14 August 2014

'Lord, Help me.' Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Christ andthe Canaanite Woman, c.1500, Juan de Flandes
Palacio Real, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”  But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The video above was posted on 22 July. There seemed to be some hope for the Christians of Iraq. But thousands have since fled from their homes because of threats to their lives by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

ISIS hope to control a much wider area, including the region known in Biblical times as Canaan, which is further south.

The anguish and prayer of the Canaanite woman in today's gospel reflects the anguish and prayer of the Christians of northern Iraq and Syria today, whose ancestors were already there in the time that the incident in today's gospel happened and who became Christians in the time of the Apostles. Lord, help me. Lord, help us.

Pope Francis expresses his anguish about the situation in a letter to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Pope writes: 

It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in Northern Iraq where Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony. Moved by their plight, I have asked His Eminence Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who served as the Representative of my predecessors, Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, to the people in Iraq, to manifest my spiritual closeness and to express my concern, and that of the entire Catholic Church, for the intolerable suffering of those who only wish to live in peace, harmony and freedom in the land of their forefathers.

In the Gospel Jesus seems to insult the Canaanite woman as a foreigner by comparing her people to 'dogs'. She gives back as much as she gets and reminds Jesus that even the dogs get fed from the scraps. Jesus marvels at her faith and responds to it: Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.

If we were to use the analogy of Jesus in the context of what is happening in northern Iraq and Syria perhaps the vast majority of Catholics, who belong to the Latin or Roman Rite, might be surprised to find the Catholics of Iraq and Syria, most of whom belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, to be the guests of honour at the table, as they trace their Catholic faith to the very origins of the Church.

But many of them no longer have even a table

Pope Francis further says in his letter to Ban Ki-moon: 

The violent attacks that are sweeping across Northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to their cities and their homes. The tragic experiences of the Twentieth Century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church (above) has also written Ban Ki-moon:

We, as the Christian community, appeal to the United Nations to put political pressure on the international community, the Security Council cannot stand by and be a witness to the ongoing atrocities committed against Christians. We were happy when your statement acknowledged that the crimes committed against Christians constitute crimes against humanity, we therefore urge  you to put pressure on all to respect human rights.Excellency, we Christians are peace-loving citizens  caught up in the middle of a clash between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as attacks from Military groups. Our community has suffered a disproportionate share of hardship caused by sectarian conflicts, terrorist attacks, migration and now even ethnic cleansing: the militants want to wipe out the Christian community. [Emphasis added.]

Let us make our own, on behalf of the suffering Christian community- and on behalf of their neighbours who are suffering with them - the prayer of the Canaanite woman that touched the heart of Jesus: Lord, help me.

Ruins of St elijah's Monastery, south of Mosul, Iraq, founded AD 595 [Wikipedia]

The above, by Spanish Renaissance composer Francisco Guerrero (1528 - 1599) and sung by Música Ficta, tells the story of today's gospel, in Latin and in a shortened version.

Clamabat autem mulier cananea
ad Dominum Iesum dicens:
Domine Iesu Christe,
fili David, adiuva me.
Filia mea male a daemonio vexatur.
Respondens ei, Dominus dixit:
Non sum missus nisi ad oves,
quae perierunt domus Israel.

A Canaanite woman  started shouting to the Lord Jesus, 'Lord, Son of David, help me. My daughter is tormented by a demon.' The Lord answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'  

At illa venit, et adoravit eum,
dicens: Domine, adiuva me.
Respondens Iesus, ait illi:
Mulier, magna est fides tua,
fiat tibi sicut vis.

But she came and adored him, saying, 'Lord, help me.' Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.' 

Christ and the Canaanite Woman, 1617, Pieter Pietersz Lastman
Riksmuseum, Amsterdam [Web Gallery of Art]

13 August 2014

Columban Fr Cathal Coulter RIP

Fr Cathal Coulter

Fr Cathal ('Charlie') Coulter was born 9 July 1931 at Saul, Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. Educated at S. Patrick’s Saul, St Columbanus, Belfast, and St Malachy’s College, Belfast, he came St Columban's College, Dalgan Park, Navan, County Meath, in 1948. He was ordained priest 21 December 1954.

Statue of St Patrick, Saul, County Down [Wikipedia]

His first appointment was to post-graduate studies at Fordham University, New York, followed by further studies at Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Then for three years he served as an Observer for Caritas International at the United Nations, New York. He was assigned to vocations work from West Chester, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  in 1960 and became Director of Promotion in the US Region in 1967. This involved a move to Omaha, Nebraska. He served two terms as Director of the US Region from 1977 to 1983. He was responsible for setting up low-cost housing for the elderly on surplus Columban property in Bellevue, Omaha.

One of many videos produced by the Columbans in the USA

After some months study of Spanish in Bolivia and Chile, he returned to San Francisco for Mission Education, Justice and Vocation work. In 1990, he was reassigned to Omaha where he and his team were responsible for the production of an excellent series of films and videos. He learned the technical side of this art as he went along, but there was no denying his creativity and his skill as a writer.

In 1992 Father Cathal was elected with Bill and Mary Anne Boylan as the Leadership Team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) in the USA. He loved to work with married couples and was dedicated to this pastoral outreach for many years. His gift for this work was recognised when, in 1995, he and the same couple were elected as the International Coordinating Team for Marriage Encounter in 81 countries.

Fr Cathal with Bill and Mary Anne Boylan of WWME [Photo: WWME-Phils]

In 1995 he was appointed to Ireland where he and the late Fr P.J. Kelly set up a trust fund for the support of the Columban Nursing Home in Dalgan. He became editor of Columban Intercom in 1997 and published many stimulating articles in the magazine. 

Father Cathal developed his many gifts over lifetime of service in a broad variety of tasks. Ever pleasant and with wide interests, he was always good company. He suffered greatly in recent years as his health deteriorated but showed great patience to the end. May he rest in peace. 

St Columban's, Dalgan Park, where Father Cathal spent his first seven years as a Columban and his latter years.

Though he was ordained on 21 December 1954 Father Cathal would have been celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination on 15 August, the date when Columbans in Ireland come together each year to honour our jubilarians.

'I look back in gratitude to God for the many blessings on the journey and for the many good people who were part of my life . . . The Society [of St Columban] has been very tolerant and generous to me. I doubt if I would ever find the same anywhere else.'

- Fr Cathal Coulter

I'll Never Find Another You, written for The Seekers by Tom Springfield in the 1960s, was adopted as the Theme Song of Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Father Cathal would have sung this many times with his friends in WWME.

'Cathal', pronounced 'KAhal', is an old Irish name often used as an equivalent for 'Charles'. In the USA Father Cathal was known to his friends as 'Father Charlie'.

The cemetery at St Columban's, Dalgan Park, where Father Cathal was buried on 11 August.

07 August 2014

'Jesus immediately reached out his hand . . .' Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Salvation of Peter, 1366-67, Andrea da Firenze
Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Fr William Doyle SJ
(3 March 1873 - 16 August 1917)

During the last week or two there have been many commemorative events recalling the beginning of the Great War one hundred years ago. 97 years ago, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August, Corporal Lawrence Dowd (37), an older half-brother of my maternal grandmother, Annie Dowd Collins, was killed near Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, in the Third Battle of Ypres, often referred to simply as 'Passchendaele'. I was the first relative to locate his grave, in 2001, 84 years after his death.

At my great-uncle's grave, September 2001

Ten days later Fr William Doyle SJ was killed in the same battle. When I was in kindergarten in Stanhope St, Dublin, Sr Stanislaus of the Irish Sisters of Charity, who was principal of the boys' kindergarten and who prepared us for First Confession and First Holy Communion, spoke to us many times about Fr Willie Doyle and about Father Damien, now St Damien of Molokai.

Fr Doyle wrote many letters to his father in Dalkey, a village by the sea south of Dublin, from the trenches of Flanders. What he wrote about 6 August 1917, ten days before his death, reflects for me different aspects of today's gospel. His writings and writings about him can be found on Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ, a truly inspiring blog.

Today's gospel tells us that after Jesus had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Fr Doyle writes about the morning of 6 August: For once getting out of bed was an easy, in fact, delightful task, for I was stiff and sore from my night’s rest. My first task was to look round and see what were the possibilities for Mass. As all the dug-outs were occupied if not destroyed or flooded, I was delighted to discover a tiny ammunition store which I speedily converted into a chapel, building an altar with the boxes. The fact that it barely held myself did not signify as I had no server and had to be both priest and acolyte, and in a way I was not sorry I could not stand up, as I was able for once to offer the Holy Sacrifice on my knees.

It is strange that out here a desire I have long cherished should be gratified, viz. : to be able to celebrate alone, taking as much time as I wished without inconveniencing anyone. I read long ago in the Acts of the Martyrs of a captive priest, chained to the floor of the Coliseum, offering up the Mass on the altar of his own bare breast, but apart from that, Mass that morning must have been a strange one in the eyes of God's angels, and I trust not unacceptable to Him.
Fr Willie Doyle SJ
In the First Reading we see how the prophet Elijah was called by God to stay in a cave where the Lord is about to pass by. Father Doyle's 'cave' was a tiny ammunition store which he converted into a chapel. Elijah didn't find the Lord in a great wind, an earthquake or a fire. But after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. What the NRSV translates as a sound of sheer silence the Jerusalem Bible describes as the sound of a gentle breeze and the New American Bible as a tiny whispering sound.
That particular morning things were relatively quiet in the area where Father Willie served and yet my great-uncle was killed that day. But yet this great chaplain was able to find some space and time for himself to be with the Father, as Jesus did on the mountain.
St Matthew tells us how difficult things were for the Apostles: but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
Father Willie tells us about his relatively 'quiet' day: I spent a good part of the day, when not occupied with the wounded, wandering round the battle-field with a spade to bury stray dead. Though there was not very much infantry fighting owing to the state of the ground, not for a moment during the week did the artillery duel cease, reaching at times a pitch of unimaginable intensity, I have been through some hot stuff at Loos, and the Somme was warm enough for most of us, but neither of them could compare to the fierceness of the German fire here. For example, we once counted fifty shells, big chaps too, whizzing over our little nest in sixty seconds, not counting those that burst close by. In fact you became so accustomed to it all that you ceased to bother about them, unless some battery started strafing your particular position when you began to feel a keen personal interest in every new comer. I have walked about for hours at a time getting through my work, with crumps of all sizes bursting in dozens on every side.
Potijze Chateau  Cemetery, near Ieper (Ypres) where Corporal Lawrence Dowd is buried. 
The Gospel: But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear . . . So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Fr Doyle: More than once my heart has nearly jumped out of my mouth from sudden terror.
The Gospel: Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Father Willie: Not once during all these days have I had what I could call a narrow escape, but always a strange confident feeling of trust and security in the all powerful protection of our Blessed Lord. You will see before the end that my trust was not misplaced. All the same I am not foolhardy nor do I expose myself to danger unnecessarily, the coward is too strong in me for that.
St Matthew: When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Fr Doyle: When duty calls I know I can count on the help of One Who has never failed me yet.
This great priest, who attended many soldiers as they lay dying, including Germans, truly knew 'the smell of the sheep', to use the words of his fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis. On 16 August, having run 'all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy' was hit by a shell. His body was never recovered.
Today bishops and priests in a number of troubled countries, and the people they serve, are faced with situations that surely cause them fear, the kind of fear the Apostles in the boat felt, the kind of fear Fr Doyle felt. Yet they make choices to stay with their people. 
Catholic Cathedral in Tripoli, 1960s, later converted into a mosque [Wikipedia]
One such is Filipino Fr Allan Jose L. Arcebuche OFM, Vicar General of the Vicariate Apostolic of Tripoli, Libya. He said in an interview on 6 AugustAlthough some local militia members have warned Christians to leave Libya, many Muslims are reassured by our presence here. We've promised the Church will stay with them in their struggles and difficulties
Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli OFM of Tripoli, who was born in El Khadra, Libya, though clearly of Italian origin, told the Vatican's Fides news agency 4 August he was determined to stay 'even if only one Christian remains'. He added that Libya's Catholics were now 'reduced to a minimum' and facing 'a time of strong ordeal', but said he was 'confident a group of people will be here to serve the Church'. 
Bishop Martinelli added: In Cyrenaica there are no nuns while the majority of Filipinos are leaving the region, who are the heart of the Christian community in Libya. In Tripoli, there is still a good presence of Filipinos but even here many of them are leaving. The Church lives in relationship with this presence of lay people who work in the health sector and given the situation this is really a time of strong ordeal. I do not know where we will end up but I am confident that a group of people will be here to serve the Church.
Bishop Martinelli, like Fr Willie Doyle, trusts in Jesus (who) immediately reached out his hand and caught Peter. I still have confidence in the future of Libya but we are in God's hands. I cannot leave the few remaining Christians. Bishop Martinelli has launched an appeal for prayer because prayer alone can solve difficult situations like the one in Libya today.
May we join in that prayer to Jesus who immediately reached out his hand.
Kyrie, Missa de Angelis

Kyrie, eleison; Christe, eleison; Kyrie, eleison is Greek for 'Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy'. It is the only part of the Mass of the Roman or Latin Rite in the Greek language, the rest being in Latin. (Translations of the Mass into other languages are from the Greek/Latin version) The Good Friday liturgy of the Roman or Latin Rite, to which most Catholics belong, also has some Greek chants.

The Missa de Angelis is probably the best known of the settings of the Mass in Gregorian chant and was widely known and sung throughout the Church before Vatican II. Below is a setting based on the Missa de Angelis by Domenico Cardinal Bertolucci (1917 - 2013), director of the Sistine Chapel Choir for many years. It is sung here by the Capella Victoria, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Here is a setting by Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) sung by the Ensemble Vocal Européen, directed by Philippe Herreweghe, a Belgian.
Missa in illo tempore, Kyrie, Monteverdi

06 August 2014

My great-uncle's death in the Great War, 6 August 1917

At the grave of my Great-uncle Lawrence Dowd in Potijze Chateau Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium, September 2001. Uncle Larry, my maternal grandmother's older half-brother, was killed on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1917. I was the first relative to visit his grave, in September 2001.

 Potijze Chateau  Cemetery where Corporal Lawrence Dowd is buried. 

The Great War, World War I, began one hundred years ago this week and has been marked by ceremonies recalling that awful conflict. Here is something I wrote in 2003 and posted in 2008. There are some minor changes and corrections.


In September 2001 I visited the grave of my great-uncle Lawrence Dowd who died in action near Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1917. This happened during the Third Battle of Ypres, often called simply 'Passchendaele', that lasted from July to November 1917. He’s buried in one of many war cemeteries in that part of Flanders. My mother’s Uncle Larry, from County Meath, enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. To my deep regret, I never asked my grandmother about her brother, but my mother often told me of her father having heard the ‘banshee’ a day or two before the telegram arrived telling of Larry’s death.

I knew that my grandmother, Annie Dowd Collins, was of the second family of her father, Michael Dowd who was left with five children when his first wife died and he was 34 or 35. He then married Mary Geraghty who, as my mother used to put it, 'Came in over five children at the age of 19'. She was my great-grandmother. I had always thought that Larry was a full-brother of Annie but learned form relatives who discovered Larry's grave some time after I did, that he was the youngest in the first family.

I was visiting Ieper to officiate at the wedding of Stefaan Gouwy, from that area, and Joy Ronulo, who grew up in Plaridel, Mindanao, when it was still a Columban parish. She and Stefaan met while working in a factory in Korea.

Stefaan took me to the In Flanders Fields Museum in the old town hall of Ieper, known to the ‘Tommies’ as ‘Wipers,’ from the French name ‘Ypres.’ The soldiers even published a magazine there that they called the Wipers Times. The town of Ieper was totally destroyed during the Great War but the blueprints of its public buildings were saved and they were all rebuilt.

Through an official at the museum, a marvellously interactive one that shows the horrors of the War but that also shows that each one who died was a unique human being, I found where my Uncle Larry was buried. I was very moved when I visited his grave in the Potijze Chateau Cemetery, the first ever relative to do so. I was touched too when Stefaan and Joy, who had come with me, told me they would visit on Remembrance Day, 11 November.

One could not but feel a terrible sense of loss reading the names and ages of the soldiers buried in the cemeteries that are beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. So many still in their teens. So many unidentified, known simply as ‘A soldier of such-and-such a regiment.’ Most headstones had a cross but quite a few had the Star of David.

The people of Ieper hold sacred the memory of all who died in Flanders, whether Allied or German. One friend of Stefaan who had grown up on a farm next to one of the larger war cemeteries, pointed out to me the corner where some German soldiers had been buried but had subsequently been repatriated. There’s no glorification of war.

On the Menin Gate, built by the British after the War in the heart of Ieper, the names of more than 54,000 unidentified soldiers who fought in the uniform of Britain are listed. They include Gurkhas from Nepal and many from what are now Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, their names and ranks revealing their faiths, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and their nationalities. There are names from the then colonies of Britain in Africa and the West Indies, countless names from the then dominions, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Canada, even more from the Irish regiments.

On this occasion the many Irish soldiers who died as members of the British Army - the whole of Ireland was then part of the United Kingdon - were remembered

Every night at 8 volunteers from the Ieper Fire Brigade sound the Last Post at the Menin Gate. I had heard about this and wanted to attend on at least one evening. One of Stefaan’s friends insisted that if no one else could take me I was to phone her. I took her at her word. All traffic stopped for the ceremony. Three buglers sounded the Last Post and then a veteran, who looked old enough to have fought in the Great War, laid a wreath. What brought tears to my eyes was the sight of a young mother beside me with her child who was hardly a week old.

One of those who died on 8 September 1916 in the Battle of the Somme, not too far away in northern France, was Tom Kettle. He was one of the outstanding Irish nationalists of his generation, the son of a prominent land reformer, and a friend of Patrick Pearse, who led the Insurrection in Dublin in Easter Week that same year. Tom Kettle had been MP for North East Tyrone from 1906 to 1910. At the time he enlisted, already in his mid-30s, he was a professor at University College, Dublin. There’s a bust of him in St Stephen’s Green, very near the old campus, with the closing lines of his sonnet To my Daughter Betty, written only four days before his death. Some writings of Father John Henaghan, an Irish Columban priest killed by the Japanese in Malate, Manila, in February 1945, were published four or five years later under the title The Secret Scripture of the Poor, taken from the last line of the poem, one of the most poignant of the many the Great War produced.

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your Mother’s prime.
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! They’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

(Fr John Heneghan, above left, bust of Tom Kettle in St Stephen's Green, Dublin, above right. Fr Laurence Kettle OFMCap, a friend of mine from Dublin who is based in Korea, is a great-nephew of Tom Kettle.)

A wedding in Belgium, a celebration of life, brought me to the grave of my Uncle Larry, reminded me that many people in my native Ireland and in Britain, where I was working at the time, whose ancestors came from the former British colonies, are relatives of those who came to Europe during the Great War to fight ‘for the freedom of small nations'. Their great-uncles, like mine, could make their own the words of Canadian officer John McCrae, who died there in 1918. They Loved and were loved, and now we lie / In Flanders Fields.

(30 November 1872 - 28 January 1918)

Two Irishmen of Note who died in Passchendaele

Francis Ledwidge, Poet, Fr William Doyle SJ, Chaplain

(19 August 1887 - 31 July 1917)

Francis Ledwidge was from the same part of County Meath as my grandmother and, presumably, her half-brother Larry. I don't know if the Dowds and the Ledwidges knew each other. Below is a poem by Francis Ledwidge, Soliloquy.

When I was young I had a care 
Lest I should cheat me of my share
Of that which makes it sweet to strive
For life, and dying still survive,
A name in sunshine written higher
Than lark or poet dare aspire.

But I grew weary doing well.
Besides, 'twas sweeter in that hell,
Down with the loud banditti people
Who robbed the orchards, climbed the steeple
For jackdaws' eyes and made the cock
Crow ere 'twas daylight on the clock.
I was so very bad the neighbours
Spoke of me at their daily labours.

And now I'm drinking wine in France,
The helpless child of circumstance.
To-morrow will be loud with war,
How will I be accounted for?

It is too late now to retrieve
A fallen dream, too late to grieve
A name unmade, but not too late
To thank the gods for what is great;
A keen-edged sword, a soldier's heart,
Is greater than a poet's art.
And greater than a poet's fame
A little grave that has no name. 

(3 March 1873 - 16 August 1917)

I don't know if Uncle Larry ever met Father Willie, went to confession to him or received the Last Rites from him. But it is very likely that he participated in Masses celebrated by him. Uncle Larry certainly would have known of Father Doyle.

Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ is a blog dedicated to this outstanding priest from Dublin that features his writings, including letters to his father from the Western Front, and writings about him, almost every day.