Lets Ask Bill W.
Question & Answer # 24
How did you meet Father Ed Dowling?
My first unforgettable contact with Father Ed came about in this way. It was early 1940, though late in the winter. Save for old Tom, the fireman we had lately rescued from Rockland Asylum, the club was empty (24th St. clubhouse in N.Y. City where Bill and Lois were living, as they had been evicted from their Clinton St. home.) My wife Lois was out somewhere. It had been a hectic day, full of disappointments. I lay upstairs in our room, consumed with self-pity. This had been brought on by one of my characteristic imaginary ulcer attacks. It was a bitter night, frightfully windy. Hail and sleet beat on the tin roof over my head.
Then the front doorbell rang and I heard old Tom toddle off to answer it. A minute later he looked into the doorway of my room, obviously much annoyed. Then he said, “Bill, there is some old damn bum down there from St. Louis, and he wants to see you.” Great heavens, I thought, this can’t be still another one.” Wearily and even resentfully, I said to Tom, “Oh well, bring him up, bring him up.” Then a strange figure appeared in my bedroom door. He wore a shapeless black hat that somehow reminded me of a cabbage leaf. His coat collar was drawn around his neck, and he leaned heavily on a cane. He was plastered with sleet. Thinking him to be just another drunk, I didn’t even get off the bed. Then he unbuttoned his coat and I saw that he was a clergyman.
A moment later I realized with great joy that he was the clergyman who had put that wonderful plug for A.A. into The Queen’s Work. My weariness and annoyance instantly evaporated. We talked of many things, not always about serious matters either. Then I began to be aware of one of the most remarkable pair of eyes I have ever seen. And, as we talked on, the room increasingly filled with what seemed to me to be the presence of God which flowed through my new friend. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences that I have ever had. Such was his rare ability to transmit grace. Nor was my experience at all unique. Hundreds of AA’s have reported having exactly this experience when in his presence. This was the beginning of one of the deepest and most inspiring friendships that I shall ever know. This was the first meaningful contact that I have ever had with the clergymen of the Catholic faith. (The ‘Blue Book’, Vol. 12, 1960)
Father Edward Dowling, a great Jesuit friend of ours, once said to me, “Bill, it isn’t what you people put into Alcoholics Anonymous that makes it so good – it’s what you left out.” (Transcribed from tape, Manhattan Group, 1955)