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  • The Beginnings of the Devotional Revolution in Ireland:The Parish Mission Movement, 1825-1846
  • Emmet Larkin

Emmet Larkin (b. 1927) was one of the most significant historians of Ireland we have ever, or will ever, have. Following his death in March of 2012, the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS)—the flourishing organization of which Dr. Larkin was a co-founder—has sought to recognize his seminal contributions in a number of ways. One, of course, is the newly established Larkin Research Fellowship in Irish Studies, an annual research award given to an advanced Ph.D. student working on a dissertation on an Irish topic in History or the Social Sciences at a North American institution. Another was a panel at the annual meeting of the ACIS last April, to pay tribute to his many contributions to Irish Studies.

I was honored to be one of the panelists on that occasion. There, I mentioned that he had been working on a final article at the time of his death. Now, his wife Dianne, following on a suggestion from Dr James H Murphy of DePaul University, has graciously passed along to the article to New Hibernia Review—a fitting venue, as Dr. Larkin served on the editorial board of this journal from the first issue. The article was in close to final form, and has only required the lightest of editing hands. It had long been Larkin's intention to provide more background on that movement than he managed to include in his writings to date; this article should be understood as adding to his appreciation of the popular and pastoral dimensions of the roots of the Devotional Revolution.

Paul A. Townend
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

The Parish Mission Movement was the single most important factor in the making and consolidating of the Devotional Revolution that took place in Ireland between 1850 and 1880. In those thirty years not only were virtually all of the some 1,000 Catholic parishes in Ireland visited by missionaries of the various religious societies and orders, including Vincentians, Rosminians, Jesuits, Redemptorists, Passionists, Oblates, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, Capuchins, and Fathers of the Mission, but by 1880 most of those parishes had [End Page 74] been visited again, and some even a third and fourth time. The cumulative effect of those some two thousand missions, renewals, and a host of other apostolic works by both the regular and secular clergy, in the form of retreats, charity sermons, tridua, novenas, stations of the cross, forty hours' adoration, and benediction of the blessed sacrament was a remarkable national religious revival that profoundly affected both the character of the Irish people and the course of their history.1 The beginnings of this remarkable transformation, however, were not only as modest as the proverbial cloud, but they were also relatively a long time in becoming.

The occasion for these modest beginnings was provided in 1825 by the Papal Jubilee proclaimed by Leo XII in Rome, which he then extended to the Catholic world the following year.2 In Ireland, the archbishop of Dublin, Daniel Murray, launched the Jubilee in his metropolitan church on March 8, 1826, by carefully explaining the terms of the spiritual benefits of the plenary and partial indulgences granted by the pope to the faithful for the relief of their own eventual suffering and that endured by their deceased loved ones in shortening their time in purgatory. In his homily Murray emphasized that in order to gain the indulgences of the Jubilee it was necessary that the penitents "be in a state of grace and favour with God." "For the impenitent sinner," he solemnly warned, "there is no Jubilee. —The drunkard, the blasphemer, the Sabbath-breaker, those who are stained with the crimes of injustice, impurity, revenge or any other grievous transgression of God's law, can have no share in the fruits of this dispensation, until they shall have deplored and renounced their criminal habits, and offered up to him the sacrifice of a contrite and humbled heart."

The stirring of this consciousness of sin by Archbishop Murray and the consequent devotional enthusiasm induced by the Jubilee celebrations in the diocese of Dublin, especially in the...


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