The Battle of Messines Ridge 7 June 1917

Today we continue with Fr Doyle’s narrative on the battle for Messines Ridge with the events that occurred on June 7 1917. It was a day of devastating losses for the German side. In fact, the explosions underneath the German trenches were the most powerful in history at that time.

Fr Doyle did not glory in this loss of life. We see him today praying for the many thousands of Germans who were about to be killed, and we also see his touching care for Germans prisoners to whom he also ministered. Fr Doyle loved all, and he did not distinguish between Catholic and Protestant, or between friend and enemy. He saw all people as children of God and deserving of respect. We also see his great faith in the Eucharist as he carried the host across the battlefield on that Corpus Christi day, searching for wounded soldiers in need of help.

It wanted half an hour to zero time — the phrase used for the moment of attack. The guns had ceased firing, to give their crews a breathing space before the storm of battle broke; for a moment at least there was peace on earth and a calm which was almost more trying than the previous roar to us who knew what was coming. A prisoner told us that the enemy knew we were about to attack, but did not expect it for another couple of days. I pictured to myself our men, row upon row waiting in the darkness for the word to charge, and on the other side the Germans in their trenches and dug-outs, little thinking that seven huge mines were laid under their feet, needing only a spark to blow them into eternity. The tension of waiting was terrific, the strain almost unbearable. One felt inclined to scream out and send them warning. But all I could do was to stand on top of the trench and give them Absolution, trusting to God’s mercy to speed it so far.

Even now I can scarcely think of the scene which followed without trembling with horror. Punctually to the second at 3.10 a.m. there was a deep muffled roar; the ground in front of where I stood rose up, as if some giant had wakened from his sleep and was bursting his way through the earth’s crust, and then I saw seven huge columns of smoke and flames shoot hundreds of feet into the air, while masses of clay and stones, tons in weight, were hurled about like pebbles. I never before realized what an earthquake was like, for not only did the ground quiver and shake, but actually rocked backwards and forwards, so that I kept on my feet with difficulty.

Later on I examined one of the mine craters, an appalling sight, for I knew that many a brave man, torn and burnt by the explosion, lay buried there. If you expand very considerably the old Dalkey quarry near the railway and dig it twice as deep, you will have some idea of the size of one of our mine craters, twenty of which were blown along the front of our attack.

Before the debris of the mines had begun to fall to earth, the ‘wild Irish’ were over the top of the trenches and on the enemy, though it seemed certain they must be killed to a man by the falling avalanche of clay. Even a stolid English Colonel standing near was moved to enthusiasm: ‘My God!’ he said, ‘what soldiers! They fear neither man nor devil!’ Why should they? They had made their peace with God. He had given them His own Sacred Body to eat that morning, and they were going out now to face death, as only Irish Catholic lads can do, confident of victory and cheered by the thought that the reward of Heaven was theirs. Nothing could stop such a rush, and so fast was the advance that the leading files actually ran into the barrage of our own guns, and had to retire.

Meanwhile hell itself seemed to have been let loose. With the roar of the mines came the deafening crash of our guns, hundreds of them. This much I can say: never before, even in this war, have so many batteries especially of heavy pieces been concentrated on one objective, and how the Germans were able to put up the resistance they did was a marvel to everybody, for our shells fell like hail stones. In a few moments they took up the challenge, and soon things on our side became warm and lively.

In a short time the wounded began to come in, and a number of German prisoners, many of them wounded, also. I must confess my heart goes out to these unfortunate soldiers, whose sufferings have been terrific. I can’t share the general sentiment that ‘they deserve what they get and one better.’ For after all are they not children of the same loving Saviour Who said: ‘Whatever you do to one of these My least ones you do it to Me.’ I try to show them any little kindness I can, getting them a drink, taking off the boots from smashed and bleeding feet, or helping to dress their wounds, and more than once I have seen the eyes of these rough men fill with tears as I bent over them, or felt my hand squeezed in gratitude.

My men did not go over in the first wave; they were held in reserve to move up as soon as the first objective was taken, hold the position and resist any counter attack. Most of them were waiting behind a thick sand-bag wall not far from the advanced dressing station where I was, which enabled me to keep an eye upon them.

The shells were coming over thick and fast now, and at last, what I expected and feared happened. A big crump hit the wall fair and square, blew three men into the field 50 yards away, and buried five others who were in a small dug-out. For a moment I hesitated, for the horrible sight fairly knocked the ‘starch’ out of me and a couple more crumps did not help to restore my courage.

I climbed over the trench and ran across the open, as abject a coward as ever walked on two legs, till I reached the three dying men, and then the ‘perfect trust’ came back to me and I felt no fear. A few seconds sufficed to absolve and anoint my poor boys, and I jumped to my feet, only to go down on my face faster than I got up, as an express train from Berlin roared by.

The five buried men were calling for help, but the others standing around seemed paralysed with fear, all save one sergeant, whose language was worthy of the occasion and rose to a noble height of sublimity. He was working like a Trojan, tearing the sand-bags aside, and welcomed my help with a mingled blessing and curse. The others joined in with pick and shovel, digging and pulling, till the sweat streamed from our faces, and the blood from our hands, but we got three of the buried men out alive, the other two had been killed by the explosion.

Once again I had evidence of the immense confidence our men have in the priest. It was quite evident they were rapidly becoming demoralized, as the best of troops will who have to remain inactive under heavy shell fire. Little groups were running from place to place for greater shelter, and the officers seemed to have lost control. I walked along the line of men, crouching behind the sand-bag wall, and was amused to see the ripple of smiles light up the terrified lads’ faces, (so many are mere boys) as I went by. By the time I got back again the men were laughing and chatting as if all danger was miles away, for quite unintentionally, I had given them courage by walking along without my gas mask or steel helmet, both of which I had: forgotten in my hurry.

When the regiment moved forward, the Doctor and I went with it. By this time the ‘impregnable’ ridge was in our hands and the enemy retreating down the far side. I spent the rest of that memorable day wandering over the battle field looking for the wounded, and had the happiness of helping many a poor chap, for shells were flying about on all sides.

As I knew there was no chance of saying Mass next morning, I had taken the precaution of bringing several Consecrated Particles with me, so that I should not be deprived of Holy Communion. It was the Feast of Corpus Christi and I thought of the many processions of the Blessed Sacrament which were being held at that moment all over the world. Surely there never was a stranger one than mine that day, as I carried the God of Consolation in my unworthy arms over the blood-stained battle field. There was no music to welcome His coming save the scream of a passing shell; the flowers that strewed His path were the broken, bleeding bodies of those for whom He had once died; and the only Altar of Repose He could find was the heart of one who was working for Him alone, striving in a feeble way to make Him some return for all His love- and goodness

I shall make no attempt to describe the battlefield. Thank God, our casualties were extraordinarily light, but there was not a yard of ground on which a shell had not pitched, which made getting about very laborious, sliding down one crater and climbing up the next, and also increased the difficulty of finding the wounded.

Providence certainly directed my steps on two occasions at least. I came across one young soldier horribly mutilated, all his intestines hanging out, but quite conscious and able to speak to me. He lived long enough to receive the Last Sacraments, and died in peace. Later on in the evening I was going in a certain direction when something made me turn back when I saw in the distance a man being carried on a stretcher. He belonged to the artillery, and had no chance of seeing a priest for a long time, but he must have been a good lad, for Mary did not forget him ‘at the hour of his death.’

The things I remember best of that day of twenty-four hours’ work are: the sweltering heat, a devouring thirst which comes from the excitement of battle, physical weakness from want of food, and a weariness and footsoreness which I trust will pay a little at least of St. Peter’s heavy score against me.

COMMENT: I hesitate to make any further comments on Fr Doyle’s extraordinary and detailed description of these events which occurred 95 years ago today. However, some further context may be helpful.

At the end of this narrative, Fr Doyle tells us that he was footsore. In fact, his biographer Alfred O’Rahilly tells us that he was suffering from severe blisters from wearing his boots for so long, although in fairness this was probably a common complaint amongst the soldiers.

This particular assault was a significant moment in the war. The explosions were, at that point, the most powerful in history, and they could be heard in London and even in Ireland. 1 million pounds of explosives were used – the mines took 18 months to dig and prepare. A movie called “Beneath Hill 60” has even been made about the preparation of one of the mines by Australian soldiers. The short video below gives some indication of what happened that day. The quality is not perfect – whoever uploaded it to YouTube simply recorded their TV with a video camera – but it features interviews with veterans and it is worth watching.

Carole Hope, a regular reader with an expertise in military history and who often comments on posts relating to the war, has sent the following historical account of aspects of this battle. I am very grateful for her expert contribution:

Fr. Doyle’s 8th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers were one of the four battalions forming 48th Infantry Brigade.  That brigade did not attack in the first wave, but were held in reserve in case of counter-attack, then to push forward and consolidate.  Each brigade, including those in reserve, had four clear objective lines, which were colour coded on their maps as red, blue, green and black.  However, there was also a final, “final” objective, the mauve line, to which, if possible, they should push out strong outposts to assist the fresh brigade coming from behind.  The part of the Mauve Line which formed 8th Dubs’ objective was Sonen Farm to Leg Copse, east of Wytschaete village.  The 8th Dubs had to wait until 11.30 a.m. that morning of 7th June 1917, over eight hours after the mines exploded, before orders were received from 48th Brigade HQ to advance.

At 11.55am under the scorching Mid-day sun and heat of battle, the 8th Dubs moved forward. Captain G.E. Cowley advanced on the left with his ‘B’ Company; ‘C’ Company were on the right under 2nd/Lt B.W. Hughes, whilst‘A’ Company were at centre under 2nd /Lt F.M. Kiernan (less two platoons allotted to the Trench Mortar and Machine Gun sections, for carrying ammunition.)   In reserve were ‘D’ Company commanded by Captain C.F. Healy. Good progress was made despite heavy shelling from 4.2’s and 5.9’s and casualties were slight.   At 2pm ‘A’ Company reached its objective on the mauve line and established a post in front. Several prisoners were captured in dug-outs, four77mm field guns and two machine guns taken. Ten minutes later ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies also reached the objective and started consolidating. At 6pm the 33rdInfantry Brigade followed up and passed through on to their position.

Two final points at the end of an already long post. Firstly, today marks the second birthday of this website. Many thanks to those who have read the site and commented on it and who have written to me with questions or comments about Fr Doyle. Secondly, today is also the anniversary of the death of the famous Dubliner Venerable Matt Talbot. Due to the length of today’s post I will hold off discussing the similarities between Matt Talbot and Fr Doyle until another day.

An image of Dalkey Quarry referred to by Fr Doyle in the above quote. Image courtesy of the

24 thoughts on “The Battle of Messines Ridge 7 June 1917

  1. As a Canadian, I think I need to correct you. The largest pre-atomic manmade explosion was in Halifax harbour during WWI (the date escapes me). A munitions ship was involved in an acident and then caught fire. The 5 ton anchor landed 10 miles away and it was felt 100s of miles away.

    Thanks for the article – I have never been to this site before (or heard of Fr Doyle) and someobody linked to it.

  2. Many thanks for this. How great these men were! How courageous! I am astonished. If war is a punishment for sin, and it is, how terrible must sin be to God who died for us and gave us His Body. Corpus Christi Laudetur.

  3. Venerable Matt Talbot, please help a sinner’s prayer for the world, the souls in purgatory, the souls undergoing pitiable purgation even now while enfleshed. Through Christ our Lord. Hail Mary.

  4. 1917, Msr. Schneider. I was horribly impressed when I saw the wood still embedded in the church near Dalhousie University.

  5. 1917 was the Halifax explosion. I was horribly impressed seeing the wood shrapnel still embedded in the church down the hill from Dalhousie.

  6. No need to correct this. The Halifax Harbour explosion actually took place in Decembe 1917, so after the Messines mines of June 1917.

  7. I note Mr Doyle’s “fellow feelings” for soldiers on the “other side”.
    But don’t forget the first duty of a military chaplain is to give religious and emotional support to the soldiers on his side; he’s paid by his government to do that. Am I alone in seeing the irony of a Christian encouraging his fellow Christians to kill their fellow Christians over naitional interests?

    • Doug: The first duty of a Catholic military chaplain is to save souls, whoever they might be. Catholic chaplains like Fr Doyle were present at the front line (and beyond it in “no man’s land”) in order to bring spiritual support to the dying, not primarily as cheerleaders. There is plenty of evidence of how well Fr Doyle and other military chaplains on both sides treated captured prisoners.
      By the way, I’m not aware that Fr Doyle was “paid” by the Government to do anything. As a Jesuit he had a vow of poverty and kept nothing for himself. However, I’m sure that Carole may be able to comment on any general system the British Government had for paying chaplains.

  8. Clarification: I don’t know that Doyle was an official chaplain. If he was, then like others in every government I know of, he was commissioned in military service and received the pay AND uniform appropriate to his rank. What any chaplain does with his pay is not my business, but Jesus considered it his business, if I may so presume: Mt 6:24. If Doyle was not a Chaplain then I stand corrected as to him; my other comments stand.
    “The first duty of a Catholic military chaplain is to save souls, whoever they might be.” Yet his paycheck implies his first duty is otherwise. (Mt 6:24) Many soldiers, including friends of mine, came back from various wars perceiving the implication as fact, if I’m making myself clear.

    • Hi Doug:
      Fr Doyle was an official chaplain. I suppose therefore he may well also have been paid, but it seems most likely to me that this money was either sent to the Jesuits in Dublin or else it was given away – Fr Doyle regularly gave food, cigarettes etc to the soldiers. Whatever the case may be, the issue of money was entirely coincidental to Fr Doyle. As a younger priest he had desired to go to the Congo as a missionary, and even towards the end of his time in the war he formed a desire to work in a leper colony if he survived. Fr Doyle saw his role as a chaplain as a vocation and a Divine calling.
      No matter what recompense Fr Doyle may have received from the British Government, it has no bearing on his compassion for the enemy and his desire to save their souls also.
      I really cannot see what Matthew 6:24 has to do with this.
      For the record – Fr Doyle loved his men deeply and he was practically adored by them in return. He was utterly devoted to them – to their temporal care and comfort and to the salvation of their souls. He placed himself in harm’s way on countless occasions to save them, and he finally died in the process of rescuing some soldiers. His men were stunned at his death. But again, I do not see how this conflicts with his compassion for the Germans.

      • PK: Mt 6:24, Douay: “No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
        “No matter what recompense Fr Doyle may have received from the British Government …” One Master says, ‘The sign that you serve me is that you love one another as I loved you.” The other master says, ‘The sign that you serve me is the uniform you wear.’
        First, his paymaster’s boss required him to do FIRST his will: support British troops in their efforts to kill German troops. I find Rev 4:11 relevant: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. Because you have created all things: and for your will they were and have been created.” If God created a man, can I obey another man and take his life, and still call myself Godly? I say not; what do you think?
        Giving away cigarettes was optional, and far down the list of instructions he was sworn to obey.
        Second, “saving souls” is a phrase used of anyone who claims any attachment to any form of nominal Christianity, so I avoid using it. ‘Doing God’s work’ is more specific, and can be found in the Bible, with some research. Here’s a starting point, as to what God’s work is NOT: “Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and done many miracles [“wonderful works” KJV] in your name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Mt 7, ibid. Why were they rejected “in that day”?
        That’s my view, anyway, supported by scripture. Here’s a more relevant question: What will each of us do when the next war breaks out? Will we follow

      • Hi Doug:
        I will try to keep this brief, although I could write considerably more on these points.
        Firstly, in general I see no conflict between being paid to do a job and following God. You may not be making this general point, but I want to be sure that you are not doing so. Matthew 6:24 cannot be interpreted as meaning that we cannot serve God if we are working for money. I assume and hope this is not what you are suggesting (one can readily point to St Paul the tentmaker who said that the labourer deserves his wages; or to Jesus who helped the apostles catch a huge haul of fish).
        The issue with money and a job relates to where our heart is. Do we do our work only for money, or do we do it for the glory of God? In this, I would refer you to Fr Doyle’s quote for the day today (June 9): “I will strive ever to perform each action as perfectly as possible, paying special attention to small duties e.g. saying grace, odd Hail Marys, etc. It seems to me God is asking this particularly from me, and by this means I am to find the chief road to sanctity.” This was quite typical of him.
        Fr Doyle volunteered to serve as a military chaplain as this was what he felt God wanted of him. He wanted to choose the hardest task of all in order to imitate Christ more perfectly. If you cannot understand this, I would suggest reading a bit more about Jesuit spirituality and in particular the three degrees of humility. You will find reflections on this by visiting the archives of the site and looking at the posts for October 25, 26 and 27 2011. There are few better to imitate the suffering Christ than on the battlefield.
        Fr Doyle’s primary task was not to “support British troops in their efforts to kill German troops”. His primary task was to reconcile souls to God and to provide the sacraments to them. As the record shows, he also did this task for captured German soldiers.
        As for not killing, well, they were in a war situation. No Christian likes war. It is an awful affair. But Christians are not pacifists. War can be justified in order to overthrow evil or to defend the weak. I would refer you to Just War theory on this.
        In any event, St Paul tells us to become all things to all men. (See 1 Cor 9 (22-23): I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.) By becoming a chaplain Fr Doyle imitated Paul in becoming all things to all men, in order to bring Christ to them.
        The term “saving souls” has a very specific meaning – it means bringing souls to Heaven and helping them to avoid Hell. This is what Fr Doyle, and many other chaplains, strived to do.
        As for the reference to Matthew 7 (not everyone who says to me Lord Lord…). Well, Fr Doyle most certainly DID the Lord’s work throughout his entire life. What is the evidence of the Lord’s work in his life? To answer that in full, you would have to read the entire website and even better, to read O’Rahilly’s biography of Fr Doyle (link on right hand column). In brief, however, he lived the beatitudes (Mattew 5) – I think that there is a lot of evidence that he lived every single one of these throughout his life. I would also refer you to Matthew 25:31-46 – he lived every one of these virtues (clothing the naked, visiting the sick etc). I would also refer you to Matthew 28:19-20 (go make disciples…) – Fr Doyle was a “missionary” priest in Ireland and England and also desired to become a missionary in Africa or in a leper colony. For him, being in the trenches was being on mission. Finally, and most convincingly, Jesus tells us (John 15:13) “Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Fr Doyle did this, dying in an attempt to rescue fallen soldiers in August 1917. But in reality, by taking risks to assist soldiers, he laid down his life day after day after day for the almost 2 years that he served as a military chaplain.
        As for what we shall do when the war comes, well, let us pray for peace and pray that the world will be spared this punishment!
        Take care Doug.

  9. Certainly all chaplains received a salary and allowances from the War Office. However, chaplains who had been religious priests i.e. members of religious orders, such as the Society of Jesus, were not allowed personal spending money. After expenses had been met, they were expected to send surplus funds to their religious house or diocese. Writing home on 25th July 1917 Fr. Doyle informed his father:

    “Just as I write this the post brings a most welcome and agreeable surprise in the shape of a cheque for £17-4-0 from Messrs Washbourne, London being my 1/- royalty on 344 copies of the ‘Life of Fr Ginhac, S.J.’ sold between Jan: 15 and Jan: 17.” He then jokes “If the £17 would be useful to anyone you might let me know, but you need to write quickly before the Gardiner Street Shylock sweeps it into his moneybags.” i.e. this money would be sent to the Jesuits in Dublin.
    Just out of interest, Fr. Doyle’s personal file relating to his military appointment reveals that on 15th November 1915 he signed his appointment letter as Acting Chaplain engaged for duty with Expeditionary Force. The Rev. William Joseph Doyle, S.J. of Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin confirmed to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State of the War Department that he was a duly ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church. His signature was witnessed at Rathfarnham by Patrick O’Mara, S.J. Willie was to be Chaplain to His Majesty’s Forces, 4th Class, with the relative rank of Captain in the army whilst so employed. He agreed to abide by 6 conditions of service. Broadly these were, his service was to be for 12 months; his pay was to be 10s a day with other allowances as appropriate; he would receive free passage to and from his place of service; he would receive free rations while in the field for himself and forage for any government horse put at his disposal; he would obey all orders given to him by his superior officers; an annuity of 60 days pay would be paid on completion of service according to certain terms and conditions. He had to provide himself with uniform, field and camp kits.

    Chaplains wore badges of rank, together with a Maltese cross on lapels and cap badges. Most, like Willie Doyle, were Chaplain IV class, which was afforded the equivalent rank of captain, but not the same salary or the right to be addressed by the title of their military rank. However, chaplains were permitted the same courtesies and privileges as officers, including the services of a servant. Willie Doyle had grown up in a household which employed several servants, but he was known to have frequently eased their workload by performing some tasks himself. Even as a child he would often volunteer to do work for the parlour-maid if he thought she looked tired. Some thirty years later, hours before the Battle of Messines, and fatigued following a rest of just one hour on June 6th 1917, Fr Doyle left his exhausted servant to sleep an extra hour, whilst he and Fr Browne prepared the makeshift altar at 1am in their improvised chapel of sandbags.

    • Thanks for the information, Carol. I’m interested in history, especially of England. (I’m a Yank.) But I’m also interested in the Bible, with a view to becoming a more Godly person, and I don’t find any clues to that in your response. (See my reply to PK.)

      • Carole, more on rank: Thanks again for the info. My experience was in the US Navy about the Korean War era. Military chaplains got the pay of their rank, could be promoted to other ranks, and it was proper to address a Chaplain as “Captain Smith”. Or, ‘Where’s the Chaplain?’ ‘Oh, Captain Smith is in Building 17.’ IOW it seems as if the militaries of most countries are now “mainstreaming” spiritual support of the troops. Irony alert: WWI was a training ground for the 20th and 21st centuries.

  10. His first duty was to his Lord. When it comes to the ironies of warring Christians, I think that the best account was one by Fr. Goldmann, the German seminarian who later became a priest. At one point he forced a bishop at gunpoint to give him permission to take the Eucharist to the dying.

    • Sorry, missjean, I don’t see the relevance. Though I am reminded of Mt 26:52.

      • Sorry, Doug. My reply was cut off. The point was that the bishop saw the seminarian and the dying not as fellow Christians but through the prism of nationalism. Galatians 3 would be more apropos.

      • missjean: Gal 3:??
        Anyway, I agree with “prism of nationalism.” Exactly my point, in fact. Where were the confessors or spiritual advisors of the national leaders to quote e.g. Gen 18:25 “this is not beseeming you [Jehovah]: you who judge all the earth, will not make this judgment”? If the worldwide Judge should carefully consider a situation before destruction, should not the Kaiser, Mussolini, and the others of the two World wars do the same?
        Unless, of course, they consulted Augustine instead.
        Isaiah 2:4 famously says, “And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war.” (Douay; KJV says “neither shall they learn war any more.”) What if someone with respect for the Bible decided to fulfill that undated prophecy now? Should he be encouraged in this, or castigated for being out of step with his nation’s desires?

      • “Gal 3:??”

        Galatians, 3rd chapter. I never learned to memorize the verse numbers, so I don’t know them off the top of my head. But chapters I remember. 🙂

  11. PK, I agree with ” in general I see no conflict between being paid to do a job and following God.” Abetting warfare- imperfect men deciding to kill other imperfect men- is such a conflict (risking a pun!). And would you be surprised it the men on the other side agreed? Note also that WWI was the beginning of the involvement of large numbers of civilians in warfare; directly, not ‘collaterally’ as is sometimes said today.
    “6:24 cannot be interpreted as meaning that we cannot serve God if we are working for money.” Of course not; I also would cite Paul and Aquila and Prisca. But Paul’s money came from tent customers, as scripture says. (No word on whether any were Purchasing Agents for Roman army units; that would have been a matter for Paul’s Bible-trained conscience.) Modern Chaplains wear the standard military uniforms and are paid according to their rank. They appear to be military officers. Paul warned against stumbling others by our conduct or even our appearance.
    And there is the matter of promising allegiance to a country, its emblems, or its leaders (who may be called “Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces” e.g.). Shoud a Christian consider such a pledge to apply to only part of his life? What then about 1 Cor 10:31?

    • Dear Doug:
      The situation with Fr Doyle as a military chaplain is very simple. He volunteered to become a military chaplain to save souls and to offer up his sufferings in reparation for the sins of others, especially the sins of priests. Fr Doyle did not fire shells. He did not shoot guns. He did not train people to kill.
      There is no conflict here whatsoever with any part of the Gospel. In fact, Fr Doyle’s actions are in many ways a perfect fulfilment of the biblical imperative to go out into the whole world to spread the good news, to become all things to all men, and to make up in our sufferings what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.
      The logic of your position Doug is that soldiers, who are facing death, would not have access to the sacraments and to spiritual accompaniment at the most important point in their lives – the moment of death when they are about to be judged for their sins.
      Do you think that these soldiers should have been left without spiritual support at this time?
      Forgive me Doug if I make any unfair assumptions about you; I am just trying to get to the core of your position. Are you a pacifist who opposes all military activities?

  12. PK:
    First, not a pacifist. I’m all for this war: “For they are the spirits of devils, working signs: and they go forth unto the kings of the whole earth, to gather them to battle against the great day of the Almighty God … And he shall gather them together into a place which in Hebrew is called Armagedon.” If called on to participate I will do so.

    “…soldiers, who are facing death, would not have access to the sacraments [and] these soldiers should have been left without spiritual support at this time” Christians always have spiritual support from each other (Heb 10:24,25) and from Jehovah: Ro 12:1,2, and 12: “Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant [constant] in prayer.” But will their prayers be answered or even heard if they are active in helping the world- in any way- in spreading death? (John 8:44, spoken to the mainstream religious folks of his day). Was there a scriptural alternative in Doyle’s day? Is there one now?

    “He volunteered to become a military chaplain to save souls” That phrase has been repeated often on this thread; I think it’s fair to ask, But was he? That is, was he “saving souls” by Jehovah’s standard? If Rev 4:11 is of any value, and “four and twenty ancients” now in heaven think so, can any man be godly if he is killing other men?

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