He had not intended to offend the professor, but he was afraid he had done so. The truth of the matter was that the teacher had a droll, dry humour irresistible to Pat, who also keenly enjoyed the priest's mannerisms. Though there were others equally amused by them, Pat was embarrassed and disturbed by the thought that his amusement was unkind and had given offence. The apology he had offered did not help and he was afraid of offending again.
Father Nevins continues: “ I suggested that he forget the past and concern himself with the future. I advised him before class to look in a mirror, think of the professor, straighten out his face, and go to class. There was no repetition of the untoward behaviour. I'm sure it was not the advice that worked but his deep sense of the matter and the priestly grace needed. As far as I knew or heard, his humour was never consciously unkind.
“ He could enjoy a joke at his own expense. It was somehow thought at St Mary's that he would be a Sulpician, but as fa as I know it was without warrant. When he went to Maryknoll, I chaffed him with the remark, ‘ Well, your health wasn't rugged enough to be a Sulpician, so you want to go to the foreign missions. ’ He laughed heartily and attempted to tell me the facts. I declined ever to listen to his explanation, Which he would offer whenever we met through the years, saying I would stick to my version. This always amused him the more.
“ His letters and cards were always humorous. I did not receive many and wrote for less. I keep one Christmas card he wrote from Japan as a mmemento, typical of him and his humour. He wrote: “ The whole kingdom joins me in wishing you a Merry Christmas. You will be so surprised at the season's joy this brings, you will be wondering where you have been all these years. I spend my days learning Japanese language and my nights forgetting it... the Tower of Babel ’.
“ My esteem for Pat Byrne's character grew with the years.
As a seminarian he was friendly, modest, earnest-minded, and mature. He was not the type that would be popular nor would it occur to him to seek that. In mind and heart he saw and felt bigger and truer values. His class standing, although always high, was not particularly in his thoughts. He gave his best to his studies in a serious, manly way and according to his physical capacity, unfussed about the result. He was conscientious always, and his rangy, thinking mind and earnest spirit gave loyally and heartily what one expected of him. He was lighthearted but deeply in earnest, and straightforwardly emphatic when convinced.
“ His constant remembrance of his seminary days and friends was a characteristic trait. I saw little of him for many years, but on my return to Baltimore at the end of 1944, I saw him several times on his visits to the States. I certainly felt honoured that he would put himself out to visit me.
“ On his appointment as Papal Delegate to Korea and consecration as bishop, I confess I had not the heart to write him congratulations. Whether a premonition or not, I thought that it would be the blessed, but humanly speaking, unhappy culmination of a career that will make his name a blessed memory in Japan and Korea. That he made the choice he did was only what my appraisal of him would lead me to expect. God bless his memory in Maryknoll, and God grant many the inspiration to fellow his example. ”
Father Baisnée, one of Father Byrne's closest friends among the Sulpicians, described him still further. He remembered the young man sitting in the front row of his class, ready to recite if called upon, but rather reserved in his attitude. Father Baisnée first detected Pat Byrne's jovial character from an examination paper which Pat had handed in at the end of a term. It was lucidly written and illustrated with amusing drawings, a practice he continued in later years. He was equal to the best students in stating problems, formulating answers, and developing arguments, but he always used
his imagination to concretize what others were satisfied with treating in an abstract manner.
When Pat went over to Theology, he knew he could always turn to Father Baisnée for help for help in his studies or written preparations. When his health broke down in the winter of 1912, Father Baisnée visited him at St Agnes Hospital, and later at the old St Charles College. Pat spent the spring there, by himself, in a house that had escaped the fire which destroyed the college on St Patrick's Day, 1911. There, in solitude, he learned to accept God's will.
Father Baisnée, aware of Pat's unusual ability and his truly apostolic zeal, thought he would make an ideal Sulpician. He often advised him not to tarry on the way. One day an English missioner, a Father Wald, addressed the community. As he left the room after listening to a glowing picture of mission work in Australia, Pat turned to Father Baisnée and said, “ How can you want me to lock myself among books when there are such fields open for missionary work? ” Father Baisnée knew Pat had read the Life of Wilfrid, the layman who had taught theology in Cardinal Wiseman's seminary, so he answered, “ If there had been no Ward, there would be no Ward. To train missionary priests, it takes men who sacrifice the joys of active ministry and devote their lives to teaching and training future priests. ”
What sort of career would Pat Byrne have had had he joined the Sulpicians? It is an interesting speculation. He had all the qualities of an excellent professor: a clear mind, a wonderful gift for description, a humorous style that would keep a class interested, and the ability to make others think. But God had a different plan in mind.
Pat Byrne was rapidly approaching the priesthood when he become positive that he should join Maryknoll. His mother had died during seminary years, so that opposition was gone. He had always wanted to be a missioner, and the newly founded society was the answer to his prayers. It was time for him to make his move before he was ordained and assigned
to a parish in the Baltimore archdiocese. He approached Father Price during one of the priests visits. Father Price promised to plead his cause with Cardinal Gibbons, and to obtain his release from Baltimore.
An excerpt from a letter Father Price sent gives a picture of the favourable impression he had formed of the young man. He wrote Cardinal Gibbons:
“ Concerning Patrick Byrne of whom I wrote you a day or two ago, there was one point which I think it well to bring to your attention. It serves to show how highly the Sulpicians esteem him, and how well his spirit is fitted for such self-sacrificing work as this. It is that the Sulpicians have long hoped and prayed that he would join their society, and you know what that means.It is just such a spirit of which we have a crying need. ”
Cardinal Gibbons found it difficult to refuse Father Price anything. His Eminence agreed to the release of Patrick Byrne. It was decided that the letter should complete his studies at St Mary's, and then leave for Maryknoll after ordination.
Father Dyer, the rector of St Mary's, wrote the following to the Father price a month before Father Byrne's ordination: “ Mr Byrne is going along through the Retreat as quietly and calmly as possible. You are getting a rather first-class subject. I am glad that St Mary's can send you such a man ”.
On June 23, 1915, in the chapel of the Dominican College of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Patrick Byrne was obtained a priest by Archbishop Bonzano, then Apostolic Delegate to the United States. Seven days later Father Byrne was at Maryknoll, New York, ready to go to work. He had only one goal ー the foreign missions.