On this day in 1917, Major General Hickie paid another tribute to Fr Doyle. Writing to his father, Hugh Doyle, General Hickie said:
I could not say too much about your son. He was loved and reverenced by us all; his gallantry, self-sacrifice, and devotion to duty were all so well known and recognised. I think that he was the most wonderful character that I have ever known.
God has many gifts to bestow upon us, but none more precious than time. Yet how we abuse this royal gift! How little we think of it! How we despise these golden moments, moments whose true value we shall not really prize till alas! too late – when time shall be no more to us.
COMMENT: Time is a precious gift. When it comes to time, every one is, in a sense equal. Some will have longer lives than others, but for each of us our individual days are the same – rich and poor alike all have 24 hours in the day. We can use it well, or we can squander it. Each day is a precious opportunity to fill our time with service and love, seeking the glory of God and increasing our own merit in Heaven. But however many days we have, and however we choose to use each of those hours God has given us, one thing is clear – when we die we shall have to render an account of how we have used our time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this very clear:
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ…Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven – through a purification or immediately – or immediate and everlasting damnation.
In Chapter 25 of St Matthew’s Gospel Jesus describes the Last Judgement and the separation of the sheep and the goats. The “goats” are those who did not practice the works of mercy. It’s not necessarily the case that they did bad things, but rather that they failed to do good things. They failed to feed and clothe the poor, to do the good that was expected of them. In a sense, they squandered the precious gift of time that they were given, they failed to use it to do good things. And in the Lord’s own words, their punishment is eternal separation from God in Hell.
The parable of the talents shows us how we should live: always trying to produce fruit with the gifts – including the time – God has given us. St Benedict also wants us to use our gifts well:
For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that he will never as an angry father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.
Foremost amongst these “good things” St Benedict speaks of is the gift of time. Few of us consistently use our time well – it is a hard battle, especially in a world with so many distractions. But we shall have to render an account of our misuse of time. Yes, we shall give our account to a merciful God who loves us and understands our weakness. But our merciful and understanding judge may well also be a disappointed judge at our failure to correspond to the graces we have received…
We are weak, We will fail. But the key thing is that we try, and that we turn to the mercy of God when we fail in our efforts, and then get up and fight again, and never get tired of beginning again.