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: http://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: http://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/