Friday, 2 August 2013

BISHOP PHILBIN HIDING UNDER A TABLE IN LISBREEN

BISHOP PHILBIN HIDING UNDER A TABLE IN LISBREEN
BISHOP WILLIAM PHILBIN - BISHOP OD DOWN & CONNOR 1962-1982
WHEN I CAME TO THE DIOCESE OF DOWN & CONNOR IN 1978 BISHOP WILLIAM PHILBIN WAS THE BISHOP.

IN FACT HE WAS KIND ENOUGH TO ALLOW ME TO WORK IN HIS DIOCESE AND I QUITE LIKED HIM.

HE HAD BEEN THE BISHOP OF CLONFERT (GALWAY) FROM 1954 UNTIL 1962. POPE JOHN XX111 HAD A SECRETARY WHO WAS A PRIEST OF CLONFERT - MONSIGNOR THOMAS RYAN WHO SUCCEEDED BISHOP PHILBIN IN CLONFERT.

POPE JOHN XX111 WAS LOOKING FOR A NEW BISHOP FOR DOWN & CONNOR. THROUGH THE GOOD OFFICES OF MONSIGNOR RYAN THE POPE INVITED BISHOP PHILBIN TO GIVE THE VATICAN RETREAT. THE POPE WAS SO IMPRESSED WITH THE RETREAT BISHOP PHILBIN HAD CONDUCTED HE POINTED TO HIM AND SAID: "THERE'S THE NEW BISHOP OF DOWN & CONNOR.

POOR PHILBIN WAS FROM THE WEST OF IRELAND AND HAD BEEN A PROFESSOR IN MAYNOOTH AND DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT NORTHERN IRELAND - AND HE WAS PARACHUTED INTO DOWN & CONNOR AS THE TROUBLES WERE ABOUT TO BREAK OUT.

HE WAS A FISH OUT OF WATER AT THE BISHOP'S HOUSE - LISBREEN - BELFAST - AN ANCIENT GREEK AND ANCIENT IRISH SCHOLAR.
LISBREEN


THE RUNNING OF THE DIOCESE WAS LEFT TO THE MAFIA LIKE MONSIGNOR PATRICK MULLALLY - A PRELATE THE PRIESTS FEARED - A MAN WHO HAD DESCRIBED HIMSELF AS "NOT ONLY A BASTARD - BUT A VINDICTIVE BASTARD"

STRANGEL ENOUGH MULALLY AND I GOT ON REALLY WELL. ON ONE OCCASION WE HAD BOTH BROKEN OUR ANKLES. I TOLD THE MONSIGNOR THAT I HAD BROKEN MINE FALLING DOWN A STAIRS. WITH A CHUCKLE THE MONSIGNOR, WHO LIKED HIS DRINK REPLIED: "WELL I'M VERY HAPPY TO REPORT THAT I BROKE MINE FALLING UP A STAIRS".

I HAVE TWO STORIES ABOUT BILLY PHILBIN I LIKE TO TELL:

1. THE BISHOP UNDER THE TABLE

ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON A PROSPECTIVE SEMINARIAN - A 16 YEAR OLD FROM WEST BELFAST WAS INVITED TO LISBREEN TO BE INTERVIEW BY HIS LORDSHIP.

THE YOUNG MAN RANG THE DOOR BELL AND THE DOOR WAS OPENED BY HIS LORDSHIP - DRESSED IN A FORMAL BLACK FROCK COAT, A FULL PURPLE STOCK, BLACK BREECHES, PURPLE LEGGINGS AND BLACK PATENT LEATHER SHOES SPORTING A GOLD BUCKLEY.

THE YOUTH CROPPED ON BOTH KNEES AND KISSED THE EPISCOPAL AMETHYST RING AND WAS THEN TAKEN TO THE DINING ROOM. A WILE INTO THE CONVERSATION THE YOUTH HEARD A CAR COMING UP THE DRIVEWAY AND HIS LORDSHIP RUSHED TO LOOK TO SEE WHO IT WAS THROUGH THE LACE CURTAINS. 

THE BISHOP THEN RUSHED BACK, GRABBED THE YOUNG MAN BY THE SHOULDERS AND PROCEEDED TO PUSH HIM UNDER THE TABLE WHERE HE JOINED HIM.


THEY SAT ON THE FLOOR FOR 15 MINUTES WHILE AN ELDERLY LADY KNOCKED ON THE DOOR AND THE DINING ROOM WINDOW. "DON'T MAKE A SOUND", WARMED THE PRELATE, "THIS IS A LADY WHO PESTERS ME WITH UNWANTED VISITS". AFTER 20 MINUTES, AS THE CAR DROVE AWAY, THE BISHOP AND YOUTH EMERGED FROM UNDER THE TABLE AS THE BISHOP EXCLAIMED: "NOW, WHERE WERE WE BEFORE WE WERE INTERRUPTED".

BISHOP PHILBIN AND THE PUNK ROCKER

WHEN I WAS IN ST PETER'S CATHEDRAL (1978-1983) A YOUNG PUNK ROCKER WHOSE NICKNAME WAS "ZOMBIE" USED TO CALL TO SEE ME A FEW TIMES A WEEK FOR A CHAT.

ONE DAY ZOMBIE WAS STANDING RINGING THE PRESBYTERY BELL WHEN BISHOP PHILBIN'S CHAUFEUR DRIVEN CAR PULLED UP - DIDN'T STOP ON TIME - WENT UP ON THE FOOTPATH AND HIT ZOMBIE ON THE LOWER LEGS.

BISHOP PHILBIN JUMPED OUT OF THE CAR FURIOUS AND SCREAMED AT ZOMBIE FOR BEING THERE IN HIS WAY.

ZOMBIE REPLIED: "FATHER, I AM ON THE PATH - YOUR CAR HAS COME UP ON THE PAT AND HIT ME".

PHILBIN WAS NOT READY FOR ANY EXCUSES AND CONTINUED TO SCREAM HYSTERICALLY AT ZOMBIE.

TOTALLY EXASPERATED ZOMBIE LASHED OUT WITH "WOULD YE JUST FUCK OFF FATHER".

I HEARD THE DOORBELL RINGING FRANTICALLY. WHEN I GOT TO THE DOOR A PALE BISHOP PHILBIN EXCALIMED: "THANK GOD IT'S YOU FATHER BUCKLEY. I NEED A GLASS OF WATER. SOMEONE HAS JUST USED AN EXPLETIVE AT ME".

I LATER EXPLAINED TO HIS LORDSHIP THAT IF I HAD A POUND FOR EVERY TIME HE HAD SENT ME TO SAINT PETER'S I WOULD BE A MILLIONAIRE.

HIS LORDSHIP LOOKED AT ME IN TOTAL DISBELIEF.

PHILBIN AND ZOMBIE MAKE UP

BUT BISHOP PHILBIN AND ZOMBIE EVENTUALLY KISSED AND MADE UP. I WAS DUE TO PICK THE BISHOP UP ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON AND DRIVE HIM TO AN ADULT CONFIRMATION CEREMONY IN A WEST BELFAST PARISH. AS I LEFT TO COLLECT THE BISHOP ZOMBIE ARRIVED. HE WAS LOOKING A CHAT.

I PUT HIM IN THE BACK OF MY CAR AND DROVE TO LISBREEN TO COLLECT PHILBIN. I DO NOT KNOW WHETHER OR NOT HE RECOGNISED ZOMBIE BUT HE INSISTED ON SITTING IN THE BACK OF THE CAR BESIDE HIM. WHEN WE GOT TO THE CHURCH WHERE THE CEREMONY WAS BEING HELD PHILBIN INVITED ZOMBIE TO WAIT ON HIM AND PROMISED TO TAKE HIM BACK TO LISBREEN TO SHOW HIM HIS BEE HIVES.

AFTER THE CEREMONY I DROVE THE BISHOP AND THE PUNK ROCKER TO THE PALACE. I HAD A CUP OF TEA WHILE THEY DISAPPEARED FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF TO SEE THE BISHOP'S BEE HIVES. 

IN THE CAR ON THE WAY HOME ZOMBIE SAID: THAT OUL FATHER IS QUITE NICE WHEN YOU GET TO KNOW HIM.

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION.

Bishop Pat Buckley. 3.8.2013













19 comments:

  1. Pat,

    Thanks for making me laugh over breakfast this morning.

    PP - D&C

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear PP - D&C,

      My pleasure. If we were to lose our sense of humour we would be truly "lost"

      Pat

      Delete
  2. I have to say that this piece today made me smile over my coffee! Brilliant! I think even God smiled at this one!

    How can I say God smiles when there is not one reference to smiling in the Bible? And yet smiling seems to be an essential characteristic of genuine Christian faith. Thank you for the smile today.

    Obviously some kinds of smiling are not compatible with the love of God. There is the smile of the torturer who loves to watch his victims writhing in agony. When gladiators were made to fight in the Roman arena, the emperor and his officers smiled as a brave man died. And there is the smile of self-satisfaction when an opponent is defeated in some way.

    From your story I see that God’s love for us is a continuing greeting. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit love it when we notice them on the way. They never exclude us or say "come back when it is convenient for me." And there is always forgiveness for us, a place of safety under the table, however badly we have failed or hurt one of the members of the Trinity. Their way of winning over enemies is by smiling at them again and again.

    Having grasped the smiles of God, we can then ask for the miracle of smiling to bubble up from deep within our heart. When that happens life takes on a wonderfully new quality of love and joy and peace.

    I ask for a place of safety under the table of God. Great story!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bishop Philbin was once heard saying: “I don't hate people. I just feel better when they aren't around.” A good man I suppose, prefered his books.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Humour is the weapon of unarmed people: it helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them.

    P.J.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I enjoyed Bishop Philbin's company at the Christmas dinner. One of my great regrets, and I don't have many, is that I spent too long putting people's status and reputation ahead of their more important qualities. I learned far too late in life that a long list of letters after someone's name is no guarantee of compassion, kindness, humour, all the far more relevant stuff.

    D&C Oldboy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By education most have been misled; So they believe, because they were bred. The priest continues where the nurse began, And thus the child imposes on the man. Not a bad place to hide, under the table!!

      Delete
    2. Dear D&C OLDBOY,

      I enjoyed the Christmas dinners in Lisbreen with Philbin and Mulally too.

      Were you there the day Denis Newberry broke Philbin's Chaise Longue?

      Pat

      Delete
    3. So so funny, God Rest His Soul - how he ate so much, I was always concerned for the dog!

      Delete
  6. AW what can I say. I too visited St Mary's parlour to be interviewed by Bishop Dominic Conway-one of the last of the Lord Bishops before I was accepted into the flock. Later I would sit on the same chair in fear & confusion because I was "seen" in a night club-Zanadus in Sligo which is now called something else. I'm sure. It used to be a great watering hole for the local Gardai because the Garda Station was just a few doors away. My story is of "Jopey's" funeral. Jopey died young. His wishes were that he be creamated and ashes scattered on the banks of the Garavogue river-Yeats Country. His wife Rosie wanted him interred in the local cemetary wehere she could pay her respects,place flowers or say a prayer. How would the two wishes be reconsiled? I knew Rosie because I was mentoring a 1st communion class her son Glen attended. I suggested to Rosie why not have the best of both worlds-ask the undertaker to put a small portion of ashes in a tablet bottle and after the main ceremony we can scatter the ashes by the river. This was agreed. The funeral mass was presided over by Eugene McLouglin from St Annes Parish. I remember Eugene as being 7ft nothing and as dry as a Ryveta cracker. he reminded me of Fester from the Adams Family caus he always wore his soutane(even in bed?) I called him Skirts. Anyway after the burial of ashes in the cemetary, Seamus Feehily, undertaker drove the main mourners car up to the river where we agreed to meet to shake the tablet bottle of ashes. I can still see Seamus,s white teeth smiling over the steeringwheel as he drove up the lane. The funeral car stopped and all poured out including Rosie clutching the small tablet bottle containing some of Jopies ashes. Rosie suggested we should shake the ashes on the small carpark where a boathouse used to stand-this was Jopies favourite spot. I advised this would be undignified as cars may roll over the ashes. We should step over a small fence onto the grassy river bank. Plan agreed I started to read a short passage of scripture. During the reading Rosie decided it was time for Jopies ashes to leave the wee bottle. Without warning she removed the cap and let fly. Poor Jopie was caught by the wind and a fistful of ashes got me straight in the face-tasted of salt if I recall! Composure was kept and following the ceremony I had to visit Bishop Dominic Conway who wanted to speak to me about becoming part of a retreat team for Summerhill (boys)College. I went to St Marys where I visited the bathroom before the meeting with Bishop Dominic. Looking in the mirror I noticed something in my hair. My only comment was "I dont know if you are dandruff or Jopie but I sure as hell cant take you down to see Dominic"-Sean

    ReplyDelete
  7. No lying knight or lying priest ever prospered in any age, but especially not in the dark ones. Men prospered then only in following an openly declared purpose, and preaching candidly beloved and trusted creeds.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John,

      What did you mean here?

      Pat

      Delete
    2. Sorry for the delay, I mean; who are priests & bishops anymore! I prefer open truths and open stories that are real and human. I trust the human.

      John

      Delete
  8. A Bishop is he who lives solely in the realm of the invisible, for whom all that is visible has only the truth of an allegory. Not sure about Noel!

    George

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. George,

      That's an interesting statement.

      Are modern bishops not a bit more worldly?

      Noel is quite fond of Ballinderry Antiques.

      Pat

      Delete
    2. Well he should not be spending time in that place, his priests and people need him more.

      Delete
  9. Pat, Many years ago an interesting and amusing story done the rounds concerning a student from Garron Tower who went to Lisbreen for interview as a prospect for the Diocese. I cannot remember if the lad was from Larne or Ballymena but he had a reputation as a stellar classics student. His reputation went before him to Lisbreen. Philbin decided to test the lads abilities and to see if he could catch the boy out and set him two pieces, one Latin and one Greek to translate. The boy completed his task in jig time. Philbin then run his beady eye over the young man's translation and with some relish pointed out an error. The boy, somewhat taken aback, looked again only to correct the prelate by indicating that a different rule applied when the supine verb was used in the particular context he had been asked to translate. Philbin sheepishly had to agree !! The then latin master at the Tower the late Brendan McGarry told that story often to the amusement of all listeners

    ReplyDelete
  10. In my time clergy had 3 "ligit" passtimes: Drink,the car & golf..

    ReplyDelete