While praying for light to know what God wants from me in the matter of mortifying my appetite, a voice seemed to say: “There are other things besides food in which you can be generous with Me, other hard things which I want you to do.” I thought of all the secret self-denial contained in constant hard work, not giving up when a bit tired, not yielding to desire for sleep, not running off to bed if a bit unwell, bearing little sufferings without relief, cold and heat without complaint, and, above all, the constant never-ending mortification to do each action perfectly. This light has given me a good deal of consolation, for I see I can do much for Jesus that is hard without being singular or departing from common life.
COMMENT: There is no doubt that Fr Doyle lived a deeply penitential life. It is true that he performed some remarkable penances from time to time. But to focus only on these singularities is to miss the wonderful simplicity of Fr Doyle’s example for us.
We can see this simplicity in his message today. For most lay people, penance does not mean hairshirts and disciplines and extraordinary things, but rather willingly accepting the burdens of each day. The penance of getting up out of bed on time, or of not complaining if we have a headache, or as Fr Doyle describes it “the constant never-ending mortification to do each action perfectly” presents a simple, but extremely challenging road for all of us.
This is reminiscent of some words of Blessed John Henry Newman:
It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection—short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.
I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.
We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic—not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings—but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound—we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.
He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.
I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim. If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first—Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.
These are indeed useful thoughts for all of us, but especially for those of us in Ireland where the media obsesses about power and about the internal structures in the Church. Jesus didn’t tell us all to become priests. But he did tell us to become perfect. Both Fr Doyle, Blessed John Henry Newman, today show us a way to fulfil Christ’s command by staying right where we are.
Finally, today is the feast of Blessed Mark of Aviano, a remarkable Capuchin military chaplain who played a pivotal role in preserving what was left of Christendom by supporting the army at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. If it were not for him, the history of Europe may well have turned out very differently indeed. He died in 1699 and was beatified in 2003. Once again, another long wait for beatification, and again a consolation for those devoted to Fr Doyle.
You may read more about Blessed Mark at the link below:
A movie about the Battle of Vienna, with Blessed Mark as a central character, is currently being produced.
By the way, readers in Dublin may want to check out Fizz Coffee House on the corner of Dawson Street and Molesworth Street. A large picture of Blessed Mark hangs on the wall there, a most unusual sight for a very fashionable establishment. Legend has it that Blessed Mark, using the coffee left behind by the defeated Turks, invented cappuccino, and hence it is named after his Capuchin order.