18 July 2022

(3) Was Archdeacon O'Sullivan a Rough Diamond?

Bishop Moriarty, friend and ally of S John Henry Newman, was a sophisticated and highly educated man. Perhaps that is why he became a bishop ... and eventually Bishop of Kerry [the earlier title for this see had been Ardfert and Aghadoe, still its title in the Anglican 'Church of Ireland']. In 1852, the clergy of the diocese had been asked who would be a suitable coadjutor Bishop, and their response had been strongly in favour of Father John O'Sullivan. But Cardinal Cullen, apparently, represented Fr John to Rome as being crude and uncouth and unsuitable. And so the post went to the then President of All Hallows' College in Dublin ... David Moriarty ... rather than to O'Sullivan. Yet a Protestant writer was later to observe that "in Kenmare the influence of one stout old priest is still felt. Fr O'Sullivan (John). A rough diamond ... [he] defied the tyranny of the [Ascendancy] Trenches both in private and in public and he defeated them so often ..."

A photograph of Fr John suggests that he was was a big burly man with a big burly beard; after his death his parishioners were to put an Altar of our blessed Lady over his body and an inscription indicating the love his people had for this "Scourge of soupers, terror of tyrants, father of the poor".

But Bishop Moriarty did respect the capacity of Fr John to defend his people; he was left for more than three decades as pp of Kenmare and served as Vicar General. And this Diamond cannot have been entirely uncut: he was able to put 'D.D.' after his name ... and he had the title 'Archdeacon', which to our own day survived  in the Irish Catholic Church. He had begun his Latin studies at the age of seven; and it was to him that the Bishop turned for an abbreviated translation of S Robert Bellarmine's Explicatio in Psalmos ... ad Paulum V Pont. Max. ... Romae Ann. M.D.C.XI.

The frontispiece of Bellarmine's Commentary on the Psalms is a fine, if faintly busy, piece of baroque workmanship; "Psalmum dicite Nomini eius" and "Spiritus Domini locutus est per me" appear in a composition framed by Salomonic columns ... emblematic in Renaissance iconography of the Temple where His ineffable Name dwells and is adored and invoked. Included beneath are the Arms of Papa Borghese ... with the information "Cum privilegio Su[mmi] Pont[ificis]".

The 150 Psalms express the continuity of our Faith not only from the Patristic period, but, of course, from our worship as God's people in His First Temple. It has often been felt that our respect and love for the Holy Rosary itself can only fitly be expressed by dignifying it with the title Our Lady's Psalter.

Archdeacon O'Sullivan's translation of Bellarmine is available from 'Preserving Christian Publications'. 

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