Administrative notice

I depart on my holiday today and, given the lack of connectivity where I will be staying, I will be unable to add any new posts to this blog for the duration of the trip. I will, however, be able to access email.

Also, from July 4th to 9th I will be taking part in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius preached by the wonderful monks of St Joseph’s Abbey in Flavigny. As a result I will also be unable to add posts during that week (and of course unable to access email as well).

Normal service will resume from July 10th or 11th, so please make sure to check back then for daily snippets from, and about, Fr Doyle. I also hope to add more biographical material and links on my return.

In the meantime, I have added just a couple of advance posts below for July 1st and July 4th because the feasts on those days shed some light on different aspects of Fr Doyle’s character and life.

For those who wish to know more about the Spiritual Exercises, which were so integral to the formation of Fr Doyle, you can read a very good introduction to them here:

Thoughts for July 4 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Sunday, July 4

Apart from being the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, or the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (depending on which calendar you use) and Independence Day (if you are on the other side of the Atlantic), it is also the memorial of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Amongst other things, Blessed Pier Giorgio was renowned, as a very young man, for his heroic charity towards the poor of Turin. Reading the life of Fr Doyle instantly reminds one of Blessed Pier Giorgio, for he too served the poor of Dalkey while he was himself a child. In both cases, very few knew of their hidden charity towards others.

From O’Rahilly’s Life of Fr Doyle:

For the poor people on Dalkey Hill Willie constituted himself into a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. He raised funds by saving up his pocket-money, by numberless acts of economy and self-denial; he begged for his poor, he got the cook to make soup, he pleaded for delicacies to carry to the sick. Once he went to the family apothecary and ordered several large bottles of cod-liver oil for a poor consumptive woman, and then presented the bill to his father! He bought a store of tea with which under many pledges of secrecy he entrusted the parlourmaid. On this he used to draw when in the course of his wanderings he happened to come across some poor creature without the means of providing herself with the cup that cheers. He by no means confined himself merely to the bringing of relief. He worked for his poor, he served them, he sat down and talked familiarly with them, he read books for the sick, he helped to tidy the house, he provided snuff and tobacco for the aged. One of Willie s cases if such an impersonal word may be used was a desolate old woman whose children were far away. One day noticing that the house was dirty and neglected, he went off and purchased some lime and a brush, and then returned and whitewashed the whole house from top to bottom. He then went down on his knees and scrubbed the floors, amid the poor woman’s ejaculations of protest and gratitude. No one knew of this but the cook and parlour maid who lent him their aprons to save his clothes and kept dinner hot for him until he returned late in the evening. While thus aiding his poor friends temporally, he did not forget their souls. He contrived skilfully to remind them of their prayers and the sacraments; he also strongly advocated temperance. There was one old fellow on the Hill whom Willie had often unsuccessfully tried to reform. After years of hard drinking he lay dying, and could not be induced to see a priest. For eight hours Willie stayed praying by the bedside of the half-conscious dying sinner. Shortly before the end he came to himself, asked for the priest and made his peace with God. Only when he had breathed his last, did Willie return to Melrose. His first missionary victory!

As a matter of interest, the image at the top of the webpage is Dalkey Hill seen from the sea. Melrose, where Fr Doyle grew up, is on the other side of the hill. It is one of the most beautiful places in Dublin.

Another thing that both Blessed Pier Giorgio and Fr Doyle had in common was their love of good natured practical jokes. Perhaps more on this aspect of Fr Doyle on another day.

Those interested in reading more about Blessed Pier Giorgio can check

Thoughts for July 1 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Oliver Plunkett

July 1

Feast of St Oliver Plunkett

As a child I was convinced that one day God would give me the grace of martyrdom. When quite small I read and re-read every martyr’s life in the twelve volumes of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and longed and prayed to be a martyr, and I have often done so ever since. As years went on, the desire grew in intensity, and even now the sufferings of the martyrs, their pictures, and everything connected with their death, have a strange fascination for me and help me much.

COMMENT: St Oliver Plunkett was the last Catholic martyr of Tyburn and, incidentally, the last canonised Irishman. He was Archbishop of Armagh, and returned to Ireland from Rome at a difficult time for his country. He endured great trials in his attempts to organise and reform the Church in his diocese.

I can find no mention of St Oliver in Fr Doyle’s writings, but it is practically certain that he would have had great interest in his life, especially since his cause was nearing completion during Fr Doyle’s life.

On this day it might be worthwhile to pray for the Church in Ireland which suffers so much at this time.

For those who wish to see Fr Doyle recognised more formally by the Church, it also consoling to remember that St Oliver, a great martyr, died in 1681 and was only beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975.

More information about St Oliver can be found at

Thoughts for June 29 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Peter repenting, by Jean Chouvay, late 17th C

June 29

Feast of St Peter and St Paul

Jesus during His mortal life practised many virtues; but none is more conspicuous, none appeals more strongly to us, than His infinite mercy, His tender forgiveness of all injuries. A vile sinner is brought before Him, her very mien proclaims her crime. “Have none condemned thee? Neither shall I. Go, sin no more.” Magdalen, the bye-word of the city, Magdalen whose name was sin and shame, seeks His forgiveness and finds His mercy. Peter, the favoured one, denies his Master and turns his back on Him who loved him so; and Peter’s heart is won, even in his sin, by one loving look of mercy and compassion from the Saviour whose mercy is without end.

COMMENT:  The denial of St Peter, and Christ’s subsequent forgiveness, was a frequent theme in Fr Doyle’s notes. The image of a favoured apostle denying his Master seemed to resonate with deeply with him.

As for St Paul, Fr Doyle doesn’t seem to write much about him directly, although he obviously quotes him frequently in his letters. Fr Doyle resembles St Paul in his great missionary zeal. Just as Paul underwent shipwreck and imprisonment and deprivation to bring the Gospel to others, Fr Doyle underwent life in the trenches, and all of its dangers, to bring the sacraments to others.

Peter, Paul and Fr Doyle could all have stayed at home and lived relatively comfortable, safe lives. But they sacrificed this comfort because of their love of Christ, offering their own lives in the process.

On this day we should remember in our prayers the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, who, as St Catherine of Siena reminds us, is the “sweet Christ on earth”.

Conversion on the way to Damascus, Caravaggio, 1600

Thoughts for June 28 from Fr Willie Doyle

Fr Doyle was a prolific letter writer

If an aspiration, on the authority of the Blessed (now Saint) Cure d’Ars, often saved a soul, what must you not do each day you suffer so bravely! This thought certainly will help you and make the pain almost nothing, and will add to its merit, since the motive for bearing it will be all the higher.

COMMENT: Today’s quotation comes from a letter of spiritual direction Fr Doyle wrote to somebody who was sick. Like many other expert spiritual directors, Fr Doyle had a very heavy daily correspondence with people all across Ireland.

His advice today is clear – even when we are sick or incapacitated we can do much good by offering up our sufferings for others, especially for the salvation of souls.

This principle applies to us all, at all stages of life. We can offer up minor inconveniences, aches and pains, our work, in fact everything in our life for others. Seen in this light, every day presents a multitude of opportunities to offer small things with love for others, and to grow in holiness ourselves by virtue of these sacrifices.