Thoughts for July 27 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Titus Brandsma

I assure you that you have my entire sympathy as well as my prayers in the trial you are going through. There are few things more painful than to long to know the Will of God and not be able to see it, though it may be quite clear to others. From all that has passed between us I have no doubt that you have a religious vocation. Look at it in this way. Our Lord makes known His willingness to receive anyone into religion by giving them the necessary qualifications and the wish to do this work there. If I have these qualifications – “aptitude,” it is called – and this wish, all I need is the will to take the step. What you have to do is to pray for strength to be brave. Then go ahead, trust in the Sacred Heart, and you will never regret it.

COMMENT: If there is anybody reading this who is contemplating a religious vocation I recommend reading the section of the site on Fr Doyle’s writings where there are two excellent pamphlets on the subject.

As for the rest of us, his point for today remains relevant. There are always extra steps that God is asking of us. Perhaps they are not as dramatic as entering a convent or becoming a priest. Perhaps it will mean getting involved in a charity or engaging in political campaigning for just causes. Maybe it will even involve joining one of the many movements within the Church that can help deepen our commitment to Christ. The lessen remains that we need the will, and the grace, to follow that path. If we follow God’s will, no matter what it is, with complete commitment and trust, then it is true that we will not regret it.

Today is also the feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a great Carmelite martyr of the Second World War. Blessed Titus remained faithful to his vocation to the end, opposing the Nazis even if it meant imprisonment and death. It was this faithfulness to his Carmelite vocation that encouraged him to live an ordered life of prayer and activity in the concentration camp at Dachau, spreading cheerfulness and encouragement to others in their sufferings. In many ways his ability to bring joy and to serve others in the midst of his own misery resembles the activities of Fr Doyle in the trenches.

Blessed Titus was eventually killed as a result of Nazi medical experiments in July 1942. A short biography can be found here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/TITUSLIF.HTM

Thoughts for July 26 from Fr Willie Doyle

Pope Benedict preparing to hear Confessions in St Peter's Basilica

I, too, used long ago to hate Confession, for no reason whatever, till as a priest I began to realize the fact that it is the biggest help and quickest means to holiness, since a Sacrament pours grace into the soul.

COMMENTS: Fr Doyle is of course correct in stating that there is no reason whatever for fearing Confession. But unfortunately the practice of frequent confession seems to have gone out of fashion somewhat in some parts of the world.

Fr Doyle, firstly as a mission preacher and secondly as a military chaplain was well aware of the importance, and power, of Confession. His notes and letters are full of stories of how his soldiers were relieved to be able to receive the sacrament before going into battle. From one of Fr Doyle’s letters:

When I finished breakfast, I found a big number of men waiting for Confession. I gave them Communion as well, though they were not fasting, as they were going to the trenches that evening and being in danger of death could receive the Blessed Sacrament as Viaticum. It was the last Communion for many poor fellows who, I trust, are praying for me in Heaven now.

Having polished off all who came to the Church, I made a raid on the men’s billets, and spent a few hours in stables, barns, in fact anywhere, shriving the remainder who gladly availed themselves of the chance of settling up accounts before they started for the front. The harvest, thank God, was good and consoling. Just before they marched at six in the evening, I gave the whole regiment – the Catholics, at least – a General Absolution. So the men went off in the best of spirits, light of heart with the joy of a good conscience. ‘Good-bye, Father’, one shouted, ‘we are ready to meet the devil himself now’.

In a certain sense this man was, probably unbeknownst to himself, onto something interesting. The sacrament confers grace which strengthens us to overcome temptations in the future. The fact that we probably don’t feel that grace doesn’t matter; it is still there and will help us in our struggles with temptation. As St Jean Marie Vianney, said:

When you have made a good Confession, you have chained up the devil

We shall end today with these beautiful words from Pope Benedict XVI from his letter announcing the opening of the year for priests:

Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this sacrament. In France, at the time of the Curé of Ars, confession was no more easy or frequent than in our own day, since the upheaval caused by the revolution had long inhibited the practice of religion.

Yet he sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence.

He thus created a virtuous circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness. Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to sixteen hours a day.

It was said that Ars had become ‘a great hospital of souls’. His first biographer relates that ‘the grace he obtained [for the conversion of sinners] was so powerful that it would pursue them, not leaving them a moment of peace!’.

The saintly Curé reflected something of the same idea when he said: ‘It is not the sinner who returns to God to beg his forgiveness, but God himself who runs after the sinner and makes him return to him’. ‘This good Saviour is so filled with love that he seeks us everywhere’.