Thoughts for February 3 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Therese

It seems to me that the best and most practical resolution I can make is to determine to perform each action with the greatest perfection. This will mean a constant going against self, ever agendo contra, at every moment and every single day. I have a vast field to cover in my ordinary daily actions e.g. to say the Angelus always with the utmost attention and fervour. I feel too that Jesus asks this from me as without it there can be no real holiness.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle here presents to us the “little way” of holiness in ordinary life which is the hallmark of real sanctity. Many great saints have advocated this realistic path to sanctity; St Therese and St Josemaria Escriva immediately come to mind. It is perhaps no surprise that Fr Doyle was greatly devoted to St Therese and that St Josemaria read, and was inspired by, Fr Doyle’s life story and spirit.

Yet, for all its apparent simplicity, this little way of constantly going against ourselves is a tough road. Yet it is the only road for most of us. The opportunity of doing great things may not come to us, but we have the opportunity of doing our daily tasks well every single day. Let us also remember the words of Jesus in the Gospel (Luke 16:10):

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.

Thoughts for February 2 from Fr Willie Doyle

Ellen Organ – “LIttle Nellie of Holy God”

Kneeling there I asked her what God wanted from me, when I heard an interior voice clearly repeating, “Love Him, love Him.” The following day she seemed to rebuke me, when leaving the cemetery, for the careless way I performed most of my spiritual duties, and to say that God was displeased with this and wanted great fervour and perfection in them.

COMMENT: Today’s quote recounts Fr Doyle’s experience of visiting the grave of Ellen Organ, otherwise known as Little Nellie of Holy God. Little Nellie died on this day in 1908 in County Cork. Fr Doyle visited her grave in February 1911. We don’t know the exact date, but perhaps it was even 103 years ago on this day, her anniversary.

Little Nellie was only four and a half years old when she died. She was sent to live with the Good Shepherd sisters when her own mother died. She was diagnosed with TB and fell gravely ill. She was known even at that young age for her intense love of “Holy God”.  She had a great longing to receive the Eucharist, and received extraordinary permission to do so at the age of four and a quarter. She seems to have reached the age of reason very quickly, and experienced several mystical graces. Her thanksgivings after Communion lasted until the late afternoon, and the smell of her rotting jaws and gums allegedly ceased after she had received her First Communion. She was unafraid of death, looking forward to being united with Jesus in Heaven. She died on this day in 1908.

Her fame soon spread, and her body was found to be incorrupt when examined 18 months after death. St Pius X was greatly moved by her story, and she helped inspire him to reduce the age of First Holy Communion from 12 to 7 years of age. In fact, St Pius was so moved that he asked for a relic of Little Nellie. How remarkable and humble – the great Pontiff requesting the relic of an unknown 4 year old girl!!

Fr Doyle obviously felt a particular affinity with Little Nellie. Did he have a mystical experience when he visited the grave? Did Little Nellie really chide him for his lack of fervour and perfection? We shall never know; such matters are hard to discern, and impossible 100 years removed from the event.

Little Nellie’s story is charming and edifying. Her example helped change Church practice on the age of First Holy Communion. The great St Pius X recognised her sanctity. Books are still published about her and significant interest in her life remains. Given the prevailing situation for too many Irish children of First Communion age – for many it is a day out when they receive lots of cash – her example is sorely needed, and her cause should be opened and promoted. Many children have already been raised to the altars and many more are on their way. One thinks immediately of Nennolina from Rome who died at six and a half in the 1930’s and whose story is similar to that of Little Nellie. She has already been declared Venerable, and an alleged miracle is apparently being investigated.

Pope Benedict tells us in his Letter to the Irish Church to remember the rock from which we have been hewn. We need contemporary Irish saints!!! This is not a pious, niche interest. Jesus Himself used everyday examples that were familiar to His listeners to illustrate His teachings. Missionaries in far away lands do the same today, utilising aspects of local culture to teach people about Christianity. Ireland is now mission territory once again, and we need to use our very own examples of holiness to reintroduce people to the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of Christianity. We have many worthy candidates, including, but not limited to, Fr Doyle and Little Nellie. Let us continue to pray for the day when we will see more Irish candidates recognised and held up as worthy models for the new evangelisation. But let us also work for this end, by writing and speaking about them and respectfully encouraging the relevant ecclesiastical authorities to open and pursue their causes.

Link available to buy new biography of Fr Doyle

On the right hand side of the page you will find a permanent link to buy the excellent new biography of Fr Doyle by Carole Hope entitled “Worshipper and Worshipped”.

The book is an excellent new addition to our understanding of Fr Doyle’s life, in particular his time as military chaplain – it contains many previously unpublished details of Fr Doyle’s time as chaplain in the Great War.

I hope to post a detailed review within a couple of days. For now, suffice it to say that those who already know and like Fr Doyle will discover, and like, new aspects of Fr Doyle’s life and character as a result of this excellent and enjoyable book.

EDIT: I notice that since posting this yesterday, Amazon has sold out of whatever stock it had of Worshipper and Worshipped. I presume they will be getting more stock, so you could leave an order with them and they will, I’m sure, be able to fulfil the order in due course. Alternatively, you could send me an email at the address on the right hand side of the page (under the picture of Fr Doyle) and I will put you in touch with the author who may be able to send you a copy directly or else may be able to point you to somewhere that has stock available immediately.

Worshipper and Worshipped

Thoughts for February 1 (St Brigid) from Fr Willie Doyle

I would like you to note down in a little book the following things. Every day read each item over and put a little cross after it so that you may have constantly before your mind what you have to do and your faults.

1. Number of aspirations made. Number should be increased slowly but steadily.

2. Number of acts of self-denial. Same remark.

3. Fighting against worry, anxiety, etc.

4. Patience, gentleness, sweetness with everyone. This especially when you are busy, rushed, annoyed.

5. Absolute charity in words.

6. Quiet and calmness, exterior and above all interior.

7. Trying to see the hand of God in everything that happens to you or your work

8. Steady persevering effort to acquire interior union with God in your soul.

COMMENT: Today’s quote comes from a letter of spiritual direction that Fr Doyle wrote to one of his correspondents. This letter was specifically directed to a specific individual with specific spiritual needs. Fr Doyle was extremely balanced and flexible – he would never suggest that his advice should be adopted uniformly by everyone. Nonetheless, these 8 points provide an excellent set of tasks to aid our spiritual growth. Even taking one or two of them and attempting to follow them would be beneficial. In fact, those we live with might be especially keen that we follow this advice, especially when it comes to points 4 and 5 which urge us to have patience and to be charitable in speech!

Today is also the feast of St Brigid of Ireland, one of Ireland’s patron saints. We shall conclude today with Pope Benedict’s prayer for Ireland which specifically entrusts us to St Brigid’s protection.

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Amen.