Fr Doyle’s battle against his self-will and comfort

On October 13 (see here) we looked at Fr Doyle’s resolution to submit his will to that of his servant (Fr Doyle had the rank of Captain, and as such had an orderly or servant to look after some of his material needs). Her did this in order to conquer his self-will and to grow in virtue.

Here is one diary note written on this day in 1916, reflecting on his experiences of submitting himself to the will of his servant for the previous two weeks:

I am slowly learning her lesson Jesus brought me out here to teach me. The first and greatest is that I must have no will of my own, only His, and this in all things. It is hard to let everyone walk on you, even your own servant; but Jesus asks this and I try to let Him arrange all as He pleases. Result: yesterday I got no dinner, though I foresaw this would be the consequence of this planning.

These diary notes, written less than a year before his death, show how seriously Fr Doyle took the battle to grow in virtue, and also show how far he had come. It’s worth remembering, as discussed two days ago, that Fr Doyle had also just spent an entire night in prayer in his dug-out. He could well have done with his dinner, but he was content to let God “arrange all as He pleases”.

On one occasion I gave a talk about Fr Doyle and one gentleman in the audience told me that he was told by a priest that Fr Doyle would not be canonised because he was too fond of comfort when he travelled to give missions! It always amazes me how such baseless rumours spread – there is certainly a precedent for it in the lives of many canonised saints!

All one needs to do is to point to these resolutions of Fr Doyle, made in the midst of much suffering in the trenches, to see how little he cared for comfort.

Thoughts for October 26 from Fr Willie Doyle

What account shall I give of this resolution when I stand before my God for judgement?


I. Accepto. I will receive with joy all unpleasant things which I must bear: (a) pain, sickness, heat, cold, food; (b) house, employment, rules, customs; (c) trials of religious life, companions; (d) reprimands, humiliations; (e) anything which is a cross.

II. Volo et Desidero. I will wish and desire that these things may happen to me, that so I may resemble my Jesus more.

III. Eligo. With all my might I will strive every day agere contra in omnibus (to act against myself in all things): (a) against my faults; (b) against my own will; (c) against my ease and comfort; (d) against the desires of the body; (e) against my habit and inclination of performing my duties negligently and without fervour.

COMMENT: Today’s quote from Fr Doyle refers to his tactics for living the Third Degree of Humility (see yesterday’s post for more details). It clearly shows us that sanctity comes about through hard work and God’s grace; the saints were not just born that way. For Fr Doyle, reaching the Third Degree meant that he would accept and desire unpleasant things and act against his own inclinations in a variety of ways. Who amongst us would not benefit from adopting this approach to life? If real hardships are imposed on us, through wars, financial turmoil or other misfortunes, how much better prepared is the person who has learned to act against their own desires and inclinations even in little things.

And if all of this seems too much, remember that Fr Doyle had already been a faithful and zealous Jesuit for almost two decades when he wrote these words -he would seem to have been very far advanced in his spiritual life. Let us begin where we can and trust in the Lord to help us along the way.