Thoughts on Our Lady of the Rosary from Fr Willie Doyle

To Mary’s feet in heaven today the angels come in never-ending stream to lay before her the offerings of her loving earthly children. To their Queen they bear fair wreaths of lovely roses. In many a lonely cottage or amid the bustle of the great city have these crowns been formed. Little ones and old folk, the pious nun and holy priest, the sinner too and many a wandering soul, have added to the glory of the Queen of Heaven; and from every corner of this earth to-day has risen the joyous praise of her who is Queen of the Holy Rosary. On earth she was the lowly handmaid of the Lord, and now all generations proclaim the greatness of her name.

COMMENT: Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Fr Doyle was of course very devoted to the rosary, and it formed an important part of his spiritual life.

He wrote the following in his diary on 22nd January 1915:

Last night I rose at twelve and knelt in the cellar for an hour to suffer from the cold. It was a hard fight to do so, but Jesus helped me. I said my rosary with arms extended. At the third mystery the pain was so great that I felt I could not possibly continue; but at each Ave I prayed for strength and was able to finish it. This has given me great consolation by showing the many hard things I could do with the help of prayer.

Fr Doyle was renowned for encouraging the soldiers to say the rosary, especially during the May devotions when he organised Marian processions. He makes the following touching observation in a letter to his father:

There were many little touching incidents during these days; one especially I shall not easily forget. When the men had left the field after the evening devotions, I noticed a group of three young boys, brothers I think, still kneeling saying another rosary. They knew it was probably their last meeting on earth and they seemed to cling to one another for mutual comfort and strength, and instinctively turned to the Blessed Mother to help them in their hour of need. There they knelt as if they were alone and unobserved, their hands clasped and faces turned towards heaven, with such a look of beseeching earnestness that the Mother of Mercy surely must have heard their prayer: Holy Mary pray for us now at the hour of our death. Amen.

As has been mentioned many times in the past, Fr Doyle had a great sense of humour and cheerfulness, so the following humorous anecdote deserves mention on this feast (bearing in mind the courage it must have taken to even summon up this cheerfulness when  faced with the horrors of war):

When night fell, I made my way up to a part of the Line which could not be approached in daylight, to bury an officer and some men. A couple of grimy, unwashed figures emerged from the bowels of the earth to help me, but first knelt down and asked for Absolution. They then leisurely set to work to fill in the grave. “Hurry up, boys”, I said, “I don’t want to have to bury you as well”, for the spot was a hot one. They both stopped working much to my disgust, for I was just longing to get away. “Be gobs, Father”, replied one, “I haven’t the divil a bit of fear in me now after the holy Absolution”. “Nor I”, chimed in the other, “I am as happy as a king”. The poor Padre who had been keeping his eye on a row of crumps (German shells) which were coming unpleasantly near felt anything but happy; however there was nothing for it but to stick it out as the men were in a pious mood; and he escaped at last, grateful that he was not asked to say the rosary.

Today was previously known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory. It origin commemorates the famous, and historically significant, victory of Christendom against the Turkish forces in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Pope St Pius V had urged Christians to pray the rosary for the success of the Christian forces, and despite the superiority of the Turkish navy, Christendom had a famous victory in the largest naval battle in over 1,500. More about the significance of this day can be read here.

We may not be called to military victories at this precise moment, but we are still called to victories against the enemy of our soul and the vices and defects he inspires within us. Many the Queen of the Rosary, the mediatrix of grace, procure for us the victory we need.

Today is also the Irish Bishops’ Day for Life, and it marks the launch of a month of prayer for protection of the unborn and also for help for those facing the challenge of an unwanted pregnancy, as well as for those who are struggling with the consequences of abortion.

This site normally sticks very faithfully to the issue of Fr Doyle and his life and spirituality. But occasionally we touch on other issues. The right to life – the right not to be killed – is such a fundamental issue that it deserves some attention here. The introduction of abortion in Ireland is closer now than it has ever been. The Government’s consultative group is due to report soon, and despite Fine Gael’s  pre-election promise, some in the Government look determined to introduce abortion any way they can.

Christians have always been known for their protection of vulnerable babies and their opposition to abortion. The early Christians opposed the practice, and they also opposed the infanticide that was rampant in the Roman Empire. So too, today, we must stand in support of life.

There are some people here in Ireland who suffer from a peculiar hang up about religion. This may be understandable given the abuses of the past, but it is still mistaken. Sometimes public opinion is manipulated to create the impression that Christian opposition to abortion means that it is merely a religious issue, and that all right thinking secularists and liberals must therefore support abortion. This is a daft argument. The mere fact that the Church opposes an evil does not mean that ONLY those of religious faith should oppose it, or that a society that supports Church-State separation should therefore adopt the practice condemned by the Church. To be consistent, those who make this argument should support the legalisation of theft, rape, fraud, terrorism etc. Each of these actions are opposed by the Church – the mere fact that the Church opposes them is no argument for their legalisation.

The strength of our opposition to abortion must always be matched by our concern for those faced with the dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy. Campaigners speak in the abstract about a “right to choose”. Yet, most of those who opt for abortion do so because they feel that they have no choice. They feel trapped, and many are pressured into it by the father of the baby. We must show compassion – and more importantly, practical care and charity – for those in this situation. Similarly, we must never judge those who have had an abortion, but rather love them unconditionally, and help them cope with the consequences this decision may have in their lives.

The bishops have created a website for this month of prayer – The site contains prayers and resources for the month. Here is the prayer that the Irish Bishops recommend for each day of the next month:

Lord Jesus, you are the source and lover of life.
Reawaken in us respect for every human life.

Help us to see in each child the marvellous
work of our Creator.
Open our hearts to welcome every child as a
unique and wonderful gift.

Guide the work of doctors, nurses and
May the life of a mother and her baby in the
womb be equally cherished and respected.

Help those who make our laws to uphold the
uniqueness and sacredness of every human life,
from the first moment of conception to natural

Give us wisdom and generosity to build a
society that cares for all.

Together with Mary, your Mother,
in whose womb you took on our human
Help us to choose life in every decision we

We ask this in the joyful hope of eternal life
with you, and in the communion of the
Blessed Trinity.


Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.
All the Saints of Ireland, pray for us.

Finally, here is an excellent video produced by the bishops.