In the last issue of Here's To Your Health we quoted a theologian (Dr. Sam Shoemaker) who contributed greatly to AA's beginning. It would be an oversight if we failed to mention another theologian who became Bill Wilson's sponsor from the time they met in 1940. Bill met Father Ed Dowling shortly after him and his wife Lois had been evicted from their home for being unable to make the payments. Bill said he could remember their first meeting as if it were yesterday:
One winter night in 1940 in AA's Old Twenty-Fourth Street Club in New York I had gone to bed at about 10:00 with a severe case of self-pity and my imaginary ulcer. Lois was out somewhere and the club was deserted except for old Tom the retired fireman salvaged from the Rockland Asylum. Hail and sleet beat on the tin roof; it was a wild night. The front doorbell clanged, and a moment later Tom pushed open; my bedroom door. "Some bum," he said, "from St. Louis is down there and wants to see you." "Oh Lord!" I said, "Not another one! And at this time of night, oh well bring him up."
I heard labored steps on the stairs. Then balanced precariously on his cane, he came into the room, carrying a battered black hat plastered with sleet. He lowered himself into my solitary chair, and when he opened his overcoat I saw his clerical collar. He brushed back a shock of white hair and looked at me through the most remarkable pair of eyes I have ever seen. We talked, and my spirits kept on rising, and I began to realize that this man radiated a grace that filled the room. I felt this with great intensity; it was a moving and mysterious experience. In the years since, I have seen much of this great friend, and whether I was in joy or pain he always brought to me the same sense of the presence of God. Father Ed's words flashed with humor and deep insight and its no wonder he fills us with his inimitable spirit and touch of the eternal, he said, "Alcohol doth more than Milton can to make straight the ways of God to man!"
Father Ed was a Jesuit, who started the first AA group in St Louis; and he was also the first clergyman of his faith to note the surprising resemblance between the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (founder of the Jesuit Order), and Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1940 he wrote the first Catholic recommendation of AA, his labor for AA was a prodigy and his recommendations were heard worldwide, he is made of the stuff of saints....
Father Dowling said, "My trying to understand God reminds me of a definition of psychiatry. "It is the id being examined by the odd." As we move from an obscure and confused idea of God to a more clear and distinct idea, we should realize that our idea of Him, will always be lacking, because to comprehend God is to be equal to Him. We must never forget that God is the Almighty Creator and we are the created, but we can all grow in the knowledge of God. There is an old German saying that applies here: "Very few of us know how much we have to know in order to know how little we know."