Thoughts for February 28 from Fr Willie Doyle

Abbot Wilfrid Upson OSB

The merit of living under religious rule may be gathered from the difficulty of always and faithfully keeping that rule. Holiness and deliberate violation of our rules are a contradiction.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle was known for his close adherence to the Jesuit rule, and the faithful fulfilment of its precepts is a recurring theme in his resolutions and notes. Adhering to a religious rule is tough, and because of this it is a sign of sanctity. St Teresa of Avila said that her nuns would not need miracles to prove their sanctity – if they faithfully followed the rule she established it would be enough for them to reach holiness.

Normally it is only members of a religious order to have rules that they have to formally live by. However, it would be a mistake for the rest of us, especially for lay people, to attempt to live without some rule of life. Many people establish rules or guidelines in order to help them get through their work each day. When people join a gym they are given set exercises to follow. If we are to take our spiritual life seriously we will also establish some rules or guidelines which we should aim to follow. Otherwise we run the risk of following particular spiritual exercises only when we feel like it, and as anybody who has ever achieved anything will testify, this is a sure way to fail! It is not necessary for the rule to be very detailed or to minutely programme every moment of our day – indeed, such an approach is almost impossible for lay people living in the world. But it is essential to have some basic rules about when and how we will pray, as well as small acts of mortification that we will try to offer up each day. There is no better time to develop such a rule of life than the holy season of Lent.

Fr Wilfrid Upson, who was Abbot of the Benedictine Prinknash Abbey in England in the 1940’s, laid out the importance of having our own rule of life in the middle of the world in the following words:

Human nature is the same whether we respond to the monastic cell or whether we live out our lives in a normal worldly environment. Few are so spiritually minded that they can afford to neglect the help of some sort of rule of life and standard of spirituality to which they can endeavour to conform themselves when faced with the many problems of a world where even moral standards have ceased to exist.

One thought on “Thoughts for February 28 from Fr Willie Doyle

  1. In a number of retreats I have given to different groups of religious and to fellow Columbans – we are not religious but secular priests belonging to a society of apostolic life – I have used the Constitutions of the particular group as an explicit expression of God’s will for them. St Teresa of Avila puts it much better in your comment above.

    I have often wondered why the Church insists on a miracle to prove the sanctity of persons such as Father Willie and Matt Talbot before beatifying them. Wasn’t Father Doyle utterly faithful to the Jesuit way of life? Didn’t he give his life because of it? Another Jesuit, Fr Alfred Delp, executed by the Nazis shortly before the end of WWII, wrote to his fellow Jesuits: ‘The real reason for my conviction is that I am and have remained a Jesuit’.

    We know that Matt Talbot followed a rule of life under spiritual direction.

    Incidentally, today, 2 March, is the first anniversary of the assassination of a Catholic Pakistani politician, Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, who said not long before his death, ‘I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ’.
    [ ]

Leave a Reply