Page 3, 21st November 1958

21st November 1958
Page 3
Page 3, 21st November 1958 — An Irishman's view of Borstal life

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Organisations: Catholic Church
Locations: Dublin, London


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An Irishman's view of Borstal life

THE LATEST BOOKS, by Fr. W. J. Randall

BORSTAL BOY, by Brendan Behan (Hutchinson, 16s.).

TTHIS book an autobiography-has been noted for

its vividness, factual experience, with conversational irreverences interspersed; it has all these, and is quite in accordance with the author's fame for "original and unexpected literary talent".

He is one who, whatever else he has or has not, has the Catholic Faith at heart, even though not always having applied it (as often happens) to the details of Catholic moral and social teaching.

From time to time I have discussed the Borstal system with one or two Catholic chaplains to that institution; resulting in the general impression that, while a lot might be done to improve matters, the main oppsartunity of conferring spiritual benefit depends on the character and co-operation of the

Governor of the particular institution.

A book like this is worthy of much more consideration than present space permits; the ideal criterion for it would be, I think, a -panel of Catholic chaplainsand others-whose conjoint findings should be implemented by the State authorities. There can be 40 doubt that many noble hearts beat in the breasts of the authorities, as well as in those of the delinquents; the aim should be to get these hearts to beat as one.

Vivid pictures ABOUT the intrinsic interest of ' the present book there can be no doubt; vivid pen-pictures abound, e.g.: "The breakfast consisted of a tin of porridge with six ounces of sugar, six ounces of bread, and a tiny pat of margarine". (If we substitute a moderate pat of butter, we might consider it no bad breakfast for anyone.)

"The librarian was not an. in decent sort, and brought raj books by Dickens that I had asked for". And at Mass: "The Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the Act of Contrition . . . 'Oh, my God, 1 am heartily sorry for having offended Thee' . . • so I was too . . ." And: " l'd make it up to Him, when I got outside, just to show that it wasn't only as a Friend in need I wanted Him ".

The conclusion is not disheartening: " A hundred thousand welcomes home to you," the immigration man said. "It must be wonderful to be free," he also said.

"' it must,' said 1, and walked down the gangway, past a detective, and got on the train for Dublin."

An excellent portrait of the author forms the frontispiece.

Six Christians

SIX GREAT CHRISTIANS, by Peggy °mothers (ltornish Hamilton, 10s. 6d.).

THE six characters in this book

were all great Christians in the sense of one who accepts Christ as God and Redeemer; this broad sense is adopted for the purposes of practical discussion by Fr. Gregory Baum in his recent erudite work "That they may be One".

Two of the characters were Catholics-Blessed Edmund Campion and St. Vincent de Paul. The titles Blessed and Saint are ignored; their zeal for the full Christian Faith, which is that of the Catholic Church-is not appreciated.

The other four characters are George Fox, John Wesley. Mary Slessor (the Scottish factory girl who became a missionary in Calabar, Southern Nigeria), and Gladys Aylward (the London parlourmaid who became a missionary in China; she is a contemporary and is still working there).

Easy reading THE book is not documented in any way by detailed references for the biographies; but a bibliography of 14 works is given, including Evelyn Waugh's "Edmund Campion" and Butler's "Lives of the Saints". It would require a good deal of research to check on these incident-packed and character-delineating biographies.

As regards the two Catholic Ones, a little revision is needed here and there-e.g., in the introductory remarks on the Reformation (in Edmund Campion); and it would need a professor of history at your elbow to keep check on the complicated account of 17th certtury France at the time of St. Vincent.

With these provisos, this volume in the "Six Great" series is an easy-reading one of strong human interest. Catholics may well read the story of the four heroic nonCatholics here portrayed; and I should advise non-Catholics to supplement their reading of this book with a reading of Catholic accounts of Blessed Edmund Campion and St. Vincent as a check on accuracy and an aid to a fuller understafuling.

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