With great earnestness recommend to His mercy the poor souls who are in their agony. What a dreadful hour, an hour tremendously decisive, is the hour of our death! Surround with your love these souls going to appear before God, and defend them by your prayers.
COMMENT: Today is the feast of St Joseph. We traditionally pray to St Joseph for many things – work, fidelity to one’s vocation, purity, the protection of the Church, even selling a house. But St Joseph is also regarded as the patron saint of a happy death, because tradition tells us that he died with Jesus and Mary at his side – a happy death indeed!
Fr Doyle’s mother – Christina Doyle – died at 7am on the feast of St Joseph 1915. Fr Doyle had just returned from a mission in Glasgow and was with her when she died, and was able to say Mass immediately for her soul. Fr Doyle’s parents are buried in Deansgrange Cemetery, very near Dalkey where they lived. Below is a photo of their grave.
St Joseph is a powerful patron; many saints were greatly devoted to him. St Teresa of Avila tells us that he always answered her prayers. Blessed Pius IX proclaimed St Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church. We should have recourse to him for the needs of the Church, which are very great at this time.
The hill of Calvary is almost reached, the hour of the great sacrifice is at hand. Still the heart of Jesus thirsts for suffering to show His great, His all devouring love for us. Again He falls! With limbs all bruised and broken, with a body all one raw, red, quivering sore, each step He took was agony. But to fall thus helpless on the ragged ground, to be kicked and beaten as He lay with nerveless limbs all paralyzed with pain must have been to His high-strung, delicate frame a thousand-fold martyrdom. The executioners were alarmed. Was death going to rob them of their victim and cheat them of the joy they promised themselves as their victim writhed in the agonies of death?
The Eighth Station of the Cross: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem
The disciples of Jesus have deserted their Master, and fearful for their own safety, have abandoned Him to His fate. Peter who would die for Him, Matthew who left all to follow Him, are far from Him now and dread to be pointed to as His friends. Yet Jesus is not alone. A few, a faithful few, remain beside Him still, poor, weak women, but strong with the courage of love. The brutal crowd surge round, inflamed with hate and lust for blood; but they offer Him the tribute of a woman’s heart – the silent tears of sympathy.
“Weep not for Me,” He says, “weep rather for those who unlike these My executioners will one day crucify Me again with full knowledge of what they do.”
I beg of God whom I love to grant me that I may shed my blood with those strangers and captives for His name’s sake, even though I be without burial itself, or my corpse be most miserably divided, limb by limb, amongst dogs and fierce beasts, or the birds of the air devour it. I think it most certain that if this happens to me, I shall have gained my soul with my body.
COMMENT: These thoughts are not in fact from Fr Doyle, but instead are from St Patrick. Given the importance of today’s great feast for the Church in Ireland it seems appropriate to lead with a quote from our national patron saint instead of from Fr Doyle.
But even though Fr Doyle did not write these words, they could so easily apply to him. Fr Doyle did shed his blood with his men in the battle field, and his corpse was probably “miserably divided”, whether through the action of a German shell or some other process.
There are many other similarities between Fr Doyle and St Patrick, not the least of which was the zeal and originality with which they both evangelised their respective cultures, their nocturnal vigils and their tendency to “count” their prayers – St Patrick tells us that he used to say a hundred prayers during the day and almost as many at night while Fr Doyle’s remarkable “spiritual accountancy” by which he counted his thousands of daily aspirations remains a source of mystery to us today.
Both also had a strong urging towards reparation. Consider the following from St Patrick:
Today I may confidently offer Him a sacrifice – my soul as a living victim to Christ my Lord.
Fr Doyle made a similar offering in 1913:
I offer myself to You to be Your Victim in the fullest sense of the word. I deliver to You my body, my soul, my heart, all that I have, that You may dispose of and immolate them according to Your good pleasure. Do with me as You please, without consulting my desires, my repugnances, my wishes.
Today is a great day for the Irish. But we must remember that it is NOT a day for celebrating Irishness per se. It is a day for celebrating the gift of the Catholic Faith in Ireland. It is a day of thanksgiving for the courage and fortitude of St Patrick in bringing us this priceless gift. It is also a day of thanksgiving for all of those countries who received the light of faith indirectly through St Patrick, by means of the many selfless Irish missionaries over the centuries. In particular we think of the many European countries that were evangelised by Irish monks, and in recent centuries those parts of America, Australia, Africa and Asia that were so well served by Irish missionaries, even up to this day (including some regular readers of this site!).
But in addition to our celebrations, perhaps today should also contain a certain element of penance. Not only did Irish priests and religious export the genuine Faith to many countries, but a number of them exported vice and corruption as well. Some of the abuses in America, Australia and Canada can unfortunately be traced back to Irish priests and religious…
Let us consider then this verse from one of the Epistles approved for use at Mass for the feast of St Patrick:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.
We see these itching ears in the drift towards an aggressive secularism in some quarters and the refusal of a vocal minority to recognise any good in the Church, accompanied by a desire to see its destruction. We also see these itching ears in the growth of superstition and New Age spirituality. And most damningly we saw it in the moral relativism and/or cowardice that failed to recognise, or act against, the evils of abuse, preferring the advice of secular therapists rather than the advice of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. For all of this, reparation is needed.
But we should avoid pessimism, for there is still life and holiness in the Church in this country.
Let us turn to our great patron St Patrick, asking him for holiness in our land, perhaps even echoing the words he heard in his dream, calling him back to Ireland: “We beseech thee, O holy youth, to come and walk once more among us”. We should also pray to him for more Irish beatifications and canonisations so that we can have modern heroes to emulate in our own lives and to aid our evangelisation. Ireland has a poor record in this regard. And perhaps you might say a prayer for the writer of this blog, for St Patrick is my name saint (in some countries this is more significant than one’s birthday).
We shall conclude today with Pope Benedict’s prayer for Ireland:
God of our fathers, renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation, the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal, the charity which purifies and opens our hearts to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus Christ, may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.
Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide, inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland.
May our sorrow and our tears, our sincere effort to redress past wrongs, and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace for the deepening of the faith in our families, parishes, schools and communities, for the spiritual progress of Irish society, and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace within the whole human family.
To you, Triune God, confident in the loving protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, our Mother, and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints, do we entrust ourselves, our children, and the needs of the Church in Ireland.
The Seventh Station of the Cross: Jesus falls the second time
Jesus falls a second time, crushed beneath the weight of His awful sufferings which are fast draining His strength. Exhausted and spent He lies upon the rough-paved ground, a cruel resting place for His bleeding, lacerated body. Vainly He tries to rise, for love impels Him on to the consummation of the sacrifice, but His tottering limbs will not support Him and once again He falls upon the ground. Again the soldiers with fiendish brutality drag Him to His feet with coarse jibes and mocking laughter, with kicks and blows they drive Him on, pulling Him now forward, now back, striving if possible to add to the sufferings of the patient victim.
The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
As the sorrowful procession moves slowly on, a woman, who with anxious gaze has watched its approach, steps forward and wipes the sacred face of Jesus. It is a simple action, yet reveals the kindly thoughtfulness of a charitable heart. Gladly would Veronica have done all in her power to lessen the sufferings of the Lord, to ease the dreadful burden which was crushing Him, to show some mark of sympathy and compassion. That little act of love touched the broken Heart of Jesus; He wipes the clotted blood and streaming sweat from His Face, leaving His sacred image stamped on the veil of Veronica; but deeper and more clear cut did He impress on her heart the memory of His passion.
The Fifth Station: St Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His cross
When God lays a cross upon us, some misfortune, some unexpected burden, instead of thanking Him for this precious gift, too often we rebel against His will. We forget that our Saviour never sends a cross alone, but ever sweetens its bitterness, lightens its weight by His all-powerful grace. With reluctance, with unwillingness, Simon bears the cross of His Master. At first his spirit revolted against this injustice, his pride rebelled against this ignominy. But once he accepted with resignation, his soul was filled with heavenly sweetness, he felt not the weight of the heavy beams, he heeded not the jibes of the multitude but pressed on after His Master, proud to be His follower.