“Always say …… Always say”

‘Brian’s gone now,’ my father said. My mum and dad were lying in bed after delivering me into the hands of the Redemptorists in 1958. My father had suddenly realised that his eldest son was gone from the house and was not coming home. It would be another fifty years before my mother told me this. At 11 years of age I had gone away, one hundred miles to Birmingham, and my father had said nothing. I had wanted him to say something. I was a good runner and wanted him to say that I would stay home and join the local harriers, but my father said nothing. My mother obediently supported the priest who suggested that I leave home and begin to train to be a priest by going away to a junior seminary. I regard this going away from home at that tender age as the crucial mistake in the story of my life.

My father was a great man. He had endured the war, seeing action in North Africa, on the beaches of Normandy and in the battle of the Ardennes. He had seen what people do to each other. He had been unimpressed by many officers, impressed by some, and he knew the ways of the world. But coming home to civilian life, he placed all his trust in mum when it came to the children, and when it came to the Church he gave silent and muted respect to priests. That is why he said nothing about my going away until it had happened, and then he suddenly realised what a huge event had taken place. He had lost his eldest son, long before it was right, to the power and authority of the Church. ‘Brian has gone now.’

Here was a man who knew how to stand up for himself in the coalmining community in which he worked; who could stand up for himself in the general community in which he lived. But in certain areas of life he was, like all of us, unsure and lacking in confidence. As regards children, he placed his trust in mum, and only stepped in when called on to do so. In this, he was a man of his age. As regards Church he felt, like so many people, that he had no power at all, and when the idea was broached of his eldest son going away at 11, he was silent.

Many years later, when I left priesthood, I was reunited with my childhood friend, David. David is a total contrast to me. Where I am silent and reflective, David is talkative and engaging. Even today I love to write. David loves to talk. He goes for Skype. I go for email. Soon after I left priesthood, David invited me down for a meal at the De Vere White’s Hotel of the Reebok Stadium in Bolton. After a lovely evening and a great meal, as I was leaving with my beloved Margaret he called out to me, ‘Always say, Brian. Always say!’

These words have stayed with me ever since. David has always been a person to ‘say’. He speaks his mind. He says what he feels and he says what he thinks. Never in an aggressive or angry way, but in a straightforward, ‘let’s have a conversation’ way with people. David saw how much I had kept things to myself, just as my father had kept his true feelings to himself all those years ago when I was lured away into the Church…long, long before my time…as Johnny McEvoy would say.

In later life I became a mediator for couples separating and arguing about their children’s care. One of the great lessons I learned was that people should not be silent about how they feel, but that we all need to learn how to express in a simple way, how we feel. Do not feel that you have to attack the other in order to get your way or your view across. Learn the simple courage to say openly how you feel about any situation. The work of mediators was to encourage this kind of open and confident conversation – To overcome fears and feelings of inadequacy, and so to feel confident enough to speak for your self in the open forum of the world.

This was the power that my father felt deprived of in those days, when the power of the Church was so great. There he was, a strong man and an experienced man in so many theatres of life, who was reduced to silence simply by the fact that the Church loomed too large in its authority in those days.

In these egalitarian days, it has been the culture of mediation that has brought home to me how great it is to let people speak and to teach people how to speak well for themselves. The Church meant well, as we all so often do, but was seriously mistaken in its policy of recruiting children into its ranks of priesthood. It also had the power to silence my father, who was not an aggressive man in any way, but who found himself reduced to silence in the face of religious authority.

After the powerful character of John Paul II who calls us to witness to the Lord, and after the time of Benedict XV who teaches us so much about truth, we now have the grace of Francis who shows us in action the pastoral way of Jesus. Let us encourage one another to speak and say how we feel and not allow the often, unconscious forces of power to suppress or stifle the truth that needs to be said and heard.

Always say, Brian, Always say.


Brian Fahy



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  1. Brendan Peters says:

    Your article reduced me to tears Brian as I recognised in myself and in others I have known over the years that inability and reluctance to ‘always say’, cowed as we are by the grip in which we are held by so much that is to do with the Church and its representatives. God bless your dad and your friend David who in their own ways taught you about what is most precious in life. Thanks, Brian. Your writing never disappoints, only edifies.

  2. Con Devree says:

    As St Paul wrote to Timothy, “preach the word in season and out of season.”

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    Thank you, Brian, for sharing that with us. Your Dad was like so many men and woman when confronted with the power of the church. And, I don’t think it was just a problem of not speaking out. It was a problem with how we thought. I would count myself among those who were infantilised in my mentality and attitude to the church and how I lived out my faith.
    And that continued until relatively recently. Even when I first came across Von Hugel’s famous work,The Mystical Element in Religion –referred to by my old friend, the late Gerry Hughes SJ in his wonderful book, God of Surprises–I did not recognise in myself where my stage of religious development really was.
    Having spent five and a half years at university, acquiring a lot of knowledge and an ability to think rationally about most things, I still was unable to think rationally or even sensibly about our beloved church and what we were being asked to believe.

  4. Brian, your story is conflicted and compelling. Thanks for sharing the details.

    For fifty years, the vast majority of Roman Catholic priests, religious Sisters, and theologians have been forced into a reluctant silence when it comes to birth control, celibacy of priests, ordination of women, and homosexuality. I myself, while teaching in Roman Catholic seminaries for twenty-five years, was required to keep a guarded silence on all these issues. But this reluctant obedience has not served me nor has it served those whom I helped prepare for lay and ordained ministry.

    By way of atoning for my years of silence, I have prepared WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY TO SAME-SEX COUPLES in order to equip my former students and all those faithful Catholics who are interested in sorting out the wheat from the chaff within current Catholic teaching on same-sex marriages. What you discover herein will supply you with clear, strong, and compelling case studies that can be used to open up informed and reliable explorations on topics that have largely been obscured by authoritative pronouncements, by shoddy biblical scholarship, and by ignorance of Catholic history. Whether you want to speak to your teenage daughter or to your bishop, these case studies will offer you talking points that will enable you to make sense out of the faith that is intended to nourish us, to make us free, and to draw us into harmony with the mind of Christ.

    If you are unable to attend the LGBT retreat planned by Fr. Tony, I would invite you to take a free copy of my book [available at https://payhip.com/b/QM9P ] and to read it in solidarity with those who are making the retreat.

    Peace, justice, and joy,
    Dr. Aaron Milavec

  5. Frances Burke says:

    Aaaron @ 4

    Thank you for sharing your publication. I look forward to reading every page of it.

  6. May Gregory says:

    Thank you for your writing of the above article.
    I have a problem with the fact that the Catholic Church completely ignores our treatment of our animals, which is very archaic and seems to come from a perceived, rightly or wrongly, indication from the Church many years ago, that animals have no soul and therefore are not worth bothering too much about.
    Is my belief that because animals are God’s creatures we WILL be called upon to account for our treatment of them, as with any vulnerable human.
    Why is this aspect ignored and does, therefore, lead to people being, and not standing up to, awful neglect and cruelty which is all around us. ( I am not talking about killing animals for food, which at the present time has to be accepted ).
    Any encouragement to people to treat animals as God’s creatures, and be accountable, would greatly improve our society.

    Thank you for your time.

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