To assist at his offering of The Holy Sacrifice was to see a man swayed and animated by the most powerful emotions that can influence a human being; agitated at times to trepidation by the contrasted feelings of reverential love and fear mutually contending within his bosom. It was, in fine, to see a man who realized to the full the tremendous nature of the high office he was called upon to perform.
He did not say Mass in the Church for two or three years before his death except one Sunday that I remember when it became a matter of necessity owing to the large number of Fathers absent on missions. But I am afraid he was not much of a success then from the public point of view. He was too slow, an hour being his usual length in his later years. Indeed were he left to himself and unassisted he would likely on occasions have gone far beyond the limits of the hour.
Rarely as long as I knew him did he celebrate without tears, very copious were it a feast in any way relating to The Passion; for he paid special attention to the Mass of the day following it word for word. There would be long pauses in which he seemed to have lost himself; sobs and tears and turnings aside of the face with frequent use of the handkerchief. As he celebrated in the choir after the Father Spiritual director it fell to our lot as students to serve his Mass. This we shall ever look upon as amongst our greatest privileges; though the student whose turn it was would be still serving when his companions had their day's work well under way.
When more than usually fervent by reason of the feast or from some other cause, the pauses became more frequent and progress in consequence more slow, portending the danger of unconscionable lengthening. On such occasions someone would whisper "Go for Father Salvian!'' It was our only remedy students without orders as we were. Word is brought to Father Salvian, who on entering takes a small stole from his breast pocket throws it on and stands beside Father Charles on the predalla. The effect is always electrical. Not a word for the present is spoken; but Father Charles well knows the meaning of the manoevure; and he needs not to be told to hurry up, for hurry he does in no unmistakable fashion under the reproachful eyes of his mentor.
Soon however a stronger influence governs him, and under its sway the figure standing close to him becomes shadowy and gradually fades away, when he is again alone with God giving way to demonstrations as before. But Father Salvian is never slow to remind him of his presence by a gentle tap on the shoulder and a mild if not a trifle profane command "Go on Charlie, go on." Other methods obtained with those who served him in the days when he said lass in public as they can still testify. They had instructions to pluck sharply at his vestments whenever he stopped for any considerable time; and so bring him back to earth.
Recollections of Fr. Eugene Nevin C.P.