Today is the feast of St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael, the archangels.
This feast was significant in Fr Doyle’s spiritual life, for he made a vow to the Sacred Heart on this very day 106 years ago. He made the vow during one of his late night vigils, and signed the vow in his blood (this was not uncommon at the time; St Therese is known to have done something similar, and Fr Doyle was an early devotee of this saint, so he may have copied the practice from her). Here is the text of the vow:
“Most loving Jesus, kneeling before You in the Blessed Sacrament, I solemnly consecrate myself to Your Sacred Heart by vow. I vow always to be Your faithful lover and to strive every day to grow in Your love. In imitation of the oblation which B. Margaret Mary made of herself, I now wish to give myself up absolutely and entirely, without any reserve whatever, to Your most Sacred Heart, that You may be free to do with me, to treat me, as You wish, to send me whatever suffering or humiliation You wish. I desire to put no obstacle to the action of grace upon my soul, to be a perfect instrument in Your divine hands, to be Your victim should You so desire. I want to make this oblation and immolation of myself to Your Sacred Heart as completely as possible, and in the manner which You wish me to make it, O my Jesus. Therefore, again, by this vow, I make a complete surrender of myself and all I have to You. Do with me as You will, for from this hour I am wholly Yours. Amen.
Feast of St. Michael, Friday, Sept. 29th, 1910.
Made at Midnight. Signed W. J. DOYLE, S J.”
One year later, while on retreat, he added to this vow as follows:
I deliberately vow, and bind myself, under pain of mortal sin, to refuse Jesus no sacrifice, which I clearly see He is asking from me. Amen.
(1) Until I get permission to make it permanently, this will only bind from day to day, to be renewed each morning at Mass.
(2) To avoid scrupulosity, I am quite free unless I honestly believe the sacrifice is asked.
(3) Any confessor may dispense me from the vow at any time.
Feast of St. Michael, Tullabeg. September 29th, 1911.
Though not coming under the matter of the vow, my aim will be :
(a) Never to avoid suffering e.g. heat or cold, unpleasant people etc.
(b) Of two alternatives, to choose the harder e.g. ordinary or arm chair.
(c) To try and let absolutely no occasion of self-denial pass: they are too precious.
(d) As far as possible, not to omit my ordinary penances when a little unwell.
(e) My constant question to be: What other sacrifice can I make? What more can I ive up for Jesus? How can I do this action more perfectly ?
REASONS FOR MAKING VOW.
(1) The immense help it will be to become fervent.
(2) Additional great merit from doing the acts under vow.
(3) I see now what was the strange want which I have felt so often in my life. I have been urged by grace for years to take some such step, but only recently clearly saw what I should do.
(4) My sanctification depends on doing this.
(5) I wish to do my utmost to please my dear Jesus.
(6) I feel simply I must make this vow as if I had no power to refuse, which shows me that all this is the work of grace, and not my doing in the least.
(7) Since Jesus, out of pure love for me, has always lived this life, and since I have promised to imitate Him, how can I now refuse to do so?
(8) I shall gain immensely by this vow, my work for others will be blessed, more souls will be saved and greater glory given to God.
(9) What shall I lose? A little gratification which brings no real pleasure but always leaves me unhappy, for I feel I am resisting grace.
I make this vow with immense distrust of myself and my power to keep it, but place all my confidence and trust in Thee, O most loving Heart of Jesus.”
By the time Fr Doyle made this second vow 106 years ago today, he had advanced far in the spiritual life and was actively seeking daily sacrifices to offer to the Lord for others. We can learn a lot from his spirit of generosity, even if the way we live this generosity is different from the ways open to Fr Doyle.
Also today we honour the archangels. In a particular way in our own time we pray for the protection and help of St Michael, protector of the Church, and of all Christians, against the attacks the enemy. How sad when people think that angels are merely nice imaginary friends for children, and how sad when they are co-opted into a New Age fad. Scripture s very clear about the existence and role of angels, and also very explicit about the role of St Michael in the battle against Satan. Exorcists, and exorcisms, have received a lot more publicity in recent years. There is a danger of being too superstitious and curious about these matters, but also an even greater danger of dismissing them altogether. Instead we should approach these matters with a sober realism. Exorcists are very clear now in speaking about the increased demands for their ministry. They suggest that dabbling with new age activities and the occult, and in particular an engagement with online pornography, have opened doors to the demonic in many people’s lives. Consider the words of St John Paul II from some addresses in 1987:
The continuous struggle against the devil that characterises Michael the Archangel is still going on since the devil who seeks to take advantage of every situation is still living and operative in the world.
There are periods in which the existence of evil among men becomes singularly apparent. We have the impression today that people do not want to see the problem. Everything possible is done to remove from public awareness the existence of the “cunning attacks of the devil” who “holds dominion over the underworld…Nevertheless there are historical periods when the profound truth of this revelation of faith is expressed with greater force and is almost tangibly perceived.
We are surely in one of those times now. As Blessed Paul VI famously stated in a homily in 1972:
From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.
And Sr. Lucia, one of the Fatima seers, spoke on several occasions of a contemporary “diabolical disorientation”.
We conclude with a prayer from Lauds:
Send Michael, the prince of the heavenly hosts, to the aid of your people. May he defend them against Satan and his angels on the day of battle.