25 July 1917: A typical scene in the trenches (Post 4 of 5 today)

In today’s 4th post Fr Doyle presents a “typical” scene to his father. It is unclear if this is an historical record of an specific incident or an amalgamation of several different events to present his father with an insight into his typical activities.

A poor wounded fellow lies on a stretcher with death already stamped on his face. The bearers lay their burden gently down—these rough men have the tender heart of a woman for the wounded—reverently uncover their heads and with draw a little as the priest kneels behind the dying man’s head. A glance at the identity-disc on his wrist, stamped with his name, regiment, and religion, shows that he is a Catholic—for there are few men, no matter what their belief, who do not carry a rosary or a Catholic medal round their necks. I wonder what the non-Catholic Padres think of this fearful increase of Idolatry ! ‘Ah, Father, is that you ? Thanks be to God for His goodness in sending you; my heart was sore to die without the priest. Father—the voice was weak and came in gasps—Father, oh, I am glad now, I always tried to live a good life, it makes death so easy.’ The Rites of the Church were quickly administered though it was hard to find a sound spot on that poor smashed face for the Holy Oils, and my hands were covered with his blood.

The moaning stopped; I have noticed that a score of times, as if the very touch of the anointing brought relief. I pressed the crucifix to his lips as he murmured after me: ‘My Jesus mercy,’ and then as I gave him the Last Blessing his head fell back, and the loving arms of Jesus were pressing to His Sacred Heart the soul of another of His friends, who I trust will not forget, amid the joys of Heaven, him who was sent across his path to help him in his last moments.

It is little things like this which help one over the hard days and sweeten a life which has little in it naturally attractive. If you had come up the trench with me twelve months ago on the morning of the gas attack and watched that same scene repeated hour after hour, I think you would have thanked God for the big share you have in the salvation of so many souls.

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