THE LATEST BOOKS, by Fr. W..1. Randall HOW SHORT THE TIME ... : a three-act drama, by Sean Mulhem, foreword by Rev. D. Duffy, D.D. (Copies obtainable from the Convent of Mercy, Enniskillen, N. Ireland, price 9s. 6d.).
mA144Y years ago Canon SheeV I hart, in one Qf his stimulating literary essays, deplored the lack of Catholic plays and playwrights. Since then few Catholic plays have appeared. though the few have been of high quality: such as the Nativity and Passion plays by Mgr. Benson and Mgr. tionne respectively, the outstanding "Murder in the Cathedral"; and "Traitor's Gate"---.a play concerning St. Thomas More, which owing to a somewhat disgraceful lack of support from London Catholics. held the stage for only a few weeks.
have a suspicion that the two main reasons for the dearth of Catholic plays are (a) that convents and schools (which seem to be recognised as the chief producers) will not purchase a copy per head for the cast, but prefer the awful industry of copying out the character parts from a single copy of the play: and (b) that many producers do not bother about the performing rights fee a neglect which causes trouble to both author and publisher. The first of these procedures, however industrious, is ungenerous; the second is plainly dishonest.
I am prepared to receive indignant denials of this; and I should be glad to receive them; for I should certainly like to think that such is not the case.
To be welcomed
cUT in any case, good Catholic a" plays are to be welcomed whenever they appear. Here is one to be welcomed, both for its theme and its style.
Taking for its key-note the words of Dr. Gaffney, Dean of Maynooth-" How short the time, yet how wonderful the works of that mighty mind, of that expansive heart!" this play portrays the life and work of the foundress of one of the greatest of the modern Religious Orders: the Order of Mercy, better known as the Sisters of Mercy; whose work is now world-wide. Their character and work are aptly and powerfully summed up by the unnamed commentator of the epilogue at the close of the play.
This foundress was Catherine McAuley, who began her great work with a dedicated few in 1827; within just 30 years there were 27,000 Sisters of Mercy, in 1,500 convents throughout the world. This trentendous achievement, under God's grace, is obviously a worthy theme for a Catholic play; and this play the author's first full-length one was first produced on October 11, 1956, in the Convent of Mercy Concert Hall at Enniskillen, during the celebration of the Convent's centenary; on which occasion the author, Sean Mulhern, and his wife played the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Callahan.
THE dialogue is lively and humorous: all the more remarkable since (as Fr. Duffy notes in his foreword) there is hardly a single recorded conversation to guide the playwright; it is "a triumph of invention." As befits the theme, it is at times poignant and dramatic; as in the closing scenes of the aproaching death of otherine Catherine. Sean Mulhern has also the happy gift (as Dickens had) ot intermingling pathos and hurnour without damage to either; as. for instance, in Scene 9:
SISTER URSULA FRAYNE (handing Martins CATHERINE the glass): Here, drink this. It will do you good. Cm-teem (haying drunk): Thank you, my dear. SISTER FRAYNE (handing tablet): Arid this.
CATHERINE (good-humouredly): it's apparent that you mean me to live for ever. (She swallows the tablet.) SISTER FRAYNE; if possible, Reverend Mother.
Cerunaten: How can you. be so heartless? Still, you all mean well, so 1 must be grateful.
The cast is a large one of 24 characters, which demands a large school or a strong company. Between Scenes 7 and 8 there is a Tableau of the Religious Profession; and another tableau of Catherine's death; the Religious Profession Tableau, as the author notes, may be omitted without prejudice to the story.
Let us therefore welcome this striking play Catholic to the core and of intrinsic human interest: as well as "a beautiful and gracious tribute " to the Order and their foundress. I hope that Catholic dramatic societies will produce it rather than "Blithe Spirit " I
Coffey, 0.P., Prior Provincial of the Irish Dominicans, in his introduction.
Martin de Porres was a Dominican laybrother (having previously been a doctor's apprentice and then a Dominican Tertiary); he was the son of a Spanish nobleman (who was consequently a white) but of a coloured motherAna Vclasquez, a free woman. Don loan de Posses proved to he not so white as all that for he left his wife after she had borne him two coloured children; he " presented Ana with a hag of golden coins and, taking leave of his little family, left Lima."
This brief book (some 90 pages) from the practised pen of Mrs. Olive Mary Scanlan, who has many books to her name and is a Dominican Tertiary herself, gives the outline story of this remarkable, utterly lovable and saintly laybrother of the 16th and 17th centuries the was born in 1579 and died, aged 60, in 1639); more characteristically , Franciscan than Dominican as witnesses his love of animals and his power over them; whose life was a heroic service of the sick and was accompanied by miracles which also followed his death; and who is the immortal champion of the coloured races; and who was beatified by Gregory XVI in 1837.
THUS Brother Martin is a a particularly appropriate stunt for our own day, when the coloured problem has blazed up again, and when nothing is more needed than the unfailing charity which is adorned with gentleness and courtesy which was his. Curiously enough, his rulers has suddenly sprung up in the past 15 years in England, Ireland and America, where for three centuries efforts to interest people in him had failed.
Yet after the war, and the renewal of the colour problem in America, when the world "seemed overflowing with the unfortunate and destitute . . . the cult of Brother Martin de Porres appeared and gathered momentum." "The only explanation seems to be," writes Fr. Coffey, " that the life of Blessed Martin contains a special message for those of our own time and our own age."
Brief as it is, this booklet (admirably priced and with a picture of Brother Martin on the front cover) gives us a vivid story; it is the fruit of wide reading and of direct research in the city where Martin lived and worked: a man of God, coloured indeed in skin but shiningly white in sanctity a challenge to our time from the unrestricted charity' which embraces every race and class.
Mission to China
CHRIST'S EXILE: Bishop Edward J. Galvin, co-founder of the Maynooth Mission to China, by Robert T. Reilly (Gill, Dublin, Is. 3d.).
I HAPPEN to be well acquainted with a priest who until recently had been for 25 years in China one of the thousand or so Colum ban Fathers who form the Maynooth Mission to China. They arc a wonderful band, having at the moment 155 students at their new college in Nevelt, at the foot of the historic hill of Tara.
The story of their foundation is here well told-from the meeting of Fr. Edward 1. Galvin and the Canadian missionary Fr. Fraser, in 1912; in February of that year Fr. Galvin accompanied Fr. Fraser to China. It certainly appeared specially providential for Fr. Galvin had been on a temporary assignment in the U.S.A.
Four years later (1916) Fr. Galvin returned to Ireland, four years later still (1920) having enlisted the life service of a young Professor at Maynooth, Fr. Blowick he led the pioneers to Hanyang, Central China (where he became bishop in 1927).
Through all the vicissitudes of peace (they were bad enough famine, flood, and manifold dangers) he guided them, and then through the added honors of war; but he had the consolation of seeing the faith grow and blossom. He was expelled from China by the Communists in 1952; he died in February, 1956, and is buried at St. Columban's.
This is a great and heroic stery in missionary history one we should all know something about; we can do so by expending Is. 3d. on this booklet. Incidentally. at the end of it is printed Fr. Patrick O'Connor's stirring missionary poem, "The Splendid Cause"; and the front cover bears the picture of Bishop Galvin and of the new college.