I felt strongly urged to rise and make the Holy Hour every night.In there past twelve months I have gone down to the chapel about fifty times though often only for a few moments; this does not include the weekly Holy Hour on Thursday. Now I feel impelled to rise each night, when at home, at least for a quarter of an hour.
I have been meaning to extend my thanks to those reviewers who have given endorsements for either the outside cover or website of the Ignatius Press edition of To Raise the Fallen. Most of these reviewers are from the US, so Thanksgiving Day seems like a good opportunity to extend my thanks and gratitude to them for their encouragement and kind words about the book and about Fr Doyle.
So my grateful thanks go to
Fr James Schall SJ
Fr Joseph Koterski SJ
Fr Mitch Pacwa SJ
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Armagh
Fr John S. Hogan
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, US Military Services’
You can read their kind words below.
“Ireland was once a land of Catholic heroes. If the Emerald Isle is going to escape the secular morass into which it’s sunk — if Ireland is going to be, again, a nation of saints — witnesses to the faith who embody Catholicism’s capacity to summon forth courage and compassion are urgently needed. Those virtues were vibrantly alive in Father Willie Doyle, S.J.. His story, and his witness, should be part of any genuine revival of Irish Catholicism.”
George Weigel, Author, The Fragility of Order
“In the context of a nationalistic war that placed nation ahead of God, Church, or the dignity of unique individuals, Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J. restored the proper order. His love of Jesus Christ fired his courage to bring the needed sacraments to anyone in need. The men knew he cared for each of them, and he risked his life for any of them. An impersonal bomb was the way this good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Anyone who reads his story of love for God’s sake will be made a better person by the experience.”
Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., TV Host, EWTN Live
“Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., is one of the unsung heroes of the First World War. During one of the war’s most wretched battles he sacrificed his life to tend to a wounded member of his flock. His letters in To Raise the Fallen reveal he cheerfully put up with the horrors of trench warfare—the filth, the vermin, the constant enemy shelling—to bring spiritual solace to his comrades in uniform. This book provides the grounds to reopen the cause for Father Doyle’s Beatification.”
George Marlin, Author, The Sons of St. Patrick: A History of the Archbishops of New York
“A moving an account of a courageous priest who literally gave his life for his flock, being determined to minister at the front line, amidst the roar and stench of battle. His example speaks to our time about the healing presence of Christ at the margins, bringing love, hope and the consolation of faith.”
Most Reverend Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh; Primate of All Ireland
“Just the story we need right now: the short life of a witty military chaplain who devoted much of his private prayers to reparation for the sins of priests.This book contains Fr. Doyle’s letters from the front and an account of his August 1917 death as a martyr of charity while serving the men of his unit in the brutal trenches of the First World War. The section on the prayers he composed is worth the price of the book.”
Fr. Joseph Koterski, S.J., Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University
Father Willie Doyle, S.J. exemplified the best qualities of a Catholic Chaplain: total dedication to those in his care, fearlessness in the face of enemy fire, and the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. Now 101 years after his death, readers of To Raise the Fallen will enjoy learning about this man for others in the long tradition of the Society of Jesus. “
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archbishop of Military Services
“Though Father Doyle wished to remain hidden, when the story of his soul was revealed, devotion to him sprung up spontaneously and countless favors through his intercession revealed God’s judgement on this holy man’s life. Through his life and writings we see the power of God working to inspire us, and to bring peace and strength to those who are weary—to raise the fallen.”
Fr. John S. Hogan, EWTN Co-host, Forgotten Heritage: Europe and the Saints
“A powerful story of a great Irish Jesuit, a World War 1 chaplain, a teacher, a man of prayer and zeal who represents the best in Irish Jesuit spirituality, both generous and disciplined, full of humour and wisdom.”
Fr. James Schall, S.J., Author The Order of Things, Professor Emeritus Georgetown University
Thanks a million times, dearest Jesus, for all Your goodness. I will love and serve You now till death.
COMMENT: Thanksgiving is not celebrated outside of the United States, but today we think of our American friends who celebrate this holiday and wish them all well.
Even those who face troubles and woes of various types have much to be thankful for. The Lord has given us life and faith and many other blessings and graces all throughout our lives. He has protected us from problems and difficulties that we may not even be aware of. Most importantly of all, He desires union with us for eternity and designs all things to this end. We just need to co-operate with His plan and rely on His grace.
Let us be thankful for everything, for all we have comes to us as a gift from our Father. And let us remember that much is expected from those who have received much – if we have gifts from God it is because he expects us to “invest” those “talents” and bring forth fruit with them. We shall have to render an account of our stewardship of all of the gifts he has given to us.
Remember the devil is a bad spiritual director, and you may always recognise his apparently good suggestions by the disturbances they cause in the soul. Our Lord would never urge you to turn away from a path which is leading you nearer to Himself, nor frighten you with the prospect of future unbearable trials. If they do come, grace will come also and make you abound with joy in all your tribulations.
COMMENT: Many spiritual writers echo the words of Fr Doyle in today’s quote. St Ignatius speaks of consolations and desolations; the former coming from God and the latter from the enemy. The devil wishes to disturb our soul, injecting fears and scruples and anxiety and a distaste for spiritual things. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, wishes to give us peace. It’s not for nothing that the risen Christ always spoke of peace when He appeared to His disciples.
Fr Doyle was not necessarily an innately heroic man. He suffered from ill health quite a lot in his life. At one stage during his seminary days he suffered what Alfred O’Rahilly describes as “a complete nervous breakdown” and had to leave the novitiate for a while. Some doctors even said that he was ill-equipped for the religious life. As one soldier said of him, he had all of the inherent characteristics of a coward. But Fr Doyle didn’t rely on himself and his own powers. He abounded with joy in all of his tribulations because he relied on God who never abandons His followers.
When Jesus ascended to Heaven, he promised to be with his disciples to the end of time. That was true almost two thousand years ago; it was true 100 years ago in the trenches and it remains true today.
“My yoke is sweet” (Matthew 11. 30). The service of God, the whole-hearted generous service of God, is full of a sweetness hidden from the world. Beneath the rough garb of the monk or the holy nun’s coarse garment there is hidden more real happiness, more true peace and contentment than poor wordlings have ever known or dreamt of. Sweet is the yoke, light the burden of the Lord.
COMMENT: Of course, it’s not just the monk and the nun who know the delight and happiness of serving the Lord – many laypeople who have given “whole-hearted generous service of God” know the sweetness that this entails.
The obligation, then, lies on believing Christians to show this joy to the world around them. The early Christians were known for their joy, even in the midst of persecutions. Do we really have any excuse not to be joyful? For too long religious belief has been stereotyped as something negative or austere, especially in Ireland. Yes, a certain austerity is an element of the spiritual life, but we are to practice a balanced austerity with ourselves, and loving gentleness with others. And always we are to carry peace and joy in our hearts and always communicate this peace and joy to others.
Fr Doyle wrote the following notes in his diary on this day in 1914:
I…gave up aspirations and all penances, and indulged myself in every way. The result was great misery and unhappiness with the feeling that Jesus was very much pained, though I did not seem to care. I felt powerless to rise out of this state. This morning He came back to me during my Mass with such love and grace that I could not resist Him, and took up my former life again. Great peace and happiness since.
In many ways these words are remarkable to read. For Fr Doyle, to indulge himself (and this probably merely meant eating butter or warming himself at a fire…) was to be sad. And it is surely consoling for us to read about how he struggled to rouse himself to virtue and to prayer, until God’s grace aided him in a powerful manner and he was again filled with “great peace and happiness”. There is surely much for us all to console ourselves with in this.
St Francis de Sales said that one catches more flies with a spoon of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar. Fr Doyle himself had this gentle spirit in his dealings with others, despite his own personal austerity. He demonstrated this gentleness when he met what was curiously called a “lady of the unfortunate class” plying her trade on the street. Instead of condemning her, he looked lovingly at her and encouraged her to go home and not offend Jesus. Years later, when she faced execution for her role in a murder, this same prostitute asked for Fr Doyle to be found and brought to the prison to help her. She didn’t know his name and she knew nothing about Catholicism. It was the gentle sweetness of Fr Doyle that won her over, and she died in a state of grace and happiness having received the sacraments at the hands of Fr Doyle.
I’m looking forward to appearing on Bill martinez Live tomorrow at 11.09am ET Tuesday to discuss To Raise the Fallen.
Bill Martinez Live is a nationally syndicated show airing in 280 markets in the US. Tune in on the radio, or online: http://billmartinezlive.com
We can never sufficiently thank Him for so completely showing us in the Garden that He was a man by praying to escape the storm.
COMMENT: Jesus showed us His humanity on many different occasions, but nowhere more movingly than during the Agony in the Garden. As Fr Doyle tells us in today’s quote, there is nothing wrong with asking God to relieve our sufferings and to spare us particular trials, so long as we are also ultimately resigned to God’s holy will.
Sir William Bernard Hickie was Major General of the 16th Irish Division and knew Fr Doyle extremely well. He wrote the following in a letter to friend on 18 November 1917, 3 months after Fr Doyle’s death:
Fr Doyle was one of the best priests I have ever met, and one of the bravest men who have fought or worked out here. He did his duty, and more than his duty, most nobly, and has left a memory and a name behind him that will never be forgotten. On the day of his death, 16th August, he had worked in the front line, and even in front of that line, and appeared to know no fatigue – he never knew fear. He was killed by a shell towards the close of the day, and was buried on the Frezenberg Ridge… He was recommended for the Victoria Cross by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by myself. Superior Authority, however, has not granted it, and as no other posthumous reward is given, his name will, I believe, be mentioned in the Commander-in-Chief’s Despatch…I can say without boasting that this is a Division of brave men; and even among these, Fr Doyle stood out.
Your desire for penance is an excellent sign…But have a fixed amount to be done each day and do not be doing it in fits and starts. Anything like what you call “frenzy” ought to be suspected and resisted.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle’s life of penance has been a stumbling block for some people. It is true that he lived a life of great personal penance. It is also true that he lived a life of great personal heroism. This shone out in the trenches, but evidence for his selflessness and courage can be seen in many other aspects of his life. Are his life of penance, and his life of heroism, related to each other? Almost certainly they are.
But Fr Doyle was also very balanced. He NEVER encouraged others to follow his own example of penance. He felt that he was given a special calling and special graces, and that such a life of penance was not appropriate for one who did not receive these graces. In today’s quote, based on a letter of spiritual direction which he wrote to someone seeking his advice, he was clear that penance is important. But he was also clear that penance should be balanced – in one place he writes that the smaller the penance is, the better. In Fr Doyle’s life such balance and small penances can be seen in his reluctance to warm himself at the fire, his refusal to complain about little aches and pains (a favoured sport of many Irish people!), his refusal to give in to the desire to sleep during the day and, most famously, his battle to eat dry bread and to give up butter and jam.
Fr Doyle was a great tactician of the spiritual life. Once again he gives us an excellent example for us to follow.
Meditating on the Particular Judgement, God gave me great light. I realised that I should have to give an exact account of every action of my life and for every instant of time. To take only my seventeen years of religious life, what account could I give of the 6,000 hours of meditation, 7,000 Masses, 12,000 examinations of conscience, etc.? Then my time: how have I spent every moment? I resolved not to let a day more pass without seriously trying to reform my life in the manner in which I perform my ordinary daily duties. For years I have been “going to begin,” and from time to time made some slight efforts at improvement. But now, dear Jesus, let this change be the work of Thy right hand.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle was a practical and efficient man. In fact, if he hadn’t become a priest, he had the makings of a great businessman. He recognised that each day, each moment, should be directed towards our ultimate goal – union with God. He was constantly focused on this strategic aim.
But his method was also practical. Holiness is not some imaginary thing; it is not based on feelings and sentiment. There are a number of litmus tests of whether we are growing in holiness (none of them involve “feelings”!). One of the surest of these litmus tests is the faithful performance of our daily duties, relying as always on the grace that is always available to us.
Let us learn from the example of Fr Doyle to use our time well.