The children’s book “Man of the People: Fr William Doyle SJ” will be launched next Thursday, November 9, at 6pm in Stillorgan Library, Dublin. The launch will be launched by the historian and writer Tim Pat Coogan. All welcome.
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez is a striking example of one who, though in a lowly station in life, devoid of all that in the eyes of the world makes for greatness, yet did a mighty work for God. With a heart burning with zeal, which prayer alone could not satisfy, he saw in the young ardent Peter Claver a ready instrument for the work he longed to do. With burning words he fires the soul of the future apostle with a hunger for abandoned souls. He tells him of the wretched slaves dragging out a miserable existence in a far-off world, knowing not the name of Jesus; he pictures to him the rich and golden harvest to be reaped, the victories over sin and Satan; he whispers of the pain and suffering, the heat, the toil, the lingering death, till Claver’s heart is aflame with zeal, burning with a holy fire.
With tender love did the old saint watch the young one grow in virtue day by day; with trembling hands he begs that grace may fall upon this fresh ardent soul and make him worthy of the heavenly call. Alphonsus’ eyes soon must close in death, his time is nearly run, his hour of sweet repose is drawing near; but if he may no longer toil for God, at least he longs to leave behind him one whom by his prayers and bright example he has made a saint.
COMMENT: Today is the feast of St Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Spanish Jesuit saint of the 16th and 17th century. He was a doorkeeper in the Jesuit house on Majorca. How many saints have been doorkeepers! From the top of my head, the distinguished list includes St Faustina, St Josephine Bakhita, St Conrad of Parzham, St Martin de Porres, Venerable Consolata Betrone, Venerable Solanus Casey and one of the most recently canonised saints, St Andre Bessette, as well as numerous others. The doorkeeper plays an important role in religious houses, acting as a link with the outside world. But it is also a humble one. Perhaps the Lord is trying to tell us something with the sheer number of saints who have held this humble role.
The humility of St Alphonsus’ task is one reason why Fr Doyle should have such admiration for him. After all, Fr Doyle’s constant theme of performing simple tasks well is readily applicable to the life of a humble doorkeeper. St Alphonsus also had great evangelical zeal, and he played a formative role in the life of the great apostle of the slaves, St Peter Claver. This aspect of St Alphonsus also clearly appealed to Fr Doyle, the tireless apostle.
May the example of St Alphonsus Rodriguez teach us that the simplest and most humble tasks are compatible with great sanctity.
You may read more about the spirituality of St Alphonsus Rodriguez here.
COMMENT: The desire to die a martyr was with Fr Doyle from his earliest days. Far from being something morbid, it is one of the ultimate expressions of love for God – the desire to offer everything, even our life, for the One who has given everything to us.
This desire was felt by many saints across the ages, through perhaps we personally may identify more closely with the character in the Flannery O’Connor story described in these words:
She could never be a saint but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.
The Church in Ireland today celebrates the feast of Blessed Dominic Collins, one of the Irish martyrs and the only beatified Irish Jesuit. More information on Blessed Dominic is available here. He was only beatified in 1992, and there is no mention of him in any of Fr Doyle’s publicly available writings. However, it is almost certain that Fr Doyle, who was greatly interested in the lives of the saints and especially in martyrs, was aware of, and esteemed, his fellow Jesuit, especially since a book detailing the lives of the Irish martyrs was published by the Jesuit historian Fr Denis Murphy SJ during the years in which Fr Doyle was a Jesuit seminarian.
Here is an excellent video on the life of Blessed Dominic.
Fr Doyle ultimately had his wish – he did die a Jesuit martyr, albeit a martyr of charity, laying down his life to save another, as opposed to the more traditional definition of a martyr as one who dies in defence of the faith. May the example of Blessed Dominic, and of Fr Doyle, inspire us to a generous and selfless defence of truth and service of others. Let us also pray and work for a greater awareness of the many heroic examples of Irish Catholicism in a country that desperately needs positive Catholic role models. Pope Benedict’s Prayer for Ireland is appropriate:
God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.
Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.
May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.
To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.
But back to Flannery O’Connor’s character who could be a martyr but only if killed quickly. Let us leave the last words today to Fr Doyle who so often gets right to the heart of the matter:
I wish to die a martyr’s death — but am I willing to live a martyr’s life?
“Time that passeth like a shadow”(Ecclesiastes, 7. 1). Watch the shadow of the sun’s rays creep silently across the dial’s face. Slowly, irresistibly it moves on. No power of man can stay its course; the fair, the mighty, the eloquent, may plead in vain, but nought can check its onward march; ever relentlessly forward man’s destiny is hastening to its end.
COMMENT: We will not have any more reflections from Fr Doyle’s retreat for a few more days – perhaps Fr Doyle refrained from writing at the end of October 1907, or even had a day or two of a break from the retreat. In any event, we shall return to Fr Doyle’s retreat notes in a couple of days.
Today’s reflection is very timely at this time of year, as we inch towards November, a month traditionally associated with death and with the holy souls. Even the very fact of putting our clocks back (for those in my part of the world at least) reminds us that winter will soon be upon us. Our days are now increasingly shrouded in darkness here in the northern hemisphere.
None of us likes the thought of death. Yet we know that we simply cannot escape it. But instead of being morbid at the thought of death, let us be filled with a holy enthusiasm for life, cheerfully filling our days with acts of love and service, just like Fr Doyle did.
And let us also pray for those approaching death, that they may have the grace of final perseverance, and be accompanied by the prayers of Mary, whose assistance at the hour of death we invoke every time we say the Haily Mary. Fr Doyle himself accompanied many a poor soldier in his final moments. May he also pray for us when our time comes.
A great desire to know our Lord better, His attractive character, His personal love for me, the resolve to read the life of Christ and study the Gospels.
I feel also a longing to love Jesus passionately, to try my very best to please Him, and to do all I think will please Him. I see nothing will be dearer to Him than my sanctification, chiefly attained by the perfection with which I perform even the smallest action. “All for love of Jesus.”
COMMENT: This quotation from Fr Doyle’s retreat notes from around this time in 1907 summarises the fruit he gained from the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises.
May we copy Fr Doyle’s love for Christ, and come to know Him intimately, imitating Him even in the smallest details of our lives.
Today we continue with some of Fr Doyle’s reflections on the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises and his resolutions aimed at achieving the Third Degree of Humility. Once again, Fr Doyle’s words are very direct and succinct and there is little requirement for commentary and elaboration.
The reformation of one’s life must be the work of every day, I should take each rule and duty, think how Jesus acted, or would have done, and contrast my conduct with His.
I think it better not to make any definite resolutions about mortification, such as “I will never do so-and-so.” I know how such resolutions have fared. But I am determined to keep up a constant war against myself, now in one matter and now in another, varying the kinds of mortification as much as possible, but trying to do ten little acts each day.
We have a strict right to the love of God, because our vocation is to follow Him; we cannot do this unless we love Him. Jesus will assuredly give me a sensible love of Him, if I only ask. I must ask, seek, and knock daily and hourly.
Fr. Petit told me that the spirit of the Third Degree is not so much the practice of austerities as the denial of one’s will and judgement and perfect abnegation of self and humility. This is the spirit of our rules which are simply the Third Degree.
Have I a real hunger and thirst for the love and the service of Jesus? Is it growing?
If I do not begin to serve God as I ought now, when shall I do so? shall I ever? This retreat is a time of special grace, and if my cooperation is wanting, Jesus may pass by and not return. The devil has made me put off my thorough conversion to God for seventeen years, making me content myself with the resolution of “later on really beginning in earnest and becoming a saint.” What might not have been done in that time!
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.
The Gospel says, “He was teaching daily in the temple”. How often, and for how long, am I in the chapel? Is the chapel the place where people know I am to be found? What a difference it would make in my visits, if only I realised the real corporal presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. This is a grace I must earnestly ask for.
“He passed the whole night in the prayer of God”. I say I am anxious to imitate the life of Jesus, here is something in which I can do so. Would it not be possible (afterwards) to spend an hour at night in the chapel after examen?
What account shall I give of this resolution when I stand before my God for judgement?
PRACTICE OF THE THIRD DEGREE.
I. Accepto. I will receive with joy all unpleasant things which I must bear: (a) pain, sickness, heat, cold, food; (b) house, employment, rules, customs; (c) trials of religious life, companions; (d) reprimands, humiliations; (e) anything which is a cross.
II. Volo et Desidero. I will wish and desire that these things may happen to me, that so I may resemble my Jesus more.
III. Eligo. With all my might I will strive every day agere contra in omnibus (to act against myself in all things): (a) against my faults; (b) against my own will; (c) against my ease and comfort; (d) against the desires of the body; (e) against my habit and inclination of performing my duties negligently and without fervour.
COMMENT: Today’s quote from Fr Doyle refers to his tactics for living the Third Degree of Humility. It clearly shows us that sanctity comes about through hard work and God’s grace; the saints were not just born that way. For Fr Doyle, reaching the Third Degree meant that he would accept and desire unpleasant things and act against his own inclinations in a variety of ways. Who amongst us would not benefit from adopting this approach to life? If real hardships are imposed on us, through wars, financial turmoil or other misfortunes, how much better prepared is the person who has learned to act against their own desires and inclinations even in little things.
And if all of this seems too much, remember that Fr Doyle had already been a faithful and zealous Jesuit for almost two decades when he wrote these words -he would seem to have been very far advanced in his spiritual life. Let us begin where we can and trust in the Lord to help us along the way.
Fr Doyle wrote the following in his diary on October 25 1916. It refers to the previous night, in other words, this evening and night 101 years ago. It is worth remembering that at this time Fr Doyle was at the Front. His prayer was conducted in a dug out, not in the relative comfort of a Jesuit house far from violence and death. He obviously found it hard, hence his use of the old strategy of making a vow not to give in to tiredness. He did spend a night of prayer at the Front for the Poor Clares in Cork which he was instrumental in founding – they were experiencing some difficulties at the time. I am not sure if this was that same occasion or not.
Jesus has long urged me to give Him a whole night of prayer and reparation. Last night I prayed in my dug-out at Kemmel from 9 till 5 (eight hours), most of the time on my knees. I bound myself beforehand to do so by vow in order not to let myself off. Though I had only two hours’ sleep, I am not very tired or weary today. Jesus wants more of these nights of prayer, adoration and atonement.
We come now to one of the other great moments of the Spiritual Exercises – the Meditation on the Three Classes of Men. This is tough! It is likely that most of us would be delighted to belong to the second class of men. After all, the Second Class seem quite reasonable to us! Yet there are always further levels of sanctity to which we can aspire.
Here is the text from St Ignatius. When reading this, we should remember that 10,000 ducats is a vast sum of money, and that the men did not acquire the money dishonestly, although they did not acquire it only for the love and glory of God.
Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.
First Prelude. The first Prelude is the narrative, which is of three classes of men, and each one of them has acquired ten thousand ducats, but not entirely as they should have – for the love of God. They all want to save themselves and find in peace God our Lord, ridding themselves of the burden arising from their attachment to the sum acquired, which impedes the attainment of this end.
Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see myself, how I stand before God our Lord and all His Saints, to desire and know what is more pleasing to His Divine Goodness.
Third Prelude. The third, to ask for what I want. Here it will be to ask grace to choose what is more to the glory of His Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.
First Class. The first Class would want to rid themselves of the attachment which they have to the thing acquired, in order to find in peace God our Lord, and be able to save themselves, but the hour of death comes, and they have not made use of any means.
Second Class. The second class want to rid themselves of the attachment, but they wish to do so in such a way that they can keep the thing acquired want so to rid themselves of it as to remain with the thing acquired, so that God is to come to what they desire and they do not decide to give up the sum acquired, even though this would be the better way for them.
Third Class. The third class want to rid themselves of the attachment, but want to do so in such a way that they desire neither to retain nor to relinquish the sum acquired. They seek only to will and not will as God our Lord inspires them and as seems better for the service and praise of His Divine Majesty. Meanwhile they will strive to conduct themselves as if every attachment to the thing had been broken. They will make efforts either to want that, nor anything else, unless the service of God our Lord alone moves them to do so. As a result the desire of being better able to serve God our Lord will be the cause of their accepting anything or relinquishing it.
Three Colloquies. I will make the same three Colloquies which were made in the Contemplation preceding, on the Two Standards.
Note. It is to be noted that when we feel a tendency or repugnance against actual poverty, when we are not indifferent to poverty or riches, it is very helpful, in order to crush such disordered tendency, to ask in the Colloquies (although it be against the flesh) that the Lord should choose one to actual poverty, and that one wants, asks and begs it, if only it be the service and praise of His Divine Goodness.
Here are Fr Doyle’s reflections on this meditation:
It is easy for me to test my love for Jesus. Do I love what He loved and came down from heaven to find suffering, humiliation, contempt, want of all things, inconveniences, hunger, weariness, cold? The more I seek for and embrace these things, the nearer am I drawing to Jesus and the deeper is my love for Him. While praying for light to know what God wants from me in the matter of mortifying my appetite, a voice seemed to say: “There are other things besides food in which you can be generous with Me, other hard things which I want you to do.” I thought of all the secret self-denial contained in constant hard work, not giving up when a bit tired, not yielding to desire for sleep, not running off to bed if a bit unwell, bearing little sufferings without relief, cold and heat without complaint, and, above all, the constant never-ending mortification to do each action perfectly. This light has given me a good deal of consolation, for I see I can do much for Jesus that is hard without being singular or departing from common life.
It seems to me that Jesus is asking from me a life in which I am to make war upon “comfortableness” as far as possible, a life without comfort, even that which is allowed by the rule.
The example of men of the Third Class in the world should shame me. What determination, what prolonged effort, what deadly earnestness, in the man who has determined to succeed in his profession! No sacrifice is too great for him, he wants to succeed, he will succeed. My desire, so far, to be a saint is only the desire of the man of the First Class. It gratifies my pride, but I make no real progress in perfection I do not really will it.
The love of Jesus makes the impossible easy and sweet.
COMMENT: The meditation on the three classes of men presents us with a very hard challenge. Perhaps there are few who can readily embrace the way of the third class. This is not surprising, as the approach of the third class of men is one of great sanctity. Our fear of being like the third class should not discourage us. Just as one must be extremely fit to run a marathon, one must have arrived at some degree of holiness before the approach of the third class seems easy or inviting. The important thing is that we keep going forward, and striving to be generous with God, even if we do not as of yet possess that generosity.
Over time, Fr Doyle may have become a man of the Third Class. He was open to God’s will, whatever that might be – the mission in the Congo, the trenches of World War 1, or even to minister in a leper colony – Fr Doyle apparently told some soldiers that if he survived the war he wished to go and work among the lepers. We may not yet have the detachment for such great acts, but we can all practice detachment in the little things in our daily lives.