‘You’ll not be a priest… You’re not good enough… You’re too fond of music and you’re too fond of football...’
Speaking today on theSunday World podcast My Country Life, Fr Brian also tells how his parents, Hugh and Ellie, tried to talk him out of joining the priesthood at the tender age of 17.
However, the teenager stuck to his decision and quickly found that he had entered a harsh regime in the Passionists when he went into their monastery, The Graan in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
For the first year, Father Brian wasn’t allowed any contact with the outside world, including his parents and family.
“We weren’t allowed letters, we were locked up, it was an extremely tough regime,” he reveals. “Nobody could visit you for the first year at all. You went to bed at nine o’clock, you got up at two o’clock and you prayed for an hour. You went back to bed at three o’clock and got up at six o’clock.”
It would be 13 months before he’d see his parents again — on the day he took his vows before being sent to the Mount Argus monastery in Dublin.
“The second time I saw my mother was in hospital the night before she died. I was 19. We weren’t allowed home at all as students. It was wrong. I wouldn’t attempt to defend it.
“But you got into the thing of, ‘Well, if I want to be a priest I have to put up with this.’ And you put up with it knowing that it was stupid.”
Father Brian says the seed was sown for his entry to the priesthood in a confession box.
“A priest said in the confession box one day, ‘You should think about becoming a priest,’ and I had no notion of becoming a priest,” he recalls.
“I went home and told my parents who said, ‘Put that out of your head, you’ll not become a priest, you’re not good enough, you’re too fond of music and you’re too fond of football, you’ll never make a priest.’ How right they were.”
A huge GAA fan, Fr Brian remembers listening to the matches on the “wireless” when he was a child.
“This is how innocent I was, I couldn’t understand how Micheal O’Hehir (the commentator) fitted in that box (radio),” he laughs.
“I just couldn’t put the two together. Later I became great friends with Michael O’Hehir through the GAA and we used to laugh about that.”
Fr Brian played football as a teenager with local clubs. “In 1962 I played for the (Kinawley) seniors as a 17-year-old and we got to the county final.”
However, the final was the day after he joined the priesthood and he missed out on it. “I entered the Passionist congregation to be a priest on September 1 and the final was played the next day, so that was the end of my football career, you weren’t allowed to play.
“The first I heard who won that match was Christmas Day because that’s the first letter we got. I never knew who won the county final that I should have been playing in, even though it was played five miles up the road.”
In the first of a two-part interview on the My Country Life music podcast, Father Brian also talks about his interaction with the showbands in the 1960s, how he became chaplain to the entertainers in Ireland and wrote a music column under his father’s name for the then showband magazine Dancing News, owned by the late Albert Reynolds.
A columnist with the Sunday Worldfor the last 46 years, Fr Brian says that his love of sport, music and people has kept him rooted.
“I don’t take holidays, I don’t do anything, but I find that if you keep in touch with people it keeps your feet rooted, and the best way to keep it is the human things that we do…football, sport and arts. That’s how you are able to know how people feel. And you are able to be of some value to them because you speak their language. It’s a common language.”
NOW listen to the full Father Brian D’Arcy interview on My Country Life with Eddie Rowley, on sundayworld.com, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.