Thoughts for May 26 (St Philip Neri) from Fr Willie Doyle

Dear Sir — One is often struck, on glancing over the papers, at the numerous appeals made to provide ‘comforts for our troops,’ but no one ever seems to think that the souls of those who have fallen in battle may possibly be in need of much greater comfort than the bodies of their comrades who survive .

With all the spiritual help now at their disposal, even in the very firing line, we may be fairly confident that few, if any, of our Catholic men are unprepared to meet Almighty God. That does not mean they are fit for Heaven. God’s justice must be fully satisfied, and the debt of forgiven sin fully atoned for in Purgatory. Hence I venture to appeal to the great charity of your readers to provide ‘comforts for our dead soldiers’ by having Masses offered for their souls. Remembrance of our dead and gratitude are virtues dear to every Irish heart. Our brave lads have suffered and fought and died for us. They have nobly given their lives for God and country. It is now our turn to make some slight sacrifice, so that they may soon enter into the joy of eternal rest. — Very faithfully yours, NEMO.

COMMENT: This letter appeared in the Irish Catholic on this day in 1917. The author was, of course, Fr Doyle himself, who, due to his characteristic humility, wished to disguise his identity and write under a pseudonym.

Was there any limit to his care for the soldiers? He looked after their physical needs, he shared his meagre food with them, he gave up all comfort and even life itself in order to bring the sacraments to them. And here, in the midst of all his other activities, he found time to write a letter back home to encourage Masses for the dead. What a simple, yet loving, act this was. He was willing to sacrifice his time to provide aid for the souls of Irish soldiers in purgatory.

Perhaps we can examine our conscience on this issue today. Do we pray for the dead? Do we remember our deceased loved ones? Do we take time out of our busy lives to write letters or emails to those who would appreciate it? Do we write letters to newspapers to defend the Church in the midst of the persecutions she faces in these times? If Fr Doyle, facing death every day, found time to do this, do we have any real excuse?

Today is also the feast of St Philip Neri, who died in 1595 (we do not celebrate the feast liturgically as it falls on a Sunday). St Philip is one of those remarkable, lovable saints. There are many aspects of St Philip’s life that are similar to that of Fr Doyle’s. Both were renowned for their cheerfulness and love of practical jokes; both had a very affectionate and passionate love for Christ which revealed itself with the tenderness with which they greeted religious items and statues; both longed to go on the missions but could not – St Philip understood that Rome was to be his Indies. Both were devoted to the ministry of the Confessional. In fact, St Philip was one of the truly great confessors who was given the mystical gift of reading souls. In relation to today’s quote from Fr Doyle about the souls in Purgatory, we can recall that St Philip was always concerned about these departed souls, and when he approached death he begged those whose confessions he heard to say a rosary for his own soul after death. St Philip is one of those very lovable saints who is perhaps not as widely known today as he should be, especially in English speaking countries.

Remarkably, St Philip also has a military connection – he is the patron saint of the US Special Forces, a remarkable fact about an Italian saint who died over 400 years ago and never had any connection with the military during his earthly life.

St Philip Neri

3 thoughts on “Thoughts for May 26 (St Philip Neri) from Fr Willie Doyle

  1. I was most interested to read the above comments regarding Fr Doyle’s concern for the Holy Souls. I do have a great devotion to the Holy Souls in general, and now I have come to know about Fr Doyle, I am including the ‘War Dead’ in my devotions. At present, I am specifically praying for the WWI War Dead and – in particular – “those beloved of Fr Doyle”. I would suggest that if people want favours from Fr Doyle, then the best way to obtain that would be to pray for ‘his dear boys’, and ask their help in return.

    As well as Masses and the Rosary, there are many highly-indulgenced devotions for the Holy Souls. These include a Chaplet of the HS, The Holy Wounds Chaplet, Holy Hours and the liberal sprinkling of Holy Water. In recent years, little mention is made of Purgatory and this needs to be addressed. We can avoid it, or at least reduce our time there, but we DO need to put in some effort towards this. Helping the Souls already there is probably the best way.

  2. Purgatory seems to be almost forgotten these days at funerals, with instant ‘canonisations’. It’s rather as if the doctors and nurses in emergency spent their time in telling a patient what a wonderful person he is.

    Annier22013’s suggestion that we pray for Fr Doyle’s ‘dear boys’ is a very good suggestion.

    And we haven’t entirely forgotten in Ireland to pray when someone who has died is mentioned in conversation with ‘God rest his soul’, ‘The light of heaven on her’ and so on. I’ve heard such prayers on the radio from time to time from Gay Byrne, for example.

  3. Dear Fr Coyle, I am glad to hear that these sentiments are still expressed by my countrymen and women for the dead. However, to reduce our own time in Purgatory a great deal more is needed! I would suggest people get hold of a little book called ‘How to Avoid Purgatory’ which is available from Tan Books. There is a lot of very encouraging advice therein and hopefully people will see that much can be done to minimize our time there. In addition, the simple prayer of St Gertrude can be easily memorized and repeated often during the course of the day. This prayer is considered to free from Purgatory around 1,000 souls each time it is recited. St Gertrude said this prayer many times during the course of her day. It is:

    “Heavenly Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Thy Beloved Son Jesus in union with all the Masses being offered throughout the world this day for the relief and succour of the Holy Souls in Purgatory… esp those….”

    (Here one might mention one’s own relatives, the most abandoned who have no one to pray for them, the War Dead… and so on).

    Also, read Padre Pio’s accounts of his dealings with the Holy Souls whom he was in constant contact with for most of his life.

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