Thoughts for January 13 from Fr Willie Doyle

The mere saving of their souls should be the last thought of religious who have vowed their lives for God’s glory.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle’s comments were made directly to a member of a religious order, but they apply equally to us all. There was perhaps a tendency in the past to focus almost exclusively on one’s own salvation. It is true that our own salvation is one of our highest duties, but the reality is that our salvation is intimately connected with that of others.

There is an old saying that we don’t go to Heaven alone. Our lives are intimately connected with that of others. In fact, one of the things that sociology shows us quite clearly is that the example of peers has a powerful effect on human behaviour. The way we act and live has a profound effect on others, for good or bad. We should not underestimate the power of our example to bring others to a fuller practice of the faith. Neither should we underestimate the negative influence of our hypocrisy, sloth, gossip and so forth.

We also see the importance of holy friendships in the lives of the saints. There are surprisingly large numbers of beatified and canonised saints who were friends or acquaintances while on earth. Numerous examples come to mind immediately… There is the obvious example of the Apostles. St Monica was the mother of St Augustine.  St Benedict and St Scholastica were twins; Saints Maurus and Placidus were intimately associated with the life of St Benedict. There is the example of the early companions of St Ignatius who have been formally recognised including St Francis Xavier and Blessed Peter Faver. St Philip Neri was friendly with a large number of saints in counter-reformation Rome, including St Ignatius, St Felix of Cantalice, St John Leonardi and St Camillus. St Dominic and St Francis knew and admired each other. St Thomas Aquinas was taught by St Albert the Great and was a friend of St Bonaventure (3 Doctors of the Church connected together…). St Teresa of Avila received spiritual direction from St John of the Cross, St Francis Borgia and St Peter of Alcantara, and her companion and secretary at the end of her life was Blessed Anne of St Bartholomew. St Martin de Porres and St John Macias were friends in Lima; I’m not aware if either of them met St Rose of Lima, but given that she was a Dominican tertiary in the same city it is likely that they did, or were at least aware of her presence. Blessed Raymond of Capua was the confessor of Saint Catherine of Siena. St Francis de Sales was the director of St Jane Frances de Chantal. St Vincent de Paul was the director of St Louise de Marillac. St Claude de la Colombiere was the director of St Margaret Mary Alacoque. Blessed John Henry Newman was received into the Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi. St Vincent Strambi was a disciple of St Paul of the Cross and a director of St Gaspar de Bufalo and Blessed Anna Maria Taigi who in turn was a close friend of Blessed Elizabeth Canora Mora. There were numerous saints in Turin who interacted with or influenced each other at the time of St John Bosco, including St Joseph Cafasso, St Joseph Cottolengo and St Dominc Savio.  Blessed Elena Guerra was the teacher of St Gemma Galgani who in turn was directed by Venerable Fr Germanus. Blessed Francisco and Jacinta of Fatima were brother and sister and were cousins of the probably soon to be beatified Sr Lucia. Blessed Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi was married to Blessed Maria Corsini; similarly Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin were married and were the parents of St Therese of Lisieux. Then there are numerous martyrs who supported each other during major persecutions. Consider the supportive friendships and good examples provided by the early Christians, those persecuted in Elizabethan England, the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War and as well as the Nazi and Communist persecutions. The number of saints who modelled themselves on other saints and who developed a spiritual, as opposed to temporal, friendship, with them is far too numerous to even begin to list them. Then there are the many unrecognised saints in heaven who inspired, and were in turn inspired by, other unknown saints…

These are basic examples that have presented themselves off the top of my head. Perhaps readers would like to contribute more examples in the comments box?

We see this friendship also in the life of Fr Doyle. He was ordained on the same day as the Servant of God Fr John Sullivan SJ and was directed by Venerable Adolphe Petit during his tertian year in 1907 in Belgium.

Holy friendships ensure that we do not go to Heaven alone. But so too, bad friendships can drag us away from the Lord. One is reminded of the words of St Thomas More to his daughter Meg as he was being led to death:

Pray for me, as I will for thee, that we may all happily meet in Heaven.

Let us live with our friends in such a way that we can be assured of bringing them to Heaven with us.