Thoughts for the Feast of St Jerome (September 30) from Fr Willie Doyle

St Jerome in the wilderness
St Jerome in the wilderness

Don’t dwell on what you have not done, for I think that want of confidence in His willingness to forgive our shortcomings pains Him very much, but rather lift up your heart and think what you are going to do for Him now. You know the secret of making a short life very long in His eyes, and a life of few opportunities crammed full of precious things. Do everything for His sweet love alone.

COMMENT: Here we see the wonderful gentleness of Fr Doyle, consoling someone to whom he was giving spiritual direction. Sometimes there may be a tendency to consider Fr Doyle as overly austere; only somebody who deliberately looks for austerity, and ignores other aspects of his life, could come to this conclusion.

His message for us today is very helpful. Every one of us sometimes fails to do some good that ought to be done. The answer is to repent, and then move on, and do our duty now. Dwelling on past failures can lead to discouragement and perhaps even to scruples. Indeed, as Fr Doyle points out, our lack of confidence in God’s forgiveness pains Him.

Today is the feast of St Jerome, one of the Fathers of the Church and also a Doctor of the Church. Fr Doyle mentioned St Jerome once in a letter to his father written from the trenches. The charming aside in which he jokingly mentions St Jerome is also further evidence of Fr Doyle’s balance and good humour. He is describing the booklet on Vocations that he wrote and refers to the old abbreviation “MSS” for the word manuscript, and how the abbreviation once lead to humorous incident in Clongowes College:

You will be glad to know, as I was, that the ninth edition (90,000 copies) of my little book “Vocations” is rapidly being exhausted. After my ordination, when I began to be consulted on this important subject, I was struck by the fact that there was nothing one could put into the hands of boys and girls to help them to a decision, except ponderous volumes, which they would scarcely read. Even the little treatise by St. Liguori which Fr. Charles gave me during my first visit to Tullabeg, and which changed the whole current of my thoughts, was out of print. I realized the want for some time; but one evening as I walked back to the train after dining with you, the thought of the absolute necessity for such a book seized me so strongly, (I could almost point out the exact spot on the road), that there and then I made up my mind to persuade someone to write it, for I never dreamt of even attempting the task myself.

I soon found out that the shortest way to get a thing done is to do it yourself, or rather God in His goodness had determined to make use of me, because I was lacking in the necessary qualifications, to get His work done, for I am firmly convinced that both in “Vocations” and “Shall I be a Priest?” my part consisted in the correction of the proof sheets and in the clawing in of the shower of bawbees.

I remember well when the MSS. – which does not stand for Mrs as Brother Frank Hegarty read out once in Clongowes: St. Jerome went off to Palestine carrying his Missus – had passed the censors to my great surprise, the venerable manager of the Messenger Office began shaking his head over the prospect of its selling, for as he said with truth, It is a subject which appeals to a limited few. He decided to print 5,000, and hinted I might buy them all myself!

Then when the pamphlet began to sell and orders to come in fast, I began to entertain the wild hope that by the time I reached the stage of two crutches and a long white beard, I might possibly see the 100,000 mark reached. We are nearly at that now without any pushing or advertising, and I hope the crutches and flowing beard are still a long way off. God is good, is He not? As the second edition came out only in the beginning of 1914 the sale has been extraordinarily rapid.

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