Bodkin, Matthias, 1896-1973, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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Bodkin, Matthias, 1896-1973, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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  • Bodkin, Mattie
  • Bodkin, Matthias McDonnell
  • Bodkin, Matthew
  • Bodkin, Mathias

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Dates of existence

26 June 1896-2 November 1973

History

Born: 26 June 1896, Great Denmark Street, Dublin
Entered: 31 August 1914, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1931, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1934, Clongowes Wood College SJ
Died: 02 November 1973, Milltown Park, Dublin

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1933 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Bodkin, Matthias McDonnell
by Felix M. Larkin
found in Bodkin, Matthias McDonnell (1849–1933), journalist and lawyer, was born in October 1849 at Tuam, Co. Galway

Bodkin married (1885) Arabella Norman (c.1854–1931), daughter of Francis Norman, solicitor, of Dublin, and Margaret Norman (née Adrian; c.1820–1883). They had two sons and four daughters, of whom the eldest, Thomas Patrick Bodkin (qv), was director of the NGI 1927–35. Their youngest daughter, Emma Bodkin (1892–1973), was one of the first women chartered accountants in Ireland. Two other daughters became Carmelite nuns. The youngest of the family, also Matthias McDonnell Bodkin (1896–1973), was a Jesuit priest and author. Born 26 June 1896 in Dublin and educated at Belvedere College and Clongowes Wood College, he entered the Jesuit noviciate in 1914 and was ordained 1932. For many years a teacher in Clongowes, Mungret College, and Belvedere, he served as a Royal Navy chaplain during the second world war in Derry and for a brief period in the Pacific on board HMS Anson. Afterwards, his eyesight failing, he undertook mainly retreat work and counselling. He died 2 November 1973 at Milltown Park, Dublin. Like his father, he was a prolific writer – largely on religious themes, but also of adventure stories for boys. His most substantial book, a life of fellow-Jesuit Fr John Sullivan (qv) (The port of tears (1954)), did much to spread Fr Sullivan's reputation for sanctity. So as to differentiate his own from his father's work, Fr Bodkin never used his second Christian name.

NAI, private accession no. 1155; NLI, MS 10702 (F. S. Bourke collection: letters to M. McD. Bodkin and his wife, mainly 1880–1910), MSS 14252–64 (manuscript literary remains of M. McD. Bodkin); Freeman's Journal, 24, 25, 28–30 Jan. 1908; A considered judgment: report of Judge Bodkin forwarded to Sir Hamar Greenwood and read in open court at Ennis, Co. Clare, on Sat., 5 Feb. 1921 (1921); Another considered judgment: second report of Judge Bodkin (1921); Ir. Independent, Ir. Press, Ir. Times, 8 June 1933; Ir. Independent, 3 Nov. 1973; Lawrence W. McBride, The greening of Dublin Castle: the transformation of bureaucratic and judicial personnel in Ireland, 1892–1922 (1991); Frank Callanan, The Parnell split, 1890–91 (1992); Eamonn G. Hall, ‘Introduction’, M. McDonnell Bodkin, Famous Irish trials (1997 ed.); Anne Kelly, ‘Perfect ambition: Thomas Bodkin, a life (with particular reference to his influence on the early development of Irish cultural policy’ (Ph.D. thesis, TCD, 2001); Felix M. Larkin, ‘Judge Bodkin and the 1916 rising: a letter to his son’, N. M. Dawson (ed.), Reflections on law and history (2006)

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280 :
Note from Daniel Fitzpatrick Entry
He was sent to Mungret in Limerick for his education. He had very fond memories of Mungret, especially his Jesuit teachers, like Mattie Bodkin, who had a significant influence on him.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 10th Year No 3 1935

Works by Father Mattie Bodkin SJ :

  1. “Flood-tide” - A school story
  2. “Lost in the Arctic” - A translation from the German of Svenson's " Nonni and Manni”.
  3. “Studies in Sanctity” - Biographical essays
    Pamphlets
  4. “The Stop Gap” - School story
  5. “The Captain” - School story
  6. “Saint Robert Southwell” - Hagiography
  7. “Saint Bernadette” - Hagiography
  8. “Blessed Peter Faber” - Hagiography
  9. “Father Stanton” - Biography
  10. “Forest and Jungle” - Biography
  11. “Father De Smet” - Biography
  12. “The Black Robe” - Biography
  13. “Guy De Fontgalland” - Biography
  14. “The Soul of a Child” - Biography

Irish Province News 16th Year No 1 1941

Clongowes :
Fr. Bodkin is to be congratulated on the production of his latest book, “Halt, Invader.” Its publication caused great interest here. We hope that his present work of contemplation and stimulation of youth at study will keep the springs of inspiration bubbling.

Belvedere :
An enthusiastic welcome has been accorded Father Bodkin's novel. “Halt Invader” whose hero is a Belvederian. One member of the Community believes that the Government should
subsidise the book and give a copy of it to every Irish citizen seeing that the book is, in his opinion, an exposition of the ideology of Irish mentality in the present war.

Irish Province News 49th Year No 1 1974

Obituary :

Fr Matthias Bodkin (1896-1973)

By way of preface to the appreciation proper we offer some salient dates and details of Fr. Bodkin's earlier years ;
He was born in Dublin - Great Denmark St - June 26th, 1896, the younger son of Judge Matthias McDonnell Bodkin. He was one of a family of six, one brother, Tom, a sister, Emma, of both of whom more anon, two sisters who became Carmelite nuns and a sister who became Mrs John Robinson. Fr Mattie was the last survivor of his generation.
He got his early schooling at Belvedere, practically adjoining his home and thence he later went to Clongowes and from there he entered the novitiate at Tullabeg on August 31st 1914. He was one of the “Twelve Apostles” of whom he himself gave some account in the obituary of Fr Fred Paye, from his hand, which appeared in the July number of the Province News, 1972. (He was an excellent panegyrist, and was frequently applied to to formulate an appreciation and readily obliged, despite the incapacity in later years of poor eyesight.) From Tullabeg after a brief period in the - home Juniorate, then usual, he advanced to Rathfarnham where he got a distinguished degree at the University in History. Thence to Milltown for Philosophy and in 1924 back to Clongowes and later to Mungret, Doc. Among his pupils in Mungret was Tadhg Mannion, Archbishop and Cardinal to be, who on a recent occasion visiting his Alma Mater affectionately recalled Mr Bodkin, as he then was, and wished particularly to be remembered to him. Milltown again for Theology and ordination 1932. On returning to Clongowes after the Tertianship he acquitted himself with success as Prefect of Studies for four years and later at Belvedere as teacher. One of the chores which regular fell to his lot was the editorship of the College Annual and in his leisure time he produced several school stories of dimensions of novels, “Flood Tide” being the more popular. He likewise wrote a memoir of Fr John Sullivarı... “The Port of Tears'.

Fr Bodkin's death in the night between All Saints' Day and the Commemoration of All Souls, when by a special effort he had said the customary three Masses for the Dead, after midnight, was in many ways a fitting end to a long life during which he had always been notable for the energy with which he threw himself into whatever task assigned him,
Those who saw the memorial card which was made after his death were somewhat taken aback to realise how much Fr Mattie's face had changed in appearance during his long, strenuous and often hard life. No man was better able to enjoy fun or any form of relaxation that appealed to him but there was always a sense of duty to be done, and done generously, at whatever cost to himself. He had a real gift of friendship and he was never short of friends. Whether as a teacher or a preacher, naval chaplain or confessor, in his last years, to more than one community of young Irish Christian Brothers, he gave himself heartily to each. The free independent judgment which was always a marked characteristic of his advice made him in old age an admirable confessor, just as in his youth the same independent judgment made him, to use a phrase from one who knew him many years ago in Belvedere, a superb teacher of history and English literature. Clongowes and Belvedere were very much the centres of Mattie’s life down to the year 1940 when he volunteered as a naval chaplain in Derry and in the Far East.
The fact that he was one of a very well known and respected Dublin family and that he lived in or near Dublin for so many years gave him a great advantage in forming the friendships which meant so much to him personally and which were so marked a feature of his apostolic work. He lived more than seventy years of life in Dublin at a time when Dublin was very much the centre of modern Irish life and his memory (usually but not always accurate in detail) made his conversation a stream of reminiscences that were always vivid to himself and of interest to his hearers, Again and again it was remarked that what Mattie remembered was almost always some kind word spoken to him or some good deed which had made an impression on him, possibly long years ago. He was quick to complain of some passing episode that irritated him but his wide ocean of personal memories seemed full. to overflowing of kind and generous thoughts.
The failure of Fr Bodkin's eyesight which was so heavy a cross for him to bear in the years after his return from service in the English Royal Navy exacted more from him than from most other sufferers from this affliction for all through life he had been a great reader of books and a lover of fine pictures. As a boy, in his father's house he had the good fortune of knowing Sir Hugh Lane, then at the height of his influence in Irish artistic life and in later years, he had the constant stimulus of his brother Tom's example, first as Director of the National Gallery in Dublin, then of the Barber Institute in Birmingham
But there was another strand of the family tradition: if Tom Bodkin's name will always be remembered in connection with theNational Gallery and the controversy that arose over the final disposition of Hugh Lane's bequest to Dublin the name of his sister, Emma, was even more closely linked with Frank Duff’s apostolate and work for the Legion of Mary at home and abroad. It was probably Emma's influence which first turned Mattie's thoughts to the welfare, spiritual even more than temporal, of the young girls who for one reason or another had been left without family or friends to help and advise them. What Fr Mattie did for those girls and often for many years successively, when they turned to him as to a friend upon whom they could always count, is known only to God. Emma predeceased him by a few months here in Dublin. Both, we are confident, have received in Heaven the reward which the Lord promises to those who give and give generously to children and to those in need. Requiescant in Pace.

◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1974

Obituary

Father Matthias Bodkin SJ (1896-1973)

Fr Bodkin's death in the night between All Saints Day and the Commemoration of All Souls, when by a special effort he had said the customary three Masses for the Dead, after midnight, was in many ways a fitting end to a long life during which he had always been notable for the energy with which he threw himself into whatever task assigned him.

Those who saw the memorial card which was made after his death were somewhat taken aback to realise how much Fr Mattie's face had changed in appearance during his long, strenuous and often hard life. No man was better able to enjoy fun or any form of relaxation that appealed to him but there was always a sense of duty to be done, and done generously, at whatever cost to himself. He had a real gift of friendship and he was never short of friends. Whether as a teacher or a preacher, naval chaplain or confessor, in his last years, to more than one community of young Irish Christian Brothers, he gave himself heartily to each. The free independent judgement which was always a marked characteristic of his advice made him in old age an admirable confessor, just as in his youth the same independent judgement made him, to use a phrase from one who knew him many years ago in Belvedere, “a superb teacher” of history and English literature. Clongowes and Belvedere were very much the centres of Mattie's life down to the year 1940 when he volunteered as a naval chaplain in Derry and in the Far East.

The fact that he was one of a very well known and respected Dublin family and that he lived in or near Dublin for so many years gave him a great advantage in forming the friendships which meant so much to him personally and which were so marked a feature of his apostolic work, He lived more than seventy years of life in Dublin at a time when Dublin was very much the centre of modern Irish life and his memory (usually but not always accurate in detail) made his conversation a stream of reminiscences that were always vivid to himself and of interest to his hearers. Again and again it was remarked that what Mattie remembered was almost always some kind word spoken to him or some good deed which had made an impression on him, possibly long years ago. He was quick to complain of some passing episode that irritated him but his wide ocean of personal memories seemed full to overflowing of kind and generous thoughts.

The failure of Fr Bodkin's eyesight which was so heavy a cross for him to bear in the years after his return from service in the English Royal Navy exacted more from him than from most other sufferers from this affliction for all through life he had been a great reader of books and a lover of fine pictures. As a boy, in his father's house he had the good fortune of knowing Sir Hugh Lane, then at the height of his influence in Irish artistic life and in later years, he had the constant stimulus of his brother Tom's example, first as Director of the National Gallery in Dublin, then of the Barber Institute in Birmingham.

But there was another strand of the family tradition: if Tom Bodkin's name will always be remembered in connection with the National Gallery and the controversy that arose over the final disposition of Hugh Lane's bequest to Dublin the name of his sister, Emma, was even more closely linked with Frank Duff's apostolate and work for the Legion of Mary at home and abroad. It was probably Emma's influence which first turned Mattie's thoughts to the welfare, spiritual even more than temporal, of the young girls who for one reason or another had been left without family or friends to help and advise them. What Fr Mattie did for those girls and often for many years successively, when they turned to him as to a friend upon whom they could always count, is known only to God. Emma predeceased him by a few months here in Dublin. Both, we are confident, have received in Heaven the reward which the Lord promises to those who give and give generously to children and to those in need. Requiescant in Pace.

◆ The Clongownian, 1974

Obituary

Father Matthias Bodkin SJ

Early on the morning of All Souls' Day, 1973, Fr Mattie Bodkin died at Milltown Park. He had arranged to say after midnight the customary three Masses for the dead, so as to leave himself free for some apostolic work in the morning. He had been in poor health for the past few years, and this final effort proved too great. It was a fitting end to a long life of devoted and strenuous work as a priest.

Mattie Bodkin was at Clongowes from 1910 to 1914. His father, Judge Matthias McDonnell Bodkin, was an old Tullabeg boy, and his brother Tom, later Professor of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham and Director of the Barber Institute, had preceded him at Clongowes by some ten years. Mattie entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1914, took his MA in history in University College, Dublin, taught for some years in Clongowes and Mungret, and, after the usual theological studies was ordained in 1931.

The next ten years of Fr. Bodkin's life were spent teaching or directing studies in Clongowes and Belvedere. His work was characterised by energy and originality. To give an example of the latter characteristic, when prefect of studies in Clongowes, he was responsible for three institutions all of which were, for those days, distinctly forward-looking. These were the “Society of St Patrick” which put the senior boys into touch with charitable institutions in Dublin, in the hope of their being enlisted, a lending library of non-fictional books which the boys could carry about with them, and a special meeting room for the Irish Society in which all the furniture and decorations were examples of Irish craftmanship. He was a stimulating teacher, and was indefatigable in guiding boys to suitable careers, getting them openings and keeping in touch with them in after life. This personal relationship with his pupils and past pupils was perhaps the greatest apostolate of Fr Mattie's life.

In 1943 there was an urgent request from the head chaplain of the British forces for a naval chaplain. The post was offered to Fr Bodkin, who willingly accepted it. He acted at first as Port Chaplain in Derry, where he had a very friendly reception from the then bishop, Dr Farren. His work there was varied by a strenuous patrol journey to Iceland on a destroyer. He then joined HMS Anson, and did duty in many parts of the world, Malta, Australia, Hong Kong - where he arrived just as the last Japanese were leaving, and where he met the Irish Jesuit missionaries who had survived the ordeal of the occupation - Japan and Singapore. Though he never saw fighting, he had innumerable adventures and had constant opportunity for priestly work.

He was demobilized towards the end of 1946, and spent the next twenty years giving missions and retreats. To this work he applied himself with characteristic vigour, and became well known to the clergy throughout Ireland. During all this time he kept up his friendships with his former pupils, and contracted many more, among all walks of life, as a result of his unfailing readiness to help those who were in trouble. But as years went on, his eye sight gradually deteriorated, and finally he had to live a more or less retired life at Milltown Park. Fr Mattie, however, could never be idle, and to the last he endeavoured to carry on some literary work. He had, for instance, planned an article for 1974 to mark the centenary of the birth of Sir Hugh Lane, whom he had known when he was a boy. It also gave him great happiness to be able to carry on his priestly work to the end, acting as spiritual adviser to several communities of young Christian Brothers.

Fr Bodkin was a man of wide and varied interests and talents. His special subject was history and here his quite phenomenal memory stood him in good stead - but he had also an encyclopediac knowledge of English literature, and was himself a prolific and able writer. As a young man, he published three excellent stories for young people,” Floodtide”, “The Treasure of the Mountain” and “Halt Invader”, and in later life an historical novel, “Borrowed Days”, in the background of which figured houses he had lived in, Emo Park, Belvedere, Clongowes, Among his other works were a study of the life and spirituality of Fr John Sullivan, “The Port of Tears”, which recreated in a striking way the Victorian background of Fr Sullivan's early life, and a particularly attractive illustrated book, “A Christmas Novena”. He was also the author of many excellent painphlets on the lives of the saints, amongst them St Bernadette, St John Berchmans, St John de Brébeuf and Blessed Ralph Corby.

A minor work of his was a first-class piece of literary detection. This was a paper which he read to the Royal Irish Academy in 1924 on a memorandum preserved in the Clongowes library. It is obviously the work of a confidential agent, and expresses in very frank terms the writer's opinion of the members of the Irish House of Commons in 1773. Fr. Bodkin identified the author as Sir John Blaquire, secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Harcourt, and also gave an enlightening view of the contemporary political situation.

Fr Mattie had also a fine artistic taste. He had a wide knowledge of the great artists and paintings of every age, and in parti cular had made a special study of the art as well as the history of Egypt. Through his association with his brother Tom, he had come to know many contemporary Irish artists, in particular Jack B. Years, on whose work he was invited to lecture on several occasions at the Sligo Yeats Festival.

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-

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Bodkin, Matthias, 1896-1973, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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Bodkin, Thomas, 1887-1961, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland (1887-1961)

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Bodkin, Thomas, 1887-1961, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland

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Bodkin, Matthias, 1896-1973, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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