20 December 1914

During the last three nights of the retreat I slept on the floor without feeling any inconvenience after, though I woke very often on account of the pain. This is the first time I have slept this way on more than one successive night.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle was just one of the many holy men and women – including saints – who slept on the floor at night. For example, we know that his friend Blessed John Sullivan also very often slept on the floor, sometimes hiding the fact by ruffling up his blankets to make it look like he slept in the bed.

The retreat Fr Doyle speaks of was not his own, but rather a retreat he was giving, presumably in a convent. It was by these means – prayer and self-denial – that Fr Doyle prepared himself to be a pure instrument of God’s grace for others. It has always been this way with the saints. For example, the liturgy of Advent has many references to St John the Baptist. He was a stranger to comfort – he lived on locusts and honey; he was not dressed in “soft garments”, as Jesus noted. John the Baptist knew that he must decrease, so that the life of grace could increase in his soul. 

There is no other way. We have to deny ourselves (in a way appropriate to our stage and state of life), so that we can leave space for God and His grace in our souls, for if our souls are so full of ourselves, how can there be space for God?


Thoughts for December 20 from Fr Willie Doyle

There is no rule for vocations, no age-limit for the call. Innocence attracts the gaze of God, deep-rooted habits of sin, provided they are not persevered in, do not always repel Him. One comes because the world disgusts him, another loves it and leaves it with regret; docility draws down more graces, while resistance often increases the force of the invitation. The little child hears God’s whisperings, while others have not been summoned till years were far advanced.

COMMENT: We all have a calling, whether that be the religious life, marriage or perhaps even to be perpetually single and without vows. And there are also “vocations”, or callings, within these vocations. One priest might be called to serve his parish with fidelity and simplicity; another might be called to a ministry in the media or to found a spiritual association. And are also different callings and spiritual paths that can be followed within the vocation to marriage. To a great extent, our sanctity depends on our perseverance and adherence to the call God makes to us.

In today’s quote, Fr Doyle is specifically referring to a religious vocation. He was a well known and effective promoter of religious vocations; some of his writings on the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life can be found by clicking on the link to Fr Doyle’s writings on the top of the page.

Jesus has given all to us – our life, our health, our family and friends, our immortal soul. He gives us everything. We owe everything to Him. Giving our entire life to Him in whatever way He asks for it, is really too small a gift to repay everything we have received. Of course, it’s one thing to say that, and it’s another thing to live it, day after day, especially when the initial enthusiasm wears off, as it almost always does. Therein lies the heroism and sanctity to which we are called. Those who fully embrace their vocation always report that it is a source of great joy and happiness for them in this life and it is also surely a source of merit and consolation in the next life.

As we prepare for Christmas it is worth remembering that this great feast contains important lessons about docility in responding to our vocation. The call to be the Mother of God, and the foster father of Jesus, was not easy for Mary or for Joseph. Yet in both of them we see a great openness to what God asks – Mary says Yes to the angel and insists that she is the “handmaid of the Lord”. Joseph, for his part, was also completely docile and prompt in responding to his vocation – taking Mary as his spouse despite his initial misgivings about her pregnancy and also taking the holy family into exile in Egypt in order to protect the infant saviour.