World War I. Diamond Jubilee of the University. Students Army Training Corps. The chaplains.
AFTER the reelection of Woodrow Wilson to the presidency of the United States in the fall of 1916, the people of the country felt more and more that war with Germany was impending. True, Wilson had succeeded himself, campaigning, to a large extent, on the slogan, "He kept us out of war." But Wilson seemed to be losing patience with the German government. Late that fall and early in spring there were sharp clashes; bitter notes were passed between the Kaiser and our government. The German U-boat campaign aroused great resentment in this country, and when, on April 6, 1917, Congress declared war, there was little surprise. The surprise came when we discovered how poorly we were prepared to wage a war. But nearly everyone was anxious to get on with the preparation as soon as possible.
Notre Dame had had military training for years. It was compulsory for most students. Though war had for some years seemed so remote that military training had been very unpopular, quite a bore and a seeming waste of time, the University had not discarded it. Captain Stogsdall, a retired West Point man, and Sergeant George Campbell, U.S.A., retired, had for years directed this work on the campus. Now, both of them were recalled to active duty, and Father Cavanaugh was worried about the future. All over the country young men were about to enter a course of training that would fit them, both physically and mentally, for the severe life of a soldier.
Many schools in which military training had been employed were singled out by the government as training centers for these new recruits. Notre Dame understood that she was to be one of them. When the list of schools was finally published, Notre Dame's name was omitted. Frantically, Father Cavanaugh tried to discover the reason. Was it an oversight on the part of the War Department? Or was there some other reason? The president of the University wrote and telegraphed to Washington. There was a long delay. Finally, some subordinate officer replied that Notre Dame was not included because her military training had not been deemed of high calibre.
This response infuriated Father Cavanaugh. He wrote to Senator James Watson (Indiana) that as for himself, he was not concerned. But since it had been understood that Notre Dame was on the list of colleges having a right to recommend a quota for the Officers Reserve Corps Training Camp, students were bombarding him with protests over this reversal. Watson answered that it was too late to do anything about it.
This adverse decision did not, however, prevent Notre Dame from going ahead with her preparedness program. The entire student body was encouraged to start training in April, 1917. Sergeant Campbell remarked that there would be a few slackers, but he felt that the majority of students and faculty members would be glad to cooperate. Within a week, owing to Father Matthew Walsh's appeal, three hundred new members were signed up, bringing the total to about six hundred. "Among the new units are two full companies, one composed of the athletes and the other of upper classmen, an engineers' corps, a hospital corps, and a company composed of day students." A week later they were parading in South Bend, and were complimented on their showing.
War, having been declared in April, there yet remained three months of the school year. So many of the students were restless, however, that the question quite naturally arose on the part of the boys: "What if we enlist now? Will it be possible for us to graduate, or get credit for the year's work?" Here was a crisis in which academic interests had to suffer in the cause of patriotism. In such times everyone understands that many boys may get a degree or credit toward a degree which, in the strict sense of the word, they do not deserve. But college faculties, for very just reasons, cannot be squeamish about this matter. The question was aired at faculty meetings, and it was decided that seniors who joined up before finishing the year would receive their degrees in June if they had given satisfaction up to the time of their departure. Moreover, it was decided that the semester would be shortened to permit students to take advantage of railroad rates before they should be raised. A final innovation was the decision to hold examinations for undergraduates before the commencement exercises. Heretofore the undergraduates had always been held over until after commencement largely, it is supposed, to enhance the crowd attending the festivities.
This, too, was the year in which Notre Dame was to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. Long before war had been declared, preparations had been afoot to make this anniversary a magnificent occasion for honoring the founders and demonstrating Notre Dame's position in Catholic education in America. As we have remarked in previous pages, her very founding had taken place during the troublous times that led to the war with Mexico. It was the Civil War that found her celebrating her twenty-fifth anniversary. The War with Spain came about the time of her fiftieth birthday. And now, in 1917, when she was seventy-five years old, the nation was in the midst of a world conflict.
Four days were set aside for this celebration, June 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th. On Friday morning, June 8th, a large group of motor-cars went to the New York Central Station in South Bend. There, around that rickety old building (which has been replaced by a beautiful terminal of recent date) were assembled numerous delegations of Catholic societies from the churches of South Bend, with pennants and banners unfurled. When the train finally arrived, the Archbishop of Baltimore, James Cardinal Gibbons, was installed in an auto with Father Morrissey and Father Cavanaugh. The parade started through the streets of South Bend and finally came to the University. For a moment they halted before the steps of the Main Building, and after waving to the multitude of students and visitors, the Cardinal repaired to the convent chapel to celebrate Mass. He was a very old man. The last time he had been at Notre Dame was in 1888, when he had come to observe the fiftieth anniversary of Father Sorin's ordination to the priesthood.
Most of the alumni and guests were already on the grounds. They passed the time in cordial greetings and recounting their lives since leaving school. In the evening Father Michael Quinlan entertained them in Washington Hall with a series of stereoptican slides which illustrated old figures of the University and some of its old land-marks. After this, the great Paulist preacher, Father Walter Elliott, C.S.P., who had been a student at Notre Dame during the Civil War period, told the assembled guests of his early experiences at Notre Dame, recounting the work and fun of students in the sixties. It was touching to hear this saintly priest speak so reverently of the priests and Brothers of that early epoch, for to them he gave credit for the religious influence in his own apostolic life.
Saturday morning there was another trip to the railway station, this time to greet the Apostolic Delegate, the Most Reverend John Bonzano. With him, besides numerous other dignitaries, came Admiral William Shepherd Benson, chief of naval operations, and ranking officer of the Navy, who had been named Laetare Medalist for that jubilee year. The procession from the station to the University, through the flag-decked streets of South Bend, was no less brilliant than that of the preceding day. When they drew near the campus, the coarse call of hundreds of klaxons set up a wild din which was answered by clanging bells and the enthusiastic cheers of hundreds of visitors who crowded upon the lawn."
Saturday night was set apart for the awarding of the Laetare Medal. Father Cavanaugh, undoubtedly, was the author of the inspired citation. It was preceded by the reading of telegrams of congratulations from President Wilson and Secretary of the Navy Daniels. When Father Cavanaugh had finished reading the citation, he took the medal from its purple leather case, handed it to His Eminence, Cardinal Gibbons. That venerable prelate, so fragile and delicate, rose from his seat, and turning to the audience, beckoned to a quiet lady sitting there. It was the Admiral's wife. Mrs. Benson, a trifle timid and embarrassed, mounted the steps to the stage, and together with the Cardinal, they pinned the medal on the Admiral's breast. The gentle Cardinal then took the hands of Admiral and Mrs. Benson in both his own, and offered them his sincere congratulations. It is hard to imagine any gesture which could have produced a more emotional outburst from the audience.
On Sunday morning Cardinal Gibbons pontificated. The crowd was so great that only a limited number could be admitted to the function. Father William Moloney, the Secretary of the University, had added a touch of swank to the occasion by ordering formal morning clothes for the ushers. The procession came down the steps of the Administration Building, headed by the acolyte carrying the Archi-episcopal cross, followed by the graduating class in cap and gown, and the faculty and a large group of visiting priests and prelates. The Bishop of Fort Wayne, Herman J. Alerding, dressed in capa-magna (his train-bearer had called it quite seriously, the magna charta) came next. Finally, under a canopy of gold and white, came His Eminence of Baltimore in brilliant scarlet.
As the procession entered the church the Paulist choristers of Chicago, under the direction of Father William Finn, C.S.P., began to sing. "Like some lyric geyser, their melody seemed to leap up to heaven and fall in silver showers upon the hushed, expectant audience." There were two thrones in the sanctuary. The one on the epistle side was occupied by the Bishop of the diocese. The Cardinal proceeded to the throne on the gospel side. After a brief prayer, the seminarians mounted the steps to the altar and received the vestments from the Master of Ceremonies, Father William Connor. Their reverent gestures, performed with precision and grace, added a beautiful touch to the ceremony of vesting.
After the gospel, the Archbishop of Chicago, George Mundelein, later, Cardinal, mounted the pulpit and read the Apostolic letter of congratulation and benediction from His Holiness, Benedict XV, as also one from Cardinal Gasparri, the Pope's Secretary of State. At the conclusion, Archbishop Mundelein preached a forceful sermon in which he pointed out that the mission of Notre Dame was, above all things, to preach the gospel to the whole world. He spoke feelingly of Father Sorin and the spirit he had given to the University. "Today, I know of no other institution which, while it is so thoroughly Roman in its doctrine, is so completely American in its spirit."
When Mass was over, eight seniors, bearing the American flag, marched slowly to the altar, where Father Cavanaugh awaited them. As they entered the sanctuary and fanned out so that the entire flag was visible, the President spoke the words of blessing and sprinkled the banner with holy water. This is, of course, an annual event, but on this occasion, due to the magnificence of the ceremony and the fact that we were at war, there was an added touch of solemnity. Afterwards, there was the annual flag-raising.
In the afternoon the new Library was dedicated. It was warm and sultry. Bishop Thomas Shahan, Rector of the Catholic University of America, was the minister for this event. The Holy Cross Seminary choir, under the direction of Father Charles Marshall, rendered several selections. On this occasion the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Catholic Order of Foresters, through their representatives, presented Father Cavanaugh with two checks for one thousand dollars each for the work of the University.
By this time Bishop Shahan, who had entered the library to bless the new building, returned to his seat beneath the entrance-arch, and it was time for Father Cavanaugh to introduce the speaker of the day, the Honorable Bourke Cockran. Cockran was known throughout the country as the "last of the great Irish orators." He gave one of the longest addresses on record, frequently punctuated by such thigh-slapping as should have rendered him lame for weeks. When the orator alluded in a congratulatory manner to Bishop Shahan and the audience applauded, the good prelate joined in enthusiastically. He was very deaf.
On Monday the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Bonzano, pontificated. It was a scene as full of color as that of the previous day, for the Cardinal was there in his scarlet. The music of the mass, sung by the Holy Cross Seminary choir, brought exclamations of joy from the Delegate. "I closed my eyes, and thought I was in Rome!" The Mass was that within the octave of Corpus Christi, and the long and difficult sequence "Lauda Sion" was perfectly executed. Archbishop Edward Hanna of San Francisco delivered the discourse, and when a couple of pages of his manuscript floated into the sanctuary, there was a momentary flutter of apprehension, but the Archbishop evidently knew what he had to say. He went ahead undaunted.
After the Mass the crowd repaired to the site of the new Chemistry Hall for the laying of the cornerstone. The Governor of Indiana, James P. Goodrich, addressed the assemblage as did also Edward J. McDermott, Lt. Governor of Kentucky. Later on, in Washington Hall, the Honorable Joseph Scott of Los Angeles, spoke to the assembled audience. "Joe" Scott was always popular with the students, and on this occasion he was more than interesting.
In the evening, just before the awarding of the degrees, the graduates, with their relatives and friends, passed a pleasant hour on the quadrangle, listening to the band and glee club. Some twenty-five or thirty enlisted men had come from Fort Benjamin Harrison to receive their degrees. At last everyone went to Washington Hall for the final ceremony. On this joyous occasion Notre Dame was prodigal in awarding her degrees. There were thirty Doctors of Law, honoris causa, a signal of her largesse. She awarded fifteen Master's degrees, and one hundred and five bachelor's degrees. Bishop Joseph Chartrand of Indianapolis gave the Commencement address. At its conclusion, it was Father Cavanaugh's turn to express his farewell to the class of 1917, as well as his gratitude to all who had made the commencement so memorable a day. It is doubtful if Notre Dame, at any time, will exceed the brilliance and beauty of her diamond jubilee.
Then Father Cavanaugh had some anxious days. How would the war affect Notre Dame? What of her student enrollment for the ensuing year? Everything seemed to indicate that there would be a great drop in numbers. Students were enlisting on every hand. Certainly the revenue from student fees would drop also. There seemed to be no prospect whereby the University might meet the difficulty. The government agencies had turned down her offer to train men for the armed forces. Nevertheless she continued her campaign of patriotism, hoping that the government would finally change its mind.
When school opened in September, the enrollment was substantially decreased, as had been foreseen. No one thought much about athletics. It was assumed that football might make its way as best it could. There were seven games in the fall of 1917, all of which were won by Notre Dame, except one with Wisconsin, which ended in a tie. This was the year that saw George Gipp rise on the football horizon. In the
7-2 game against the Army the public had its first intimation that Notre Dame had in him a new star with whom it would be well to reckon. The campus, of course, was visited almost daily by Notre Dame students in khaki. Now and then the grimness of the occasion was made tolerable by some lighter touch. For instance, when Joe Gargan came back in all his finery, lovable, swash buckling, proud-as-punch, decked out in all the red and blue of a marine, carrying a swagger stick, and accompanied by a Boston bull pup on leash, it was the signal for fun. "Butch" Whipple, a mere private, got hold of a dog of doubtful ancestry, tied a huge rope around its neck, and then managed to show up in every spot visited by Gargan.
By New Year's there were over six hundred Notre Dame students in the armed forces. And before the year was out many a Notre Dame lad had shed his blood for the cause. By the time war was over, forty-six of the students would have died for their country. In early December the senior class started a movement to raise funds for the purchase of a "Notre Dame Ambulance" to be presented to the Army. Throughout the year, they raised the money, and finally when the war was nearly over, they had their ambulance. Then it was decided that the outfit should be presented to someone who needed it more than the army. On it was inscribed: "From the men of Notre Dame to Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, the noblest moral figure manifested in this war!"
As was the case in the Civil War, Notre Dame students were not expected to face the rigors of battle without the comfort of their priest-professors. In May, 1917, priests who wished to do so, were told to hand in their names to the Provincial as volunteer chaplains. Father Morrissey received the names of eighteen. As he looked over the list, he said, with a shake of his head, "As long as we're in this thing, let's give the best!" Later on, when it came time for the chaplains to depart, the squat little figure of the Provincial rose from his chair on the stage in Washington Hall. In his definitive, clipped speech, he exclaimed: "To the armed forces, we have given our very best priests, a sacrifice, indeed, for the University, but a sacrifice that we are willing to make. And if the Army wants more," he added, flinging his short arms aloft, "we'll give more!"
From the list of eighteen, six were chosen at first. There was Father Matthew J. Walsh, Vice-President of the University and the best history teacher on the campus; Father Charles O'Donnell, the poet and inspiring professor of rhetoric; Father (later Bishop) George Finnigan, a young member of the Mission Band; Father Edward Finnegan, who had been Prefect of Discipline; Father John C. McGinn, professor of sociology; and Father Ernest Davis, a brilliant professor of chemistry.
It took some time before these volunteers were to obtain their commissions. It was a cold, bitter day in January, 1918, before they left. Father Walsh went first to Camp Sheridan, Montgomery, Alabama. Shortly afterwards he was sent to the "Chaplains' School" at Fort Monroe. Wherever Father Walsh went he brought his fine spirit of fun. He had the happy faculty of seeing the humorous side of things. This chaplains' school was designed to acquaint the volunteers with situations they would meet in their ministrations to the soldiers. There were seventy-two of them, of every creed, and among them, twelve priests. The school was presided over by a hard-bitten old Major who had been a former chaplain.
This Major would propose various situations and ask the chaplains how they would meet them. Father Walsh still likes to recall the following incident. "For instance," the Major said, "you might be walking along among the tents some morning, and glancing in, you might see a number of soldiers squatting down playing cards. Gambling, no doubt, certainly gambling! What would you do, Chaplain Smith?" he asked, addressing a Protestant minister.
"Why," answered the Reverend Smith, "I think I would go in and talk to them about mother. I've always found that a very effective topic. The thought of mother generally brings them around!"
"Quite effective, yes!" exclaimed the Major. "What would you do, Chaplain Brown?" addressing another Protestant minister.
"Well, sir, I should go in and sit quietly for a time. Then, I think I should hum a tune, and get them all singing. To sing takes their minds off sin and gambling. Yes, I think I should sing!"
"Very good, very good!" agreed the Major. Turning to Father Lenan, he asked him for his opinion.
"I think I'd take a hand."
During Lent the Catholic chaplains went out on Wednesday nights to help the priests in the neighboring towns. It was hard work, and there was no remuneration for it, and by the end of Lent the chaplains were pretty fatigued. They cooked up a little scheme for a get-together for the Wednesday after Easter. "We'll go out as usual on Wednesday night," they proposed, "for nobody will know the difference. They'll think it's just one of our Wednesday night missions. Let's leave camp by ones or twos so as to attract no attention, and we'll meet at Newport News for a little dinner!"
Everything went smoothly, and after the little frolic the Catholic chaplains returned to camp about ten o'clock, entering by ones or twos, "fatigued" from their missions.
The next morning all assembled for class. When the Major entered, they arose and saluted. The Major seemed unusually solemn this morning. There was fire in his eye. As he began to speak, a mysterious foreboding seemed to settle on the Catholic chaplains.
"Gentlemen," he said, "for the last few weeks, I have been conducting a class in court-martial procedure. I have been pointing out to you just what offenses are punishable by such procedure. I deeply regret that among you there have been offenses which most certainly come under the head of punishment by court-martial! Last night, I had occasion to be in Newport News, and there I saw a number of you absent from your post, and without leave!" Now, indeed, the Catholic chaplains were beginning to be terribly embarrassed.
"You realize," continued the Major, "the seriousness of this offense! You ran away from duty! You absented yourselves without proper authorization! I am tempted to turn you over for court-martial!" Picking up a sheet of paper from the table, he went on: "I shall read the list of chaplains I saw in town last night, and as I read each name, let the chaplain arise and stand so that all may see him in his shame and dereliction of duty!" Father Walsh was blushing brilliantly. He had visions of returning to Notre Dame in disgrace. The Major began to read in a clipped, snappish voice.
Who were these chaplains? thought Father Walsh. They hadn't been on the party.
Then things were a little clearer. The names were all of Protestant chaplains. They, too, must have been having a party. Not a single Catholic chaplain's name was called. It was tough luck for the Protestants. The Major had spotted them, but not the Catholics.
When he had finished the list, the Major glanced up and saw several shame-faced chaplains, red with fright and embarrassment. "Look at you! Whoever thought that I should live to see the day when men of God should so disgrace the uniform! I confess I am deeply upset by this whole matter. In fact, I find myself so disturbed and crushed that I simply can't go on with class today. Instead, I shall ask one in whom I have confidence to conduct the remainder of the hour for me. Chaplain Walsh, will you please take the chair!" And the Major stalked out.
The Protestant chaplains were good sports. They knew perfectly well what sort of "mission" the Catholic chaplains had had the night before. But they never breathed a word. They stood there in silent chagrin and took the Major's beating.
Later in the morning, the Catholic chaplains got together and constituted a committee to wait on the Major and induce him to exercise clemency. The next morning, as they all met for class, the Major, stiff and a bit pompous, announced that "due to a magnanimous gesture on the part of certain chaplains, I have been induced to act mercifully and to restrain justice, in the case of the chaplains whose names were called yesterday. There will be no court-martial proceedings against you!"
After six weeks at the Chaplains' School, Father Walsh returned to Camp Sheridan. Finally, he was sent to Camp Lee, Virginia, to await orders to embark. Once in France, he went first to the district of the Vosges, and after two weeks was moved up to the Maine where fierce fighting was in progress. There he found one of his old pupils, Dan McGlynn. Dan should have graduated in the class of 1918. It had been understood that all seniors would receive their degrees if they enlisted before the end of the year, providing they had done satisfactory work during the part of the senior year spent at Notre Dame. Dan had enlisted in December, 1917. When Father Walsh met him in France it was already July, 1918.
One day, after exceptionally hard fighting, in which many intelligence officers had been killed, Father Walsh overheard a conversation between the captain and the major. The captain was complaining that he found it difficult to find replacements for the intelligence officers. It had been the custom, the captain said, to call out from the ranks all college graduates, and pick replacements from those who stepped out. Today, however, when he had called for college graduates, not a soul presented himself. In desperation, he called for "any high-school graduates." "Not even that," he complained, "brought out a single man."
Father Walsh, thinking he was about to confer a favor on an old student of Notre Dame, spoke up. "Captain," he said, "how did you miss Private Dan McGlynn? He is a fine athletic type, a graduate of Notre Dame, and comes from a fine family in East St. Louis, Illinois!" "Really!" exclaimed the captain, "I'll look him up immediately!"
It was already rather late at night. Father Walsh poked around through the brush until he located McGlynn. He shook the sleeping figure of Dan and asked him: "How would you like to have a commission?" "Oh, boy!" answered the sleepy Dan. "Well, look! Probably before morning the captain will get hold of you. He will ask you if you are an athlete, if you are a Notre Dame graduate, if you come from a good family! The answer is YES all along the line!" "I get you, Father, I get you!" And Dan turned over and presumably went to sleep. Father Walsh crawled off into a secluded corner, pulled a blanket around himself, and sought repose.
In about three hours Father Walsh felt himself nudged with some impatience. It was Dan McGlynn. "Look, Father, the captain came to see me, and shoved this questionnaire in my face. He said for me to sign it. I signed all the questions, until I came to the last, and it says: 'I swear that the foregoing answers are absolutely truthful.' And I can't sign that!"
"Why not?" asked Father Walsh.
"Well, I didn't receive any degree from Notre Dame yet!" said the anxious private.
"Why, you were promised one, Dan!" answered Father Walsh assuringly.
"Yes, but I didn't get it yet! And it says here, 'Are you a graduate of a University?'
"Listen, Dan!" explained Father Walsh to the boy who was down on one knee, "by virtue of the power invested in me as Vice-President of the University, and in the absence of Father Cavanaugh and the other members of the faculty, I confer on you the degree of bachelor of laws!" Dan appended his name to the last question without hesitation, and received his commission shortly.
Soon after this episode Father Walsh was transferred to Paris as senior chaplain of that district. His duties were to care for the sick and wounded Americans who occupied the numerous hospitals in the vicinity of the French Capital. He was the only American chaplain of the Catholic faith to attend ten immense hospitals in the area. It was humanly impossible for him to care for all these hospitals. "It broke my heart," he told me, "to know that every day thirty or thirty-five Catholic boys would die without seeing a priest!" For while he was at one hospital, Catholics in other hospitals would die without the ministrations of the Catholic religion. He immediately put in a demand for ten Catholic chaplains; and of course, he had to request a similar number of non-Catholic chaplains. He was immensely relieved when his request was granted, for he got a Catholic chaplain for each hospital. From that time onward all Catholic boys were properly cared for.
In addition to the work of the hospitals, there was the work of the prison. Father Walsh learned that there were 1400 American prisoners in the Bastille, picked up for one offense or other, and that no English~speaking chaplain had visited them for a long time. Father Walsh determined that they, too, should have the consolation of a visit from the priest. When he arrived, the place was in an uproar. The nervous marines, who were in charge, notified him that just a half-hour before several prisoners had made an attempt to break out of jail. Two brothers, Catholics, led the break, but the first had tripped and fallen to the ground, killing himself. The other brother, seeing the accident, lost his nerve, and the whole lot of them had scrambled back into the bull-pen.
Father Walsh, at length admitted by the marines, climbed the steps and gazed down on the prisoners, who were milling around the body of their dead comrade. While he looked on, a nervous officer rushed up to him, grabbed him by the sleeve, asked if he were a Catholic priest. Father Walsh assured him that he was. "Well, I've got to see you! I must talk to you!"
They went into a cell, and the officer, extremely upset, fingering his gun, cried hysterically: "Im the only one here with a gun! What can I do if those fellows break out?" Father Walsh tried to calm the young man, but he burst forth with some impatience: "I was supposed to be a priest!" "What do you mean?" asked Father Walsh, feeling that he might be in the presence of an insane person. "I was once in a seminary, against my will, I think! I left! Now, I am terribly disturbed!" "Perhaps, what you need is confession," said Father Walsh. "Yes! That's what I need!" "All right," Father Walsh told him, "kneel down here!"
While he was on his knees, there was a shout from the bull-pen:
"Everybody out!" Jumping up, the officer ran to the balcony overlooking the prisoners. They were forming as for another break. The Marines, without any other weapons except their clubs which were fastened to their arms, felt how futile would be their effort to prevent a break.
Suddenly, a sergeant asked Father Walsh if he would step out on the mezzanine balcony and talk to the prisoners. He would! The sergeant then called "Attention!" The prisoners turned. "Here is a Catholic priest!" the officer shouted. "All you fellows who are Catholics, right face!" About a third of the prisoners right-faced. "Now," continued the sergeant, "all you Catholics who want to go to confession, come up these stairs, one by one!"
As the long procession -- about three hundred of them -- started, Father Walsh spoke a few words to them. That being finished, he retired to a cell, sat down on a cot, and the prisoners, one by one, knelt at his side and went to confession. But the Marines were taking no chances. Not far distant from each prisoner, stood a Marine with upraised club. Even the fellow at confession was no exception. Kneeling though he was, a Marine stood about five feet away, ready to pounce on him at the first sight of any funny business.
It took all evening to hear the confessions, and Father Walsh was very tired at the end of it. But he had the satisfaction of knowing, not only that he had put down a riot, but also that many a soul had received the cleansing grace of the sacrament.
For some months, the United States government was pondering the question of repaying the soldiers whose studies had been interrupted by war. It was finally decided that the government would open a university at Beanue, about two hundred miles south of Dijon. A huge number of buildings was put up, and it was planned to call in about 45,000 students for a period of study of two or three months. Those soldiers who had been at the front, and who needed a rest and a change, would be invited and urged to continue their studies for a time. It was not known how long the war would last -- perhaps for years. The plan would enable the soldiers to complete their schooling. No pains were spared in procuring a faculty. Some very outstanding men of letters and science were obtained.
Father Walsh was appointed to head the faculty of theology. "I suppose," he said later, "that, in looking over the list of chaplains, they saw I was Vice-President of Notre Dame. So they decided I was the man to head that faculty!" It was a curious set-up. Ministers of all religions were members of this theological faculty. It was apparent to Father Walsh that such a plan would be unworkable. And when he spoke to the head of this new-born University about the matter, he was highly amused to hear that that gentleman saw no difficulty whatsoever. When the difficulty was explained to him, however, he saw that Father Walsh was right. So he changed the faculty of theology into one of "Civics!" By the time this change was effected, Father Walsh had received orders to proceed to Bordeaux for reembarking to the States. The armistice had been signed.
The experiences of Father Ernest Davis were no less exciting. He was quite seriously gassed on one occasion, and had to be long hospitalized. Father Charles O'Donnell was sent to Italy to accompany the American forces there. His experiences were not very gratifying. His commanding officer had no idea of religion and less appreciation for morals. On one occasion, after this officer had quite brazenly advised his men to satisfy all the lusts they desired, Father O'Donnell, with two other chaplains, went to protest. This commanding officer had cultivated the habit of leaning back in his chair, closing his eyes, and emitting a stream of sulphurous curses and coruscating blasphemies, during which the protestor was supposed to disappear. This day, he fell into his routine, but when he opened his eyes, Father O'Donnell was still there. Anyone who recalls Father O'Donnell's facile tongue well remembers that Father O'Donnell did not have to curse to be effective. It is quite safe to say that that commanding officer had never been taken apart quite so neatly.
Of Bishop George Finnigan it was said later that he was one of the most efficient chaplains in the entire war. His men loved him. He was of a genial and generous disposition, had no little talent in music and was clever in producing entertainment. So thoroughly did he do his job, and so well was he remembered that in this present World War II, an anti-clerical general, who thoroughly detested chaplains and wanted to see the army rid of them, admitted that if all chaplains were like George Finnigan, he could stomach them well enough.
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