As might be expected Father Charles had a great devotion to The Passion.
Sufferings and Death of Christ, besides being manifest proofs of God's
love for us, are also in turn the strongest incentives to man's love
The atmosphere of Gethsamane and Golgotha pervaded his whole life lending colour to everything he said or did. To him the Passion was not an abstraction, no mere historical event, but very real, very recent. Not even an occurrence of yesterday. It was always of the present.
Little needed he reminder of Calvary, for it was never absent from his thoughts. Nevertheless he invariably carried about him a small crucifix, sometimes placed on top of his little devotional manuals as seen in the photo, but more often locked in his left hand palm. From time to time he could be seen to open the hand, look affectionately at the Crucifix and raise it tenderly to his lips. I saw it after his death showing abundant signs of long and frequent use.
The Stations or day of The Cross was one of his favourite devotions, though by no means an easy performance from the difficulty he experienced in kneeling and rising unsupported. But that only made it all the more dear to him. He generally practised the devotion in the seclusion of the religious choir or oratory, where he was free from any interruption or distraction, a luxury not likely to be allowed him in the public church.
But possibly his greatest outward manifestation of devotion to Our Lord's Sufferings was shown, despite of his efforts to keep his feelings under control, when singing The Passion in the Church on Palm Sunday and Good Friday mornings. Many of the general public must still retain affecting recollections of the deep impression his singing of The Passion made on all who heard him. His part during the years I knew him, was always that of Christus which suited his style of voice admirably. But it was still more in accord with his sentiments in that he had to sing the words of Our Lord in the garden, in His trial, condemnation and Death. His very, appearance was striking as he entered the sanctuary accompanied by the two priests appointed for the other parts vested in alb and broad stole. All three take their places before the prepared lecterns.
The singing of The Passion is perhaps the most impressively solemn of The Holy week services. Recalling as it does so vividly the awful tragedy commemorated, little effort is required to imagine oneself living the whole scene over again. With Father Charles taking so prominent a part this became much more easy. Entering wholeheartedly into the meaning and spirit of the words, he soon became lost to his surroundings, overwhelmed by grief in the sympathy he felt for the Divine Victim. There would be many long pauses, unrubrical it is true, but necessary to suppress the sob and wipe away those tears that dim the page. Now the deep sonorous voice tremulous with, emotion as he sings from the Latin text the words of Christ in Gethsemane "My soul is sorrowful even unto death .... Father, if it be possible let his chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt." (Matt. 26-38,39). Again the high pitch that reverberates throughout the building and gradually toned down to a whisper as the Gentle Lamb of God confronts and confounds his enemies. "If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me'?" (John 18-23) There would be tears in more eyes than Father Charles' before he had finished for no preacher could introduce such effects as he did by his appearance and general bearing during his singing of The Passion. It was the important feature of the Mount Argus Holy Week services in those days.
Recollections of Fr. Eugene Nevin C.P.