20 Questions: Priests star Fr Eugene O'Hagan on looking after body and soul

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week, Father Eugene O'Hagan from Irish classical musical trio The Priests

The Priests (l-r): Fr Eugene O'Hagan, Fr Martin O'Hagan and Fr David Delargy
The Priests (l-r): Fr Eugene O'Hagan, Fr Martin O'Hagan and Fr David Delargy

1 Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

On a weekday I usually anticipate the alarm clock by a good 10 to 15 minutes, so when it goes off at 7am, I am prepared! After the ritual of shave, shower – and getting dressed – I take time to pray.

In the morning, I celebrate Mass unless I have an evening celebration. Once I’ve attended to feeding the spirit, I attend to feeding the body which is accompanied, by the radio and a quick scan of edited newspaper headlines using the Flipboard app on my iPad – a great invention.

2 What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I eat a light breakfast of cereal or porridge with a cup of coffee, a banana or an apple.


Full dinner at 'lunch' on weekdays – vice versa at weekends – using fresh, wholesome ingredients.


I will only ever have one main meal and it could be anything. I will augment it with a small snack such as a slice of bread with peanut butter, a couple of biscuits accompanied with blue-veined cheese (my favourite) and maybe, just maybe... a small glass of wine.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

I don't go out of my way thinking about it, but I avoid fatty foods and processed foods. I’m fortunate in that when I eat during the day, the cook (she’s fantastic) insists on fresh ingredients and that has rubbed off on me when I cook for myself or for family and friends.

My body is a small temple and fresh ingredients provide the perfect fuel for the temple flame.

4 Best meal ever?

One Christmas Eve meal, about 30 years ago, I had my 'best meal ever' with an Italian family in their home. Their tradition lends itself to eating fish – which I love – on Christmas Eve, along with plenty of vegetables followed by panettone (Italian sweet bread loaf).

This was washed down with some wine and the ultimate Italian liqueur, Sambuca. The craic was mighty and so was the food.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Chocolate – a simple bar without nuts, fruit or caramel.

6 Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I went on a diet a few years ago after a full health check-up when I turned 50. I shed a couple of pounds, but nothing drastic.

I’ve been able to maintain a fairly stable weight pattern, but am probably carrying less weight now than when I was first ordained 32 years ago. I can still fit into the cassock I bought as a clerical student 36 years ago – my special boast.

7 Do you take health supplements?

No, never.

8 How do you relax?

Weather permitting, I love a long, easy-paced walk which brings me into contact with nature. When it’s dark and wet I tend to stay indoors and catch up on some reading – a cook book or a gardening magazine.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple. As St Paul says, 'a little wine for thy stomach’s sake'.

10 Stairs or lift?

Either really, but the higher the floor, the more likely I’ll take the lift.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I don’t have a daily regime as such, but I do take regular exercise at least three times a week – more, if I can fit it in. I swim for about an hour and aim for 2,500 metres on each visit (100 lengths of the pool).

It’s great for the breathing and they haven’t invented iPhones for the pool – I hope they never do.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Eat sensibly and fit in some exercise (better then none).

13 On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

Gosh, I’m not sure. I’m 59 now, I feel well and don’t think I’m carrying excess weight and take regular exercise ….I’d say around 7.

I’d like to get more walking into my daily routine, but the car wins. More walking might take me to an 8?

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

No, but I wouldn’t rule it out unless the doctor said it would compromise any medication I was taking.

15 Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I’m afraid schools sports and I did not mix well. When you are consistently left as one of two or the very last person to be picked by the captain of the football team for his side, you’re left in no doubt about your abilities.

16 Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

No, I can’t ever claim that kind of reality check.

17 Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Everything in moderation.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness/attitude to life?

I’m inspired by a member of my family who is coping with a life-changing diagnosis, but retains a completely positive outlook. In the same circumstances, I’m not sure if I’d be as accepting.

19 What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I rarely end up in bed before midnight. It’s a bad habit.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

Well, as a priest it will come as no surprise that I regularly face the reality of mortality in my ministry through individuals and families who have lost a loved one. Every funeral service reminds me of the relatively short length of days we all have in the big scheme of things.

I don’t worry about dying, but if I was ever told I had a terminal illness, I think I’d be devastated, at least initially, but I hope that my anxiety would be quickly balanced by my faith in eternal life.

:: The Priests: An Unexpected Journey – an evening of conversation and song, takes place at the Europa Hotel, Belfast, on Sunday, October 28. Fr Eugene, Fr Martin and Fr David's 12 Days of Christmas Irish tour begins in December and will visit venues in Strabane, Omagh, Armagh, Enniskillen, Downpatrick, Derry and Belfast. Full dates at