Having set sail to the continent, Fr Doyle describes the crossing.
The moon was surrounded by magnificent halo or crown, which I promptly bagged for myself. I was fortunately able to get some tea on shore, for though they served us with lifebelts, nothing in the shape of dinner or rations came along. There were only a few bunks which I left to the other officers, and as there was no place to sleep, except the stoke hole, which I was not having this journey, I picked a comfortable corner on deck and prepared for a snooze, when alas! Down came the rain. Providence however came to my rescue: the 2nd engineer passing by very kindly offered me a share of his cabin, and I slept like a top on the settee. He was awfully kind to me, even offering me a share of his bunk, and this morning he had hot coffee and buns ready when I awoke; but as I was hoping to be able to celebrate Mass on shore, I had to postpone that luxury. At present there seems little prospect of either Mass or breakfast, as it is now 9 and we have been lying offshore since 4 this morning. 11:30 AM. Just landed. Seeing there was no chance for Mass, I secured a welcome cup of tea; also a plate of cold liver and potatoes likewise cold – a dish to tempt one’s appetite after a channel crossing!
I saw many interesting places and things during my weeks of travel. But over all hung a big cloud of sadness, for I realised as I never did before how utterly the world has forgotten Jesus except to hate and outrage Him, the fearful, heart-rending amount of sin visible on all sides, and the vast work for souls that lies before us priests. My feelings at times are more than I can describe. The longing to make up to our dear Lord for all He is suffering is overwhelming, and I ask Him, since somehow my own heart seems indifferent to His pleading, to give me the power to do much and very much to console Him.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote this note in 1912, after a period of travel in France, Belgium and Holland where he was investigating the feasibility of setting up a retreat house for lay people in Ireland. How our culture has changed over the past 100 years! What would Fr Doyle say were he to travel to these countries today? What would he say if he was to look at Ireland today?
In all of this we must avoid two great temptations. The first is to think that the past was a golden age, and that we now live in a time of unparalleled debauchery. Our culture, and the Church, has passed through many tough and un-Christian (and even anti-Christian) times in the past. We must always remain positive despite the troubles of our particular age. God is still God, and His promise that Hell will not prevail against the Church still stands (although we must remember that He didn’t promise that particular local churches, like the French, Belgian, Dutch – or even Irish – Churches would prevail…). We should, however, take courage from the words of Blessed Columba Marmion:
Now let us remind ourselves that, in these our days, the Heart of Jesus is not less loving nor His arm less powerful. God is ready to shed His graces upon us…as abundant and as useful as those he shed upon the first Christians. He does not love us less than he loved them.
The second temptation is to judge others, and think ourselves immune from corruption. St Josemaria Escriva said that the crises in the world are crises of saints. If our culture has wandered far from the values we hold dear, it is because we have failed to live those values to a heroic degree. Certainly this is nowhere more true than in Ireland, where the scandal of abuse and corruption has fundamentally undermined the Church in the eyes of many.
As Fr Doyle says, we must beg for the grace to do much, very much, to console Jesus. We can follow the example of today’s saint, Geltrude Comensoli. She was dedicated to Christ in the Eucharist, and found therein the strength she needed for her apostolic labours. She focussed her particular apostolic efforts on the education of young women working in factories. This was a pressing social need of late 19th Century Italy. Different priorities may present themselves to us today, but we must always remember that we will never succeed in re-generating our culture except by fulfilling our individual vocation in close union with God.