Christlike: Christmas at the front

Rev. William Doyle, S.J.

From the first biography of this holy priest, Father William Doyle, S.J. by Alfred O’Rahilly, 1920.

Here I am in a bit of a hole in the side of a ditch, so low that I cannot stand upright and have to bend my head and shoulders during Mass—I can tell you my back aches at the end. My only window is the door (without a door) through which the wind blows day and night; and a cold wind it is just now. I was offered a little stove but my "Novice Master" did not want that luxury, for it never came. My home would be fairly dry if I could keep out the damp mists and persuade the drops of water not to trickle from the roof. As a rule I sleep well, though one is often roused to attend some poor fellow who has been hit. Still it is rather reversing the order of things to be glad to get up in the morning to try and get warm; and it is certainly not pleasant to be wakened from sweet dreams by a huge rat burrowing under your pillow or scampering over your face! This has actually happened to me. There is no great luxury in the matter of food, as you may well guess. Recently, owing to someone's carelessness, or possibly because the bag was made to pay toll on the way up to the trenches, my day's rations consisted of half a pot of jam and a piece of cheese!

Through all this, and much in addition, the one thought ever in my mind is the goodness and love of God in choosing me to lead this life, and thus preparing me without a chance of refusal for the work He wants doing. No amount of reading or meditating could have proved to me so convincingly that a life of privation, suffering and sacrifice, accepted lovingly for the love of Jesus, is a life of great joy, and surely of great graces. You see, therefore, that I have reasons in abundance for being happy, and I am truly so. Hence you ought to be glad that I have been counted worthy to suffer something for our dear Lord, the better to be prepared to do His work. Ask Him, won't you, that I may not lose this golden opportunity, but may profit to the full by the graces He is giving me. Every loving wish from my heart for a holy and happy Xmas. Let our gift to the divine Babe be the absolute sacrifice of even our desires, so that His Will alone may be done.

I certainly did not think this time twelve months [ago] that my next Christmas greetings to you would be from a military camp. I cannot help wondering where my good wishes will reach you from when another year has passed. God has given me one grace at least since I came here. I feel absolutely in His Hands and joyous in the thought that no matter what may happen it will be all for His greater glory.

Though Christmas Day was miserably wet, the Divine Babe filled my heart with joy at the thought that my life now was a little bit at least more like to His. I am learning here better every day that there is no life of happiness like one full of "hard things" borne for love of God. For some time past I have felt, I know not why, an intense longing for holiness at any price. I wonder what the price is? Do you ever ask God to make me a saint? No use asking for miracles, I suppose! Well, I shall take my revenge by begging holiness for you.

In some ways I have found life out here much easier than I expected and in other respects a good deal more trying. Still if I get only a little bit of holiness out of it all, will it not be well worth it all? Jesus knows I have only one wish in this world—to love Him and Him alone— for the rest He has carte blanche to do as He pleases in my regard. I just leave myself in His loving Hands and so have no anxiety or care, but great peace of soul. I am off now for a fortnight's spell in the trenches, and if it is not to be Saint Teresa's mori it will at least be pati.

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