31 July 1916

My poor orderly has nearly emptied the well, of course leaving the six dead Germans behind, in his efforts to make enough tea.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle suffered many inconveniences because of his orderly in the trenches. On this occasion, he is suggesting that the orderly made tea from water in which 6 dead Germans were to be found. He may have been exaggerating a little, but perhaps not too much. As he said on another occasion:

Don’t ask me where the water came from, for I am certainly not anxious to learn. The men hold that, if you boil water, you need not bother about its source or how many dead beasties is has washed on its journey. I have had tea of the most wonderful shades of brown and black; but, barring the taste at times, I am not a whit the worse for this mysterious beverage.

And at another time:

I hear Michael, my orderly, hard at work frying onions for my dinner, what a time we are going to have … I am hoping for great things and that he won’t wash my socks again in the water with which he makes the tea. After all as the farmer says ‘pigs is pigs and war is war’ and fresh water is scarce, so hurrah for the laundry tea!

But what was most interesting about Fr Doyle was how he joyfully accepted all of these inconveniences and distasteful experiences as mortifications. Consider the following testimony from his fellow chaplain Fr Frank Browne SJ:

I rode over one morning to see Fr Doyle. I found him writing letters, which he interrupted to tell me of Murphy’s latest. Pointing to his trench boots he asked me to smell them. They were awful. Murphy, in order to prepare them for polishing, had in the orthodox way washed them, but in an unorthodox manner he had chosen a cesspool! The result was almost too much for Fr Willie. When I told him to sack Murphy on the spot, saying that it was getting a bit too much of a good joke, he laughed and said: ‘Well, he’s a decent poor fellow and he means well; and – well, perhaps I can gain something too’.

Fr Doyle’s natural temperament was impatient and fiery. I suspect that this was probably his dominant defect. But by the end of his life it would appear that he had mastered it. This cheerful acceptance of inconveniences would seem to suggest that he had acquired a high degree of virtue. All of his mortifications and self-denial would seem to have been entirely justified and to have achieved their desired result.

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