Daniel O’Leary is an author that I’ve come to respect and admire. He is a wonderful teller of stories and an expert in the field of catechesis. Maybe those things go hand in hand.
I’ve read everything of his I can get my hands on and I stayed with him when I was last in England before I had a stroke.
His first book was called Travelling Light: Your Journey to Wholeness and this, with his second, Passion for the Possible, has pride of place on my bookshelf when they’re not lent to others.
I have read them both with enthusiasm because they have spoken directly to the inner being.
He is a master of the English language and taught this catechetical material to numerous young and not so young folk mostly in England and Ireland.
They were books of short readings which may have had other origins for some of their short pieces, but I’d never seen them before. I read them, one per day, then repeat that several times because they are dense with meaning and he has a wonderful turn of phrase. As often happened he came to New Zealand to speak at the main centres but he was also keen to come to what was then our parish. We offered a fruitful venue and we were the centre for the whole province, I’m proud to say.
When his third book came out recently I ordered it immediately and eventually it came. It is also a masterly work though quite different from the first two.
Begin With The Heart is an overview of so much catechetical material I have read in the last 40 years. In one small section, Rachel Dressler of the United States proposes seven gateways to the souls of students and, as she says, even the ‘less promising’ ones:
• The search for purpose and meaning
• The longing for silence and solitude
• The urge for transcendence
• The hunger for joy and delight
• The creative drive
• The call for initiation
• The yearning for deep connection.
Daniel O’Leary really believes in these seven gateways and pulls hundreds of such quotes together.
At a time when there is so much changing in Catholic schools it is reassuring that the faith is still being passed on by the lives and the teaching of RE teachers. It’s a subject that has been dragged through the mill in the last 50 years but has come out that much stronger. People like Daniel O’Leary have been there right through the struggle and are able to look back now and point out where we’ve been. To quote Daniel O’Leary himself:
Is there not bound to be a healing, saving grace at work among our troubled youngsters when the beautiful love story of a compassionate God is gently revealed and shared with them by those catechists, teachers and preachers who themselves already believe that life-changing good news?