Despite my own and Fr. Seán's criticism of his theology, Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, SVD, Editor in Chief, has captured the essence of the WORD magazine in his valedictory summing up of this very worthy publication. According to Fr Twomey, the Word was the largest selling magazine of any kind in the early 70s:
“It was a time when Ireland was a different place. The magazine wasn’t just religious, it was of general interest. At that time there were no glossy magazines or papers. People didn’t travel. The Word provided glimpses of mysterious cities like Prague, Vilnius and Riga and this was a breath of fresh air."The sad announcement of its demise appeared on the magazine's website in early December last.
When I was growing up this was the best magazine in the world. It's production standards were outstanding in its day and have held up very well since. The content was first class with contributions from many of the world's top writers and photographs from the world's top photographers.
This was no mere religious magazine. It was a first class magazine in its own right despite coming out of a religious stable.
The final edition, or the last WORD, so to speak, is currently on sale (at €1.50!) and will hopefully become a collector's item in time (and, no, I haven't bought them all up, yet!). It is packed with a selection of some of the best items from years past and gives a very good idea of the broad range and quality of the content of the magazine.
On the literary front there is an interview with Brian Friel (1970), articles by Mícheál MacLiammóir (1970), Graham Greene (1974), and Paddy Kavanagh (1962). Bro. Hurley has a piece (1991) on "Famous Last Words", where he observes that "dying words tend to live on. But their standard seems to be declining, maybe because more people now die in hospitals - and outside visiting hours". There are pieces on: social and cultural affairs, at home and abroad; archeology; moral issues (euthanasia); lifestyle (Cardinal Suenens on the need to relax!); medical matters (NAPRO or Billings 2); biography (Thomas à Beckett & Agatha Christie); and, the next life (Fr Twomey on Purgatory - he attempts to extricate himself from the literal fire but does little to solve the temporal aspects and the role of prayer and indulgences).
Fr Twomey has a long editorial in the final issue. He is now going to write for the magazine Inside the Vatican. That magazine claims, inter alia, to introduce you to "movers and shakers of ecclesiastical policy". A flavour of the writing in the magazine can be got from the owner/editor in chief's review (PDF) of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ.
Best, perhaps, to finish with parting thoughts from Bro. Paul Hurley, SVD, who founded the modern version of the magazine in 1952 and edited it for 40 years.
"Yes, there’s a time for everything. Now it’s time to thank all our readers and, especially, our most generous and loyal promoters, our contributors and all those who helped us in various ways. And, sadly, it’s also time to say goodbye."
[Note: 20/6/2014 - on revisiting this post I see that links to The Word site no longer work.]