“Holiness was as natural to Fr Doyle as wings to a bird”

Monsignor Quinn
Monsignor Quinn


Some time ago I read the Life of Father William Doyle, the Irish Jesuit-Chaplain, who was killed in the late World War. It was made up chiefly from a Diary which he kept, and which, I am sure, he never intended for eyes other than his own. What struck me most in his life was the fact that this good missionary priest had never done anything extraordinary. One day, not long ago, I met a Good Shepherd nun who had known Father Doyle very intimately in Ireland. I asked her if she could tell me anything about the secret of his holiness. She told me that holiness was as natural to Father Doyle as wings are to a bird. She had known him in his youth, and she had greeted him upon the occasion of his ordination. Like (Saint) Therese, he had always the desire of going on a foreign mission where he might suffer martyrdom.

He was never singular. In a gathering he was just one of his brethren, earnest in his work, and just as eager as the rest in his play. He practiced mortifications, but they were simple ones. For example, he ate everything at table just as it came from the kitchen. He refrained from using salt, and only when he was away from home did he take butter. This he did to avoid being noticed. This may all sound very childish, but have you ever noticed that those who appeal most to the worldliest and busiest of men are the orphan child and the old man who has been reduced once more by the ravages of age to a second childhood? The charge our nuns in the orphan asylums, and those Little Sisters of the Poor in our homes for the aged never want sympathy.

Hence we find that our little Saint performed no exterior works of greatness. She used to speak of her way to holiness as “The Little Way for Little Souls”. Like the holy Jesuit whom I have just mentioned, she did the common things of life uncommonly well. Herein lay the secret of her sanctity. Herein lies for us the happy thought that we, too, and will become saints of God, if we but perform the ordinary duties of our state in life extraordinarily well.

Holiness was as natural to Fr Doyle as wings to a bird! What a wonderful testimony!

These words were written by the Servant of God Servant of God Monsignor Bernard Quinn, who was born on this day in 1888 in New Jersey. His father and mother were both Irish – from Counties Cavan and Offaly respectively. Monsignor Quinn was himself a chaplain in the First World War, and perhaps this is why Fr Doyle’s life and example impressed him so much. They both also shared a great devotion to St Therese. Fr Doyle also went to Lisieux; he visited Therese’s grave but it is not recorded if he said Mass in the room in which she was born.

Monsignor Quinn was renowned for his remarkable pastoral care for the black people in his area, long before this was seen as normal or acceptable. He was known as a second St Peter Claver, after the Jesuit saint who tended to the black slaves in South America in the 17th Century. In this stance he showed great courage and a pioneering spirit, something else that he shared with Fr Doyle (Fr Doyle was a pioneer in encouraging retreats for lay people in the face of some clerical opposition; he also organised very effective fundraising campaigns for the missions through what he called his “Black Baby Crusade”).

Monsignor Quinn died at the early age of 52 in 1940 and his cause was officially opened in 2010. More information on Monsignor Quinn can be found at www.fatherquinn.org Monsignor Quinn wrote a booklet and novena in honour of St Therese (from which today’s quote was taken). It can be found here: http://www.fatherquinn.org/docs/writings/THE_LITTLE_FLOWER_BOOKLET_1925.pdf

In the example of the Servant of God Monsignor Quinn we find another holy soul who admired, and was inspired by, Fr Doyle.

2 thoughts on ““Holiness was as natural to Fr Doyle as wings to a bird”

    • Thanks Kathleen. I’ve fixed them and they should be working now. No idea why they stopped!

      Thanks again!

Leave a Reply