Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Studies magazine, Winter 1963

An excerpt from the article "Irish Television: a Compromise with Commerce" by Maxwell Sweeney:

"The televising of Benediction has been criticized: the criticism is justified because the average viewer is embarrassed by an act of worship being projected into the home at an hour which conflicts with family activities (preparing very young children for bed, the family tea hour). He is in doubt as to what response to make to the programme; should he kneel, put out his cigarette? There may be homes in which the response is as reverent as in a church but the substitution of some less formal acts would be more acceptable to the majority. On major occasions the transmission of High Mass would be appreciated, possibly evening Mass, but Benediction as a regular programmie feature for Sundays has not been justified."

Reading old copies of Studies (a publication of the Irish Jesuits) always makes me sad. I realize that I am inclined to nostalgia and to idealization of the past, and I do try to take off my rose-coloured glasses when I look backwards in time, but I can't help it-- the Ireland of the mid-twentieth century seems to me, at least based upon my reading of books and articles and journals written at that period, to have been far more intellectually and culturally serious than the Ireland of today.

We hear a lot about the clericism of the time, and perhaps Ireland was too much of a "priest-ridden" country. Perhaps we had too much deference for the clergy. But one upshot of that, it seems to me, is that Ireland had a whole intellectual class that it lacks today. Priests, through temperament and training, tend to be of a scholarly disposition. At that time, since there were so many priests in Ireland, they would probably have had considerable leisure for reading. And since a priest's work tends to expose him to the whole broad drama of human life-- birth, marriage and death, the secrets of the confessional, and so forth-- he is bound to have a wider appreciation of humanity than an executive who sits through endless meetings about toothpaste sales or an academic who sits through conference after conference on postcolonial theory.

I think, too, that the fact that civil service positions were more sought-after than a career in business had a lot to do with the higher intellectual calibre of the time.

It is interesting that Fintan O'Toole was a sometime contributor to Studies magazine in years past. Talk about nourishing a viper in one's bosom.

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