Outside of cheesy jokes, it’s not often that you hear about a group of priests walking into a bar – but some holy men did just that. However, when they decided to hit up their local pub to celebrate a couple of them getting ordained, the reaction they received probably wasn’t what they had expected. In fact, the priests in question were ordered to leave – and all because of what they were wearing.
As anyone who’s familiar with the Catholic Church will know, the journey to priesthood isn’t an easy one. In fact, it requires plenty of patience and sacrifice. For instance, as well as giving up material goods and money, seminarians spend pretty much all their time with their fraternity brothers and must also commit to a life of celibacy.
To achieve this way of life, then, seminarians – or priests in training – live within a community, praying, eating, studying and working alongside their fellow holy men. This environment, as the Catholic Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, has explained on its website, “strives to form Christian men characterized by a life of holiness, human virtue and generous service.”
With all this in mind, then, it’s no wonder that every now and then seminarians like to unwind. And that’s exactly what a group of seven trainee priests from Wales had wanted to do that eventful day in July 2017.
Specifically, the group had journeyed out to celebrate the fact that two of their number had recently been ordained as deacons at the Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral of St. David. But while the evening may have started out perfectly innocently, it soon transpired that things weren’t going to plan.
First, though, the men decided to venture to their favorite pub in Cardiff, the City Arms. The venue is also a particular favorite of George Stack, the Archbishop of Cardiff, as well as other local priests. But on this occasion, the group turned up dressed in their clerical robes – a fateful decision, as it turned out.
That’s because, when they arrived at the pub, the group was met by a doorman who refused to let them in. But it wasn’t because they were being rowdy or because the doorman himself had some sort of vendetta against priests. No, it was instead a severe case of mistaken identity that stood in the seminarians’ way.
Indeed, the doorman had actually mistaken the group for an unruly gang out for a bachelor party – or as it’s known in the U.K., a stag do. Father Michael Doyle later told The Telegraph, “The doorman basically said something along the lines of, ‘Sorry gents, we have a policy of no fancy dress and no stag dos.’”
The venue’s policy on groups in fancy dress or out for their bachelor parties is intended to combat any disorderly antics that might occur as a result. And at face value, it’s a fair rule; after all, no landlord wants their pub destroyed. But this wasn’t exactly the most volatile group going.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the priests-in-training first assumed that the doorman was joking. He was deadly serious, however. So they attempted to argue back, insisting that they really were students of the church. Unfortunately, though, the doorman didn’t believe them and so told them to leave.
So, while the doorman wasn’t being particularly hostile – after all, he was just doing his job – the seminarians resigned themselves to their fate. But it was as they turned to leave that they were swiftly approached by the pub’s manager.
The group then showed him a picture of themselves in church, which was apparently proof enough for the manager. “He basically said, ‘You’re real, aren’t you?’” Father Doyle added to The Telegraph. Indeed, it seemed that the penny had finally dropped, and the manager thus invited the men back into the bar.
In the end, then, the men actually received a warmer welcome than they possibly could have imagined. In fact, when they walked through the door of the pub, they were met with everyone inside clapping. The group were even given free drinks as an apology. They then ended up staying in the pub for a good while, mingling with the other customers.
And City Arms assistant manager Matt Morgan would go on to tell the Daily Mail, “They were initially refused service by a colleague who thought they were a stag group or in fancy dress, which on the weekends we usually stay away from because of hijinks that usually happen.”
“But I think I got the idea that they might be real priests, so I thought I’d better go and sort it out,” Morgan continued. “I gave them a drink, and they stayed all night. Everything was sorted in the end.” Indeed, it seems like the trainee priests eventually ended up having a great time.
This wasn’t the first time that the seminarians had experienced this kind of trouble, however. Indeed, just the previous weekend, a woman in a different bar had asked the men whether they were having a bachelor party. Clearly, the area must be frequented often by groups dressed as priests.
Archbishop Stack, meanwhile, would tell The Telegraph, “It is wonderful to hear that the seminarians were celebrating their own path to priesthood by having a good time in Cardiff, which of course they are allowed to have. The diocese is celebrating the ordination of two seminarians in a week despite rumors about the shortage of men presenting themselves for priesthood.”
The trainee priests even discovered that the City Arms sells a beer that shares its name with one of their party, Reverend Robert James. And after posing for a photo with the drink, the reverend then bought a pint of Rev James for the barman. However, Archbishop Stack would jokingly add to The Telegraph that James holds no shares in that particular brand of beer.
Furthermore, one online commenter remarked that the entire situation seemed exactly like an episode of British sitcom Father Ted. The TV series depicts three priests living together off the coast of Ireland, getting up to hijinks along the way.
And the Archdiocese of Cardiff would go on to tell the Daily Mail, “We’d like to thank the City Arms for being good sports through all of this and their kind gesture to our seminarians. And please note a number of our clergy, including the Archbishop of Cardiff, frequent your bar, so don’t turf any more out, please!” Somehow, we can’t imagine they’ll be too quick to do so in future anyway.