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
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
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).]