22 January 1915

Last night I rose at twelve and knelt in the cellar for an hour to suffer from the cold. It was a hard fight to do so, but Jesus helped me. I said my rosary with my arms extended. At the third mystery the pain was so great that I felt I could not possibly continue; but at each Ave I prayed for strength and was able to finish it. This has given me great consolation by showing the many hard things I could do with the help of prayer.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle’s nocturnal prayer 103 years ago is a classic example of his asceticism. He did not find it easy or pleasant, but he strongly felt that God was calling him to such acts of penance. We are not called to copy Fr Doyle’s penances, but neither do we have the right to stand in judgement over them, adopting a critical or superior attitude to one who was called by this special path. While Fr Doyle’s call was unique, there is still one thing we can all learn from today’s quote: we are capable of many hard things, perhaps even more than we imagine, with the help of prayer.

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Thoughts for January 22 from Fr Willie Doyle

Life is too short for a truce.

COMMENT: How typical is this pithy statement from Fr Doyle! We are here for a short time and we must love God and our neighbour during this short time. We must do our best to overcome our weakness and sinfulness in the few short years that we have on earth. There is no time for a truce, there is no time to slacken off in the spiritual life, for he who does not advance falls back. Of course, this does not mean that we live with intense frenzy and nervous exhaustion. Fr Doyle never allowed a truce in his battle against sin, but he was also a source of profound serenity and calm for those around him. The same can be said for all the saints.

Today’s quote is also of relevance for our American readers, for on this day 45 years ago the Supreme Court of the United States legalised abortion on demand.

As far as we aware, Fr Doyle never commented on the issue of abortion. Fr Doyle was distraught at the loss of life he saw in World War I; he would surely have been astounded at the even greater number of lives lost through abortion. Knowing the character of Fr Doyle, he would probably have responded with two very complementary approaches – a profound compassion, understanding and care for those women who have had an abortion or are tempted to have an abortion, and with great energy and effectiveness in the educational, legal and political battle to protect life.

Abortion is an issue that excites the emotions. This is as it should be, and it is an understandable reaction. However, too often pro-life advocates let their emotions negatively impact on the effectiveness of their work, engaging in destructive tactics. The secret of effective communication is to meet the audience where they are at. In fact, St Ignatius Loyola told the first missionaries that he sent to Ireland – Fr Salmeron and Fr Broet – to go in the door of the Irish, but bring them out the door of the Jesuits. We must speak to people in a calm and measured way, showing the clear scientific evidence of the humanity of the unborn and the evidence that abortion can also be damaging to women. And we must remember that support for unborn life is a human rights issue, not a specifically Catholic or religious issue. We must do all of this with truly genuine heartfelt compassion for those who face unwanted pregnancies and for those who have had abortions, while never selling out on the fundamental principle that life is to be protected at all costs and that abortion – without exception – is a gross abuse of human rights.

This issue is also very acute in Ireland today. In 4 or 5 months time the country is likely to face a deeply divisive referendum to remove constitutional protection for unborn life, and open the door to a regime of abortion on the demand.

So, today we pray for true peace and healing for those who have had abortions; for help for those who are facing an unwanted pregnancy; for fortitude and prudence for those involved in the struggle against abortion around the world and for the conversion of those within the abortion industry.