Thoughts for October 25 from Fr Willie Doyle

“He chose want of all things, suffering and a hard comfortless life”

Following straight on the heels of the meditations on the Two Standards and the Three Classes of Men, we will today consider the Three Kinds of Humility. This is even tougher than the previous meditations!

Once again, we must remember that we are not necessarily expected to have the third degree of humility; or at least not just yet. As Ignatius says, the First Degree is necessary for salvation; he does not say this about the other two. Possessing the Third Degreee of Humility and detachment implies heroic sanctity and union with God. After all, those with the Second Degree of Humility seem to be very holy to us, and if the truth is told we are likely to consider those with even the First Degree to be pretty good people as well. But then again, we are to consider the issue from the standard of Christ and not our own, flawed standard. We may never reach this level of holiness, but we should start out on the road towards it, little by little, even if it seems frightening to us at first.

Here is the text of St Ignatius:

First Humility. The first manner of Humility is necessary for eternal salvation; namely, that I so lower and so humble myself, as much as is possible to me, that in everything I obey the law of God, so that, even if they made me lord of all the created things in this world, nor for my own temporal life, I would not consent to breaking a Commandment, whether Divine or human, which binds me under mortal sin.

Second Humility. The second is more perfect Humility than the first; namely, if I find myself at such a stage that I do not want, and feel no inclination to have, riches rather than poverty, to want honor rather than dishonor, to desire a long rather than a short life – provided only in each alternative I would promote equally the service of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul; and so not for all creation, nor because they would take away my life, would I consent to committing a venial sin.

Third Humility. The third is most perfect Humility; namely, when – presuming the first and second degree are already attained, and the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty being equally served – in order to imitate and be more actually like Christ our Lord, I want and choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, opprobrium with Christ replete with it rather than honors; and to desire to be rated as worthless and a fool for Christ, Who first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world.

Fr Doyle made this meditation 106 years ago today, at midnight on October 25, 1907. In the old liturgical calendar October 25 was the feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque to whom Fr Doyle was especially devoted. This is why he refers to her so much in these reflections. Note also that St Margaret Mary was canonised in 1920 and thus he refers to her as Blessed Margaret Mary.

Fr Doyle’s words today are so direct that there will be no need for comments afterwards.

I have now reached the great meditation, the crucial point, of the retreat. God has been very good to me in enlightening my mind to see His will and in filling my heart with a most ardent desire to do it cost what it may. Jesus, dear Jesus, I want to please You, to do exactly what You want of me, to give all generously this time without any reserve, and never to go back on my resolution. In this spirit I made the midnight meditation on October 25th, the Feast of Blessed. Margaret Mary. I saw clearly what I knew years ago but would not admit: that God is asking from me the practice of the Third Degree in all its perfection as far as I am capable. I cannot deny it or shut my eyes to this truth any longer. Should I not be grateful to the good God for choosing me for such a life, since it will be all the work of His grace and not my own doing? God wants me to put perfection sanctity before me and to “go straight” for that, for holiness. He wants me not to be content with the ordinary good life of the average religious, but to aim at something higher, nobler, more worthy of Him. He wants me to make ceaseless war on myself, my passions, inclinations, habits; to smash and break down my own will, to mortify it in all things so that it may be free for His grace to act upon; in a word, to aim at the perfection of the Third Degree and all that that means, not for one day or month or a year, but for the rest of my life, faithfully, unceasingly, constantly, without rest or intermission. To do this I must strive to cut away all comfort in my life, choose that which is “hard,” go against my natural inclination, and give up the easy self-indulgent life I have hitherto led. The motive for this is the immense, deep, real love of the Heart of Jesus for me, His example which He wants me to follow, for He chose want of all things, suffering and a hard comfortless life, and by doing the same I imitate Him and become more and more like to Him. Can I do this for five, ten, twenty years – lead a crucified life so long? Jesus does not ask that, but only that I do so for this day so quickly passed and with it the recollection of the little suffering and mortifications endured once over, all is over, but the eternal reward remains.

My Jesus, I feel that at last You have conquered, Your love has conquered; and last night, kneeling before the image of Your Sacred Heart, I promised You to begin this new life, to begin at last to serve You as You urged me to do during the past sixteen years. I made my promise, knowing well my weakness, but trusting in Your all-powerful grace to do what seems almost impossible to my cowardly nature. Now I have begun. I promise You, sweet Jesus, to serve You perfectly with all the fervour of my soul, aiming at the Third Degree in its perfection. I make this offering through the hands of Blessed. Margaret Mary. Amen.

Tronchiennes, Oct. 25th, 1907. Feast of Blessed Margaret Mary.

Thoughts for October 24 from Fr Willie Doyle

We come now to one of the other great moments of the Spiritual Exercises – the Meditation on the Three Classes of Men. This is tough! It is likely that most of us would be delighted to belong to the second class of men. After all, the Second Class seem quite reasonable to us! Yet there are always further levels of sanctity to which we can aspire.

Here is the text from St Ignatius. When reading this, we should remember that 10,000 ducats is a vast sum of money, and that the men did not acquire the money dishonestly, although they did not acquire it only for the love and glory of God.

Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.

First Prelude. The first Prelude is the narrative, which is of three classes of men, and each one of them has acquired ten thousand ducats, but not entirely as they should have – for the love of God. They all want to save themselves and find in peace God our Lord, ridding themselves of the burden arising from their attachment to the sum acquired, which impedes the attainment of this end.

Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see myself, how I stand before God our Lord and all His Saints, to desire and know what is more pleasing to His Divine Goodness.

Third Prelude. The third, to ask for what I want. Here it will be to ask grace to choose what is more to the glory of His Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.

First Class. The first Class would want to rid themselves of the attachment which they have to the thing acquired, in order to find in peace God our Lord, and be able to save themselves, but the hour of death comes, and they have not made use of any means.

Second Class. The second class want to rid themselves of the attachment, but they wish to do so in such a way that they can keep the thing acquired want so to rid themselves of it as to remain with the thing acquired, so that God is to come to what they desire and they do not decide to give up the sum acquired, even though this would be the better way for them.

Third Class. The third class want to rid themselves of the attachment, but want to do so in such a way that they desire neither to retain nor to relinquish the sum acquired. They seek only to will and not will as God our Lord inspires them and as seems better for the service and praise of His Divine Majesty. Meanwhile they will strive to conduct themselves as if every attachment to the thing had been broken. They will make efforts either to want that, nor anything else, unless the service of God our Lord alone moves them to do so. As a result the desire of being better able to serve God our Lord will be the cause of their accepting anything or relinquishing it.

Three Colloquies. I will make the same three Colloquies which were made in the Contemplation preceding, on the Two Standards.

Note. It is to be noted that when we feel a tendency or repugnance against actual poverty, when we are not indifferent to poverty or riches, it is very helpful, in order to crush such disordered tendency, to ask in the Colloquies (although it be against the flesh) that the Lord should choose one to actual poverty, and that one wants, asks and begs it, if only it be the service and praise of His Divine Goodness.

Here are Fr Doyle’s reflections on this meditation:

It is easy for me to test my love for Jesus. Do I love what He loved and came down from heaven to find suffering, humiliation, contempt, want of all things, inconveniences, hunger, weariness, cold? The more I seek for and embrace these things, the nearer am I drawing to Jesus and the deeper is my love for Him. While praying for light to know what God wants from me in the matter of mortifying my appetite, a voice seemed to say: “There are other things besides food in which you can be generous with Me, other hard things which I want you to do.” I thought of all the secret self-denial contained in constant hard work, not giving up when a bit tired, not yielding to desire for sleep, not running off to bed if a bit unwell, bearing little sufferings without relief, cold and heat without complaint, and, above all, the constant never-ending mortification to do each action perfectly. This light has given me a good deal of consolation, for I see I can do much for Jesus that is hard without being singular or departing from common life.

It seems to me that Jesus is asking from me a life in which I am to make war upon “comfortableness” as far as possible, a life without comfort, even that which is allowed by the rule.

The example of men of the Third Class in the world should shame me. What determination, what prolonged effort, what deadly earnestness, in the man who has determined to succeed in his profession! No sacrifice is too great for him, he wants to succeed, he will succeed. My desire, so far, to be a saint is only the desire of the man of the First Class. It gratifies my pride, but I make no real progress in perfection I do not really will it.

The love of Jesus makes the impossible easy and sweet.

COMMENT: The meditation on the three classes of men presents us with a very hard challenge. Perhaps there are few who can readily embrace the way of the third class. This is not surprising, as the approach of the third class of men is one of great sanctity. Our fear of being like the third class should not discourage us. Just as one must be extremely fit to run a marathon, one must have arrived at some degree of holiness before the approach of the third class seems easy or inviting. The important thing is that we keep going forward, and striving to be generous with God, even if we do not as of yet possess that generosity.

Over time, Fr Doyle seems to have become a man of the Third Class. He was open to God’s will, whatever that might be – the mission in the Congo, the trenches of World War 1, or even to minister in a leper colony – Fr Doyle apparently told some priests that if he survived the war he wished to go and work among the lepers. We may not yet have the detachment for such great acts, but we can all practice detachment in the little things in our daily lives.

Thoughts for October 23 from Fr Willie Doyle

We come today to the famous meditation on the Two Standards. This is one of the high points of the Spiritual Exercises. St Ignatius, the soldier, presents before us the battle between Christ and Satan. We must decide who we will follow. Here is St Ignatius’ text. It is worth paying particular attention to the tactics of the enemy, how he leaves no city or state of life unmolested, and how he first tries to snare our souls…

MEDITATION ON TWO STANDARDS

The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other of Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.

Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.

First Prelude. The First Prelude is the narrative. It will be here how Christ calls and wants all under His standard; and Lucifer, on the contrary, under his.

Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see a great field of all that region of Jerusalem, where the supreme Commander-in-chief of the good is Christ our Lord; another field in the region of Babylon, where the chief of the enemy is Lucifer.

Third Prelude. The third, to ask for what I want: and it will be here to ask for knowledge of the deceits of the bad chief and help to guard myself against them, and for knowledge of the true life which the supreme and true Captain shows and grace to imitate Him.

First Point. The first Point is to imagine as if the chief of all the enemy seated himself in that great field of Babylon, as in a great chair of fire and smoke, in shape horrible and terrifying.

Second Point. The second, to consider how he issues a summons to innumerable demons and how he scatters them, some to one city and others to another, and so through all the world, not omitting any provinces, places, states, nor any persons in particular.

Third Point. The third, to consider the discourse which he makes them, and how he tells them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to tempt with a longing for riches–as he is accustomed to do in most cases – that men may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then to vast pride. So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second, that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he draws on to all the other vices.

So, on the contrary, one has to imagine as to the supreme and true Captain, Who is Christ our Lord.

First Point. The first Point is to consider how Christ our Lord puts Himself in a great field of that region of Jerusalem, in lowly place, beautiful and attractive.

Second Point. The second, to consider how the Lord of all the world chooses so many persons – Apostles, Disciples, etc.,- and sends them through all the world spreading His sacred doctrine through all states and conditions of persons.

Third Point. The third, to consider the discourse which Christ our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this expedition, recommending them to want to help all, by bringing them first to the highest spiritual poverty, and – if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose them – no less to actual poverty; the second is to be of contumely and contempt; because from these two things humility follows. So that there are to be three steps; the first, poverty against riches; the second, contumely or contempt against worldly honor; the third, humility against pride. And from these three steps let them induce to all the other virtues.

First Colloquy. One Colloquy to Our Lady, that she may get me grace from Her Son and Lord that I may be received under His standard; and first in the highest spiritual poverty, and – if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose and receive me – not less in actual poverty; second, in suffering contumely and injuries, to imitate Him more in them, if only I can suffer them without the sin of any person, or displeasure of His Divine Majesty; and with that a Hail Mary.

Second Colloquy. I will ask the same of the Son, that He may get it for me of the Father; and with that say the Soul of Christ.

Third Colloquy. I will ask the same of the Father, that He may grant it to me; and say an Our Father.

And here are Fr Doyle’s reflections on this meditation:

My victory over myself, my inclinations, is a victory won for the cause of Jesus. I have been a deserter to the camp of Satan, a traitor; but now my King has pardoned me and received me back. How am I going to show my gratitude and make up for the past which I cannot recall the time lost, duties omitted or done without love or fervour, little sacrifices refused, my many, many sins? Shall I not be busy at every hour, fighting for my King, gaining victory after victory over the enemy, over myself? My Jesus, help me now to work for You, to slave for You, to fight for You, and then to die for You!

COMMENT: If Fr Doyle felt that he was a deserter and traitor, what can be said of us? This reflection on our own sinfulness and inconsistency should not encourage us to scruples or discouragement, but rather to amend our lives and busily spend every moment fighting for our King.

The example of Fr Doyle, a great tactician of the spiritual life, in fulfilling our duties well and performing little acts of love for God shows us the path we should follow.

October 22: Feast of St John Paul II

St John Paul II
St John Paul II

When it was not some infirmity or other than caused him to experience pain, it was he himself who inflicted discomfort and mortification on his own body. Aside from the prescribed fasting, which he followed with great rigour, especially during Lent, when he reduced his nourishment to one complete meal per day, he also abstained from food before ordaining priests and bishops. And it was not infrequent for him to spend nights lying on the bare floor. His housekeeper in Cracow realised it, even though the archbishop crumpled his bedclothes to conceal it. But he did more. As a number of members of his closest entourage heard with their own ears, in Poland and the Vatican, Karol Wojytla flagellated himself. In his bedroom closet, among his cassocks, hanging from a hook was an unusual trouser belt that he used as a whip and always brought to Castel Gandolfo.

Such is the testimony of Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Postulator for the cause of canonisation of St John Paul II. This is the beloved and joyful pope who attracted so many young people. Yet he lived a rigorous life of penance. So rigorous, in fact, that others heard him flagellating himself. And he used an unusual trouser belt. It’s not clear why it was unusual. Was it modified in some way to make it more painful? In what other way would it be unusual?

Fr Doyle’s life of penance may not be something we are called to imitate in its totality today, but it was entirely in conformity with the tradition of the Church, and is mirrored in the lives and teachings of the saints, including the joyful and phenomenally popular St John Paul II.

It would be bizarre for anybody to over-emphasise the role of physical penance in the life of St John Paul II, and to reduce his personality to one aspect of his spiritual life. So, too, those who allow Fr Doyle’s penance to loom too large in their memory of him do him a disservice, and foster an unbalanced image of a very human and very self-sacrificing war hero. Fr Doyle’s penances are, sadly, a stumbling block for some people. But they should really present no difficulty to us, for his practice in this regard has a precedent in the lives of many of the most popular of saints across history.

Thoughts for October 22 from Fr Willie Doyle

Fr Doyle wrote the following notes on the “hidden life” of Jesus as a young boy and man in Nazareth. These reflections from the second week of the Spiritual Exercises of 1907  are so direct and readily applicable to our own lives that they do not require any further comment or elaboration.

During the reflection on the Hidden Life I got a light that here was something in which I could easily imitate our Lord and make my life resemble His. I felt a strong impulse to resolve to take up as one of the chief objects of my life the exact and thorough performance of each duty, trying to do it as Jesus would have done, with the same pure intention, exquisite exactness and fervour. To copy in all my actions walking, eating, praying Jesus, my model in the little house of Nazareth. This light was sudden, clear and strong. To do this perfectly will require constant, unflagging fervour. Will not this be part of my “hard life”?

I should examine all my actions, taking Jesus as my model and example. What a vast difference between my prayer and His; between my use of time, my way of speaking, walking, dealing with others, etc., and that of the child Jesus! If I could only keep Him before my eyes always, my life would be far different from what it has been.

Each fresh meditation on the life of our Lord impresses on me more and more the necessity of conforming my life to His in every detail, if I wish to please Him and become holy. To do something great and heroic may never come, but I can make my life heroic by faithfully and daily putting my best effort into each duty as it comes round. It seems to me I have failed to keep my resolutions because I have not acted from the motive of the love of God. Mortification, prayer, hard work, become sweet when done for the love of Jesus.

Thoughts for October 21 from Fr Willie Doyle

As part of the Second week, St Ignatius recommends a meditation on the early life of Christ. Here are his points for meditation on the Flight to Egypt.

OF THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT

First Point. First: Herod wanted to kill the Child Jesus, and so killed the Innocents, and before their death the Angel warned Joseph to fly into Egypt: “Arise and take the Child and His Mother, and fly to Egypt.”

Second Point. Second: He departed for Egypt. “Who arising by night departed to Egypt.”

Third Point. Third: He was there until the death of Herod.

Here are Fr Doyle’s reflections on this meditation:

Great as was the poverty of Jesus in the cave at Bethlehem, it was nothing compared to His destitution during the Flight into Egypt. Again this was voluntary and chosen and borne for my sake.

I contrast the obedience of St. Joseph with my obedience. His so prompt, unquestioning, uncomplaining, perfect; mine given so grudgingly, perhaps exterior, but not interior conformity with the will of the Superior. I realise my faults in this matter, and for the future will try to practise the most perfect obedience, even and especially in little things. “The obedient man will speak of victory.” (Proverbs 21, 28.)

COMMENT: Most lay people do not live under “obedience” in the strict sense of the term. But we all have obligations and duties that flow from our place in the world. Holiness is not a nice, abstract idea. It is based on the hard reality of fulfilling our everyday duties, especially when we don’t want to do them. In both Fr Doyle and St Joseph we have the examples of strong, but humble, men who consistently put others before them in the fulfilment of their vocation.

Thoughts for October 20 from Fr Willie Doyle

Nativity

As part of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, retreatants meditate on the early life of Christ. One of these meditations is on the Nativity. Here is the text of St Ignatius:

THE SECOND CONTEMPLATION IS ON THE NATIVITY

Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.

First Prelude. The first Prelude is the narrative and it will be here how Our Lady went forth from Nazareth, about nine months with child, as can be piously meditated, seated on an ass, and accompanied by Joseph and a maid, taking an ox, to go to Bethlehem to pay the tribute which Caesar imposed on all those lands.

Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see with the sight of the imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem; considering the length and the breadth, and whether such road is level or through valleys or over hills; likewise looking at the place or cave of the Nativity, how large, how small, how low, how high, and how it was prepared.

Third Prelude. The third will be the same, and in the same form, as in the preceding Contemplation.

First Point. The first Point is to see the persons; that is, to see Our Lady and Joseph and the maid, and, after His Birth, the Child Jesus, I making myself a poor creature and a wretch of an unworthy slave, looking at them and serving them in their needs, with all possible respect and reverence, as if I found myself present; and then to reflect on myself in order to draw some profit.

Second Point. The second, to look, mark and contemplate what they are saying, and, reflecting on myself, to draw some profit.

Third Point. The third, to look and consider what they are doing, as going a journey and laboring, that the Lord may be born in the greatest poverty; and as a termination of so many labors–of hunger, of thirst, of heat and of cold, of injuries and affronts–that He may die on the Cross; and all this for me: then reflecting, to draw some spiritual profit.

Colloquy. I will finish with a Colloquy as in the preceding Contemplation, and with an Our Father.

Here are Fr Doyle’s notes on this meditation:

What impressed me most in the meditation on the Nativity was the thought that Jesus could have been born in wealth and luxury, or at least with the ordinary comforts of life, but He chose all that was hard, unpleasant and uncomfortable.

This He did for me, to show me the life I must lead for Him. If I want to be with Christ, I must lead the life of Christ, and in that life there was little of what was pleasing to nature. I think I have been following Christ, yet how pleasant and comfortable my life has always been ever avoiding cold, hunger, hard work, disagreeable things, humiliations, etc. My Jesus, You are speaking to my heart

now. I cannot mistake Your voice or hide from myself what You want from me and what my future life should be. Help me for I am weak and cowardly.

By entering religion and taking my vows I have given myself over absolutely to God and His service. He, therefore, has a right to be served in the way He wishes. If thenHe asks me to enter on a hard, mortified life and spend myself working for Him, how can I resist His will and desire? “Oh my God, make me a saint, and I consent to suffer all You ask for the rest of my life.” What is God asking from me now? Shall I go back on that offering?

COMMENT: To be a saint does not necessarily mean that we must consciously deny ourselves ALL lawful pleasures and to ALWAYS seek hard and disagreeable things. However, it is also true that there are some who were called to walk that path, and Fr Doyle was one of them. At the very least, we must be open to what God wants, and detached from our own will in these matters. That is of course easier said than done. However, we will receive the grace we need if we seek the help of Mary and St Joseph, who willingly shared the deprivation and hardship of the baby Jesus in order to fulfil their own vocation.

A second point to consider today is that Christ voluntarily chose to be born in poverty. He chose to make Himself like us in all things but sin. There is no hardship or problem that Jesus does not understand.