The Second Station of the Cross by Fr Willie Doyle

The Second Station: Jesus takes up His cross

Away from the palace now a sad procession is winding. On the faces of the multitude a fiendish joy is written, they have had their wish and now issue forth to glut their eyes on the dying struggles of the suffering innocent One. Painfully He is toiling up the long narrow street, narrower still from the crowds that line the way; each step is agony, each yard of ground He covers a fresh martyrdom of ever increasing suffering. With a refinement of cruelty His enemies have placed upon His shoulders the heavy, rough beams which will be His last painful resting place.

Cruelly the heavy beam weighs upon His mangled flesh and cuts and chafes a long, raw sore deep to the very bone.

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The First Station of the Cross by Fr Willie Doyle

We are now over half way through Lent. At this stage it is easy for our dedication to wane somewhat; the early enthusiasm of Ash Wednesday is behind us; the solemnity and beauty of Holy Week is still a few weeks away.

This seems to be an appropriate time to introduce the Stations of the Cross based on the writings of Fr Doyle. For each of the next 14 days a meditation from his writings on one of the Stations will be posted on the site, normally without the usual daily comment. The images accompanying these meditations are the images of the Stations in St Raphael’s Church in Surrey, England (http://www.straphael.org.uk) and are used with the kind permission of the parish.

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned To Death

Around the judgement seat are grouped a motley crowd. Men and women of every rank, the high-born Jewish maiden, the rough Samaritan woman; haughty Scribes and proud Pharisees mingle with the common loafer of the great city. Hatred has united them all for one common object; hatred of One Who ever loves them and to their wild fury has only opposed acts of gentle kindness. A mighty scream goes up, a scream of fierce rage and angry fury, such a sound as only could be drawn from the very depths of hell. “Death to Him! Death to the false prophet!”. He has spent His life among you doing good – Let Him die! He has healed your sick, given strength to the palsied, sight to your blind – Let Him die! He has raised your dead – Let death be His fate!

Review of new Catholic Truth Society booklet on Fr Doyle

CTS booklet

There was much interest in the life and spirituality of Fr Doyle, and in his canonisation cause, up to the middle of the last century. At this point, on the surface, interest in Fr Doyle seemed to reduce somewhat. But closer inspection indicates that interest in, and devotion to, Fr Doyle did not completely disappear. Fr Doyle has always had his clients – those whose families have reason to be grateful for his service to their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers in the war, and those who discovered him in the older books and formed a devotion to him over the past half century or so.

It seems that the days of Fr Doyle’s apparent decline (and again I emphasise that this decline was only a perceived decline, for devotion to him has always lingered on) are over. It is abundantly clear that many who had previously heard of Fr Doyle have rediscovered him, and that an entirely new generation that has encountered him for the first time are now determined to tell others about this remarkable man.

From apparent obscurity, the last few years have seen a number of significant developments in relation to Fr Doyle. For example, a number of years ago, a small book publisher called Tradibooks republished Alfred O’Rahilly’s classic biography of Fr Doyle, making it readily and widely available to a whole new generation (review here: https://fatherdoyle.com/2011/03/08/spiritual-reading-for-lent-2/). The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer have republished a slightly modified edition of Merry in God under the title Trench Priest (Available here: http://www.papastronsay.com/bookshop/product.php?ID=21). This blog and website was started in June 2010. A number of newspapers and magazines, both religious and secular, have carried stories about Fr Doyle. The last 6 months have brought very significant developments. In November 2013 Carole Hope produced the important new study of Fr Doyle’s military career in Worshipper and Worshipped (review here: https://fatherdoyle.com/2014/02/13/book-review-of-worshipper-and-worshipped/). And just this year, and also of great significance, the Catholic Truth Society has produced a booklet about Fr Doyle written by K.V. Turley entitled Fr Willie Doyle & World War I: A Chaplain’s Story. All of these initiatives are independent of one another and have developed in an organic fashion. While all of these initiatives are small building blocks, it seems likely that interest in Fr Doyle will grow as we commemorate World War I over the next 4 years.

The newly published CTS booklet is important precisely because of the wide distribution and attention that CTS booklets attract. Not everybody will read a full biography, or at least, not until they know that it is worth investing time and money in the endeavour. This 70 page booklet is an excellent and concise introduction to the life and spirit of Fr Doyle, and is sure to inspire many to investigate this heroic figure in more detail.

Fr Doyle lived a life of great action and intensity, both externally in his work as a priest and military chaplain, and internally in his spiritual life. K.V. Turley’s book captures this life and its fine balance of action and contemplation in an accessible and attractive manner. The booklet is divided into 15 short chapters and a number of appendices. The first 28 pages review Fr Doyle’s life prior to the war, and almost 40 pages provide an overview of his adventures as military chaplain from November 1915 until his eventual death in August 1917. As with all books about Fr Doyle, most chapters include numerous charming quotes from Fr Doyle’s own pen, often illustrating his intense spiritual life, and giving us a glimpse into his burning love for God and for others.

By and large, the contents of the booklet will mostly be familiar to those who have already read the O’Rahilly biography, but it has the great advantage of brevity and accessibility. But there is some material which has not generally been published in widely available books prior to this. Appendix III outlines the devotion that St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, had for Fr Doyle, and describes how St Josemaria wrote about Fr Doyle (without naming him) in his famous book The Way.

K.V. Turley and the Catholic Truth Society have done a great service in producing a short, direct, and accessible booklet which provides a rounded portrait of the life and soul of Fr Doyle. We now have a concise, modern introduction to Fr Doyle’s life to share with others. Those with an interest in Fr Doyle should buy multiple copies of it to distribute it to their friends and contacts.

Copies can be ordered here: http://www.ctsbooks.org/fr-willie-doyle-and-world-war-i/

Thoughts for March 28

A photo of the Doyle family, taken in 1907, shortly after Fr Doyle's ordination. The occasion is his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Hugh and Christina Doyle can be seen in the centre of the middle row.
A photo of the Doyle family, taken in 1907, shortly after Fr Doyle’s ordination. The occasion is his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Hugh and Christina Doyle can be seen in the centre of the middle row, with Fr Doyle beside his mother and Fr Charlie, his brother and childhood companion, in the back row.

Today is the anniversary of Fr Doyle’s father’s death. Hugh Doyle died on this day in 1924, just three months short of his 92nd birthday.

Hugh Doyle seems to have been a remarkable man. He was Chief Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court in Dublin, and retired at the age of 90, having served for 73 years! (Yes, those figures are correct; they are not typos…). He was a devout man – he prayed every morning before going to work, he lead the rest of the family and servants in their devotions, and after breakfast he would appoint one or other of the children to read aloud to the household from the Imitation of Christ or from Challoner’s Meditations. He was also renowned for his service to the poor, and was active in the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Fr Doyle clearly had a close relationship with his father. It is due to this relationship that we know so much about his experiences in the war as he wrote many letters home to his father. He clearly missed his father and wanted to reassure him that all was well.

One of the striking characteristics of his letters to his father was their remarkable cheerfulness. Fr Doyle was often surrounded by death and squalor, yet he still found time to write home to his father. He describes in some of his letters the conditions in which he wrote – sometimes up to his knees in water, sometimes standing up as there was nowhere to sit, or sometimes even sitting on unexploded shells! This dedication in writing to his father, to reassure him and put him at ease, illustrates Fr Doyle’s own virtue and concern for others, as well as his filial love.

One of the great things about “Worshipper and Worshipped”, the new biography of Fr Doyle’s war service (see here), is that it includes practically the complete war correspondence from Fr Doyle to his father. We can see in these letters just how tender their relationship was – Fr Doyle often signs off with many expressions of respect, affection and love.

There is one further charming story about Hugh Doyle. One night in 1922 (he would have been 89 or 90) he was disturbed by a burglar who made him get up and open all of the drawers. As he was ransacking the drawers he came across a photo of Fr Doyle who had been dead for 5 years at this stage. The burglar became excited and asked who it was. Fr Doyle said that it was his son who had given his life for the soldiers in Flanders. The robber responded by saying “That was a holy priest, he saved many souls”. He then took the card, kissed it, put it in his pocket, and left the house!

Let us remember the repose of the soul of Mr Hugh Doyle in our prayers today.

The grave in which Fr Doyle's parents are buried.  Deansgrange Cemetery, County Dublin.
The grave in which Fr Doyle’s parents are buried.
Deansgrange Cemetery, County Dublin.

Talk about Fr Doyle next Thursday (April 3) in Dublin

I will give a  lecture on the life and spirituality of Fr Doyle next Thursday evening (April 3) at the Young Adults Forum at 7.30pm in Merrion Road Church, Dublin 4. The talk will take place in the Upper Room which is located in the Tower.

The talk will last for about 45 minutes and will be followed by time for questions and discussion.

Merrion Road Church can be found here: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir//53.317761,-6.208584/@53.317762,-6.208584,16z/data=!4m4!4m3!1m0!1m1!4e1?hl=en

Thoughts for the Feast of the Annunciation from Fr Willie Doyle

Annunciation 2

Do you not think that Jesus must have done very much for Mary during the nine months she bore Him within her?

COMMENT: Mary’s Yes was a pivotal moment in our salvation history and indeed in the history of the world. The request that she consent to being the mother of the Messiah must have been bewildering for her. It had implications for her, and for all of humanity throughout all eternity, that she could not at that time imagine. Yet she didn’t hesitate. She abandoned herself to God with utter faith. Mary was without sin, and always responded to God’s will. Yet she retained her own free will, and in theory she could have refused to follow God’s path for her. That’s why her “Fiat”, her declaration “May it be done unto me according to your word” is such an important example for us. How different things might have been without her faithful acceptance…

How different the world would have been if the saints across history had not accepted God’s will. And how different things would have been without Fr Doyle’s yes to God. How many priests and religious owed their vocations to his writings? How many souls converted through his preaching? How many soldiers were saved and consoled by his loving presence and ministry in the trenches?

And what of us? How many people depend on our faithfulness to our vocation, whatever that may be…

Blessed John Henry Newman tells us:

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

Let us turn today to Mary, that she may help us understand our vocation in life more clearly and persevere in it with greater fidelity.

Thoughts for March 24 from Fr Willie Doyle

The great defect in my character and chief reason why I make so little progress is my want of fidelity. Thus in the past eighteen months I have not marked the ejaculations and acts of self-denial over three hundred times.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle refers here to his tendency of keeping meticulous records about numerous aspects of his spiritual life. Many saints kept detailed spiritual records in order to review their progress day by day and to ensure that they were aware of any slippage in their acts of devotion. It is a practice recommended by St Ignatius for his Jesuit sons. Fr Doyle was generally very conscientious in keeping his “spiritual accounts” up to date.

It is consoling for the rest of us to read about this period of time in which Fr Doyle did not keep his records up to date so often, presumably due to being busy or overwhelmed with others tasks. Even the very devout have to struggle with their resolutions – this fact should give consolation to the rest of us.

The key issue that we might consider in today’s quote is that of fidelity. Fr Doyle is correct – we will not make progress unless we are faithful to our resolutions. We see this in so many areas of our life. We will not advance in study unless we are faithful in our work; we will not become fitter unless we remain faithful to our physical exercises. The same principle holds true for our spiritual life. We must strive to remain faithful to our resolutions. However, there will inevitably be times when we fail and when we lack fidelity. In such a situation we don’t give into discouragement which is one of the greatest weapons of the enemy. Rather, we pick ourselves up and start again.

We are now almost half way through Lent. Have we been faithful to our resolutions? If not, it doesn’t mean that we just give up – we still have almost 4 weeks of Lent left in order to get back on track.