12 July 1922: An alleged favour through Fr Doyle’s intercession

A nun in South Africa wrote the following letter on this day (July 12) in 1922, alleging a favour through Fr Doyle’s intercession:

One of our Community had for some time been seriously ill in a sanatorium. One evening I got a telephone message to say Sister was on the point of death and that the doctor declared there was no hope unless a change took place at once. I called the Community together and we knelt down and asked Fr Doyle to send a change for the better by seven o’clock. It was then 6.30pm. Next day I went to the sanatorium. The infirmarian came out to meet me and her first words were: ‘Sister is out of danger, the change came in time’. I asked at what hour. ‘Seven o’clock last night’, was the reply. I had promised Fr Willie to have Masses said if he got our request granted, and that day i arranged for a number to be said in thanksgiving.

Of course, we do not have the competence to say for certain that this cure was brought about through Fr Doyle’s intercession, much less that it was a miracle. However, it is worth noting that this was a community of nuns praying to him in 1922, less than 5 years after his death, and we know that within 14 years of this death, there were at least 6,426 alleged favours from around the globe reportedly through Fr Doyle’s intercession. Were they all mere coincidences? Were there purely natural explanations for these favours? That is a judgement for others to make. 

But what we can say with certainty is that there was a real and substantial global devotion to Fr Doyle. When people meet him and hear his story, he has a tremendous appeal. As we approach the centenary of the Great War, there will be many more opportunities to make Fr Doyle more well known. We should take every opportunity to spread awareness of him and his message.

Fr Doyle’s last practical joke – 20 July 1917

Fr Doyle had a tremendous joy and cheerfulness that easily communicated itself to others. He also retained this sense of fun despite the suffering of the war and his own personal austerity and mortification. All of this is extremely significant – the saints were always serene and joyful despite their sufferings. 

Fr Doyle was also known as a practical joker. It’s not known what others thought about his jokes, and whether they appreciated them or not! But there is little doubt that his jokes were well meaning and were an opportunity to relieve the tension of religious life or the tension of the war. 

Alfred O’Rahilly recounts what he calls Fr Doyle’s last practical joke, which he estimates took place on this day in 1917, less than a month before his death. Here is his description of it.

One day Fr Doyle chanced upon a fresh unsoiled copy of the “Daily Mail” for a Friday in October 1914, describing the German capture of Roulers. A glance at the scare headings on its front page suggested a hoax on the mess of the 2nd Dublins. Next day, which was a Friday (probably July 20) he managed to get into the mess before the others. He substituted the old copy and abstracted the new one, which he proceeded to read while waiting the turn of events. The first to come in was Major Smithwick who, seeing the heading, called out: “They’ve begun the big advance. Roulers is captured.” At once there was great excitement, and all crowded round to get a peep at the stirring news. But after some moments there were puzzled exclamations. “Why, it’s the Germans who have taken Roulers”. “It’s not Friday’s paper”; “yes it is”. Then the fraud was discovered, and its author was discovered behind the authentic paper. That was Fr Doyle’s last practical joke.

Thoughts for July 12 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St Therese of Lisieux
Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St Therese of Lisieux

But remember the devil will spoil the work if he can and by every means in his power turn you from your life of immolation.

COMMENT: In today’s snippet, Fr Doyle reminds us that we are contending not only against our own weakness in the spiritual life, but that the devil also wishes to distract us from closer intimacy with God, and that he will use “every means in his power” to turn us aside. Lucifer was the most brilliant of the angels and he has many means in his power. Perhaps most of all, he will use the defects in our own characters, which he knows so well, to turn us from the path of virtue. 

 

When we are tempted, when the devil tries “by every means in his power” to turn us away from our good resolutions, we should proceed as we had planned, with generosity and trusting in God’s help. 

Today it is somewhat unfashionable to refer to the Enemy, but if we wish to remove him from our life of faith, we shall be forced to erase a lot of the Gospel as well. True, perhaps previous generations were too focussed on the issues of evil influences, but perhaps we have allowed the pendulum to swing far too much in the other direction in recent decades. If we prefer to ignore the existence of our Enemy, we surely give a major advantage to him. Interestingly, one of the striking and unusual things about the pontificate of Pope Francis is how often he speaks of the Devil – for him, the Devil and his influence are very real.

The efforts of the Enemy should spur us on to greater efforts, not cause us to shrink with fear. As Fr Doyle wrote in his diary 100 years ago today (12 July 1915):

Now feeling well, I gave up the intention of sleeping on boards, but overcame self and did so. I rose this morning, quite fresh and none the worse for it, proving once more how our Lord would help me if I was generous.

Fr Doyle, as a good disciple of St Ignatius, knew that a fundamental principle of our spiritual combat is to act against temptation, not to meekly yield when tempted. Consider the words of St Ignatius:

It is the way of the enemy to weaken and lose heart, his temptations taking flight, when the person who is exercising himself in spiritual things opposes a bold front against the temptations of the enemy, doing diametrically the opposite. And on the contrary, if the person who is exercising himself commences to have fear and lose heart in suffering the temptations, there is no beast so wild on the face of the earth as the enemy of human nature in following out his damnable intention with so great malice.

Finally, today is the feast (and wedding wedding anniversary) of the married couple Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St Therese. They will be canonised in October. Fr Doyle was an early and enthusiastic devotee of St Therese. Let us pray today for married couples and families, particularly those that experience troubles and challenges.