"In St Michael's College it was the custom for priests to visit and give a really good talk about the work their congregation or order did. Then they'd give you a slip of paper asking if you were interested in their work. If you were interested they sent you material. I remember one priest who came and gave a great talk about his work in South America. It was an appealing and idealistic life. He was from The Legionaries of Christ. At the time I showed some interest, so one evening, about a month afterwards, this priest arrived at our house. He was probably Spanish and looked awfully clean with his white cuffs and gold cufflinks. He looked perfect.
My father and I were out in the field working when this strange priest came out to us. He stood at the edge of the field and beckoned my father to come to him; they talked secretly for 10 minutes or more. He never spoke to me at all. I never knew until 30 years later what he said to my father. First, he asked how much my father earned, and when my father told him, he said, "I don't think your family is rich enough for your son to join us. We're not interested." A cousin in whom my father confided told me that long after my father died. My father never told me, but I discovered that he was deeply hurt by this insult. When he came back to me in the potato drill, all he said was, "You won't be joining that crowd anyway."
The founder of The Legionaries of Christ, in the spring of 2006, was silenced by the Vatican for the alleged abuse of young boys, especially young students who entered his order.
Looking back, I understand now why my father didn't want me to be a priest. He always said we weren't rich enough for me to be a priest. Early on he did his best to change my mind. It would be a very long time afterwards before I understood why."
On the night of the 30th of August 1962, I went to Bundoran to a dance as a kind of a last fling, myself and my brother and a few neighbours. I went to dances regularly before I entered and I still wanted to hang on to the music. It was a double attraction that night. The Melody Aces were the first band and Butch Moore and the Capitol Showband were the second, in the Astoria Ballroom in Bundoran.
There's a quaint story that gives you an indication of the times we lived in back then. I actually played football for a neighbouring club, Kinawley, at underage level, and they took me onto the senior panel as well. I played in the county senior championship semi-final in August when I came on as a sub even though I was only 17 years old. We won the match and got to the final. But I had entered the Passionist monastery at The Graan before the final took place and I never played in the county senior final. We didn't get letters, papers, visits from people or anything like that while we were in the novitiate. We simply entered a monastery and from day one you became a contemplative monk. One day I was a teenager running around Bellanaleck and the next I was a contemplative monk. I never knew who won the county final until Christmas morning, when we were allowed one letter from my family. That was when I first realised that Roslea, not Kinawley, had won the cup.
The day I entered was a really, really sad day. I spent the day crying and saying goodbye to people, places of interest and even the sad old donkey out in the field. The day before I entered I had a sense of it being the last day of my life. I remember going on a bicycle to Enniskillen, crying because I was leaving home at 17 years of age. It was almost like a death in the family. That was the feeling around the house. My mother and my sisters were crying all day. Somebody had arranged to get a car to bring me to The Graan, which was unusual in itself. All my worldly possessions were in one little case.
The bleakness of The Graan was awful."
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Irish priest Brian D’Arcy’s controversial autobiography "A Different Journey" is his story of struggle between his human nature and his calling. As a Passionist Father he found a way of combining his love for music and sport by becoming a chaplain to the entertainment industry. He has integrated a career in journalism and broadcasting with his priesthood. His autobiography was published in 2006. The following short excerpts parallel my own story in "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind." D'Arcy joined the Novitiate the same year as I did. The unnamed (Mexican) Legionary recruiter he mentions is the same one who recruited me - Fr. Santiago Coindreau. Brian's reaction about leaving his family to join religious life reminds me of my own.