Thoughts for the Feast of Blessed Edmund Rice (May 5) from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Edmund Rice
Blessed Edmund Rice

Having completed his course of philosophy, Willie returned to Clongowes in 1901 for another period of prefecting. Here he remained for two years, and he was then transferred to the teaching staff of Belvedere College, Dublin, where he spent a fruitful year of labour. For, as the immediate preparation for the priesthood drew near, zeal for souls that was afterwards to become so strong and ardent, began now to show itself more markedly in his life. He did much good work for the Apostleship of Prayer and for temperance among the boys in Belvedere, with whom he was even more popular than among those he had left behind in Clongowes. The stirring little talks he gave occasionally to his class made an impression which some of his pupils still recall. Especially was he insistent on the spirit of self-sacrifice and on Holy Communion. His attractive character and kindness led many of the boys to give him their confidence and seek help and counsel in their difficulties and doubts; and more than one vocation was discussed and decided at these interviews.

COMMENTS: These words about Fr Doyle are taken from O’Rahilly’s biography of his life. Fr Doyle seems to have been a conscientious and popular teacher in the two Jesuit schools in which he was stationed during his years of formation. He realised that the task of Catholic education is not just to train children for jobs, but to shape and mould their character and to equip them for a future of personal virtue and civic service.

Today is the feast of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, the founder of both the Irish Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. These congregations were formed to provide a specifically Catholic education for boys during the period immediately after the Penal Laws when there was little or no Catholic schooling in Ireland. Blessed Edmund’s contribution to Irish life is incalculable. Numerous generations of men were educated and formed by those who followed in Blessed Edmund’s footsteps.

Yet one wonders what Edmund makes of things today. The wonderful work of Edmund and his faithful followers has been undermined by a small number of morally corrupt Brothers who damaged the children in their care. The details of this evil are well known. It is hard to imagine a more treacherous repudiation of the legacy of a saintly educator like Edmund.

And yet, this is not Edmund’s fault, nor indeed the fault of the many very loyal and faithful Brothers who continue to serve children with generosity and who still keep Edmund’s legacy alive. We should pray for these faithful disciples of Edmund in both the Presentation and Christian Brothers, and especially pray for vocations. We should also pray for the canonisation of Edmund Rice.

We shall conclude today with some appropriate consoling words from Blessed Edmund Rice:

Be intent on prayer and whatever may happen will turn to our good.

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