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In The Goodness of God
In The Goodness of God
Br Luke Rudd, as the community’s (fully credentialed) archivist, has a growing treasure trove in his care. Over the past two years he has beavered away at editing Dom Kevin O’Farrell’s autobiographical writings spread over a number of notebooks in his not always easily deciphered script – despite the fact that he was a keen and competent calligraphist.
On 25 September, the fourteenth anniversary of Dom Kevin’s death, the community staged a private (Covid lockdown) book launch, accompanied by a celebratory evening meal. After our inner-man had been put into a good space, Luke gave a presentation on the process of working, with the material available, towards his eventual publication of In the Goodness of God: A Memoir. Luke has drawn the title from a phrase used by Kevin near the end of the book. It captures well Kevin’s understanding of the primacy of God’s love in his life. A Religious Sister back in 1972 thanked him in a letter for helping her to come to the same important insight: “Really Father I do not know how to thank you for the tremendous help you have given me – for sharing with me your deep spirituality and your insights into the kindness, understanding and goodness of God… Father, I do want you to know that the realisation – the growing realisation of God’s love and kindness has been a tremendous help to me in every way”. One appreciative reader commented that what Luke wrote in the Preface was “very good”, noting also that “Dom Kevin did ramble at times”, thus needing a careful, respectful editor. The Memoir is an attractive volume, including some of Dom Kevin’s family photos and others from different stages of his monastic journey. One Irish monastic reader has been spurred – pending Ireland’s return to post-Covid freedom of movement - to make a pilgrimage to Shanballymore, Kevin’s beloved hometown in Cork.
Dom Kevin had a pronounced personal taste for autobiographies by very ordinary Irish folk. Three on the top of his recommended list were from the Blasket Islands, off the western coast of Kerry, uninhabited now since 1954: Tomas O’Crohan’s The Island Man (1926); Maurice O’Sullivan’s Twenty Years A-Growing (1933); and Peig Sayer’s Peig (1935).
Born in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day 1919, and with a string of other Patrick “coincidences” (as he observes), yes, of course, he was baptised Patrick. He entered Mount St Joseph Abbey Roscrea in 1937. After ordination, he taught at the monastery’s secondary college for ten years. He was appointed novice master for the Abbey in 1955.
In 1958, the newly founded community at Tarrawarra elected Fr Kevin as our first Abbot. He remained in office for thirty years.
In the Goodness of God is Dom Kevin’s honest and reflective recounting in faith, of his own story, as well as that of the people who nurtured his life, and the monastic communities he loved and served.
Dom Kevin formerly published three books: On the Abbatial Office, Talks from Tarrawarra Abbey, and Life with Mary: A Monastic Journal. As one of our friends wrote for the blurb of this memoir, he was “a holy man, not without suffering… As he experienced the love of Our Lady, Father Kevin himself personified the same love to those he encountered”.
Someone who obtained a copy of In the Goodness of God soon after publication wrote to Br Luke: “I have been working through the work as my spiritual reading for the past couple of months and I have found it very inspiring and educational for my own spiritual life… After reading the book I feel that I do know him in much the same way as if I had met him and listened to his homilies and addresses… I was particularly impressed with his humility and his self-knowledge, especially the way he saw himself as ordinary and with few if any of the gifts associated with what I might call public life. Yet he achieved a sort of greatness just by being himself… I could identify with much that Fr Kevin had to say about leadership. I only hope that I was able to exercise my leadership in a way which approached the leadership he showed as abbot at Tarrawarra”.
The same correspondent penned words of appreciation and encouragement to Luke for his efforts in moving this manuscript from the obscurity of the archives to the light of day: “I wanted to write to you as the person who appears to have guided this significant work through to publication and to congratulate you on the publication and to thank you for making this remarkable piece of work available to a wider audience… Sometimes you put a lot of effort and indeed love into a project and never hear much about its impact on others. I hope you have been getting lots of notes of congratulations from readers”. We second those sentiments. And, yes, Luke reports that he has received good feedback.
In the Goodness of God: A Memoir is available through Br Luke Rudd (brlukesr [at] hotmail.com).
Readers are informed that Section III of this book contains information (on page 164 paragraph 2 and page 213 paragraph 2) about a former monk, Colmcille Clifford, who is known to have harmed children. As a faith-based community, we acknowledge that faith-based communities have far too often failed in their responsibilities to recognise and expose these crimes. Tarrawarra Abbey is absolutely committed to ensuring that the historic failings of the church never occur again, and that people who have been harmed are fully supported. Please contact us (ph. 03 9730 1306) or our independent consultants Kooyoora (ph. 1800 135 246) if this publication or notice causes any distress.