Thoughts for July 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Benedict

Avoid haste and want of control of bodily movements. The interior man, no matter how burdened with work or pressed for time, is never in a hurry. He is swift and expeditious in all he does, but never rushes; and by a jealous watchfulness over odd moments, “gathering up the fragments” of a full day “that none of them may be lost,” he finds time for all things. He knows that the Almighty is never in a hurry; that the great works of God in nature as in the soul are done silently and calmly, and that there is much wisdom in the old monastic saying, “The man who rushes will never run to perfection.”

COMMENT: In today’s quote, Fr Doyle speaks to us about the importance of balance and moderation. Even when busy we should not be in an excessive hurry, but always maintain our equilibrium. Perhaps this is one area where Fr Doyle had to struggle. He was naturally hot tempered and extraordinarily zealous. However, it is clear that by the end of his life he had mastered this aspect of his temperament. He was a source of peace and tranquillity for others. The famous photographic portrait of him in his military uniform was taken not long before his death. It shows a deeply tranquil and balanced man. His eyes are reservoirs of peace, despite the horrors he was living through.

Today is the feast of St Benedict, one of the patron saints of Europe and indeed the Father of the West. Monks following his rule were instrumental in saving western civilisation after the fall of the Roman empire. By preserving the heritage of classical learning, and indeed by preserving the faith itself within their monasteries, the Benedictine monks played a pivotal role in the development of Christendom and indeed of western civilisation itself. We owe many historical inventions and advances in learning, as well as practical developments in agriculture, engineering and even brewing to the dedication and application of the Benedictines.

The motto of the Benedictine order is Pax – Peace. The Rule of St Benedict is renowned for its balance and moderation, especially compared to the harsher rule of life adopted by the Eastern monks. St Benedict tells us that it is important that people in the house of God (and by extension in the Christian family) should not be vexed or anxious, for this destroys the peace which so readily assists in the growth of holiness. Commenting on the Rule of St Benedict, Pope Benedict tells us:

For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, his Rule has retained its illuminating power even to today.

We lived in an increasingly frenetic world. The technology that was supposed to alleviate our work has often only served to complicate our lives further. Let us pray that we may acquire the moderation and balance that both Fr Doyle and St Benedict speak of, and that this spiritual equilibrium will better equip us to serve God and our neighbour more effectively.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts for July 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

  1. A history of Catholic chaplains in the British Armed Forces that I read a few years ago said that apart from diocesan priests, the three groups that supplied the greatest number of chaplains were the Benedictine, the Jesuits and the Columbans. With us Columbans it was a World War II phenomenon as the many young priests ordained in Ireland couldn’t go on the missions. Many of them became chaplains in the RAF and the British Army. One, Fr Paddy McMahon, died in Normandy while trying to rescue a Canadian soldier.Some bishops in England and Wales welcomed young Columbans so that their own younger priests could volunteer.

  2. A younger Dublin contemporary of Father Willie who also had to struggle with his temper was the Venerable Frank Duff. My Columban confrere Fr Aedan McGrath, who served nearly three years in solitary confinement in China from 1950 to 1953 for his work with the Legion of Mary, work which he continued in many other parts of the world up to his sudden death at the age of 94 on Christmas Day 2000, told me of one occasion when he went into Frank’s office. Frank was really mad about something or other but when Father Aedan walked in he burst out laughing and said ‘You’ve caught me again!’
    It’s consoling to know that persons like St Francis de Sales, Fr Willie Doyle and Frank Duff, struggled in this particular area of their lives.

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