A DOORWAY IN TIME: Memoir of a Celtic Spiritual Journey by Herbert O'Driscoll

A DOORWAY IN TIME: Memoir of a Celtic Spiritual Journey

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Irish Mist-icism: warm, engaging, rhapsodically pious recollections of boyhood and youth in Eire. Now Rector of Christ Church, Calgary, O'Driscoll (b. 1928) grew up in Cork, but spent his happiest days in summers on his grandfather's farm outside Castlecomer in County Kilkenny. He eventually graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, was ordained an Episcopalian priest, and emigrated to Canada in 1954--an event that, like many others in his life, he sees as part of a personal national religious allegory: his share in the ongoing tradition of pilgrimage that led monks and missionaries (Columcille, Columban, etc.) to abandon their beloved homeland. For O'Driscoll pre-WW II, rural Ireland was a sacramental world, where he found a kind of Christianized Wordsworthian bliss: a modest high tea served to the canon of St. Mary's turns into ""a moment for lifelong remembrance; a gathered family, the layers of generations, the sunlit fields, the richness of simple food, the church embodied in the tall figure at the table. For a child earth and heaven were for a moment one."" One source of tension in O'Driscoll's wanderings across the God-haunted Irish landscape, with its live memories of saints and heroes from St. Patrick to Patrick Henry Pearce, is his Protestantism. On his father's side he came from a long line of West Cork peasants, on his mother's from English Yorkshire farmers; his family converted from Roman Catholicism sometime after the mid-19th century, perhaps in response ""to some well-meaning but overzealous Protestant soup kitchen."" in any case, though a hearty patriot and a speaker of Gaelic, he inevitably felt some alienation from the Catholic majority, but he plays it down. One wonders how an assignment to Belfast, instead of Ottawa, might have affected his benign ecumenism. O'Driscoll may be too lush and lyrical for some tastes (he's a well-known preacher), but his evocations of temps perdu wrapped around by saving grace are unpretentiously appealing.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row