A Chaplain of the Great War

A truly remarkable interview conducted in 1982 of the experiences as a Catholic Chaplain of Father William Bonniwell, O.P.  during World War I.   At the time of the interview Father Bonniwell was 96 and I think his vigor and clarity of recollection and speech are astounding.    I have done my best on this blog to tell the stories of some of the Catholic Chaplains who served in the military in our nation’s history, and it is heartwarming to be able to present a video of one of these brave men telling his story.

After the War he had an illustrious career.  He was a professor of homiletics at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Illinois.   He was head of the Preacher’s Institute in Washington DC.   For  many years  he was on the staff of St. Vincent Ferrer in New York City.  He was the author of  ”Margaret of Castello,” , a biography of the 14th-century Italian Dominican nun, who is a true patron of unwanted children, as she was born a dwarf, hunchbacked, blind and lame and was ultimately rejected by her parents, and throughout her travails radiated the love of God.   He translated from Latin ”The Martyrology of the Sacred Order of Preachers”, and produced the groundbreaking History of the Dominican Liturgy 1215-1945.

Father Bonniwell died in 1984.  Here he tells the amusing story of one of his pupils who had difficulty with theology.

How I wish I could have met Father Bonniwell when he lived!  He was a character, as well as a holy and brave man!  When he enjoyed the Beatific Vision, I suspect there were smiles all around.

5 Responses to A Chaplain of the Great War

  1. Jay Anderson says:

    Excellent post, Don! I forwarded this on to some of my Dominican friends, because I knew they would be interested.

    One minor correction, though. St. Vincent Ferrar, which is where Fr. Bonniwell remained until he passed away, is in NYC, not Washington.

  2. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Thank you for the correction Jay. I have amended the post.

  3. Fr. Pius, OP says:

    Thanks for the post. Fr. Bonniwell was quite something. Famous not only for his knowledge of history, but his great love for and attention to the old Dominican Rite.

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Thank you Father Pius. Father Bonniwell strikes me as very much “a man for all seasons” to borrow from playwright Bolt.

  5. Tito Edwards says:

    I finally read the post and to my pleasant surprise this is the very same man that wrote the Life of Blessed Margaret of Castello.


    The book brought me to tears.

    It’s a short, quick, and highly enjoyable read.

    I would recommend this book for everyone of all ages.

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