Try to grasp the fact – a very hard thing to do – that in the spiritual life ‘feelings’ count for nothing, that they are no indication of our real state; generally speaking they are just the opposite., . . You are perfectly right when you say that the first thing to do is ‘to give up your own will.’ Why not aim at making God’s will alone yours in every detail of life, so that you would never desire or wish for anything except what He willed, and look on every detail as coming from His hand, as it does? Such a one is never ‘put out’ by anything — bad weather, unpleasant work, annoying incidents, they are all His doing and His sweet will. Try it, though it means high perfection.
COMMENT: It is clear from the Fr Doyle’s notes that he had absolutely no natural desire for the hard life that he lead. His diary is so refreshingly honest – he wanted to eat cakes, he wanted sugar in his tea, he wanted more sleep, he didn’t want to pray. He was often tired and sick. Yet he put aside his feelings, and exerted his will and begged God for His grace. Fr Doyle is an excellent role model for us when we don’t feel like doing what we know deep down we should do.
“No evil shall come upon you”, (Jerem. 23. 17). It is a consoling thought that God watches over us with unceasing care; that no matter where we may be – alone in our humble cell or passing through the crowded streets of the feverish panting city – the hand of God is over us and sheltering us from a thousand unknown dangers, guiding us safely along the path of life. Wicked men may plot evil things against us, all the hellish horde may rage in fury round us, but harm us they cannot without His consent who directs all things for His own wise ends.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle certainly personified this tremendous trust in God throughout his own adventurous life. But we also see this abandonment to, and trust in, Divine providence in the lives of all the saints, and none more so than the great Thomas More whose feast is today.
There is something quite fascinating about lay saints. There are obviously many great saints who were priests or members of religious orders, but then their entire lives – its structure and timetable and relative freedom from worldly cares – more readily orient that life towards sanctity. Yes, it takes much effort, and grace, for religious to reach heroic sanctity, but at least the external form and support of religious life is designed to do this. There are few such obvious supports for lay people. This is why the many new lay movements and organisations of different types and spiritualities are a great assistance as they provide structure and support for holiness for those who must seek that holiness in the midst of daily troubles and distractions.
St Thomas More himself faced many obstacles to sanctity. He was the head of a large household and one of the most powerful men in one of the most powerful countries in the world. In addition to his extensive legal, political and scholarly pursuits (any one of which would have made for a very complete life), St Thomas was a real family man who took the education of his children (and his daughters!) very seriously. He was renowned for his cheerfulness and for the depth of his spiritual life. It is said that he went to bed at 9pm and arose at 2am every morning, spending several hours in prayer before setting off for his busy public engagements at dawn. He was also known for his asceticism, and wore a hairshirt under his robes. He was a third order Franciscan and, due to his relationship with the Charterhouse, was probably the equivalent of what we would today regard as a Benedictine oblate.
When those around him compromised in order to maintain the favour of the King, St Thomas remained steadfast, and gave up everything to remain faithful to the Church. He knew the truth of Fr Doyle’s quote today – God watches over us with care no matter where we may be and no matter whether we remain powerful and respected or whether we end up in prison awaiting death simply because we upset the powers that be. As St Thomas put it himself:
Every tribulation which ever comes our way either is sent to be medicinal, if we will take it as such, or may become medicinal, if we will make it such, or is better than medicinal, unless we forsake it.
Let us pray today that we too may have faith in God’s paternal care for us; let us pray also for our political leaders, that they remain faithful to, and uphold, the natural law. St Thomas faced death for defending the Faith and the nature of marriage. Let us pray for political leaders, that they may always have the courage to do what is right.
Today is also the feast of the heroic bishop and martyr St John Fisher. Let us pray to him for our bishops, that they will have strength when the time of trial comes.
Jesus told me today that the work of regeneration and sanctification is to be done by leading souls to Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these notes in his diary on June 21, 1917, slightly less than two months before his death. Was this based on an actual vision or a locution or just a simply inspiration? We do not know, but ultimately it does not matter for the truth of what Fr Doyle writes is plain for us to see.
Today is also the feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga, a young Jesuit who died at the age of 23 in 1591. St Aloysius was – like pretty much every saint – deeply devoted to the Eucharist. He begged the Lord that he would die within the Octave of Corpus Christi and received his first Holy Communion from the great St Charles Borromeo.
Let us pray to St Aloysius that we may acquire some small taste of the devotion that both he and Fr Doyle both had for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Sunday and Monday last were days of wonderful grace for me, as if the Hunter of souls had run His quarry down and so surrounded it with the coils of His love that all escape was impossible. Alas! Does he not well know how that foolish hare will break loose and escape again so soon, spoiling all the plans of the patient Hunter. Still Jesus cannot pass close to the soul without leaving some lasting impression. I cannot but feel that the light he has given me must leave its mark behind, and that I cannot be quite the same again without an awful abuse of grace.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these words in his diary 106 years ago today, on June 20 1912.
Fr Doyle often spoke about the notion of abusing God’s grace. It is not something we hear much about today. In essence, he means that we shall have to give an account of all that God has given us. Everything we have is a gift of God. But God is entitled to a return on that gift; He expects us in some way to use the talents and graces that He has given us to good effect – to give glory to Him and to save souls. Yet, how often do we fail to wisely “invest” those talents that he has given to us…
One of the most frightening lines in the Gospel is found in Chapter 11 of St Matthew’s Gospel. It is easy to overlook it and its significance for us. Speaking of the town of Capernaum, Jesus says:
If the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgement for Sodom than for you.
In other words, those who never received the grace of faith, even though their sins are greater, will receive a lesser punishment than those who have had the faith revealed to them, but whose sins are smaller. These are stunning words that all who consider themselves to be “practising Catholics” need to carefully reflect on. We abuse the graces of God to our peril!
One of the great gifts that God has given us is the gift of faith. Here in Ireland, until very recently, the Catholic Faith was held in high esteem. Yet, largely due to internal corruption, many have now abandoned Christ and His Church, often without ever knowing much about it at all.
Today in Ireland we celebrate the feast of the Irish martyrs – 17 men and women who lost their lives because of their faith in the late 1500′s and early 1600′s and who were beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II in 1992. Whatever crisis of aggressive secularism we now face in Ireland, we are at least not losing our lives for our faith. Yes, we may be belittled, we may have our sanity or our decency questioned. We may even lose out financially or in our careers due to a subtle discrimination against those of faith. In a sense, this is also a persecution, but a bloodless, psychological one. The Irish martyrs remind us of what our ancestors suffered to preserve the faith in Ireland. From this small land, many missionaries went out to evangelise the new world, especially in Africa, America and Australia. These 17, plus the hundreds of other unrecognised martyrs, and the other unknown multitudes who suffered in other ways, have played a significant role in the evangelisation of the English speaking world by preserving the faith for future generations. How well are we doing in preserving the faith for future generations? Have we abused this gift that God has given to us?
During the homily for the beatification of these martyrs, St John Paul said:
We admire them for their personal courage. We thank them for the example of their fidelity in difficult circumstances, a fidelity which is more than an example: it is a heritage of the Irish people and a responsibility to be lived up to in every age.
Today is a day on which Irish people could well reflect on whether we have fully lived up to the responsibility of following the fidelity of these martyrs.
Today is a day of remembering these heroic men and women, and being thankful for their sacrifice. It is also a day on which those of us in Ireland might well examine our consciences, myself included. What is to happen with these 17 Irish martyrs? Is there any interest in having them canonised? Is there any attempt to promote devotion to them and learn from their examples? Do we pray through their intercession for miracles? Are we happy that they, and the hundreds of others who could be beatified, are largely forgotten?
The trailer for the EWTN docudrama Bravery Under Fire is now available. The programme will be aired on EWTN in August and again in November. Congratulations to Campbell Miller and all others who were involved in the production of this programme which is so important in creating awareness about Fr Doyle.
Please share and spread the news, so that more people can learn about Fr Doyle’s physical and spiritual bravery under fire!
The Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy has done crucial work in creating more awareness about the role of the Irish in World War I. He is the author of Wherever the Firing Line Extends which documents the Irish involvement. I was honoured that Ronan agreed to launch To Raise the Fallen last August, and he delivered a brilliant speech about Fr Doyle at the book launch- you can find it here: https://fatherdoyle.com/2017/08/11/speech-by-ronan-mcgreevy-at-launch-of-to-raise-the-fallen/ has produced an excellent documentary about the Irish involvement in World War I, and in particular about how Irish Nationalists and Unionists fought alongside each other. Fr Doyle features prominently in this documentary.
It is now available on YouTube – the section about Fr Doyle starts around 42 minutes into the programme.
A great desire to know our Lord better, His attractive character, His personal love for me, the resolve to read the life of Christ and study the Gospels.
I feel also a longing to love Jesus passionately, to try my very best to please Him, and to do all I think will please Him. I see nothing will be dearer to Him than my sanctification, chiefly attained by the perfection with which I perform even the smallest action. “All for love of Jesus.”
The reason, said Fr. Petit, why we find life so hard, mortification difficult, and why we are inclined to avoid all that we dislike, is because we have no real love for Jesus.
COMMENT: Venerable Adolphus Petit was Fr Doyle’s spiritual director during his year of tertianship, the final year of formation for Jesuits before they take their final vows. He had a great respect for Fr Doyle – he is yet another “saint” who approved of Fr Doyle’s spirit and life. It is known that Fr Doyle consulted with him on a trip to Belgium in 1912, 5 years after his ordination. A biography of Fr Petit, written by an anonymous nun in 1932, has the following to say about Fr Doyle’s relationship with Fr Petit:
Overjoyed at the unusual graces bestowed on the young priest (Fr Doyle), the Spiritual Father (Fr Petit) encouraged whole-heartedly his desire for closer union with God, his passionate love of our Lord and his eager zeal for souls. He approved his attraction for mortification, but insisted at the same time that perfections consists much less in the practice of austerities than in abnegation of one’s will and judgement, and in self-forgetfulness and humility.
Here is Fr Doyle’s description of Fr Petit:
There is a wonderful little old priest here, named Fr. Petit, small in name and small in size – he is about three feet high. He is eighty-five, but as active as a man of thirty, being constantly away giving retreats. I have tried several times to get down to the chapel at four o’ clock in the morning before him, but he is always there when I come in. He is a dear saintly old man with wonderful faith and simplicity. In the middle of an exhortation in the chapel, he will turn round to the Tabernacle and say: Is not that true, my Jesus? He is giving a retreat here this moment to a hundred and ten gentlemen.
In relation to the main quote at the top of this posting, once again, there is much that one can reflect on here. The last line is key: we find life so hard, mortification difficult, and…we are inclined to avoid all that we dislike…because we have no real love for Jesus.
Most people have family and/or friends that they love in life, and are generally willing to make great, even heroic efforts, to serve them because of this love. Can the same be said about our service of Christ?