Change in Irish Catholicism: The Furrow Breaks New Ground

Below is the introductory foreword in the inaugural issue of The Furrow from 1950. The author is the editor and founder of The Furrow, Canon J.G. McGarry, then Professor of Sacred Eloquence and Pastoral Theology at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Accompanying this foreword was an article warmly commending the editor’s programme by the Most Rev. John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, along with a message of fraternal support from The Catholic Standard.

The Furrow is something new. It is new in the ground it opens. Many branches of pastoral work to which our times have given a special importance demand a fuller treatment — preaching, pastoral organisations, the liturgy, the Church, its art and architecture. And it is in such matters especially that theory needs to be confirmed and corrected by practice. The pooling of experiences in varying conditions of work and the exchange of views on new pastoral methods are means hitherto little used, yet they can give valuable help to all who are charged by God to keep His field.

A new opportunity is offered in The Furrow for the sharing of such experience. Moreover, recent years have given evidence of an increasing interest in writing on the part of our younger priests. Life in the priesthood and Christian culture offer to such young writers rich and fertile themes, opening to them a new way of serving the Church, its faith and civilisation. The Furrow will consider it a point of duty to support and encourage such writers.

In pursuing these aims The Furrow will be guided by the mind and spirit of the Church. Obedience to the Vicar of Christ and to His bishops, whom the Holy Ghost has appointed to govern His flock, will be the corner-stone of its policy. But besides this higher allegiance there is place, too, for a special, domestic loyalty. Reverence for the traditions of the Irish Church and pride in its distinctive way of life must be an influence upon the policy of any Irish Catholic review. For us this reverence is more than an influence. Our past is our special glory: Kells and Cashel, Cong and Glendalough are a rich inheritance, challenging their heirs to high endeavour, to call forth new treasures from old.

How frequently Christ speaks of His Kingdom as the field — the field that is sown with good seed and bad, field of the hidden treasure, the field challenging the ploughman’s courage and persistence! Only the tiller of His field does not work alone; the sower needs the weeder’s help, the ploughman is nothing without the reaper. To all who work in that field the call is to come and share with their fellow-workers the labours of the harvest, to be men of His meitheal.

Yet co-operation alone is not enough. “We are God’s workmen; you are His field,” St. Paul writes to his Corinthians. But the workman counted for nothing, neither Paul who sowed, nor Apollo who watered. The harvest was the gift of God alone.

May He who gives the harvest prosper this sowing.

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Posted on July 1, 2011, in Architecture, Cardinal John D'Alton, Irish Church-State Relations, Irish History, Liturgy, Maynooth Seminary, Second Vatican Council, The Furrow. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The Furrow is not what it used to be. A couple of years ago they published a ‘homily’ by a retired Maynooth professor of moral theology given at a ceremony in England marking 25 years of a live-in relationship between two men, one of them a former friar/priest. I was utterly disgusted.

  2. Father I think I know who you mean. The priest’s name starts with an ‘e’, right? He’s been writing in The Furrow for a long time. Truth be told The Furrow (and Doctrine and Life for that matter) was progressive even before the Council, although back then it was still irreproachably orthodox. In the 1950s its ‘ethos’ remains broadly traditional and is a joy to read, even if I find some of the articles pushing in unpleasant directions (eg. vernacular liturgy or modern architecture) in its championing of the Liturgical Movement.

    Canon McGarry was an interesting man. He later died in a car crash in the 70s.

  1. Pingback: Church Music in Ireland « Lux Occulta

  2. Pingback: 1950: IER on the launching of ‘The Furrow’ « Lux Occulta

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