A sad practicality

12 June 1915. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Rev. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc, is reinstated by his Order but is prevented from returning to Australia. He joins the British Army as a military chaplain and later serves in Mesopotamia, India and France during the Great War. Besides providing the sacraments and spiritual guidance, padres of all denominations played a critical role in maintaining morale among the men, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. They visited the makeshift hospitals, read or wrote letters on behalf of the sick and wounded and generally cared for the men’s needs. Father McGrath often wrote to the families of the men under his care who were killed. During battle, the padres often positioned themselves near the clearing or dressing stations to administer the last rites to the dead and dying. It was not uncommon for the padres to follow their unit into no-man’s land to retrieve wounded soldiers. Many became casualties themselves. This reversible chasuble belonging to Father McGrath had a sad practicality: the white outer surface was worn to celebrate Mass. Turned inside out, the same vestment was used for requiems.