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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 to souls.

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 their people.

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.

Originally published in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig, Sixth Series, 1960.


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