Thoughts for August 12 from Fr Willie Doyle

We will return to our discussion on the last days of the life of Fr Doyle in a few days time when we get closer to the anniversary of his death later next week.

For now, however, we shall have one of Fr Doyle’s thoughts.

‘What is it to thee? Follow thou Me’ (John 21: 22). This thought came to me: I am not to take the lives of others in the house as the standard of my own, what may be lawful for them is not for me; their life is most pleasing to God, such a life for me would not be so; God wants something higher, nobler, more generous from me, and for this will offer me special graces.

COMMENT: Here Fr Doyle touches on an important truth, and an interesting aspect of his life and spirituality.

How tempting it is for us to allow the social norms we perceive around us to determine our behaviour. So often we can rationalise away our faults or our mediocrity with the thought that “everybody is doing it”. But we must not take “everybody” as the standard of our behaviour. Our standard must be Christ, and he has a definite plan for each of us. We know that He desires our perfection and holiness. The details of what this looks like in practice may be different things for different people. For Fr Doyle it meant an austere and mortified life. The legitimate luxuries that were permitted to others were not God’s will for Fr Doyle. And, perhaps it is a consolation to realise that Fr Doyle’s austerities are not for everyone else, although at the very least the spirit of self-denial will be relevant for all of us, even if it is lived out in different ways in each person’s individual life. After all, any relationship with a person incapable of self-denial would be an appalling strain.

Knowing the temptation that we have to base our standards on the behaviour of others, we must remember that we, ourselves, can become role models on whom others may base their own behaviour and attitudes. We should live in such a way to encourage and edify those we live with. As St Francis said, we should preach always, and when necessary, use words. If we want others to be generous, patient and tolerant of us, perhaps we also need to show that to them…

Today is also the feast of Blessed Karl Leisner, a martyr of the Nazi Holocaust who lived his faith despite the compromises with Nazism he saw around him, even at the cost of his freedom, and ultimately his life. Movingly, he managed to be ordained while in the concentration camp, dying from TB soon after celebrating his first Mass.

Blessed Karl Leisner shows us how to stand firm in the face of evil, even in the midst of weakness and ill health.

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