Dr. Patrick Kenny

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August 15 has always been a day of many graces for me. It is the anniversary of my consecration to Mary and of my vows in the Society. . . . Knowing there were a good number of my boys about, I hurried back as quickly as I could and made my way up the long, narrow street. The shells were all coming in one direction, across the road, not down it, so that by keeping close to the houses on the shady side, there was little danger, though occasional thrills of excitement enough to satisfy Don Quixote himself.  

I reached the village crossroads in time to lift up the poor sentry who had been badly hit and, with the help of a couple of men, carried him to the side of the road. He was unconscious, but I gave him absolution and was half way through the anointing when, with a scream and a roar which made our hearts jump, a shell whizzed over our heads and crashed into the wall directly opposite on the other side of the street, covering us with brick dust and dirt. Bits of shrapnel came thud, thud, on the ground and wall around us, but neither I nor the men were touched.  

‘‘Begorra, Father, that was a near one, anyhow’’, said one of them, as he brushed the dust off his tunic and started to fill his pipe. ‘‘It was well we had your Reverence with us when Jerry (nickname for a German) sent that one across.’’  

‘‘You must not thank me, boys,’’ I said, ‘‘don’t you know it is our Lady’s feast, and Mary had her mantle spread over us to save us from all harm?’’  

‘‘True for you, Father’’, came the answer. But I could see by their faces that they were by no means convinced that I had not worked the miracle. 

Though it was 15 August I was taking no risks, especially with this reputation to maintain! So, the poor boy being dead, I bundled the rest of them down a cellar out of harm’s way and started off again. . . . One man was beyond my aid, a few slightly wounded, and that was all. As I came round the corner of the church, I met four of my boys calmly strolling along in the middle of the street as if they were walking on Kingstown pier. I won’t record what I said, but my words helped by the opportune arrival of an unpleasantly near [high explosive] had the desired effect, and we all took cover in the church. 

It was only then I realised my mistake, for it soon became evident the Germans were firing at the church itself.  

One after another the shells came in rapid succession, first on one side then on the other, dropping in front and behind the building, which was a target with its tall, white tower. It was madness to go out, and I do not think the men, some score of them, knew of their danger, nor did I tell them, but ‘‘man of little faith’’, as I was, I cast anxious eyes at the roof and wished it were stronger. All’s well that ends well, they say.  

Not a shot hit the church, though the houses and road got it hot. Our fiery ordeal ended at last, safely and happily for all of us. And 15 August 1916 went down on my list as another day of special grace and favour at Mary’s hands. 

Prayer: Father Willie Doyle’s personal prayer in time of trial:

“Oh, Master! I come to your feet to tell you all. I have buried my dead. I have lost what can never be restored to me in this world. I have come from the grave with half myself buried there. I have come back to a life with all its meaning gone from it—a life without joy, interest, anything to which my soul responds—a dreary waste stretching before me that I must cross alone. Where shall I turn for courage and for strength? Where but to you, to whom the disciples of John turned in their desolation? Open to me your arms and your heart. Listen to me tenderly whilst I tell you all my trouble. Speak to my soul and calm and strengthen it. Make up to me for what you have taken away. And if you ask me what compensation I desire, I answer: ‘‘None other than thyself, O Lord.’’


“Father Willie Doyle, S.J. exemplified the best qualities of a Catholic Chaplain: total dedication to those in his care, fearlessness in the face of enemy fire, and the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice."   — Archbishop Timothy Broglio , Archbishop of Military Services

“Father Willie Doyle, S.J. exemplified the best qualities of a Catholic Chaplain: total dedication to those in his care, fearlessness in the face of enemy fire, and the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice."

— Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archbishop of Military Services