Thoughts for March 7 from Fr Willie Doyle

He loves your soul dearly, cling to Him, and trust Him, He so longs to be trusted.

COMMENT: There is something of an unfortunate stereotype about the Catholicism of 100 years ago in Ireland. It suggests that God’s love was ignored or downplayed and that there was an excessive emphasis on morality and on Catholicism as a set of rules rather than as a relationship with Jesus. 

There is perhaps a small amount of truth in this simplistic generalisation, and sadly the evident sins of those in the Church who should have known better sadly makes this very evident. I was struck by something Fr Doyle once wrote (disapprovingly) in his diary:

People say it is very hard to love God.

What an odd idea that is for us today, who have grown up with the idea of a God of love. There was certainly something amiss with a vision of Catholicism in which love did not play the central role.

But this negative view of the past is far from the whole picture. There is absolutely no evidence that Fr Doyle overemphasised sin and downplayed love – his letters of spiritual direction and his private notes reveal very clearly his own passionate love for God. This love overflowed into a life of zealous service for others.

Most of us have a very weak trust in God. The saints were not like us. Their faith and trust in God’s Providence was simple and profound and it was this reliance on God that allowed them to achieve so much.

Lent is a time for spiritual discipline. This discipline is not driven by an adherence to an abstract or arbitrary set of rules. Rather, we follow the discipline of Lent because we love Christ and because we want to show this love, because we want to follow Christ’s command to perfect ourselves and because we want to strengthen ourselves to avoid sin.

Fr Doyle, referring to his then spiritual director Venerable Adolphe Petit SJ, wrote the following in his diary:

The reason, said Fr Petit, why we find our life so hard, mortification difficult, and why we are inclined to avoid all that we dislike, is because we have no real love for Jesus.

As we journey through Lent, let us remember that our penances are really about loving Christ and not just “giving things up” out of habit.

Venerable Adolphe Petit (1822-1914), Fr Doyle’s spiritual director during his year in Belgium (1907-1908)
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