Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

The war has done much to make a real fellowship possible between ministers and men. Many ministers and church officials working in France as chaplains, Y. M. C. A. secretaries and Red Cross directors got a new insight into the moral and religious life of men. Some had little difficulty in adjusting themselves to their new life, others had to undergo a profound remaking and it was amazing to see the changes that sometimes took place as men marked with professionalism and narrow puritanic ideas emerged once more into the broad, deep current of a real, red-blooded religion. Many a preacher had his fundamental conception both of men and of religion entirely reformed. One minister states the case illuminatingly as follows:

“In the face of war's brutalizing influences, in the face of much that is bestial, profane and disgusting, I came back inspired as never before in my life by the revelations of idealism, sacrifice, depth of character, and possibilities of achievement in our American men in the mass. Their willingness to suffer hunger, cold, fatigue, sickness, and wounds with never a murmur of complaint gave me often a sense of being present at a sacrament Europe is either a shambles or a shrine according to your point of view. I choose the latter."

On the other hand the men in the army came to have an entirely new and a much higher opinion of preachers and Church officers as they beheld these noble men, most of them past middle life, enduring the incessant drudgery and hardship of camp life,

rendering gladly, an immense service to the boys and going under shell fire whenever duty demanded it without any show of fear. Preachers in France were not always under the shell-fire of criticism, they were far more often under shell-fire from the guns of the Huns. The heroism of the British and American chaplain was most wonderful.

“They saw real action, these preacher-secretaries," says Bruce Barton; "no newspaper correspondent with whom I have talked has ever accused them of cowardice. Indeed, as a class they showed amazing courage. More than a proportionate number of the casualities among Y. M. C. A. secretaries were in the ranks of the preachers.

At Chateau-Thierry a newspaper man saw two of them driving a camionette back and forth behind the lines, following upon the heels of the advancing troops. For two days they hardly stopped for food or rest; at every moment of the way they were under destructive gun-fire, and there were no orders to hold them there.

"In a little cave on a hill-side, also under shellfire, the same correspondent found another preacher tending his little group of wounded. The men had fallen too fast that day for the ambulances to carry them all; and so he had picked up a dozen of them, one by one, and carried them back across the shellholes to his little cave in the hill where he thought they would be safe. All night long, while the guns roared, he made his lonesome journeys out, bringing in new wounded and carrying water to those who cried out for it.

“They tell of 'Old Baptist Doc,' the shepherd and idol of the Marines. Clifford is his real name, but the Marines prefer to call him 'Doc'; they have learned to love him by that name. On the day when the th Marines were going into battle, the colonel discovered him trudging along in the front ranks with the boys, laughing with the best of them; and he called the rotund old preacher to his side.

“ 'You better be going back, Doc,' he said. 'It's going to be pretty hot today.'

“ 'Are you going back?' asked Doc.

“Why, of course not,' retorted the colonel. 'I'm going ahead with the men.'

“ Then what makes you think I'd go back?' asked Doc, and that settled the question for the time.

Later in the day, when a bullet found the colonel, it was Old Baptist Doc who crept out in No Man's Land, bearing one end of a litter while a private tugged at the other end, the latter turning back now and again to hiss at his bulky companion not to "stick up so far.” They brought the colonel back to safety that day, but the exertion and the gas almost did Old Doc. When he woke up again, it was to discover that someone had removed all his “Y” insignia and substituted the Marines' emblems in their place.

It should be remembered that, in a very real and direct way the Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A., the K. of C., and the Salvation Army represented the Church

at work with the American army. The men came gradually to understand that the Church did care for them and that she was willing to give of her money and her life to advance their comfort. Of course mistakes were made in the conduct of a task so gigantic; but these weaknesses only accentuate the total splendid achievement. It was my privilege during most of October, 1918, to do some special inspection work along the battle front from Challons to Nancy. During this period I visited the headquarters of both the Army and the Y. M. C. A. for twenty fighting divisions. At such points as Boullionville, Thiacourt; Benny, Jouley, St. Benoit, Verdun, Thierville, Montfaucon, Madelin Farms, Apremont, and Chatel-Chetau, I found many chaplains and Y. M. C. A. secretaries working in the closest conjunction to meet the needs of the men. All of these points were under constant shell-fire from September 26th up to November 2d, and from these centers, the work radiated right up to the trenches.

At one point in the Argonne Forest I found the entire Y. M. C. A. force composed of thirty-three men engaged, at the urgent request of the commanding general, in helping get out the wounded. They were so engaged without let up for three and one. half days.

I was at Montfaucon for a day and a half, during which time forty-one shells exploded within a radius of two hundred yards of Y. M. C. A. headquarters. In the afternoon three men were wounded

within fifteen feet of the front door of the building, and that night a shell struck the corner of a dugout occupied by six American artillery observers, six Frenchmen and six Y. M. C. A. secretaries. The previous week two Y. M. C. A. men were badly wounded at this same place and a third, a Presbyterian minister, was buried under a falling wall. Yet these men stuck to their post day after day regardless of the imminent danger. On the night of my visit, the chief secretary was returning from a trip to the trenches when, less than one hundred and fifty feet in front of him, a huge shell landed in the midst of a machine gun company, killing nine men and wounding the remaining six. Dismounting from his car, he laid the bodies of the nine lads who had paid life's supreme sacrifice, in a row by the roadside; then placing the six wounded men in his camionette, he brought them to the field hospital. And this he looked upon as a fraction of a day's ministry. For eight hours, I helped two other ministers make hot chocolate and pass it out, free of charge, to the constant string of men returning from the trenches either slightly wounded or sick from dysentery. The captain in charge of the Field Hospital told me that he was sure that this single aspect of ministry quite universally rendered at strategic points, was saying the lives of thousands of men.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »