A new beginning

In the September of 1964 I went by steam train to Perth in Scotland to begin a year of novitiate, an entry year for the Redemptorist preaching order. I was a boy of 17 summers. It was the beginning of a long road that included almost 30 years as a priest, a leaving of priesthood, marriage, a son, and then losing my wife Margaret to early death. Today as I approach 70 summers I am a widower, retired and lively quietly in Stirling, Scotland.
In this new year of 2017 I have been tidying my house like a good boy and rummaging through old letters and papers. In doing so I came across some notes I made in earlier days about Ecclesiam Suam, the first encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI. This letter was published in August 1964, just a month before I set off for Perth and my great adventure with the Redemptorists.
The notes I made are all concerned with the latter part of this papal pronouncement where the Holy Father speaks about dialogue and how to talk to one another. The Pope is thinking about how the Church talks to the World but what he says applies to every form of human encounter.
They are very inspiring notes. They helped me a great deal when I was practising as a family mediator between separating spouses/parents and recently I have seen some family upsets at close quarters where people, upset with one another, are reduced to speaking hurtful words only. Some upsets are too much for us at the time and we find our selves helpless to cope well with them.
I share with you the notes I made because they are a brilliant direction in how to relate to others in our own lives.
Before we can convert the world, we must…

  • §68 approach the world and speak to the world…
  • §72 take the initiative in human contact, as God does in Jesus…
  • §73 do not use human coercion, rather human friendliness, interior persuasion and ordinary conversation…
  • §77 be aware of gradualness slow development of thought and change of attitude…everyday renew the dialogue…
  • §78 consider the maturity of modern men and women…esteem for others, understanding and kindness, hatred of bigotry, hatred of malicious and indiscriminate hostility, and of empty boastful speech…
  • §81 use clear language…careful speech… humble manner, affirming goodness and truth, not forcing views on others, trust between partners, sensitivity to one’s listener…Affirm all that is good in the views of others…
  • §91 Preaching well, celebrate liturgy beautifully, speak to people skilfully, carefully thought out and zealously imparted…
  • §21 Vigilare! This is the daily characteristic of Christian life.

I added a further note to all this taken from something I read by John McGahern when he was reviewing Collins by T P Coogan. Speaking about Irish people generally he said, ‘Our interest in the personal and the local has kept us as sane as we are, in the face of the narrow view of Church and State.’
These notes I found and find very instructive for every human encounter I have. In particular I try now not to contradict someone in conversation. I do not have to agree with them and I can state my own view afterwards, but to contradict a person only succeeds in making them feel that you do not accept them as people.
The first ingredient of positive existence is human acceptance and many people struggle to find that in their daily experiences. The Lord did not shout aloud or make his voice heard in the streets but, my word, his voice is heard every day and you and I are privileged to be part of that word.
A noisy world looks for the quiet heart and a strident world is hungry for a kind word and understanding ear.
Brian Fahy
January 2017

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