THE PASSING OF FR. DENIS FAHEY By Patricius Anthony TRADITIO Traditional Roman Catholic Network E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.traditio.com Copyright 2009 Anthony. Reproduction prohibited without authorization. Last Revised: 12/17/09
"On January 21, 1954, the heroic life of Rev. Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp., ended. To those who shared the first full sorrow of the tidings, the elements themselves appeared to mark that calm relinquishment of earthly action. Dublin, where he laboured for so long to establish the Social Rights of Christ the King, was wreathed in a misty shroud as he died; and throughout the day a cold grey cloud, resting on the city like a pall, seemed to offer mute testimony of the sorrow in the hearts of those who loved him."(1)
These were the words which the organization that Fr. Fahey established, Maria Duce, wrote in its publication, Fiat, in commemoration of their fearless founder's passing.
"Only eight days earlier, on the Octave Day of the Epiphany," the tribute continued, "he had been stricken down ... in the full vigour of his faculties. For over forty years he had used these faculties fearlessly and tirelessly to teach submission to Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Mystical Body, Eternal Priest and Universal King. Thus, during the season of Epiphany, as the Church commemorated the first homage of the Gentiles to the Infant King at Bethlehem, Father Fahey went before the Throne of Him Whom he loved so ardently and served so well. It was fitting."(2)
Just prior to his departure of this earthly life, the 20th century's leading apostle of the Kingship of Christ was able to garner enough strength to uttered his Master's name: "He fervently spoke the Sweet Name of Jesus as he closed his eyes for the last time, no more to contemplate on earth the enormities of the modern Herods."(3)
Although certainly not young, his death in 1954, half way through his seventieth year, was a tremendous blow not only for Catholicism in Ireland, which, like the rest of the lands that had once comprised Christendom, had dramatically fallen from the Faith, but his passing silenced what surely would have been a erudite counterforce to the neo-Modernism that came to its full destructive fruition at the Second Vatican Council.
While Fr. Fahey has been hailed for his indefatigable promotion of the Social Reign of Christ the King, his life as priest and minister to his flock, although little spoken of, should be an inspiration for traditional Catholics. Someday, after the false prophets and wolves in sheep's clothing are unceremoniously bounced from their positions of power in Christ's Church, Fr. Fahey's qualities as a priest and the many sufferings he endured in his lifelong struggle in defense of the rights of Almighty God will be investigated to determine whether a case for sainthood could be made.
Denis Fahey was born in 1883 on the land and among kinsmen whom he dearly loved and where he would make his final resting place, Kilmore, Golden County, Tipperary. He was baptized on the day he was born at the parish church of Knockavilla in the diocese of Cashel. Reportedly, a plaque in the priest's honor was to be placed in the Church in 1983.(4)
His parents, Timothy and Brigit, had three sons, Thomas the oldest, John, who died at an early age, and the youngest, Denis. His mother's side of the family (Clery), were quiet and had an appreciation for literature and music.(5) His father supposedly possessed quite a temper, a characteristic not uncommon among Irishmen. Fr. Fahey's brother Thomas, was said to be more like his father, while Denis took after his mother in personality and physical appearance, although his father's "fiery spirit" would occasionally surface.
Religiously, the Fahey family were "devout Catholics" and the "example of his parents was [Fr. Fahey's] first and most important school of faith."(6) His parents' commitment to the Faith inspired, no doubt, his decision to become a religious and helped sustain him throughout a life during which he was often maligned for his views.
From an early age, he displayed a love of learning where at times he would hide away with books in order to continue reading.(7) In 1895, at the age of twelve he entered Rockwell College, a school established by the Holy Ghost Fathers in the 19th century. The future priest demonstrated tremendous academic prowess at Rockwell and enjoyed and played sports most notably rugby.
Besides a very keen mind, it is quite clear that from an early age, Denis Fahey was infused with the grace that would lead him to pursue a religious life. He admitted his intentions to a close family friend and at the age of 17 entered the novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Grignon-Orly, near Paris. He made his religious profession on February 2, 1907 and was ordained to the priesthood in Rome on September 24, 1910, conferred by Cardinal Respighi at St. John Lateran.(8)
Shortly before his ordination, the priest movingly recalled how he was to spend his life:
When in Rome I began to realize more fully the real significanceof the history of the world as the account of the acceptance and and rejection of Our Lord's Program for Order. I used to ask permission to remain at the Confession of St. Peter while the other Scholastics went about the Basilica. I spent the time there going over the history of the world, and I repeatedly promised St. Peter that if ever I got the chance I would teach the truth about his Master in the way he and his successors, the Roman Pontiffs wanted it done. That is what I have striven to do and am doing.(9)
The influence of St. Pius X and the tremendous assault on the scourge of Modernism the he undertook throughout his papacy is clearly evident in the above passage. As with most Saints, Pius X was not merely a man of words, but of action, as he did all he could to rid Christ's Church of all those who were not in accord with Apostolic teachings. His successors never matched his saintly ardor and in the case of Pius XII allowed a notorious enemy of the Church, Hannibal Bugnini, to remain in a strategic position of power.(10)
Fr. Fahey fully recognized and was immensely grateful to have been ordained and obtained his advanced degrees under the holy reign of St. Pius X as compared to the liberal training he received as an undergraduate:
My reaction against the disgusting books of my B.A. course was strengthened by the fact that I lived in Rome during the struggle against Modernism and its naturalistic separation of the Historian and the believer.(11)
St. Pius X's high regard for the works of Cardinal Pie (1815-1880), whom the pontiff credited with helping him see history "in its true perspective in relation to Our Lord," had a significant impact on Fr. Fahey during his formative intellectual years. "Following in the footsteps of the great French Cardinal," a reviewer wrote, "Father Fahey appealed to Catholics to arouse themselves from apathy and indifference and not to acquiesce in the dethronement of Christ the King."(12)
With the Catholic atmosphere established by St. Pius X in the Eternal City and his discovery and immersion into the works of Cardinal Pie, it would be hard to deny that Providence had not seen to it that Fr. Fahey would be in Rome during this important time as Fr. Aherne notes: Sent to study in Rome, his high intelligence blossomed, but more importantly, his faith in the Catholic Church; the Body of Christ deepened. His study of history viewed from the standpoint of the faith, "which casts a new light on everything," showed him the true meaning of the world and of mankind's place in it.(13)
By all accounts, the type of priest that Fr. Fahey embodied was the antithesis of the qualities of Novus Ordo presbyters: another reason why the Conciliar Church will have nothing to do with his memory. Passion about the Kingship of Christ, tireless combat against the enemies of the Faith, and an unwillingness to compromise doctrine were just some of the qualities of the priest's personality. Sadly, such attributes were solely absent in those churchmen who attended the Second Vatican Council.
Although he dedicated his life to lay the theoretical groundwork for the triumph of the Kingship of Christ and to expose the forces and groups that opposed it, his life as a pastor has not received as much attention. Whether it was friend or foe, all attest that Fr. Fahey was an exemplary priest deeply committed to his vocation and the Being Who established it. "[Denis] Fahey," admitted an unsympathetic biographer, "was first and foremost a priest. He wrote, taught, organized, ministered, and loved his family -- all as a priest.(14) Despite differences, even his opponents spoke of him as "a man of personal asceticism and piety," and as a spiritual director Fr. Fahey was said to be "the essence of kindness and patience."(15)
A short biographical sketch from his own priestly order attests to Fr. Fahey's zeal for his vocation:
As to his life-style it was written: "For over fifty years he had led a religious life that was not merely blameless but most edifying and severely ascetic. He rose before 6 a.m., took a cold bath irrespective of time and weather, and spent two hours in the Oratory devoted prayer, Holy Mass and thanksgiving. His breakfast consisted of some bread, milk, butter and cheese. In fact all his meals consisted mainly of that menu. The rest of his day was devoted to his professional duties, literary work and the ministry. His recreation was mainly in saying his office while walking and in cycling to where his ministry called him." He was a man in whom there was absolutely no guile, and there were those who revered him as a saint.(16)
Unlike the presbyter caste of the Conciliar Church patterned along the lines of Protestant ministers, Fr. Fahey's model was the Divine High Priest:
The key focus of his life was Christ as Priest and King, and he interpreted his own life as living out the Priesthood of Christ in the world. One cannot easily separate his priestly functioning from his other activities.(17)
"In all his work," wrote a commentator, "he strove to follow the example of his Divine Master."(18)
Fr. Fahey never missed the opportunity to celebrate at the rites and ceremonies of Holy Week and that of Christ the King. Whether it was a significant feast or a "normal" Sunday, "as a celebrant of the liturgy, [Fr.] Fahey is remembered as being exceedingly devout."(19) James McGann, C.S.Sp., who once served as an altar boy for Fr. Fahey, remembered how the priest would ride by bike to Church despite weather conditions to say Mass and that he was "approachable and devout."(20)
Despite several advanced degrees, a distinguished professorship, and an international following, Fr. Fahey was far from a distant and removed scholar, but was a visible pastor to his flock: "He arose around 5:00 each morning, earlier than the rest of the community, to take his cold shower so that he could have an extra half-hour of meditation before Mass began. Everyone remembers his special place in the chapel which he occupied regularly."(21)
The dedication and love he had for the souls in his care was reciprocated by his flock: "The locals spoke of 'Father Denis' with an affection and respect not untinged with legitimate pride." And, his sermons were "eagerly" looked forward to.(22)
Despite being viciously smeared and labeled an "anti-Semite" by his enemies, Fr. Fahey followed in the footsteps of the Divine High Priest and performed the highest act of charity for them: For over forty years I have been offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every year on the Feasts of the Resurrection, Corpus Christi, Saints Peter and Paul, and the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother for the acceptance by the Jewish Nation of the Divine Plan for Order.(23)
Fr. Fahey loved Ireland. "He was a man steeped in his country's history," wrote an admirer, "full of its lore and with a knowledge and love of the Irish language that few command."(24)
Father Francis J. Comerford, S.S.Sp., a student and later friend of Fr. Fahey, spoke about the bond he observed between the priest and the land in which he was bred:
To really say one knew Father Fahey, one should have met him in his home setting. Into the green, fertile land around the Golden Vale in the heart of Tipperary he fitted as into a natural background.... He had been saving hay that morning and had just finished his breviary when I arrived.... He showed me around the modest farm, pointed out the spit in the local river where he took his early morning dip, made me partake finally of a delightful tea under the thatched roof where he was born.(25)
Fr. J. Aherne spoke of the inspiration in which the priest derived from his homeland: "It was in this land of Golden Vale that Fr. Fahey grew up, and it was to this land that he loved to return in later life for spiritual refreshment."(26)
The priest believed in and lived a truly Catholic patriotism the only path of restoration if Ireland will become known once again as the "Island of Saints." A reviewer of the priest's life accurately wrote: "His roots were deep in the traditional allegiance to Faith and Fatherland." He saw that the true resurgence of Ireland could never be accomplished on the false principles of Nationalism that stemmed from the French Revolution.(27)
A people's aspirations embodied in love of their homeland was something Fr. Fahey encouraged: "The true national spirit must be revived, the spirit that spurred on to victory the great Eoghan Ruadh O'Neill, when, with 'Sancta Maria' on their lips, his soldiers "charged for the old land."(28)
For those of either Irish descent, no matter how many generations removed, or actual natives who dream of a return of their ancestral home to the traditional Faith, Fr. Fahey's books will be an indispensable guidepost: "Through his books Father Fahey will continue to exhort and guide every Irishman and every soldier of Christ the King, wherever he be, to strive ever harder for the Universal Rights of Christ the King. For our own part, we pledge ourselves to be ever faithful to the heritage he has bequeathed to us."(29)
One of Fr. Fahey's biggest disappointments was that the Irish Constitution of 1937 was not amended in order to make the Catholic Church the "one true church," instead of being "merely the church of the majority in Ireland."(30) Maria Duce, created out of a study group of Fr. Fahey's in the early 1940s, gallantly fought to change the Constitution, but the document, in this regard, remained the same.
Fr. Fahey was tremendously distraught by the constitutional provision and predicted that spiritual ruin would ensue. Fr Comerford beautifully describes the suffering of his friend and mentor over this issue:
The thought that his beloved Ireland, which he has so loyally withstood through tortured centuries every effort to destroy her Faith in Christ, should fail in her official document publicly to acknowledge His Kingship, -- that thought, that fact blighted in his eyes all the beauties of nature, robbed the bird's song of their sweetness and the countryside at large of its color. . . . For him it was a tragedy.(31)
Fr. Comeford continues: "As an Irish priest, however, he felt very keenly the infidelity to Christ. . . . It haunted his waking hours and disturbed his brief moments of repose."(32)
While Fr. Fahey did not live to see it, the failure of his countrymen to acknowledge Chris the King as their ancestors had done was the beginning of the end of the downfall of Christianity in the land. The spiritual descent accelerated rapidly after the "reforms" of the Second Vatican Council and the radical changes that came in its wake.
Hypersensitive or Suffering?
It has been maintained, mostly by his opponents, that Fr. Fahey was easily offended and thin-skinned concerning criticism of his scholarly endeavors . "Hypersensitive" is the term used to describe this aspect of his personality. This characteristic contributed, it is alleged, to the priest's reclusiveness and failure to cultivate close friends, while supposedly his "touchy" personality played a part in the "idiosyncratic" nature of his theological, political, and economic views.
Yet, this charge, as with most of the criticism of the priest both now and then, rests on a modern mindset and a superficial analysis of his life and work.
The life of a religious necessarily means one of solitude. Those committed to Christ renounce the many niceties of this world, one of the most precious, that of companionship. In Fr. Fahey's case, there was nothing that suggested "abnormality."
What is known is that the priest was often plagued by terrible migraine headaches, which he admitted worsened among crowds. Such an ailment would, no doubt, inhibit social interaction, as Fr. Comerford recalls:
Some thought him unsociable because he disliked meeting people and avoided social gatherings, especially in his later years. It was not generally known that he suffered over a long period of years from migraine, a continual headache which made his work as teacher and writer very difficult. He knew from experience that social gatherings such as plays, concerts, etc., aggravated his complaint and rendered him unfit for the labours of the morrow -- hence his abstention.(33)
Even among friends and in non-hostile environments, the priest was hindered, as Fr. Comerford sadly continues:
The last letter I received from him two weeks before his death was written he told me against a background of laughter and applause. One of the post-Christmas concerts was in progress in the Theologians' study, but he was enjoying it from afar -- at his desk.(34)
Instead of hypersensitivity, a more accurate interpretation would be one of suffering -- another term that has dropped out of the Novus Ordo lexicon. From his promise to St. Peter at the outset of his priesthood until his final days, Fr. Fahey was extraordinarily committed to the establishment of the Kingship of Christ. He saw rejection of it by either individual or nation as an offense against Almighty God, and as a priest of the pre-Vatican II Church, he was painfully aware of the eternal consequences of such disobedience.
Such a mindset would necessarily be grieved by a world that had turned its back on its Creator and Redeemer, and he was especially anguished when his own fellow Irishmen grew increasingly indifferent to the idea of the Social Reign of Christ. He was so pained about the growing apostasy in his native land and throughout the West that it began to have bodily repercussions:
To ideas that ran counter to the teaching of Christ and His Vicars on earth, Father Fahey was opposed with a fiery zeal of a Crusader. Such opposition hurt him personally even to the extent of making him physically ill. So fully was his mind attuned (by long years of study and meditation) to that of Christ, so closely was his heart identified with the Sacred Heart of Chris the King, that any opposition to the interests of Christ caused him intense pain.(35)
The interior sufferings of Fr. Fahey wedded to those of Christ's surely demonstrated a saintly quality, as Fr. Comerford explains:
Where ideas were concerned, he was certainly very sensitive, much as a trained musician is sensitive to and shudders at the slightest discordant note. He was abnormal -- some thought. But, perhaps had we studied as profoundly as he. . . , had we lived our Christian life as whole-heartedly as he, a life of utterly unselfish devotion to Christ, had we seen, finally, in all its commanding beauty the vision which inspired him, had such been our privilege, perhaps we would have come to understand that our way of looking at things was abnormal, not his.(36)
Physical hardships began to take a toll on Fr. Fahey in his last years. He wrote to a family member about his "old age" and admitted that "I have had a very hard year , the hardest of my life, I think."(37) Two years before his death, he spoke about a recurring cross which had plagued him throughout his life which, no doubt, played a part in his "reclusiveness:" "I have had a very bad headache more or less all the time, in fact the worst I have ever had."(38)
Fr. Fahey carried on his teaching duties in the fall of 1953; however, by the end of the term, he knew that his health was failing. On January 16, 1954, the courageous priest collapsed on the way to class. An operation was performed the next day, and he appeared to have improved, yet, it was only temporary, and he began to fade.(39)
That he would die on the day which the Church commemorates one of its most beloved saints was appropriate. For like St. Agnes, who endured excruciating tortures and kept the Faith, Fr. Fahey fought off the pains of death long enough to utter his beloved Savior's name for the last time:
"It was fitting, too, that Father Fahey should have yielded up his soul on the feast-day of Saint Agnes, . . . . For three hours he had struggled valiantly to recite the Holy Name. Each endeavor was defeated only by the weakness of his body in its final hours of suffering before the unrelenting approach of death."(40)
Submission to Almighty God and His Divine Plan for order was what Fr. Fahey preached not only to his beloved countrymen, but to the vast audience of devoted followers worldwide. Even at his death, as he had throughout his life, he put theory into practice and for the last time submitted his own will to that of his God:
But death held no fears for this most priestly priest. Ever contemplating the Infinite Goodness of God, he desired only that his will should conform to the Will of God. His magnificent courage and ordered determination were rewarded at eleven o'clock, when, with what seemed a supreme effort, he finally overcame the defects of the body and in a clear voice uttered the Name of Jesus. It was the end. Father Fahey was dead. His ardent life-long love for Our Divine Lord was fully epitomized in that final edifying moment in which his own words seemed to echo as a testimony to his life.(41)
In its account of its gallant founder's last hours, Fiat quoted an often repeated statement of the priest: "The centre of order in the actual world is Our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is through Him alone that men can be in full harmonious relations to God and among themselves."(42) Fiat went on to accurately say that, "It was that tremendous love which inspired all his work and urged him always to insist that, 'The return of the world to order means its return to the integral truth of Christ.'"(43)
Unlike the ostentatious deaths and burials of so many prominent modern Churchmen and "Catholic" celebrities (many of whom are public sinners), Fr. Fahey did not seek out worldly accolades as his life drew to a close. He respectively declined visitations by family and friends during the final days and, instead, prepared for his rendezvous with the Eternal Judge. He called on the Mother of God, as so many devout Catholics have done over time and pleaded for her intercession. "Pray that Our Blessed Mother will give me a sign," he hopefully said, "that everything is all right between Her Divine Son and myself."(44)
After a remarkable life dedicated to fighting for the Rights of his God and King and exhorting his fellow man to return to the One True Faith or face eternal calamity, his Divine Master mercifully rewarded his faithful servant with a happy death. "A remarkable peace," wrote a fellow priest, "invested his last hours impressing all who watched by his bedside."(45) Clearly, the prayers to his heavenly Mother were graciously answered!
Life after Death
A number of Fr. Fahey's contemporaries made the prediction that his works will be better appreciated in the coming years. "It is probable that only in another generation," wrote Father Aegidius Doolan, "will the full import of all that Dr. Fahey has been doing, for a quarter of a century now, be rightly appreciated."(46) Fr. Fahey's worldwide audience and followers and the vast distribution of his books across the globe has proven the sagacity of Fr. Doolan's prediction.
While the forces of Modernism could do little to silence Fr. Fahey in life, they did all they could to eradicate his memory and undermine his legacy after death. When pilgrimages and prayerful gatherings began to venerate his grave, Church authorities quickly discouraged such devotions.(47) To the eternal credit of his friends and admirers on this side of the Atlantic, a solemn Requiem Mass was offered for his soul in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.(48)
Despite what the Church higher ups have done to his memory and the continuous smears even to this day of his name, it is undeniable that Fr. Fahey was a remarkable and uniquely gifted individual, as Fr. Comerford describes: "Few knew Father Fahey, knew him as a friend knows a friend with that understanding and insight that is quick to appreciate greatness even amid the more somber setting of what is merely human."(49)
Although true greatness is a rarity among men especially in the Modern era, even rarer is a combination of greatness and sanctity. Yet, Fr. Fahey possessed both: "He radiated a very real quality," said Fr. Comerford, "difficult to describe and impossible to define, and which many would call holiness. We felt we were in the presence of one who was great because he was good, good with the goodness of God."(50)
It is assumed that a heavenly reward awaits those who have been so blessed. For Father Denis Fahey it most likely means eternal union with the High Priest and King, whom he suffered for and faithfully served throughout his saintly life.
1. Fiat Issue 31, 1954.
4. Father J. Aherne, C.S.Sp., "Fr. Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp.," The Angelus (January 1989) vol. XII, No.6. This source will be referred to as Aherne, "Fr. Fahey."
5. Mary Christine Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection: Father Charles E. Coughlin, Father Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp., and Religious Anti-Semitism in the United States, 1938-1954 (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), p. 13. The title alone reveals the bias of the author. Its treatment of Fahey and Coughlin is from a decidedly Novus Ordo perspective.
6. Aherne, "Fr. Fahey." In her book, Athans insinuates that Fr. Fahey's father was against his son's decision to enter the priesthood a charge that has not been substantiated by the priest's friends, associates, or fellow religious.
7. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 13.
8. Ibid., p. 28.
9. Father Denis Fahey, Apologia Pro Vita Mea (Palmdale, CA.: Christian book Club of America, 1998), p. 5.
10. It is curious that many "sedevacantists" condemn John XXIII, but rarely criticize his predecessor for some of his rather questionable decisions. While Pius XII allowed the arch Modernist, Bugnini, a free reign inside the Vatican, it was John XXIII who banished him. Unfortunately, Paul VI brought him back into power in 1972, but eventually, exiled him to Iran supposedly on the grounds of his ties to Masonry.
11. Fahey, Apologia Pro Vita Mea, p. 5.
12. Short Biographies: Father Denis Fahey, Society of St. Pius X District of Asia: http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/Catholic_Sermons/Fr-Denis-Fahey-and-Vatican-Secret-Society.htm. This source will be referred to as Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
13. Aherne, "Fr. Fahey."
14. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, pp. 56-57.
15. Ibid., p. 57.
16. Sean P. Farragher, C.S.Sp., Irish Spiritans Remembered, Part 1. Paraclete Press. http://www.irishspiritans.ie/spiritan_author_doc/fr_sean-farragher/irish_spiritans_remembered.pdf
17. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 57.
18. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
19. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 57.
22. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
26. Aherne, "Fr. Fahey."
27. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
30. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 54.
31. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
37. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 57.
39. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
40. Fiat Issue 31, 1954.
44. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 59.
45. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.
46. Fiat Issue 28, 1953.
47. Athans, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, p. 60.
48. Fahey, SSPX Asia District.