Thoughts for the Feast of St Fidelis of Sigmaringen (April 24) from Fr Willie Doyle

St Fidelis of Sigmaringen

I have long had the feeling that, since the world is growing so rapidly worse and worse and God has lost His hold, as it were, upon the hearts of men, He is looking all the more earnestly and anxiously for big things from those who are faithful to Him still. He cannot, perhaps, gather a large army round His standard, but He wants every one in it to be a hero, absolutely and lovingly devoted to Him.

COMMENT: Today is the feast of St Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a Capuchin Franciscan who was martyred 590 years ago today.

St Fidelis had been a successful lawyer, but like St Alphonsus of Liguori, he became disillusioned with the law and felt called to the religious life. As a Capuchin priest he was renowned for his charity and care for the poor, working tirelessly to assist those suffering from the plague. He was also a devoted missionary who worked for the reunification of Christendom during the Catholic Reformation. It was in the course of these efforts that St Fidelis was killed out of hatred for the Faith by a band of men. As he was being killed, he prayed that they would be forgiven and when they encouraged him to renounce the Catholic Faith he declared that he had come to extirpate their heresy and not to embrace it. Some of those involved in his death subsequently converted to Catholicism as a result of his witness.

I’m sure that St Fidelis, who lived in the early 17th Century, would have agreed with Fr Doyle’s assessment three hundred years later that the “world is growing so rapidly worse and worse”. The division of Christianity in the West was a shattering event for those who lived through it.

If we fast forward three hundred years to Fr Doyle’s time we see a gradual weakening of moral values. Dangerous, atheistic philosophies were growing popular, subtly undermining the faith of ordinary people. In the year of Fr Doyle’s death, this philosophy of atheistic materialism made a breakthrough in Russia with devastating consequences for hundreds of millions of people for decades to come.

Every age has its crises, and it always seems that the world is indeed growing worse and worse. But yet, God still IS. The Holy Spirit is still at work, calling forth heroes who will be lovingly devoted to Him. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, He raised up great saints like St Fidelis and so many others of that era who would work for the reform and unification of the Church. We can see the same divine call for heroes, right up to the time of Fr Doyle, and indeed up to our own day.

And what of our own day? Yes, it is true that the world seems to have grown steadily worse and worse. This is so even here in Ireland where those who express Christian values are publicly mocked and made a laughing stock. Yet, God still calls for heroes who are devoted to Him. We have no excuse. If we have been born in this era of crisis it is because this is where God has placed us in order to work out our salvation and to save souls in the midst of the concrete circumstances of our lives and cultures. It has always been this way, for every age has its errors that, to borrow St Fidelis’ famous phrase, need to be extirpated rather than embraced.

Let us therefore serve God with generosity in whatever place and circumstance He has placed us. Let us never lose hope, even if the world seems to be growing steadily worse and worse. Let us remember the example of the saints, who never despaired despite the unfavourable cultures in which they laboured.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts for the Feast of St Fidelis of Sigmaringen (April 24) from Fr Willie Doyle

  1. and our world now is the more pitiable…..God help us if we are helpable to reach Him daily and finally….djb

  2. Can you tell me if there is any new material (an introduction ?) in the re-printed life of Fr Doyle ? Is it possible to have it copied/scanned ? I would like to read it very much; my old battered copy has just arrived from Ireland !
    Alan Robinson ——– we have e mailed before

  3. Alan:
    Many thanks for your comment and apologies for the delay in replying.
    The re-printed life of Fr Doyle is just that – a reprint of the 2nd edition. There is no extra material unfortunately.
    What edition of the biography do you have? The 4th edition is a bit longer than the 2nd edition, though most of this extra length is not new material about Fr Doyle but instead a defence and description of Fr Doyle’s life and spirituality – O’Rahilly includes many new references to the lives of the saints and places Fr Doyle’s spirituality in a wider context.
    Perhaps you might find the magazine “Trench Priest” to be interesting? It is published by the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (available here: http://www.papastronsay.com/bookshop/product.php?ID=21). It is a distillation of the O’Rahilly biography, the anonymously written Merry in God (personally I think that Fr Doyle’s brother, Fr Charles Doyle SJ wrote Merry in God) and a few other sources, including a list of favours reported through Fr Doyle’s intercession.
    I hope this helps!

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