Preparing for Fr Doyle’s anniversary – Day 5: The virtue of Justice in the life of Fr Doyle

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has the following to say about the virtue of justice.

1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.” “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Giving to God and to our neighbour what is rightfully due to them…Seen in this light, Fr Doyle lived a life filled with justice. He was scrupulous in fulfilling his spiritual duties – he was faithful to his breviary when possible (obviously it wouldn’t always be possible in the war) and often resolved to recite the breviary on his knees, in imitation of St John Vianney. During the war years he sometimes faced a choice between eating and saying Mass – he naturally always chose to say Mass rather than break his fast. And, when he found some of his spiritual duties hard to complete, he would follow the example of St Alphonsus by binding himself by vow to complete them.

But Fr Doyle was also renowned for his social justice – his care to render service to his fellow men. We see this clearly throughout his life, from, his charitable works for his poor neighbours in Dalkey to his care for ordinary working men right through to his care for the soldiers (including captured German soldiers), even to the point of dying for them.

The virtue of justice is closely connected with the virtue of obedience, and this is of special significance for members of religious orders who take a vow of obedience. Some quote from Fr Doyle on this point:

During His Passion our Lord was bound and dragged from place to place. I have hourly opportunities of imitating Him by going cheer fully to the duty of the moment recreation when I want to be quiet, a walk when I would rather stay in my room, some unpleasant duty I did not expect, a call of charity which means great inconvenience for myself.

And elsewhere:

I contrast the obedience of St. Joseph with my obedience. His so prompt, unquestioning, uncomplaining, perfect; mine given so grudgingly; perhaps exterior without interior conformity with the will of the Superior. I realise my faults in this matter, and for the future will try to practise the most perfect obedience, even and especially in little things.

Fr Doyle’s concept of obedience touches on an issue where we can perhaps all examine our conscience – our performance of our daily duties. Our employers have a strict right, in justice, that we perform our jobs well, and work for the hours for which we are paid. Our spouses have the strict right, in justice, to our love and fidelity. Our children have the strict right, in justice, to our time, love and formation. And, in speaking of priests, their parishioners also have a right, in justice, to expect that their priests will be faithful and that they will try to lead their congregations to sanctity.

The loving fulfilment of duties in life was a constant theme of Fr Doyle. We could multiply numerous quotes from Fr Doyle on this important aspect of duty, but a few will suffice.

I felt a strong impulse to resolve to take up as one of the chief objects of my life the exact and thorough performance of each duty, trying to do it as Jesus would have done, with the same pure intention, exquisite exactness and fervour. To copy in all my actions walking, eating, praying Jesus, my model in the little house of Nazareth. This light was sudden, clear and strong. To do this perfectly will require constant, unflagging fervour.

Also

Have a fixed duty for each moment and not depart from it; never waste a moment.

And elsewhere

While making the Holy Hour to-day, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I felt inspired to make this resolution: Sweet Jesus, as a first step towards my becoming a saint, which You desire so much, I will try to do each duty, each little action, as perfectly and fervently as I possibly can.

How different the world, the economy and our families, would look if we all tried to live the virtue of justice by being faithful to our duties in this way.

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