Summers Past: Holiday advice from Father Ted from the Irish Times, 1996

‘People think being a priest just involves saying Mass and getting into trouble. There’s more to it than that’

 

Our Summers Past series mines the Irish Times archive to find the best articles from previous summers. In this piece from August 1996, ‘Father Ted Crilly’ explains why priests deserve holidays too

 

It’s dreadfully hard work being a priest, so a welcome break away from the whole “world of religion” is always looked forward to. My ideal holiday would be lying by a beach or a pool in Las Vegas (a pool probably, as Las Vegas is in the middle of a big desert) having won a million dollars in the casino. I would then go for a huge dinner, take in a Frank Sinatra concert and drink champagne into the early hours, ideally with Frank.

Although I’ve never met “ol’ Blue Eyes”, I’m sure we would have a lot in common. Father Humpty Doyle, a friend of mine from Navan, met him once at a race meeting in New Jersey and said he found him very “down to earth”.

I’ve always thought, of myself as being a bit of a performer, so I would probably talk to Frank about that end of things. Frank would probably chat away about singing with Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Junior, and I could tell him a few yarns about a wedding I did in Naas.

No matter how busy I am, I try to get away about 20 times a year. Rome would be a favourite holiday destination, although my last visit there, when I was accompanied by two colleagues from my parish of Craggy Island, Father Jack Hackett and Father Dougal McGuire, ended in what can only be described as a “fiasco”.

Thanks to a series of incidents so unlikely that I was reminded of an episode of The X Files, Father Dougal spent a night in a prison cell with a bunch of Medical Missionaries from Swaziland, having been accused of shoplifting a pair of statues of Pope Innocent X.

Needless to say it was I who was forced to sort out the whole sorry affair, and after about 50 visits to the Irish embassy, Father Dougal was released, only to fall into the company of a bunch of pick-pockets from Poland, posing as invalids.

Father Jack, meanwhile, had met up with an old friend of his called Father Harry Sleek, who some of you may remember as a regular panellist on the Late Late Show in the early 1970s.

His ferocious appetite for drink eventually led to diminishing television appearances, and after an incident where he called Lord Moyne a “fat Protestant bastard” his career as a TV pundit was over.

Needless to say, the two priests got on famously, and left a trail of Thelma and Louise-style destruction in their wake (although unlike the high-spirited ladies of that film, they didn’t go over a cliff in a car and die, preferring instead to drive the car through the window of an off-licence and make off with about 2,000 lires-worth of wine).

But as long as I have a good rest from time to time, I’m happy. People think that being a priest just involves saying Mass and getting into trouble. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

I, for instance, spend most of my time writing sermons (something which, in all humility, I have honed into a fine art). And believe me, there are times, while I am looking at a blank word processor screen, that I wish I’d chosen another career. But I didn’t. I chose to be a priest, and I have to live with that decision for the rest of my life.

So holidays are extremely important. When I’ve finished writing my 150-word sermon, which usually takes about half-an-hour, I go on a little “Day Holiday”. I have one before lunch, which lasts about four hours, and then another later on, which again lasts four hours.

On these Day Holidays I might watch television, or sit on my bed thinking; or drive around looking at cows. The possibilities are literally endless, although obviously constricted by the fact that I live on a very small island off the west coast of Ireland.

I think it was Ernest Hemingway who said “I like a good holiday”, and with that in mind, I have recently booked what I think might be a very good holiday, indeed, for the beginning of, next month intend to cross Africa by flying boat with a very old friend of mine, Father Iggy Bogarde, who has not piloted a plane since his stroke in 1977.

Father Iggy assures me that he is “rarin’ to go”, so as long as he doesn’t have another stroke and we crash into the jungle and are eaten by cannibals, we should be okay. (I used a jokey tone, there, but apparently the chances of that happening are actually quite high.)

May l end by wishing you all a successful holiday. And remember: “holiday” is derived from “holy day”, so ... just think about that.

“Bon voyage”

Written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, creators of Father Ted for Channel 4.