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Reverend John Carr, C.SS.R.

I SUPPOSE I HAD BETTER BEGIN IN THE ORTHODOX FASHION by stating that I was born on the 9th of November, in the year of grace 1878, in the City of Limerick, Ireland. I was one of ten. I was a weakling (or was supposed to be) and the despair of the doctor. One day my godfather - an eminent ecclesiastic and a famous personage in his day-met me in town in the nurse's arms. He looked at me and then said: "Take the child home at once. Don't let him die in the street." To make sure she would, he hailed a jaunting-car, as it was then called, and paid our passage. But the weakling managed to pull through. In 1917 he preached before that godfather; the godfather was over seventy, the preacher in his fortieth year.

My last two years at school were spent at the Jesuit Colege in the city. Amongst our teachers was a scholastic who lived to a ripe old age as Father Whittaker and was the idol of his class. Though sixty-five years have now passed, I remember singling out certain words and phrases from the Sketch Book of Washington Irving and pointing out their force and beauty to us youngsters in a way I never forgot The tempo of class hours is probably too fast today and programmes too crowded for much of that sort of thing. But I think we were the better for it

At fourteen I entered the preparatory college of Mount St Alphonsus, Limerik, with the intention of eventually becoming a Redemptorist. There I spent five years and finished my secondary education. In the August of 1897 I was sent to the French novitiate near Paris. At the end of the year I was recalled to be the first novice of the newly constituted Irish Province of the Congregation. I made my profession on February 2nd, 1899, studied my philosophy in the house of studies, Devonshire, spent two years reading theology in Belgium, and was ordained in 1903.

After teaching in our college in Limerik for five years, I went on the missions in Ireland and for the next dozen years preached missions and retreats of all kinds up and down the land. In 1922, for reasons of health, I spent six months in Switzerland and then, towards the end of that year, went to Australia, where I spent five years teaching and giving occasional retreats to religious. In 1927 I returned to Ireland, where, apart from four years teaching Freneh in our house of studies in Galway, I spent all the intervening years giving rstreats. Some eight years ago my state of health called for a complete cessation of all external apostolic activity. Since then, besides hearing confessions, I have devoted myself chiefly to the apostolate of the pen.

But I had begun writing before this. If I am asked how I came to write, really I can scarcely say. Even as a small boy at school I seemed to have a sort of flair for what was then called - as it may still be called - composition. From early childhood my one hobby was reading. I also took up stamp collecting with youthful seriousness. On the field of sport I am afraid I was a complete wash-out.

I did not publish a line before I was a priest. Then I took up the writing of verse of a religious nature. Much of this was published in various magazines. But I soon recognized that poetry was not my metier and dropped it. I published no prose until I went to Australia in 1927. There I began writing articles on the Little Flower. These apeared later in book form under the title of The Lover of Lisieuxand saw several editions. I then took to translating from the French some rather long books, chiefly lives of Servants of God of the Redemptorist Congregation.

When in Australia, I preached a Lenten course on our Lord in the cathedral of Perth, at the request of Archbishop Clune. These were afterwards published in London under the title of The Christ is All. This book went through several editions and was translated into several languages It has been found particularly useful for sermons and Holy Hours.

On returning from Australia, I took to hagiography. My first effort in this line was the life of the Redemptorist St Clement Hofbauer, Patron of Vienna It was published by Sands of London and in in its fourth edition.

My largest book is the life of our St Gerard Majella. I spent several years at it, and it is in its third edition. It has been translated into Malayanam and, quite recently, into Japanese. I took the title To Heaven Through a Window, from an incident in the Saint's life. A rather amusing incident happened in connection with this book. To a very favorable review in a Canadian Catholic periodical the reviewer added this grim postscript "The author Father John Carr, has since passed away. May he rest in peace ''. Now as I felt very much alive at the time and by no means inclined to anticipate the decrees of Providence, I did not quite agree with this little piece of history. After all, though not of much importance to the world, it was supremely important for myself. So I wrote to my reviewer somewhat in this strain. I thanked him of course for all the nice thing he had said about my book, but begged leave to disagree with him in the little matter of my death. I admitted that no man is a judge in his own cause, but at the same time I felt I was in a position to call his statement about me into question. I asked him to reconsider it in the light of the following facts. In the first place, I said, I had not the faintest recollection of having died. Secondly, I found myself still eating and drinking, getting into bed and getting out of it, washing and shaving, just as usual-in fact, doing things we don't associate with life in the world to come. Thirdly I found myself still surrounded by humans, doing all these things with myself. Fourthly, I told him, that my knowledge of the other world was just as hazy as it ever was, which should not be the case, had I died. Finally, to clinch matters, I enclosed a recent snap of myself and signed it. The next issue of the periodical carried my letter in full and the snap, with apologies for having unwittingly shortened my life on paper.

I may also add in connection with this book, To Heaven Through a Window, that it got my name on the list of pilgrims from Ireland to the shrine of St. Gerard in Caposele, Italy, when, twelve months ago we celebrated the bicentenary of the Saint's death. The book is looked upon as the most complete life of St. Gerard in English so far.

In 1948 I published the first life in English of the child-martyr St. Maria Goretti. It is now in it's ninth English edition and has appeared in several languages, including Zulu! The little Saint has shown herself very good to me and got me to Rome for her canonization in 1950. While in Italy I was given many privileges, one of the greatest being that of meeting her venerable mother Assunta. I found that the fact that I was the author of the first English life opened many difficult locks and turned grumpy and adamantine officials into charming and obliging friends.

Besides translating from the French the life of St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, canonized a few years back, I published three years ago, under the title of A Fisher of Men, the life of the Venerable Peter Donders, a Redemptorist contemporary and compeer of Father Damien on the leper mission field. His cause for canonization is far advanced.

To pass over smaller publications, last year I published a volume of conferences for religious of both sexes under the title of Why Hast Thou Come? It is already in it's second printing. To bring matters up-to-date, Grown Up, a book for young women, was published in Dublin this year.

I thank the Lord Who has spared me so long and has strengthened me to reach the world of souls, if no longer from the pulpit, at least with the pen.

[Father Carr's books include Truly a Lover, reflections On St. Therese of Lisieux ( Herder, 1925), The Christ is All (Newman, 1948), To Heaven Through a Window (McMullen, I949), A Fisher of Men (Clonmore, 1952), Why Hast Thou Come? (Newman, 1957), Blessed Maria Goretti (Clonmore, 1948), and Grown Up (Clonmore, 1957).]

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