Preparing for Fr Doyle’s anniversary – Day 5: The virtue of justice in the life of Fr Doyle

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has the following to say about the virtue of justice.

1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.” “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Giving to God and to our neighbour what is rightfully due to them…Seen in this light, Fr Doyle lived a life filled with justice. He was scrupulous in fulfilling his spiritual duties – he was faithful to his breviary when possible (obviously it wouldn’t always be possible in the war) and often resolved to recite the breviary on his knees, in imitation of St John Vianney. During the war years he sometimes faced a choice between eating and saying Mass – he naturally always chose to say Mass rather than break his fast. And, when he found some of his spiritual duties hard to complete, he would follow the example of St Alphonsus by binding himself by vow to complete them.

But Fr Doyle was also renowned for his social justice – his care to render service to his fellow men. We see this clearly throughout his life, from, his charitable works for his poor neighbours in Dalkey to his care for ordinary working men right through to his care for the soldiers (including captured German soldiers), even to the point of dying for them.

The virtue of justice is closely connected with the virtue of obedience, and this is of special significance for members of religious orders who take a vow of obedience.  Some quote from Fr Doyle on this point:

During His Passion our Lord was bound and dragged from place to place. I have hourly opportunities of imitating Him by going cheer fully to the duty of the moment recreation when I want to be quiet, a walk when I would rather stay in my room, some unpleasant duty I did not expect, a call of charity which means great inconvenience for myself.

And elsewhere:

I contrast the obedience of St. Joseph with my obedience. His so prompt, unquestioning, uncomplaining, perfect; mine given so grudgingly; perhaps exterior without interior conformity with the will of the Superior. I realise my faults in this matter, and for the future will try to practise the most perfect obedience, even and especially in little things.

Fr Doyle’s concept of obedience touches on an issue where we can perhaps all examine our conscience – our performance of our daily duties. Our employers have a strict right, in justice, that we perform our jobs well, and work for the hours for which we are paid. Our spouses have the strict right, in justice, to our love and fidelity. Our children have the strict right, in justice, to our time, love and formation. And, in speaking of priests, their parishioners also have a right, in justice, to expect that their priests will be faithful and that they will try to lead their congregations to sanctity.

The loving fulfilment of duties in life was a constant theme of Fr Doyle. We could multiply numerous quotes from Fr Doyle on this important aspect of duty, but a few will suffice.

I felt a strong impulse to resolve to take up as one of the chief objects of my life the exact and thorough performance of each duty, trying to do it as Jesus would have done, with the same pure intention, exquisite exactness and fervour. To copy in all my actions walking, eating, praying Jesus, my model in the little house of Nazareth. This light was sudden, clear and strong. To do this perfectly will require constant, unflagging fervour.


Have a fixed duty for each moment and not depart from it; never waste a moment.

And elsewhere

While making the Holy Hour to-day, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I felt inspired to make this resolution: Sweet Jesus, as a first step towards my becoming a saint, which You desire so much, I will try to do each duty, each little action, as perfectly and fervently as I possibly can.

How different the world, the economy and our families, would look if we all tried to live the virtue of justice by being faithful to our duties in this way.

Thoughts for August 12 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Karl Leisner

We will return to our discussion on the last days of the life of Fr Doyle in a few days time when we get closer to the anniversary of his death next week.

For now, however, we shall have one of Fr Doyle’s thoughts.

‘What is it to thee? Follow thou Me’ (John 21: 22). This thought came to me: I am not to take the lives of others in the house as the standard of my own, what may be lawful for them is not for me; their life is most pleasing to God, such a life for me would not be so; God wants something higher, nobler, more generous from me, and for this will offer me special graces.

COMMENT: Here Fr Doyle touches on an important truth, and an interesting aspect of his life and spirituality.

How tempting it is for us to allow the social norms we perceive around us to determine our behaviour. So often we can rationalise away our sins or our mediocrity with the thought that “everybody is doing it”. But we must not take “everybody” as the standard of our behaviour. Our standard must be Christ, and he has a definite plan for each of us. We know that He desires our perfection and holiness, but this will mean different things for different people. For Fr Doyle it meant an austere and mortified life. The legitimate luxuries that were permitted to others were not God’s will for Fr Doyle. And, perhaps it is a consolation to realise that Fr Doyle’s austerities are not for everyone else, although at the very least the spirit of penance will be relevant for all of us, even if it is lived out in different ways in each person’s individual life.

Knowing the temptation that we have to base our standards on the behaviour of others, we must remember that we, ourselves, can become role models on whom others may base their own behaviour and attitudes. We should live in such a way to encourage and edify those we live with. As St Francis said, we should preach always, and when necessary, use words.

Today is also the feast of Blessed Karl Leisner, a martyr of the Nazi Holocaust who lived his faith despite the compromises with Nazism he saw around him, even at the cost of his freedom, and ultimately his life. Movingly, he managed to be ordained while in the concentration camp, dying from TB soon after celebrating his first Mass.

Blessed Karl Leisner, pray for us, that we may follow the gospel, and resist the seductions of prevailing opinion.