As we approach the 100th anniversary of Fr Doyle’s death I have already given a review of the major books about Fr Doyle. In this 5th part of the series, I now give an overdrive of the newest book, To Raise the Fallen, which I am responsible for. Thus, it will be more of an overview than a “review’, as it would be strange to review my “own” book!
I put “own” in quotation marks because the book isn’t really my own – it is mostly Fr Willie’s, as the vast majority of the text is Fr Willie telling his own story in his own words.
The book is 192 pages in length, and hardback. It is a small contribution to the literature on Fr Doyle, but I hope it is a useful one. It is long enough to be give people a good sense of Fr Doyle but not too long as to appear heavy going or too much of a commitment to read. It is published by Veritas, which is the publisher of the Irish bishops. Veritas also have a number of shops throughout Ireland.
The book opens with a 23 page biographical essay on Fr Doyle written by me. I think this essay on its own is a good overview of Fr Doyle’s life, especially for those who are unfamiliar with him. There then follows 63 pages of edited war letters from Fr Doyle. Apart from the titles I have put on the letters myself, and a few explanatory footnotes, these are entirely Fr Doyle’s own words. I selected letters that capture Fr Doyle’s courage, generosity and suffering as well as the drama of his time in the war. I have also included sone of his humorous letters. All of the material in this chapter was in the public domain previously, having been published by O’Rahilly. Inevitably those who know Fr Doyle’s war letters well might have chosen different scenes and letters. but the selection was chosen by me to give a good overview for those who are new to Fr Doyle’s life or wanted to be reminded of aspects of his war service. Space was, of course, an issue and there were many other letters I wanted to include, but cuts had to be made!
The next chapter is about Fr Doyle’s interior war – his own private spiritual life as reflected in his private diaries. This was the hardest chapter to write. It is 22 pages long, and starts with a contextual overview written by me which attempts to set the scene and explain where Fr Doyle was coming from. It is then followed by a series of quotes and extracts from Fr Doyle’s diaries that show us something about his prayer and in particular his personal calling to a hard life. I had to balance discretion with the duty not to sell Fr Doyle short, while writing for an audience in 2017 and beyond. Those who have studied the O’Rahilly biography will understand the challenge here. I hope I have gotten the balance right, but the responsibility for any errors in this are mine!
The following chapter contains almost 150 quotes from Fr Doyle on a wide variety of topics, arranged alphabetically according to theme. I wanted a nice round number like 150 quotes but space restrictions prevented that – I think there are about 146 or something like that. Most of these quotes have been published before, and daily readers of this site will be familiar with some of them. In this book they are arranged according to themes, so if you want a quote from Fr Doyle on Mass or Confession or temptation or generosity, you can immediately find it alphabetically. However, a number of these quotes have never been published before. I have tried to select these quotes so as to appeal to a wide cross section of readers. Obviously convinced Catholics will appreciate Fr Doyle’s spiritual advice, but I think there there is something there to help for anyone of good will and an open mind, even on the purely human level.
Following this are three short chapters. The first of these contains key extracts from Fr Doyle’s writings on priesthood and vocations. Obviously this can help one who is discerning a vocation, but I think these writings are helpful for all people in some way. Next there is a chapter containing Fr Doyle’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross. I publish these here every year in the run up to Holy Week. However I think there it could be useful to have these texts in book format. The third of these short chapters contains some personal prayers of Fr Doyle. Some of these have never before been published. Most of them were never actually written as prayers for public use or as individual vocal prayers, but instead come from Fr Doyle’s own writings in which he would occasionally divert from an abstract or third person discussion into a spontaneous prayer written in the first person. While these prayers are characteristic of Fr Doyle’s spirit of generosity, courage and longing to be a saint, they are accessible and useful for any person.
The book then concludes with an appendix containing testimonies about Fr Doyle from those who encountered him in life.
The title To Raise the Fallen was suggested to me by a friend, and I think it fits. Fr Doyle obviously died literally trying to raise the fallen in no man’s land. But throughout his own life he tried to raise his own fallen humanity, and that of all he met, to the holiness he felt God wanted.
However, an alternative title could have been: “The Essential Fr Willie Doyle”, or even “Fr Willie Doyle in his Own Words”! I have tried to make Fr Doyle accessible to more people, and allow him to reveal himself in his own words, at this key moment of the 100th anniversary of his death. My hope is that more people will come to know him and be inspired by his generosity, and that we will eventually see his canonisation cause opened formally.
A final note. I would not want anyone to think that I have a desire to make money from Fr Doyle by producing a book. One would be foolish to produce a book like this with the aim of “making money!” Before introducing this book I have tried to promote the books about Fr Doyle that already exist. The aim is always to create awareness of Fr Doyle, and the 100th anniversary is an opportunity not to be missed. (As an aside it is also worth noting that, if you occasionally see ads on the site, they have nothing to do with me, and I receive nothing from them – the wordpress blog platform places them to generate revenue for themselves. I have to pay extra money beyond what I already pay to have ads switched off. I may well do that in the future.)
But having said all of that, I am going to do my best to promote the book, because in this way more people will buy it, which will mean that more copies will be printed and more people will encounter Fr Doyle. So I hope that readers will buy the book (and the other books about Fr Doyle also!) and also buy extra copies for their friends and families and give them away as gifts!
The link to purchase the book can be found here:
A reminder also that the book launch is in Dublin on Thursday at 5.30. All welcome.