Some history will be made next Monday…

Monday, November 11 is Armistice Day on which we remember those who died in the Great War, including Fr Doyle. It is not much of an event in Ireland, though we are reminded of it whenever we watch British news channels – all newsreaders seem to wear the poppy for weeks beforehand.

But November 11 this year will be historic for those devoted to Fr Doyle for another important reason…The first book-length biography of Fr Doyle since “Merry in God” in 1939 will be published!

Worshipper and Worshipped

Worshipper and Worshipped is a substantial (700 page) chronological biography of Fr Doyle’s life, with a major focus on his service as a military chaplain. It touches briefly on Fr Doyle’s spiritual life, but its primary contribution is its detailed account of Fr Doyle’s time in the war. It includes the complete correspondence of Fr Doyle to his family during the war – almost 90,000 words of the book are taken from Fr Doyle’s own pen, some of which has never before been published, even by Alfred O’Rahilly in his detailed classic biography. It is written by Carole Hope, an expert in the Great War. Here is her description of the book:

This new biography of William Doyle traces his story chronologically from his birth to his death.  It makes no attempt to analyse his spiritual life. I have tried to paint a picture of his faith, and the struggles he had with his expression of it, which informed his daily existence, but I leave the detailed commentary of Willie’s inner life to others.

Whilst I have been diligent in my research and in checking my references, I make no pretence to this being a work of scholarship.  It is simply my telling of the story of a historical character and his interaction with the people and events of his era. An era which spanned two centuries and two vastly different worlds; one man who passed from a gently glowing gas-lit Victorian childhood into a new electric century, before encountering a thunderous epoch where mass production and deployment of munitions was a reality of his adulthood. 

A large part of the biography focuses on Fr Doyle’s service as a Military Chaplain during the Great War for two reasons. Firstly because of my interest in World War One, but also because the greater part of the primary source material available to me is from that period. Fr Doyle’s life as a military chaplain was bound up with the stories of the officers and men he served with during the Great War, particularly as he was one of those padres who insisted in accompanying his flock as far forward as he could get away with. Therefore, I have included detail and experiences of as many of those men of 16th (Irish) Division as I was able, and yet more others who were faced with similar situations. In reality this could only ever skim the surface but I felt it worth doing, even though received wisdom says that such a resulting “big” book should not work.  I hope that I have been a conduit for Willie Doyle and the other people whose personal testimony I have quoted in this work.

I am currently reading a copy of the book and find it very interesting – it is as fast and accessible read. I am learning many new things about the Great War and even spotting little things about other aspects of Fr Doyle’s life that I had previously overlooked. When I have finished the book I will also post a review of the book here.

So, if you are looking for some Christmas presents for yourselves or others, you know where to look!

The book will be available for sale in bookshops and online via Amazon. When arrangements are in place I will post about it here and leave an image of the book on the right hand column under the original O’Rahilly book.

Thoughts for November 8 from Fr Willie Doyle


“Jesus has suffered so much for me to atone for my sins”

The Fruit of the Third Week

The thought that Jesus has suffered so much for me to atone for my sins and past careless life in religion, has filled me with a great desire to love Him in return with all my heart, I feel, too, a growing hunger and thirst for suffering and mortification, because it makes me more like to my suffering Jesus, suffering all with joy for me.

Every day has deepened my shame, sorrow and hatred for my negligent tepid life since I entered the Society, and strengthened my resolve and desire to make amends by a life of great fervour. I feel my past sinful life will be a spur for me to aim at great holiness.

COMMENT: In these notes, Fr Doyle reflects on a desire for mortification and for personal reform as fruits of the Third Week of his Spiritual Exercises in 1907. The desire for mortification tends to strike those who are already advanced in the spiritual life, so we should not be unduly worried if we do not desire penance. But whether we desire it or not, we still need it, especially as we set out on the path of personal reform. However, we need not copy the penances of Fr Doyle, but instead we should follow his advice, which is to pursue penances in the ordinary circumstances of our life, fulfilling our duties as best we can.

As for the second fruit – “the desire to make amends by a life of great fervour” – we should always cultivate this in our lives. A basic review of all of the gifts we have received, and of the many ways in which we have failed to correspond to God’s grace,  will give us ample motives for reform.