A Better Life

In Matthew’s Gospel the risen Lord sends a message via the women to the disciples, telling them to leave for Galilee. ‘They will see me there’. It is an evocative moment: Galilee, the place of peace and happiness, the beautiful green place where the story had begun. Jesus was also saying that they needed to get out of Jerusalem, the most recent place of tumult and torment for them all. They had to get out of there, away to a calmer quieter place, to regroup and begin their new life.


This advice to ‘get out’ brought back to my mind a feature of my life as a seminarian. We were corralled in a lonely place called Hawkstone, in the Shropshire countryside. It was miles from anywhere and miles from anybody. We saw no one from one year’s end to the next. It was a place completely apart: Desert and isolation.


In this wilderness we often gathered in the evening and sometimes, on recreation days, we played records. There was a record out at that time by ‘The Animals’, a group from the North-East of England, and its title was, ‘We’ve got to get out of the this place.’ Every time it was put on to play the whole body of students would sing that chorus with incredible gusto, at top volume and with fierce intention.


We’ve got to get out of this place

If it’s the last thing we ever do

We’ve got to get out of this place

Girl there’s a better life for me and you.


We often laughed at the experience but it wasn’t really a laughing matter. Life in that seminary, so far away from any human contact or society, really was an endurance test. I remember thinking at the time and feeling that this is no joke. We are singing this in all seriousness, even as we know we can do precious little about it.


Well, those days are gone now. The place is sold and is now operating as a fine hotel, a purpose for which it is admirably suited. I found the place a dead end. It knocked the spirit out of me, and obedient child that I was I endured it. Seminaries in the main have died the death now, and no harm.


The Church in my lifetime has changed so much. That is good and that is normal, although in my young days, we used to boast that the Church does not change at all. In fact very generation is called to make things new. If ever we get stuck in one kind of way of doing things, we need to reach for that record again, and sing it again with gusto – We’ve got to get out of this place!


Brian Fahy

17 April 2022



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