The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
As the sorrowful procession moves slowly on, a woman, who with anxious gaze has watched its approach, steps forward and wipes the sacred face of Jesus. It is a simple action, yet reveals the kindly thoughtfulness of a charitable heart. Gladly would Veronica have done all in her power to lessen the sufferings of the Lord, to ease the dreadful burden which was crushing Him, to show some mark of sympathy and compassion. That little act of love touched the broken Heart of Jesus; He wipes the clotted blood and streaming sweat from His Face, leaving His sacred image stamped on the veil of Veronica; but deeper and more clear cut did He impress on her heart the memory of His passion.
The Fifth Station: St Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His cross
When God lays a cross upon us, some misfortune, some unexpected burden, instead of thanking Him for this precious gift, too often we rebel against His will. We forget that our Saviour never sends a cross alone, but ever sweetens its bitterness, lightens its weight by His all-powerful grace. With reluctance, with unwillingness, Simon bears the cross of His Master. At first his spirit revolted against this injustice, his pride rebelled against this ignominy. But once he accepted with resignation, his soul was filled with heavenly sweetness, he felt not the weight of the heavy beams, he heeded not the jibes of the multitude but pressed on after His Master, proud to be His follower.
The Fourth Station: Jesus meets His Blessed Mother
To sensitive souls the pain they cause others is far worse than any sufferings they may endure themselves. They may have much to endure, but to see others in pain causes them deeper grief. Jesus and Mary meet. Alone He could have suffered with joy so that she, His dearest Mother, might have been spared the agony of seeing all He must endure. With one look of pity Jesus reads the anguish of that cruelly lacerated heart; with one long gaze of infinite love and pity Mary sees the depth of her Son’s woe, His long hours of torture, His utter weariness, His sorrow, His grief, His anguish. May she not help Him? At least lift for one moment that cross?
Today is the anniversary of Hugh Doyle. the father of Fr Doyle. He died on this day in 1924 at the ripe old age of 92.
Fr Doyle clearly had a close relationship with his father. It is due to this relationship that we know so much about his experiences in the war as he wrote many letters home to his father. He clearly missed his father and wanted to reassure him that all was well.
One of the striking characteristics of his letters to his father was their remarkable cheerfulness. Here he is, surrounded by death and squalor, yet he makes the effort to be cheerful in his letters, to reassure his father and to very warmly express his love and affection for him. It illustrates Fr Doyle’s own virtue and concern for others, as well as his filial love.
There is one further charming story about Hugh Doyle. One night in 1922 (he would have been 89 or 90) he was disturbed by a burglar who made him get up and open all of the drawers. As he was ransacking the drawers he came across a photo of Fr Doyle who had been dead for 5 years at this stage. The burglar became excited and asked who it was. Fr Doyle said that it was his son who had given his life for the soldiers in Flanders. The robber responded by saying “That was a holy priest, he saved many souls”. He then took the card, kissed it, put it in his pocket, and left the house!
The Third Station of the Cross: Jesus falls for the First time
Bravely has our Lord borne the galling weight of His cross; bravely has He struggled on, tottering and stumbling, longing for a moment’s rest, yearning for a respite however short. But rest He will not, that He may teach us how unfalteringly we must press on to our goal. But nature will have its way. His sight grows dim; His strength fails and with a crash our Saviour lies extended on the ground. Oh! if you have not hearts of stone let Him lie even thus, poor, crushed and broken thing. If you have but one spark of compassion left, one tender feeling of sympathy urge Him not on awhile, so spent, so weary. On a poor maimed brute you have pity – think of the sorrow of Him extended there.
Away from the palace now a sad procession is winding. On the faces of the multitude a fiendish joy is written, they have had their wish and now issue forth to glut their eyes on the dying struggles of the suffering innocent One. Painfully He is toiling up the long narrow street, narrower still from the crowds that line the way; each step is agony, each yard of ground He covers a fresh martyrdom of ever increasing suffering. With a refinement of cruelty His enemies have placed upon His shoulders the heavy, rough beams which will be His last painful resting place.
Cruelly the heavy beam weighs upon His mangled flesh and cuts and chafes a long, raw sore deep to the very bone.
We are now over half way through Lent. At this stage it is easy for our dedication to wane somewhat; the early enthusiasm of Ash Wednesday is behind us; the solemnity and beauty of Holy Week is still a few weeks away.
This seems to be an appropriate time to introduce the Stations of the Cross based on the writings of Fr Doyle. For each of the next 14 days a meditation from his writings on one of the Stations will be posted on the site, normally without the usual daily comment. The images accompanying these meditations are the images of the Stations in St Raphael’s Church in Surrey, England (http://www.straphael.org.uk) and are used with the kind permission of the parish.
The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Around the judgement seat are grouped a motley crowd. Men and women of every rank, the high-born Jewish maiden, the rough Samaritan woman; haughty Scribes and proud Pharisees mingle with the common loafer of the great city. Hatred has united them all for one common object; hatred of One Who ever loves them and to their wild fury has only opposed acts of gentle kindness. A mighty scream goes up, a scream of fierce rage and angry fury, such a sound as only could be drawn from the very depths of hell. “Death to Him! Death to the false prophet!”. He has spent His life among you doing good – Let Him die! He has healed your sick, given strength to the palsied, sight to your blind – Let Him die! He has raised your dead – Let death be His fate!
Do you not think that Jesus must have done very much for Mary during the nine months she bore Him within her?
COMMENT: Mary’s Yes was a pivotal moment in our salvation history and indeed in the history of the world. The request that she consent to being the mother of the Messiah must have been bewildering for her. It had implications for her, and for all of humanity throughout all eternity, that she could not at that time imagine. Yet she didn’t hesitate. She abandoned herself to God with utter faith. Her “Fiat”, her declaration “May it be done unto me according to your word” is such an important example for us. How different things might have been without her faithful acceptance…
How different the world would have been if the saints across history had not accepted God’s will. And how different things would have been without Fr Doyle’s yes to God. How many priests and religious owed their vocations to his writings? How many souls converted through his preaching? How many soldiers were saved and consoled by his loving presence and ministry in the trenches?
And what of us? How many people depend on our faithfulness to our vocation, whatever that may be…
Blessed John Henry Newman tells us:
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.
Let us turn today to Mary, that she may help us understand our vocation in life more clearly and persevere in it with greater fidelity.
It was a beautiful clear morning, such a morning as would tempt the laziest aviator to have a sail, so many eyes were on the watch out for visitors. We had not long to wait. Away in the distance a solitary German aeroplane was seen approaching, flying very fast towards where we are. With that love for fair play and a good even fight, for which the British navy is so justly famous, three of our machines together made for the adventurous German, probably thinking he would fly for his life back to where he came from. On the contrary, the rude fellow made for them; in a brace of shakes, had sent two of our machines crashing to the ground, and the third limping home, evidently badly mauled, and then seeing there was no one else ‘having any’, continued on his journey. I have seen (in the newspapers) one of our men taking on eight Germans at a time, but they cannot have been the same stuff as our visitor, who is evidently ‘a topper’.
The great defect in my character and chief reason why I make so little progress is my want of fidelity. Thus in the past eighteen months I have not marked the ejaculations and acts of self-denial over three hundred times.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle refers here to his tendency of keeping meticulous records about numerous aspects of his spiritual life. Many saints kept detailed spiritual records in order to review their progress day by day and to ensure that they were aware of any slippage in their acts of devotion. It is a practice recommended by St Ignatius for his Jesuit sons. Fr Doyle was generally very conscientious in keeping his “spiritual accounts” up to date.
It is consoling for the rest of us to read about this period of time in which Fr Doyle did not keep his records up to date so often, presumably due to being busy or overwhelmed with others tasks. Even the very devout have to struggle with their resolutions – this fact should give consolation to the rest of us.
The key issue that we might consider in today’s quote is that of fidelity. Fr Doyle is correct – we will not make progress unless we are faithful to our resolutions. We see this in so many areas of our life. We will not advance in study unless we are faithful in our work; we will not become fitter unless we remain faithful to our physical exercises. The same principle holds true for our spiritual life. We must strive to remain faithful to our resolutions. However, there will inevitably be times when we fail and when we lack fidelity. In such a situation we don’t give into discouragement which is one of the greatest weapons of the enemy. Rather, we pick ourselves up and start again.
We are now almost half way through Lent. Have we been faithful to our resolutions? If not, it doesn’t mean that we just give up – we still have 3 weeks of Lent left in order to get back on track.