WORCESTER, Mass. – California businessman Tom Brady Sr. didn’t come to the seventh annual Worcester Diocesan Men’s Conference to tell Hollywood-ready tales about a Super Bowl-winning son and a family leading perfect lives.
He came to tell the truth – and to challenge area Catholic men to use their faith to deal with life’s pressures.
“I want to make absolutely clear what I’m talking about today: The Brady family is not any different than anybody else’s journey in the audience,” he told more than 1,000 men gathered March 24 at the DCU Center. “We’re not talking about ‘The Brady Bunch’ on TV where everything seems to work out.”
Of course, much has worked out for the Brady clan. Young Tom, the quarterback for the New England Patriots, has won championships, attended a State of the Union address, hosted “Saturday Night Live” and made more money than he could spend in several lifetimes. Tom Sr. has a thriving financial planning company, is still happily married after 38 years, and maintains solid relationships with his four children and three grandchildren.
But the family has faced its share of issues, the elder Brady told the Worcester audience.
“There’s no Pollyanna in the Brady family,” he said. “We have in our family experienced the pain of divorce, the anguish of family feuds. We’ve been addicted with the Irish flu – or perhaps that’s alcoholism. And other addictions as well.” He added that he himself was abused as a child.
Brady, 62, did not speak specifically about the well-publicized news that son Tom and his former girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynihan, are expecting a child outside marriage. But Brady did note that this isn’t the first time this has happened in his family.
“When it comes to grandchildren being born outside of wedlock, we’re three for three,” he said. “There’s disappointment there because that’s not really kind of the way it’s done. But I love the fact that they’re here with us – rather than the alternative that so often happens in society today.”
Brady called his speech “Surviving the Blitz” – using a football metaphor for the blitzlike pressures everyone encounters in everyday life. To illustrate the football part of it, Brady rolled a film clip of his son being pasted by tacklers, one after another, 20 or more times.
In many ways, Brady said, avoiding football blitzes is easier than dealing with the ones that blindside you off the field. He said his quarterback son agrees.
“I was talking to Tom recently, and his comment was ‘I don’t have any trouble on the football field. It’s just off the field my life is way more difficult,’“ Brady said. “I would say, from my standpoint, and for many of you in the audience, that’s the case: Surviving the blitz is sometimes a very difficult thing to do.”
Blitzes come in many forms, Brady said. He discussed how people continually are let down by society’s leaders: legislators lying, business leaders embezzling money, priests engaging in scandalous conduct. In our personal lives, he said, we all face financial pressures, health issues, marital discord and problems dealing with our employers.
“All of these common-day instances eat away at our faith,” he said.
How does one “survive the blitz”? Brady didn’t boil down the formula to a single slogan, other than to do what he has done – draw upon the principles of the faith.
“Through the resources of our Catholic faith, there’s been some degree of normalcy in our lives,” Brady said. “Even though there’s been a lot of pain in a lot of areas, there’s been a tremendous amount of joy. That’s what this journey is about. Actually, I think the journey could be summed up as living out the ordinary in these extraordinary times.”
He described how he feels “love and strength” in religious ceremonies; how he has developed longtime friendships through the love of the sacraments; how he has attended a Wednesday prayer group since 1982; how he enjoyed a three-day Cursillo in the mid ‘70s; and how he integrates prayer into all his decisions.
Brady talked about times he and his wife went to church angry at each other but allowed the power of the Mass to “whisk away” their anger by the time of the sign of peace. “I can’t go to church mad and not come out happy,” he said.
Brady also encouraged men in the audience to reach out to others to help them deal with the pressures they face.
“It’s kind of like a theme of players on a football field,” he said. “We all need to survive the blitz. It’s just a lot easier to survive the blitz as a member of a team.”