Inspiration from the Saints by Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh (Review)

 

Inspiration from the Saints- Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh

Inspiration from the Saints by Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh

Catholicism is exciting, extraordinary beyond all measure.

Alas, how easily this becomes forgotten in our media-saturated culture, which media stems above all from the Anglo-American sphere. For outside Ireland, the Anglosphere has historically been steeped in Protestantism and therein the mysterious, living fire of the Catholic Mystery has often been misunderstood, misrepresented (and indeed much worse).

Too often, a dull, literalist image of Christianity has resulted in people’s minds. And this, as I have argued throughout my books and writings, frequently leads to a search for exotic mysteries beyond Christianity, very often in New Age pastures.

Here is why two new books seem terribly important to me – for each testifies amply to the sheer wonder of Catholic Christianity. The first I reviewed here (saying much that I just did above). The second Inspiration from the Saints is by a newly-published Irish author Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh who understands, through and through, the awesome fire of Catholicism.

Page after page, he proclaims that fact through meditations on the lives of the Saints (including here the beatified as well individuals whose heroic Christian witness is widely acknowledged, even if they are as yet uncanonised.)

These meditations are organised thematically in categories such as mirth, death, humility, prayer, marriage, family, chastity and more. Stories and anecdotes – deeply touching and frequently amazing – illustrate how Catholicism takes hold of and transforms every corner of human existence.

Miraculous manifestations feature here, such as visions, stigmata or the well-attested case of a saint who spontaneously levitated in the air – greatly to his embarrassment! – at the mere mention of holy things.

And yet as much as we are well to be reminded of these extraordinary dimensions of Catholicity, plenty of space is also given to “lesser” miracles such as quiet courage, devotion, fortitude, love in the face of hatred …

Throughout it all, the author abundantly reveals how vital and living the Catholic Mystery may become even in the midst of ordinary life – how indeed the fire of Catholicism sets ABLAZE the entire personality – leading to unforgettable beauty …

Again, all this is a far, far cry from the bland, anodyne images of Christianity which now populate the (formerly Protestant) Anglosphere.

And I salute this cry – a cry from the author’s heart. For it is desperately needed. As Ó Ceallaigh astutely observes:

 

“Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are” is a proverb with a lot of truth to it. The same applies to heroes. If our heroes are delinquent rock stars, or egotistical movie actors, or “bad boy” characters in some TV series, we can hardly help picking up some of their self-absorption or their contempt for others. We will copy that sneer, that swagger, that saucy look which we associate with these glamorous individuals. Even without realizing it, we may end ourselves aping them. Sometimes we will mimic their mannerisms while adding the supposedly saving grace of irony—but of course, irony does not mitigate the corrosive effect that this influence has on our characters and our view of the world.

All day long, every single day of our lives, we are surrounded by the tawdry glamour of pop culture. We can no more avoid encountering it than we can avoid inhaling car fumes on a busy road. But one way in which can counter such tawdry glamour is to steep ourselves in the holy glamour of the saints — by praying to them, certainly, but also by reading about them and contemplating them. We should contemplate especially the way in which they make virtue (rather than vice) so very attractive . . . or even so very exciting.

 

Amen.

Honestly, words fail for how urgently books like this are needed. Thus Inspiration from the Saints serves to fill a gap in a most admirable way. But no, not just admirable – there is more to it than simply that.

Truly, there is something lovely about this book. On the one hand, it is written with a gentle, humble and reflective quality that is soft and warm. On the other hand, one constantly feels, within the author’s heart, a bold, rich passionate Catholicity that is bracing, refreshing – and infectious.

G.K. Chesterton

The great G.K. Chesterton

Here one may be reminded of the great G.K. Chesterton – which is not surprising, as Ó Ceallaigh is one of countless souls who credits Chesterton for his conversion.

Indeed, Chesterton’s cause for sainthood was opened by the Vatican in 2014 and not only is a special appendix lovingly devoted to this mighty soul, but his influence is evident throughout the book.

As Ó Ceallaigh writes:

Chesterton makes virtue attractive through his writing. After reading one of Chesterton’s books, the reader feels excited to pursue the Christian ideal …

This is what Ó Ceallaigh is clearly aiming for and, much more importantly, clearly succeeding at.

Here I might add that this newly published author is a friend of mine.

Is it then that I feel drawn to simply plugging my friend’s book? Rather the reverse: I was drawn to the author before I ever met him by his fine writing in numerous places on the web and only after I was genuinely inspired by his writing did I make contact and our friendship started to grow …

Thus, I want to urge my readers: please consider buying this book. Not only will your soul profit from immersing yourself in this extraordinary testimony to the Catholic Mystery – but you will support a new, budding author who I believe has many more books in him to write.

Really, these are dark times for the Church and the world. For me, Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh is a light in the darkness, who richly deserves support. May the flame of his inspiration grow; may this book sell and provide a base for further works from his inspiring pen.

 

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