13 December 1916

Fr Doyle wrote the following in his diary on this day in 1916:

Since I became chaplain I have grown very lazy and unmortified, the cause of much unpleasantness and remorse to me. My excuse is that my present life is so hard and repugnant that I need these little indulgences. Then I think of Blessed Charles Spinola, for example, amid the horrors of his prison, practicing great austerities, fasting etc., which make me ashamed of my cowardice. The Holy Spirit is constantly urging me not to let this precious time slip by, when even a small sacrifice is worth many a big one at other times. I see the only chance is to mark down the special acts I do, for though I hate doing so, I know it is an immense help, and otherwise nothing is done. I have begun the “Book of Little Sacrifices” again today.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle had a special calling to austerity – this was made consistently clear to him through his prayer and was approved of by his superiors and his confessor. He never encouraged others to follow his specific personal path, although he always urged others to practice penance, albeit in little things. 

Despite Fr Doyle’s personal calling, it is clear that a life of austerity did not come easily to him – again and again we see him struggle to remain faithful to his specific ascetically path  Fr Doyle is so human and so normal. He was a joyful ascetic, who remained full of happiness himself, communicating it to others around him, all the while struggling against the natural temptation to take life indulgently. 

Of course, Fr Doyle’s life was far from indulgent!! It is clear that he succeeded in remaining faithful to what he perceived to be his personal mission of reparation and penance. Indeed, the dirt, danger and fatigue of military life in World War 1 did not exactly allow for comfort-seeking, especially for one who always shared the life of the ordinary soldiers. But such was Fr Doyle’s zeal, and the strength of his desire to empty himself, that he always wanted to give more. He is even known to have harboured a desire to go and work in a leper colony if he survived the war! Many people suffer in our world today. One wonders what he would make of the modern comfort and complacency of so many Christians in the midst of the suffering of others. The Year of Mercy – with its necessary focus on the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy – is an occasion for us to shake off our self-comfort and serve others around us. 

Thoughts for Gaudete Sunday from Fr Willie Doyle

If there is any certain mark of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the soul, if there is any visible pledge of future happiness destined for man, assuredly it is lightness of heart and joy of spirit. On some souls the black clouds of despondency and gloom never settle, sorrow may touch them with her sable wings, grief may blanch the hair and early care rob the step of its youthful spring; but the joy which is not of this earth ever shines upon the brow of such a soul, and the heavenly peace and calm within shine brighter through the flood of tears which are wrung from a sore-stricken heart.