29 August 1917: Praise for Fr Doyle in the Irish News

Tribute by Sergeant T. Flynn published in the Irish News on this day in 1917

We had the misfortune to lose our chaplain, Fr. Doyle, the other day. He was a real saint and would never leave his men, and it was really marvellous to see him burying dead soldiers under terrible shell fire. He did not know what fear was, and everybody in the battalion, Catholic and Protestant alike, idolised him. I went to Confession to him and received Holy Communion from him a day or two before he was killed, and I feel terribly sorry after him. 

He loved the men and spent every hour of his time looking after them, and when we were having a fairly hot time in the trenches he would bring us up boxes of cigarettes and cheer us up. The men would do anything he asked them, and I am sure we will never get another padre like him. Everybody says that he has earned the V.C. many times over, and I can vouch for it myself from what I have seen him do many a time. He was asked not to go into action with the battalion, but he would not stop behind, and I am confident that no braver or holier man ever fell in battle than he.

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Thoughts for August 29 (Beheading of St John the Baptist) from Fr Willie Doyle

The beheading of St John the Baptist

There is one thing we need never be afraid of, namely, that the devil will ever tempt us to be humble. He may delude us in the practice of other virtues; indiscreet zeal, for instance, or the desire to devote our time solely to prayer.  But we need never be in doubt as to whether it would be better to humble ourselves or not. There can be no doubt about it. It is always safe to do so.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle makes a very important point in today’s quote which we can easily overlook when focusing on the main theme of humility. Sometimes, good people can be tempted to devote their time solely to prayer. Of course, a more common temptation today is to devote no time to prayer, but the temptation to “overdo it” can still present itself. By this, Fr Doyle clearly means that we have to have regard to our duties in life. 

Fr Doyle’s more substantive point today relates to humility. Recalling the importance of humility is very apt today, the feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist, for St John always pointed to Christ and recognised his own unworthiness to even tie His sandals.

St John has two feasts in the Church calendar – his birth and his beheading. There are very few who are recognised by the universal Church in this way. This is an acknowledgement of St John’s greatness and thus we may take him as a trustworthy model, especially in terms of his detachment from the world, his zeal for souls, his dedication to the truth, and his humility before Christ.

The feast of John’s beheading, and the circumstances that surrounded it, are also a timely reminder that the disciples of Christ must remain faithful and not neglect their duty to proclaim the truth in charity in the public square.