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TODAY IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION date of A Limerickal Commentary on the Second Vatican Council, a recent little labour of love of mine. It publishes for the first time a typescript set of limericks written by anglophone bishops during the Council.

Apart from being very witty, they offer an insight into how some celebrities and issues were being received among at least some of the bishops at the Council. They are a sort of para-commentary to be read alongside the formal, academic commentaries. They remind us that the Council Fathers were men with their own thoughts and insights, and not an ideologically-uniform body. It humanizes the Council just a little.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most prolific limericist by far was the Bishop of Darwin in Australia. His diocese may have been remote and inconsequential by worldly standards, but he was clearly able to keep up with the ebb and flow of the Council’s proceedings.

Of especial interest, at least for some, are the Latin translations of these limericks, made by Bishop Bernard Wall, who was Bishop of Brentwood. Those with only school Latin could appreciate how clever some of these translation are. In fact, dealing with modern issues, they offer a good example of modern Latin composition for Latin students.

The notes I have provided offer the context necessary to enjoy fully some of the limericks, identifying the often specific occasions from which they arose as well as identifying the personalities and issues referred to. Yet the tone of the book is not academic, the notes notwithstanding—it is to be read for enjoyment first of all.

Cardinal Pell’s kind interest in the project has seen him offer a brief but encouraging preface to the book. He was a seminarian usher on the Council floor for a period, while studying at Propaganda’s Roman college.

The advance author’s copies contain errors I had not spotted, but these are corrected in the edition published today. The author’s copies thus now have a certain bibliographical interest. If I am ever pope they may even have some perverse value, much like an upside-down stamp. But the last-minute corrections were borne with great equanimity of spirit by Alexandros Barbas at Arouca Press in Canada, whose cheerful goodwill is insuperable. His catalogue is well worth a look; for example, he has just republished in five splendid volumes Blessed Ildephonsus Schuster’s The Sacramentary, and at a remarkably affordable price.

The Limerickal Commentary can be ordered direct from the publisher. Since copies will be printed locally there would be no international postage to pay and delivery would be from a source in your own country. It would also deny Mr Bezos just a little of his immense profits. But it is on Amazon as well.

The price in British pounds is £11.95 for the hardback (with dustjacket, at left above), and £6.95 for the softback at Amazon. In the US the price is US$14.95 and US$7.95 respectively, with Amazon US having the same price. For European readers, is offering it for €13.32 and €7.08 respectively, offers them on separate pages, hardback for €19.31 and softback for €11.93 (in Italy may get a better price direct from Arouca), while is offering it for €13.26 and €7.05 respectively—if you order direct from the publisher the price should be around this I imagine. In Australia, is offering it for AU$22.81 and AU$13.19 respectively—again the publisher’s direct price should be pretty much the same.

As a taster here is the only anonymous (in the typescript) limerick in the collection, well known to some, and with it is Bishop Wall’s Latin translation:

There was an old priest of Dunleary
who stood on his head for the Kyrie;
when someone asked why,
he made the reply,
“It’s the latest liturgical theory.”

Stetit presbyter senex Dunliriæ
sursum deorsum ad Kyrie;
qui quærenti, “Quo ludis?”
ait, “Vides, tu rudis,
novissimum liturgica in serie.”

Some of you will probably delight in the series on “The Lowly Origins of the English Bishops.” But those beans I shall not spill here…


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  1. It’s not anonymous! It’s by Professor E L Mascall, an Anglican cleric and member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd. I’m very fond of it, since it mentions my home town.

      1. Better according to me – I was born and raised in Dún Laoghaire, which is its correct spelling. This was well known to Professor Mascall who used to travel through it when visiting Irish Anglican clergy. You are faithful to your source, quite properly, which is not faithful to the original, sadly. However, it’s not worth falling out over.

  2. Well done, Hugh, to get it published, an so speedily! I’m delighted that you got Cardinal Pell’s introduction. I’m forwarding your message forthwith to my sister who has a degree in Classics and is the only person I know who reads Vergil for pleasure (in Latin). She’ll certainly appreciate it.



    Sent from my iPad


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