The Reverend Bernard Joseph Kelly, C.S.Sp.
I WAS BORN IN DUBLIN IN 1910
BUT CANNOT RECALL anything from my early years that indicated
any unusual interest in writing. Professed in the Congregation
of the Holy Ghost in 1930, I was sent to do graduate studies
in philosophy at University College, Dublin. I obtained the B.A.
degree in 1933 after which I taught for one year at Blackrock
College, Dublin. In 1934 I was sent to Fribourg University, Switzerland,
to follow the doctorate course in theology. The degree of S.T.D.
was awarded me in 1939.
It was during my stay at Frlbourg
that writing first struck me as an important form of priestly
work. I was much impressed by the literary activity of the French
clergy and saw that there was need for a little more of the same
activity in English-speaking countries. Writing my doctorate
thesis helped to show me that there was something I could and
ought to do about it. The thesis was originally intended to be
on the Holy Ghost. The subject was, of course, altogether too
wide, with the result that when at length I had narrowed it down
to the relation between Inhabitation and Justification, I had
a fair amount of matter remaining over from my preliminary studies
of which I had not been able to make use. Much of it concerned
the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
On my return to Ireland in
1939, I was appointed director of the House of Philosophy at
Kimmage, Dublin. My duties left me some free time every day,
and it was only natural that I should think of writing as a way
of utilizing it. I had already some notes on the Gifts of the
Holy Ghost, the subject-matter had not been treated of in English
for some time, so I decided to try to present my notes in a popular
and devotional form. The result was The Seven Gifts of the
Holy Ghost (Sheed, 1942). That was, of course, war-time,
and the first London edition was destroyed in an air-raid. A
new printing followed in due course and after it came a Catholic
Book Club edition.
Writing is very much a matter
of habit and acquired facility. Once I had completed my first
book I managed a book a year for the ten years of my term of
office in Kimmage. The second was The Sacraments in Daily
Life (Sheed; BOW; 1943). For this book also, the subject
suggested itself to me in Fribourg, though I had not collected
any material there. It appeared to me at the time that Catholics
generally had an inadequate notion of the importance for daily
life of Holy Mass and the sacraments. After all, if the sacraments
were the normal channels of grace, if Jesus Himself acted on
us through them, how could we conceive of a spirituality which
left them out of account? And yet, that is what most spiritual
books did. All this seems very obvious now after so many years
of liturgical revival, but it was not always regarded as of special
significance by writers.
Clearly there was an important
gap to be filled in spiritual literature, and 1 thought that
souls needed a book that would fill it. Since then the subject
has been treated many times with, I believe, considerable gain
In the books on the Gifts of
the Holy Ghost and on the sacraments I had written of God's action
on souls. Naturally this led me to think of the soul's response
to God's action, a response of acceptance to His Will, of donation
of self to Him in love. That was the theme of the book which
followed, Thy Kingdom Come (BOW, 1944). Looking back on
it after an interval of almost twenty years, I fear that the
opening chapter was overloaded with discussions of the nature
of kingship and government and the like. It was a mistake so
to have tested the reader in the first few pages for souls can
be helped considerably by introducing them to the idea of the
two kingdoms established by the two loves-love of God and love
of sell-and a too-philosophical first chapter only hid its practicality.
Part of it I expanded into God, Man and Satan (Newman,
1950). While writing the chapter on Satan in Thy Kingdom Come
I saw that the theme had practical spiritual implications
which could not be developed fully there without destroying the
balance of the book. Essentially, God, Man and Satan is
a drama of conflicting psychologies, from which emerges a
picture of the soul turned to God in a world which in so many
ways tends to bewilder him and lead him astray.
The Armour of Christ (Clonmore, 1948) - the title was suggested
by the passage of St. Paul where he speaks of the various virtues
as the armour given us by God-dealt with faith, hope, and charity
in the daily life of the layman. It was followed by two books
on the Religious life, First Steps in the Religious Life
(Newman, 1948) and Progress in the Religious Life (Newman,
1953). The former arose out of a series of conferences I was
invited to give in a novitiate of Sisters whose lives were devoted
to the care of the sick and poor. It was my first time to speak
to novices. The experience was invaluable. The latter book is,
in a sense, a sequel to the former. Many religious find themselves
more or less stationary after the first few years. The book attempts
to help them by explaining in what progress really consists,
the path of progress, the means by which it is achieved, the
helps which God gives in the religious life, all of which are
directed towards progress.
Two other books belong to the
period I spent in Kimmage: The Mother of the Saviour, a
translation of the classic work on Mariology by Father Reginald
Garrigou Lagrange, O.P., and Catholic Morality, the third
volume of the series for secondary schools of which Archbishop
Michael Sheehan wrote the volumes on Apologetics and Christian
Doctrine. Shortly before he died the Archbishop had asked
me to write the moral part of his series which he had planned
but which failing health prevented him from completing.
I also wrote a number of articles
in Irish for various periodicals including the Irish Theological
Record. The Irish language has been moulded by centuries
of the Faith and its survival will preserve for the Irish people
a great supernaturalizing influence. I considered it my duty
to do what lay in my power to help to provide religious reading
matter in Irish. I believe it was a priestly and apostolic work.
In the autumn of 1949, I was
appointed to a Holy Ghost mission in Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria.
The Holy Ghost Congregation, as it is today organized, is primarily
a missionary institute. For the first year or so of my stay in
Onitsha, I was attached to a mission station and had the privilege
of helping to build up the Church by instructing the people,
administering the sacraments, and forming them into a Christian
community. Conditions were primitive, but that was forgotten
in the thrill of being in the front line of battle for the extension
of Christ's kingdom on earth. In Onitsha education has been regarded
as one of the main elements in the Church's missionary programme.
There were hundreds of primary schools and number of secondary
colleges and teacher-training institutions, in all of which the
aim was to turn out educated and fervent Catholics. After the
year of ordinary mission work, I was appointed school organizer
or supervisor, an appointment I held till I returned to Kimmage
temporarily towards the end of 1958.
On the occasion of my holiday
leave in 1953, I was asked by my superiors to make a study of
the spirituality of the Venerable Francis Mary Libermann, the
convert Jew who was the spiritual father of the modern Congregation
of the Holy Ghost. As soon as the manuscript of this work, The
Spiritual Doctrine of the Venerable Libermann (Clonmore,
1954) was with the printers I returned to Africa, where I remained
till recalled in 1958 to teach pastoral theology at Kimmage.
I hope to be allowed to return to Africa once more in 1961.
While in Africa I found ordinary
spiritual writing out of the question. I was able, however, to
do some writing of the kind called for by the special needs of
my mission. I wrote An Introduction to Onitsha Igbo (Macmillan)
- Igbo is the language of the locality - and, with the help of
some of my teachers, a number of vernacular readers as well as
a small school grammar. School children in Africa are very much
influenced by what they read in their school books, so that the
provision of suitable readers is a most necessary form of the
apostolate. The grammar book was intended to help missionaries
to learn the language and get into more intimate contact with
Since my return to Kimmage
I have been able to write two new books, as well as to prepare
new editions of some of the old ones. To the best of my knowledge,
no book-length treatment of the spirituality appropriate to the
missionary life has appeared in English prior to my Missionary
Spirituality (Gill, 1960). 1 felt that such a book was needed
in view of the importance of the missionary in the Church today
and the number of seminarians and others who are preparing to
work on the missions. Holiness is of prime importance for them,
a holiness not of a vague and general kind but of a kind adapted
to their very special vocation.
The other book is Joy in
the Spiritual Life (Clonmore, 1961). Some measure of joy
in the spiritual life is a condition of sustained generosity.
There must be many souls-priests and religious among them-who
would give far more to God if only they could throw themselves
joyously into His service. My hope in writing this book has been
that God may use my words to help them.
And that brings me well into
1960. As I have already said, I hope to be allowed to return
to Africa in 1961. But that depends on my superiors. In the meantime,
I have no further plans for writing, apart from keeping up a
monthly contribution to our magazine The Missionary Annals.
Some day, of course, it's likely that I'll see that a book
I could manage is needed and with God's help I'll attempt it.
Till that day comes I have more than ample opportunities of serving
God and working for souls by keeping to the performance of my
ordinary duties and whatever occasional work providence and obedience
send my way.
published in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig,
Sixth Series, 1960.