.
  3. You may enter one time per day for the duration of the contest.
  4. We will pick a winner at random from the eligible contestants and notify them this weekend.

The contest will end at 4PM ET on this Friday April 2nd.


“Deep Below the Surface
of the Tragic Violence

A Review of
When God Took Sides:
Religion and Identity in Ireland — Unfinished History.

by Marianne Elliott.

Reviewed by Mike Bowling.

When God Took Sides:
Religion and Identity in Ireland — Unfinished History.

Marianne Elliott.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

WHEN GOD TOOK SIDES - Marianne ElliottPersonal identity dictates who our friends are in most cases, and who we think we are contributes in a powerful way to who we list as enemies. Our friends always seem better than they really are and our enemies are never as bad as we think them to be. Apply this rationale to the last 500 years of Ireland’s history and you have the essential premise of the recently released book written by Marianne Elliott entitled When God Took Sides. Elliott, who was born and raised in Northern Ireland, teaches Irish Studies at Liverpool University. As co-author of the report from the Opsahl Peace Commission in Northern Ireland (1993), she brings a wealth of experience and understanding of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Although the foundation of the book is lectures she delivered at Oxford University in 2005, Elliott’s work flows more like detailed (and well-documented) storytelling than academic analysis. She ventures deep below the surface of the tragic violence which has appeared as an ugly scar on the face of an otherwise beautiful people and place. Elliott does not settle for a simple recounting of the seemingly endless story of action and reaction, murder and revenge or blame and defend; she offers the reader an explanation of how this cycle began in Ireland, how it was perpetuated and how it continues to this day. The results are not only important for those who hope to understand existing tensions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or the more subtle tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the Republic of Ireland, Elliott’s work provides a model for understanding other conflicts throughout the world, especially those rooted in religion.

Elliott follows a thematic format instead of the typical chronological order. For those unfamiliar with Irish history and for those with only a cursory knowledge of “the Troubles” in Ireland, the book may be hard to follow. However, if the reader keeps in mind that the purpose is not a history of religion in Ireland, “Rather it is about politicized religion and how it came to shape the identities of people in Ireland.”, then the thematic plan makes much more sense. Again, the order of the chapters could provide a model for analysis of other critical historic conflicts (i.e. India and Pakistan, the civil war in Nigeria or the tensions between Burmese and Thais).

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Two Books on Christian Ireland

A Review by Mike Bowling.

Empty Pulpits: Ireland’s Retreat from Religion.
Malachi O’Doherty
Gill & Macmillan, 2008
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Sun Dancing
Geoffrey Moorhouse.
Paperback: Harcourt, 1997.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

As Belfast based journalist and broadcaster Malachi O’Doherty reflects on the present state of affairs regarding religion in Ireland, one sentence captures both his mood and his assessment. This statement comes from the Introduction of his book Empty Pulpits: Ireland’s Retreat from Religion (Gill & Macmillan, 2008): “Where England appears to have lost its faith in two generations, we have done it in one.” O’Doherty does not write as a theologian, or clergy, or a lay leader; he writes as a keen observer of both culture and politics. Throughout the book, countless interviews and multitudes of examples create a mood of confidence for O’Doherty’s pessimistic assertions regarding Ireland’s religious climate. But there is more to this book than just doom and gloom; in very accessible language, the reader is led down the path which has resulted in a secularized Ireland. The first part (chapters 1 through 9) tells the story of a society whose dominant faith was Christian (and mostly Catholic), but one which by the 1950’s began to set their faith aside as if it were a toy of their childhood…cherished only as a fond remembrance. The second part (chapters 10 through 14) outlines the current debate in Ireland as both government leaders and officials within the Catholic Church try to understand the influence of “a la carte” Catholics, the growing element of liberalization and the crisis within the priesthood which has erased the traditional role of faith in Irish communities. Part Three (chapters 15, 16 and a conclusion) reminds the reader that there has been no triumph for atheism in all of this, just a growing apathy toward all things religious. O’Doherty concludes by suggesting there are possibilities for a comeback of religion in Ireland, but that it is highly unlikely. By the end of the book, it is abundantly clear that the author has little to no confidence in a sovereign God calling out a revived Church. Having made numerous trips to the Emerald Isle, I would suggest that only a sovereign move by God can save Ireland from the sure grip of its present secularization.

All of the above is made more puzzling by remembering the rich Christian heritage of Ireland. Celtic spirituality may be all but dead in Ireland, however in many other parts of the world it continues to inspire many on the frontiers of re-imagining Christian spirituality. Let me suggest for consideration a wonderful book published about 13 years ago entitled Sun Dancing (Harcourt Inc., 1997). The author, Geoffrey Moorhouse, tells the story behind the story of how Irish monks saved western civilization during the Middle Ages. Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization is entertaining history, but Moorhouse takes the well-known penciled sketches and fills them with captivating detail and spectacular color. Part One is an odd combination of historical fiction and spiritual meditations set in the saga of life on Skellig Michael, a Christian monastic community, from AD 588 to AD 1222. Skellig Michael is a severe piece of rock which rises dramatically out of the Atlantic Ocean a few miles out from the southwest coast of Ireland. The 44 acre island was home to a handful of monks who lived out an austere monastic vision which is both curious and inspiring. Part Two is the offer of historical evidence supporting the rich storytelling found in the first part. This work is masterfully done with 49 short chapters which are numbered according to the page numbers in Part One which they further illuminate. The effect is a deepening of understanding and an expansion of the imagination.

[As someone who loves Ireland, its history and its people, it fills me with sadness every time I consider the spiritual lethargy and aimlessness of the Irish people surrounded by the ruins of a once vibrant Christian faith. I cannot help but think that deep in the memory of Ireland’s sacred sites are the seeds of a spiritual revival rooted in devotion to God and the love of Christ. May God raise up a visible and peaceful community in the midst of that enchanted land.]

Other Excellent Ireland-related books from CBD…

013249: Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community Celtic Daily Prayer:
Prayers and Readings from
the Northumbria Community

By HarperOne

255570: Ireland"s Saint: The Essential Biography of St. Patrick Ireland’s Saint:
The Essential Biography of St. Patrick

By J.B. Bury, edited by Jon M. Sweeney / Paraclete Press

18493: How the Irish Saved Civilization How the Irish Saved Civilization

By Thomas Cahill / Random House, Inc

85853: The Celtic Way of Evangelism The Celtic Way of Evangelism

By George Hunter / Abingdon Press

1806X: Every Earthly Blessing: Resdiscovering the Celtic   Tradition Every Earthly Blessing:
Resdiscovering the Celtic Tradition

By Esther de Waal / Morehouse Publishing


A Review

(Christian Encounters Series)
Jonathan Rogers.
Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

ST Patrick by Jonathan RogersOver the centuries, there have been a multitude of biographies of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  And now as part of the first installment of their biography series “Christian Encounters,” Thomas Nelson has released a new biography of St. Patrick by Jonathan Rogers.  Although this is not the most extensive biography of Patrick’s life and work, Rogers does a good job of introducing Ireland’s saint.  Relying heavily on the two extant works that can most reliably be attributed to Patrick (The Confession and The Letter Sent to the Soldiers of Coroticus – both of which are included as appendices in this volume), Rogers focuses on sorting out the reality of the historical Patrick from the many Irish legends that have surrounded his life over the centuries.  The book’s first chapter does a fine job of describing the historical context in which Patrick’s life unfolded, i.e., the close of the Roman Empire. The final chapter of the book explores the theological significance of St. Patrick for the Church today as “A Witness to All Nations,” and the chapters between explore the unfolding of Patrick’s life in chronological order.  One of Roger’s recurring themes throughout the book is the parallels between the apostolic ministry of St. Paul and that of St. Patrick.  Most of Rogers’ work sticks pretty close to the realm of the factual, and one wishes at times he would have gone deeper in his historical and especially in his theological reflections.  However, this volume excels at what it is intended to be, an introductory biography, and Rogers writes with language that is clear and accessible for most readers.  If your knowledge of St. Patrick is limited to shamrocks, leprechauns and green beer, then I highly recommend that you take a few hours in this holiday season to enjoy Jonathan Rogers’ retelling of the story of St. Patrick’s life and works.


“St. Patrick’s Breastplate”
( Attributed to St. Patrick , but likely written later)

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

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With St. Patrick’s Day coming up next week, we a presented with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the history of Ireland and the Irish people.

There are a number of striking issues that come to mind, when I think about the Church and Ireland.  For instance:

  • The lives and work of saints like Patrick and Brendan.
  • Celtic Christianity and its distinction from Roman Christianity.
  • Celtic Monasticism.
  • Irish Immigration to the United States.
  • The deep conflict between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
  • And more…

So, we want to know what interests you most (of the above issues or others) about Irish Christianity, and what books have you read in reflecting on these issues?

Please use the comments below to discuss.  Note: We do get hit with a good deal of spam, so we have to moderate your comments.  We ask your patience, as we try to get your comments moderated as quickly as possible.