Apologia pro vita sua: Once a Preacher always …..
Apologia pro vita sua
I shall be 71 years of age on 15 January. I came into this world in a very hard winter of 1947, but I came into a very warm home and family. My mother was from Erris in Mayo and my father was a Lancashire boy of a Westport/Newport, Mayo daddy.
When I showed interest in catholic priesthood as a child in my Lancashire parish, what attracted me was the sight of a Redemptorist priest in the pulpit of our church during a mission. I was an altar boy and I remember the tall priest in our pulpit and the wrapt attention of the packed church in the pews, and I felt, although I could not then enunciate, that this is for me.
As a consequence of the other mission priest asking, ‘who wants to be a priest?’ and another boy answering, ‘Brian Fahy does,’ I found myself the object of this priestly attention. I ended up going away from home at 11 years of age to a junior seminary. I did not volunteer for this project. It came at me and I obeyed it.
I was a priest for 29 years and I was with the Redemptorists for 41 years from leaving home. I was never interested in being a parish priest, or indeed a minster of religion, or a liturgical, sacramental operative. What interested me was being a preacher of the gospel. It still is.
When I left priesthood in 1999 I did so because I was finally free of all the trappings that had encased me in a life that did not fit. I had submitted myself to the system but there was no life in it for me. I think now of all the many guys who trod a similar path. While still at seminary in the 1960s I heard about all the guys ahead of me who were ordained and who in few short years left religious life and priesthood.
In those years and following, I believe over 100,000 priests left ministry throughout the world. It is an enormous number and it speaks volumes, although we have had trouble in deciphering what it actually says.
For myself, leaving priesthood was a huge relief but it did not mean that I left the ministry of preaching. I have never left it. I continued to write for the Redemptorist Publications as a writer of homilies. That had been my life’s work. I also brought the ministry of the Word into my work as a mediator in Family Mediation, where separating couples begin to communicate about their children.
I have been a preacher all my life and I am a preacher still. I rejoice in the Redemptorists, who gave me such a grounding in the compassionate spirit of Alphonsus Liguori. My time in the Redemptorists was rich even as it was also difficult. The closeness of Redemptorist missioners to people, a closeness that comes from knocking on doors and visiting people is something I came to know personally, and the moral theology of the sons of Alphonsus was something I also tasted when I went to Rome for two years of study.
At present I am writing some homilies for publication next year in the Redemptorist publication Living Word, and I am learning how to be a good father and grandfather in these later years of my life. I am also learning how to be a widower at peace with the story of life that came to me.
I belong to the Catholic Church. I belong to the Redemptorist family. I belong to all those guys who followed their hearts into priesthood and continued to follow their hearts when it led them out of the institution. I am a preacher of the gospel of Christ Jesus.
11 January 2018
And a wonderfully gifted preacher too, as I have experienced at first hand. As ever, Brian, there is a warm authenticity to what you write which can only come from someone who has lived, loved and lost a fair bit.
“Sometimes God brings a man into priestly or religious life in order to equip him, all the better, for a role in the world…” Not verbatim, I cannot remember the source but it was attributed to St Thomas Aquinas. A sentence I used when scripting my play, Assault on a Citadel, about a young curate troubled by celibacy, who goes on retreat to a monastery… first broadcast on RTE One, then on BBC 4… finally re-worked for TV and screened on RTE One in January, 1980… The quote above spoken by Father Crispin (Christopher Casson) to Father Ned (Brian McGrath)… It was, I reckon, Ray McAnally’s last appearance in an RTE tv drama. The old brother gardener was played by Shay Healy’s father… Several stills are still available on the RTE Archives website… I went on to write and produce several plays set against the backdrop of the first Good Friday: Three for Calvary, Veil, At the Praetorium, Conclave: Inside the Sanhedrin, Pilate Under Pressure… thanks to my mentor, Fr Martin Hogan… and well received when produced at John the Baptist church and St Anthony’s church, Clontarf, the parish church, Killester, All Hallows and, latterly, at Gardiner street church… (All texts available on Amazon, paperback and kindle.) Last Easter, a lady stopped me outside St Francis Xavier’s: “Thank you for your play.” Then she spoke four words that will remain with me for always: “It was so different.”