Thoughts for November 13 from Fr Willie Doyle

At the close of the retreat my soul is full of many emotions. God has been more than good to me, has given me great lights and wonderful graces. During the whole month my eyes have been opening more and more to the disorder of my past life. I have been simply amazed and astounded how I could possibly have lived the life I did, especially my years in college, such abuse of grace, such awful waste of time, neglect of opportunities of learning, of becoming holy, and above all the harm this careless tepid life has done others. I have realised how little I thought about committing sin and far less, of deliberate breaches of rule. Now, through God’s great mercy, I feel an intense hatred of such a life, and as if it would be impossible ever again to live so. I feel that indeed the retreat has worked a marvellous change in me. I feel I am not the same in my views, sentiments, and way of looking at things, that I am a different man. I have never felt as I do now after any other retreat before God must indeed have poured His grace abundantly into my soul, for it seems to me that a deep lasting impression has been made, which I trust will ever remain. My soul is in great peace. I feel as if at last I have given God all He wanted from me during so many years by making the resolutions which I have made; that I could now die content, for at last I have really begun to try and serve the good God with all my heart. I feel also a great longing to love Jesus very, very much, to draw very close to His Sacred Heart, and to be ever united to Him, always thinking of Him and praying. I long ardently to do something now to make up for my neglect in the past — to give myself heart and soul to the service of Cod, to toil for Him, to wear myself out for Him. I wish to be able never to seek rest or amusement outside of what obedience imposes, so that every moment may be spent for Jesus. I have not a moment to lose, I cannot afford to refuse Him a single sacrifice if I wish to do anything for Jesus and become a saint before I die. If I go to the Congo, I certainly shall not live long. In any case can I promise myself even one day more? I must try to look upon this day as my last on earth and do all I can and surfer all I can for these few hours. It is not a question of keeping up full steam for years, but only for to-day.

If I am faithful to the resolution of “doing all things perfectly,” I shall effectually cut away the numerous faults in all my actions. By working hard at the Third Degree I shall best correct those things to which my attention has been drawn. I know all this is going to cost me much, that I shall have a fierce battle to fight with the devil and myself. But I begin with great hope and confidence, for since Jesus has inspired me to make these resolutions and urged me on till I did so, His grace will not be anting to aid me at every step.

In the name of God, then, I enter upon the Narrow Path which leads to sanctity, walking bravely on in imitation of my Jesus Who is by my side carrying His cross. To imitate Him and make my life resemble His in some small degree, will be my life’s work, that so I may be worthy to die for Him.

Thank You, O my God, for all the graces of this retreat, above all for bringing me at last to Your sacred feet. Grant me grace to keep these resolutions and never to forget my determination to strive might and main to become a saint.

13 Nov., 1907.

COMMENT: The retreat of 1907 had a profound effect on Fr Doyle. In this passage he summarises his reflections as the retreat came to an end 112 years ago today. Despite the impression given in his personal notes, Fr Doyle did not live a bad life prior to this retreat, although the experience of the retreat did highlight for him the areas of his life where he lacked fervour and dedication.

Many people have radically reformed their lives following the experience of a retreat, and especially after the experience of the Spiritual Exercises. In the case of Fr Doyle it is clear that a radical deepening of his commitment to Christ took place.

Perhaps this is a good occasion to make a resolution to attend a retreat at some stage this year.

Today is also the feast of all the saints of the Benedictine Order, or more specifically, the feast of all the saints who lived under the Rule of St Benedict. This is an extremely extensive list. I think it is probably the case that there are more Benedictine saints than from any other order, although perhaps that is not too surprising since the order has been around for many centuries longer than others have! Let us be thankful today for all of those saints who, inspired by St Benedict, evangelised the West and preserved learning and culture in a dark period of history, not too unlike our own in some respects. May we follow their example, especially by incorporating Fr Doyle’s methodology of faithfulness in the little things of life.

Thoughts for November 12 from Fr Willie Doyle

 

Lord, You know I love You less than any others, but I long and desire to love You more than all the rest. Take my heart, dear Lord, and hide it in Your own, so that I may only love what You love and desire what You desire. May I find no pleasure in the things of this world, its pleasures and amusement; but may my one delight be in thinking of You, working for You, loving You and staying in Your sweet presence before the Tabernacle. Why do You want my love, dear Jesus, and why have You left me no rest all these years till I gave You at last my poor heart to love You, and You alone? This ceaseless pleading for my love fills me with hope and confidence that, sinful as my life has been in the past, You have forgiven and forgotten it all.

Thanks a million times, dearest Jesus, for all Your goodness. I will love and serve You now till death. Amen.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote this prayer in his notes as he reached the end of his long retreat in 1907. It’s simple and direct sentiments require no elaboration.

11 November – 101 years since the end of World War 1

101 years ago today the First World War came to an end. It was a dreadful war fuelled by stubbornness and nationalism. It was the first industrial war; millions were killed, and many more millions were scarred and wounded. As Fr Doyle once wrote:

This is a sad, sad war, of which you at home have but the faintest idea. May the good God end it soon.

Yet sanctity still shines through in the midst of the horrors. Apart from the case of Fr Doyle, the heroic examples of Blessed Rupert Mayer SJ and of Blessed Charles of Austria, both on the “other side,” also come to mind. Even in the midst of horror and bloodshed, the Holy Spirit continues to inspire many to acts of heroism and sanctity.

Traditionally this is a day on which all those who have died in war are remembered. It is thus a special day for remembering Fr Doyle and his own special sacrifice in giving up all worldly comforts, and laying down his own life, in order to bring comfort and the sacraments to those dying on the field of battle. He was dedicated to dying soldiers, and lost his own life while rushing into danger to assist them. In remembering Fr Doyle, it is thus right that we remember and pray for those for whom he offered his own life.

It is also a day in which we can talk to others about Fr Doyle, and seek to spread awareness of his life, and devotion to him.

For anyone interested in Fr Doyle’s military services, there is no better source than Carole Hope’s Worshipper and Worshipped. It is a definitive account of Fr Doyle’s life in the war, and can be found herehttps://www.amazon.com/Worshipper-Worshipped-Across-Chaplain-1915-1917/dp/1908336862

Thoughts for November 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

From the Tabernacle Jesus seems to say, “Stay with Me for it is towards evening and the day is now far spent”. This should urge me to come to visit Him often.

If my resurrection is a real one and is to produce fruit, it must be external, so that all may see I am not the same man, that my life is changed in Christ.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these notes while contemplating the scene in which the disciples encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus during the 4th week of the Spiritual Exercises in 1907. He poses a question that we may fruitfully ask ourselves – can people perceive that my life has been changed in Christ? Or, as St Josemaria Escriva once put it:

How I wish your bearing and conversation were such that, on seeing or hearing you, people would say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.

10 November 1914: Fr Doyle volunteers as a military chaplain

My offering myself as a war chaplain to the Provincial has had a wonderful effect on me. I long to go and shed my blood for Jesus, and, if He wills it, to die a martyr of charity. The thought that at any moment I may be called to the Front, perhaps to die, has roused a great desire to do all I can while I have life. I feel great strength to make any sacrifice and little difficulty in doing so. I may not have long now to prove my love for Jesus. 

Fr Doyle wrote these words on November 10 1914. As it happened he had to wait almost exactly a year before being called up as chaplain, and he had almost three years of life left. Fr Doyle had a great desire to do all he could for God and man while he had life, and he crammed much into his remaining years of life. Once again he gives an example we can all learn something from.  

Thoughts for 10 November from Fr Willie Doyle

 

The reason I find it so hard to love God, why I have so little affection for Him, is because of my attachment to venial sin and my constant deliberate imperfections. I have, as it were, been trying to run with an immense weight round my feet; I have tried to reach the unitive way without passing through the purgative, to jump to the top of the ladder without climbing up the steps; so that after all these years I am still as barren of real love of God as when first I entered religion. No, I must work earnestly now to remove the very shadow of sin from my life, then to imitate the humble suffering life of Jesus and thus win His love.

I look upon it as a great grace that in spite of my tepid life Jesus has given me an ardent desire to love Him. I long eagerly to love my Jesus passionately, with an intense ardent love such as the saints had; and yet I remain cold and indifferent with little zeal for His glory.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these words 112 years ago today, during the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises.

Back then, reasonably educated Catholics would have understood what Fr Doyle referred to when he wrote about the unitive and purgative way; we hear much less about this idea today than in the past, but it remains a fundamentally important aspect of Catholic spirituality. The idea is that we are called to union with God, not just in heaven, but also in a sense in this life as well. However, we cannot “jump to the top of the ladder without climbing up the steps”; thus we must pass through the purgative and illuminative way first. The first stage involves the fight against mortal and deliberate venial sin, and necessitates the development of personal discipline. This is precisely why Fr Doyle is such a great example for us. His personal notes and reflections, detailed so well in Alfred O’Rahilly’s biography (which is available by clicking on the link in the right hand column) provide a tremendously detailed tactical guide for the spiritual life. Certainly there are aspects of Fr Doyle’s life that should not be copied by others – he received many great graces and much was asked of him. But in many other respects his life and teaching is of very great relevance for us today, especially with respect to performing our duties with love and making small penitential sacrifices.

Fr Doyle’s simple spiritual tactics are an excellent guide to help us climb the ladder of the spiritual life.

Thoughts for November 9 from Fr Willie Doyle

 

Our Lord is displeased only when He sees no attempt made to get rid of imperfections which, when deliberate, clog the soul and chain it to the earth. But He often purposely does not give the victory over them in order to increase our opportunities of meriting. Make an act of humility and sorrow after failure, and then never a thought more about it.

He sees what a “tiny little child” you are, and how useless even your greatest efforts are to accomplish the gigantic work of making a saint. But this longing, this stretching out of baby hands for His love, pleases Him beyond measure; and one day He will stoop down and catch you up with infinite tenderness in His divine arms and raise you to heights of sanctity you little dream of now.

COMMENT: We have no notes from the Spiritual Exercises from 1907 for today, so we will take a break from the Spiritual Exercises with a gentle reflection from Fr Doyle on spiritual childhood. One might be forgiven for considering Fr Doyle to be a rather austere character if all one had to go on were his own personal retreat notes which we have been considering here for a few weeks. Yes, he was personally tough, or more accurately, he was tough on himself. However, he always was unfailing gentle on others.

We must correspond to the graces God gives us and to His call. Fr Doyle received many graces, and was called to offer great sacrifices. This is not the path that everyone – or even most people – are called to walk.

Ultimately, we are all children in the spiritual life. Just as a father delights to see his child learn to crawl and walk and mumble some words, so too God is delighted with our feeble efforts to grow and advance and pray, so long as we persevere and try our best. Yes, the day may come when we are expected to display greater personal courage and strength, but we must first inevitably learn to walk, holding God’s hand and trusting in His strength.