Thoughts for June 5 from Fr Willie Doyle

I have not told them at home, and do not want them to know but we have had a terrible time for the last three weeks, constant and increasing shelling, with many wonderful escapes. We are on the eve of a tremendous battle and the danger will be very great. Sometimes I think God wishes the actual sacrifice of my life — the offering of it was made long ago. But if so, that almost useless life will be given most joyfully. I feel wonderful peace and confidence in leaving myself absolutely in God’s Hands. Only I know it would not be right, I would like never to take shelter from bursting shells; and up to a few days ago, till ordered by the Colonel, I never wore a steel helmet. I want to give myself absolutely to Him to do with me just as He pleases, to strike or kill me, as He wishes, trying to go along bravely and truthfully, looking up into His loving Face, for surely He knows best. On the other hand I have the conviction, growing stronger every day, that nothing serious will befall me; a wound would be joy, ‘to shed one’s blood for Jesus,’ when I would gladly empty my veins for Him. Otherwise why would He impress so strongly on my mind that this ‘novitiate’ out here is only the preparation for my real life’s work? Why does He put so many schemes and plans into my mind? Why has He mapped out several little books, one of which will do great good, I believe, because every word will be His? Then the possibilities of the Holy Childhood have gripped me, and His little perishing souls, 10,000 a day, seem ever to be pleading for a sight of Jesus! Yet I have laid even the desire to do these things at His Feet, and I strive might and main to have no will but His, for this pleases Him most. I am very calm and trustful in face of the awful storm so soon to burst. But could it be otherwise, when He is ever with me and when I know that should I fall, it will only be into His Arms of love?

COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote this letter on 5 June 1917. It is not immediately clear who he wrote to, but it matches the style he used when writing to his sister who was a nun with the Sisters of Mercy. The difference in style between these types of letters and those more humorous and comforting ones that he wrote to his father is noticeable.

Fr Doyle was completely abandoned to God’s will, accepting even death if He should wish it. Yet his own assessment of his future was mistaken – at this stage he felt that he would survive the war, but in reality he had only two and a half months left until he fell into those “arms of love”.

Fr Doyle’s death robbed us of those “several little books” that he had mapped out, although we do have one of them – his famous booklet Scruples and their TreatmentBut on the other hand, if he had survived the war he would almost certainly have destroyed his private notes and diaries. It is these precious writings that allow us to see this master spiritual tactician at work in his own life. We are all the richer for that.

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