Church Going

Early morning cycling on my bike

Over Piggy Bridge to Hindsford early Mass

Into the holy porch and through a window

I see John Byrne the server and the priest

As first Mass ends and locals on their knees

And God is praised in Lancashire again

And I will serve the curate half past seven

Go home again for breakfast then return

Retracing now on foot the way I came

The church now silent neighbour to the school


It’s all closed up these days

The crowds have gone

Or faith has flown or clergy let us down

Or the world got clever science to the fore

And faith is viewed as fiction close that door

And Irish immigrant was anglicised

And Irish priests no longer could chastise

And Sunday obligation was diluted

Some say the one true faith was polluted

Whatever it was time is marching on

And all things change and we grow old

And many die and many too are born


I would not want to be a priest again

Let me be to grow up in my home

Let me learn of girls and find myself

And come into the fullness of my life

With heart and head committed to life’s task

Leave me be – is that too much to ask?


I stuck to what I know throughout it all

Jesus and the Gospel is my call

And preaching that as best I could I did

And listened kindly to the hearts of all

Who came to ask my counsel and my time

But I was hamstrung from the very start

By seminary strictures world apart

Until the day I took myself in charge

And said I will decide what life shall be

And came away and joined my family


Brian Fahy

8 November 2021


+ I read again today Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going. It is a wonderful and atmospheric poem. I wanted to write something similar about my own little parish church of my childhood. I began to write and these lines came to me.


The Church’s recruitment of very young children into priesthood training was a serious aberration. It removes you from your home and family, and from your friends and normal social environment, and places you in a confined mental and social space. Its culture of holy obedience guarantees compliance in the young who are not rebellious and deprives them of growing into personal responsibility. That was my experience.

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