Thoughts for April 4 from Fr Willie Doyle

If one of two has to suffer, why shouldn’t you be the one? Always choose the worst and hardest. Do not try to get rid of what is troublesome and annoying, but hold on to it. The cross is a treasure.

COMMENT: Today we have one of Fr Doyle’s “difficult sayings”. But in this he was no different to the saints or to indeed to Christ – the writings of the saints, and the pages of the Gospel, are full of hard sayings that are somewhat repugnant to our nature. 

But for all that, one cannot deny that this is a hard doctrine to live by. Our human nature naturally loves comfort and the easy path of least resistance. And we now live in a culture that exalts convenience and the pursuit of pleasure in a way that no previous age has done. But the saints knew that we have to learn to say no to ourselves and to do hard things. 

Over the past week I have been reading more about Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, who died last week. She lived the spirit of these words of Fr Doyle in her own life. She was the recipient of what appeared to be a miraculous healing in 1998. She injured her spine several decades previously and had to wear a heavy brace on her back and legs ever since, and walked with great pain and difficulty. While she was naturally happy to have been healed instantaneously while praying the rosary, she subsequently told a priest that she was also a little saddened at the healing, because she no longer had to wear the heavy braces and thus had no cross to offer to Jesus (and this despite having other chronic illnesses and temporal worries). And towards the end of her life, despite tremendous sufferings all through her life and especially since her stroke in 2001, she told her nuns to prolong her life for as long as possible so that she could continue to suffer for the Lord and to offer those sufferings to Him. 

This is how a saint thinks and acts. Of course, this mentality does not make sense to everyone. God meets us where we are at, and to those who have been faithful to the graces He has given, He surely leads to an even greater openness towards suffering for love of Him. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that we go and make a mess of our lives or of our health so that we can suffer more – life itself often throws enough crosses our way…)

We see the same spirit of embracing suffering in the life of Fr Doyle – his pursuit of mortification through life and his embrace of the sufferings of the trenches during the war. Before he was killed in the war he even expressed a desire to go and work as a missionary amongst lepers, knowing that such an act would probably slowly kill him as St Damien was killed. The cross truly is a treasure for those who have grown in grace and love of God.

And for the rest of us…? Well, I had no idea how I was going to end this post, but as I was writing it stuck me that, while many might not want to suffer “for God’, many are willing to suffer for careers, for money, for esteem, for athletic prowess or enhanced physical attractiveness. If we are open to sacrifices for such fleeting things, can we say that we truly love God if we are not open to sacrifices for Him?