(the Darkest ever known to Christendom)
IN SOBER GRATITUDE
From Our Own Correspondent This Christmas, surely the darkest ever known to Christendom, Ireland approaches with a sober gratitude for her immunity, thus far, from the horrors of war, mingled with anxiety and for her neighbours a profound concern. Within these circumstances, the season has much of its old air. The shops have shone gaily, under the cowled street lights; there is no shortage of toys and goodies for the children, and the pantomimes are about to raise the curtain on wonderland.
Christmas has not lost, even in the dour North-East, its religious significance. Only our Presbyterians are inclined to reduce it to a second place, after Hogmanay. In Catholic Ireland, every feast of the Church offers a fresh revelation of the deepening spiritual life, in an ever-nearer to unanimous par ticipation in the Eucharistic banquet. Advent is observed with a growing reverence, in preparation for the sublimity of Christmas Day.
No doubt, it was the Eucharistic Congress of 1932 that set the seal on Irish devotion. Frequent Communion had been increasing ever since the pontificate of Pius X, but the Congress intensified and exalted our people's worship. This is seen THE TABLES ARE LADEN in the growing liturgical perfection, and the people's ever finer decorum and ceremonial participation. Plain chant has become a sort of national enthusiasm in recent years.
During 1940, I noted several festivals in country dioceses (not dioceses with big towns, where it would seem less surprising) in which 50 or 60 church choirs took part
in the Plain Chant demonstrations. Often in the churches of little towns, even of villages, you may hear to-day such lovely liturgical singing as you might not find save in the luckiest churches of big cities elsewhere.
There is an ever-growing output of homeproduced liturgical prayer-books, and a complete Roman Missal in English, made by a celebrated Western Bishop, is a religious " best seller." Such are the fruits of 1932.
THE DARK ROAD TO THE CHAPEL The privilege granted by the Holy Father, to celebrate the Christmas Mass on the afternoon of the 24th, in blacked-out districts, will not apply in the Twenty-Six Counties, I presume, since there the blackout is only partial, Midnight Mass, owing to the immensity of the city congregations, is not usually observed, save in the smaller cathedral towns and in convents and monasteries.
In the Six Counties, the black-out is in force, and Midnight Mass will be antedated, I believe, in the Primatial cathedral at Armagh.
The sun rises half-an-hour later in Treland than in England, so we go to Mass in darkness every Sunday, this winter, when Mass is celebrated as late' as nine o' clock.
The tables of Chriatrnas will be well-lader in Ireland; for the country has a superfluity of food, owing to the British food controller not accepting the full quota of what Ireland is able and eager to export. This does not apply to the Six Counties; for there rationing is strict. Meat and bacon rations are larger than the people's desire for these foodstuffs, but butter restriction is felt severely, since supplementary supplies from over the Border were stopped by the Southern Government for the winter feeding season.
Ii seems absurd to explain that comments about butter and bacon have no political intent, but everything from the shape of your hat to the grease on your plate is contentious matter and mixed up with religion and politics, in the Six Counties.' Hence it is necessary to state that solid Protestant Unionists also have made the complaint that Irish food bias, which is for a butter diet with little meat and bacon, makes the English rationing system unnecessarily hard.
More butter should be allowed here, but lashings of meat and bacon could be spared.
OF YOUR CHARITY, YOU WILL PRAY
Day after day. homes in Ireland are saddened by losses in England ; for there are few families but have some member iii employment in Britain, usually in urban centres which are the bull's-eye of danger.
Since I started to write these notes, a flag has gone to half-mast at a neighbour trig golf club for a member who lost his life in demolition work in London. Prayers for the dead at Mass often contain the name of some former neighbour whorn the sacrifice of weir has claimed,
We are in pretty close personal contact, therefore, with the suffering so bravely borne in England. Our Press, evidently by airection of the censor, refrains from horrific pictures or reports, which is a wise course. Knowing, however, enough of what is being endured, we wish that the plans to send children and invalids and others to our relative safety and our abundant food, were expedited.
FRACAS IN PRISON CAMP An extremely disagreeable affair took place at an internment camp. The internees (political suspects) were informed that their butter ration would be reduced, in unison with the reduction of soldiers' rations, during the winter shortage (for our butter supplies always decline in the months when :attic are off the grass)—and they replied hat they would refuse all food if the reducion were effected, Despite explanation of the reason for the rifling hardship, the prisoners responded by ;citing fire to their huts. Military fireaghters were obstructed, and a fracas followed, in which two soldiers and two prisoners were injured dangerously. Several huts were destroyed by the flames. Such is the Government Information Bureau's account.
For many weeks past. trouble has been brewing among prisoners whose long period of isolation is made the more morbid by their aself-imposed national ostracism. The knowledge that they have no part in the rising of the nation to defend its freedom galls these men's minds and drives them to these deeds.
At the very same time, there was an extraordinary parade being held in Dublin of men who fought in the struggle for independence, arid Mr. de Valera was escorted by those who fought with him in 1916. He spent a considerable time, moving through the lines and congratulating a number of veterans who were commissioned last week as officers in the Irish Army — the parade was held in honour of these " boys of the old brigade."
THE MARTYR IN A NOVEL
Our writers are not allowing war-time to silence them. Two exceptionally interesting new books are being given this Christmas. One is North Road, by our youngest novelist, Philip Rooney (Talbot Press, 7s. 6d.)— a story about Redmond O'Hanlon, the Rapparee, in which Blessed Oliver Plunkett, as Archbishop of Armagh, is a character drawn delicately and reverently, in a faithful setting of old Penal Ulster.
The othcr book is A Valiant Dublin Woman, by the Rev. R. Burke Savage, S.J. (Gill and Son, 8s. 611.)—a life of Teresa Mulally, the founder of the famous Presentation Convent on George's Hill, Dublin. The author, a young writer who is winning golden opinions by his thorough, scholarly and devotional work, has elaborated his account of eighteenth-century Dublin and Ireland generally, to afford an unusually rich picture of sombre and heroic times, during which Catholic Ireland made such a remarkable struggle to maintain Christian education and succeeded so far that Ireland at the end of the Penal period had contrived to be one of the best educated countries.
WIRELESS ADVANCES The splendid wireless programme arranged by Radio Eireann for Christmas makes it timely to remark on the recent developments of the Irish broadcasting service. One hopes that English listeners do not tune in to Athlone during the commercialised sponsored programmes, which are modelled on American advertising and fill the ether with the cacophony of jazz: but these programmes do not purpose to represent Ireland. The national service is on a different plane. and is reaching high levels in music and native drama. Every Sunday there is a dramatised Life of a saint, which shows Irish radio-drama at its best and used in the service of a true Catholic culture.
Mr. Austin Clarke. who holds to-day by common consent the rank of Irelcrnd's poet-chief, held till his late death by Dr. W. B. Yeats, has developed with Mr. R. O'Faraehain, another fine Catholic poet. a technique of verse-speaking, in which a society of Young Dublin enthusiasts de liver poetry every week. Recently, for example, a ballad from the Gaelic translated by President Hyde was given in this dramatic mode of delivery, by which varying voices dramatise the lives, dividing narrative from dialogue, and infusing the exquisite music of the Irish voice at its best. Cities have remarked that Mr. Clarke has demonstrated what English poetry was in the Shakespearean and Cavalier days.
Among the announcers of all lauds using English, we claim the most musical and pleasing speech for Mr. Nicholas Barron, who discourses the request programmes and gives some of the news bulletins from Dublin.
" There are Catholics who seem to be ashamed of being born Catholics; through ignorance and snobbery and sheer affectation, they think it a sign of superiority and intelligence to have a dig at the Church and to pretend that she es not advanced enough for them. Some of them say she is Fascist, others that she is a ' kill-joy,' and so on," declared the Bishop of Galway, at a Legion of Mary Curia meeting.
" They think it smart to talk about the Spanish Inquisition and Galileo, and all the old propaganda of bigotry " Some of them never read anything." Dr. Browne went on " but English Sunday papers and English novels, and you cannot blame them, the poor things. They have no sense of proportion, and they never stop to think that because they don't like the priest that is no proof that the Catholic Church is wrong and that they should do the work of the devil."