Pope Francis, Fr Adolphe Tanquerey, and Fr Doyle

Pope Francis gave his annual lecture to the members of the Roman curia last week. And he had a gift for them – a copy of Adolphe Tanquerey’s The Spiritual Life. 

Tanquerey was a French priest and seminary professor (in Baltimore) who died in 1932. He wrote manuals in dogmatic, moral and spiritual theology. The book Pope Francis gave to the Roman curial officials was Tanquerey’s classic on spiritual and ascetical theology. It can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Life-Treatise-Ascetical-Mystical-ebook/dp/B0106X7NKA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1545598652&sr=8-1&keywords=tanquerey+the+spiritual+life

The book deals with all aspects of the spiritual life, including the virtues, their opposing vices, and the three stages of the spiritual life (the purgative, illuminative and unitive paths). The book is a synthesis of the best of classic Catholic spirituality.

The book is based on Tanquerey’s vast engagement with the best of Catholic spiritual writing, and it lists a series of classics of Catholic spirituality. The book states that only the most important books are mentioned.

And that’s where Fr Doyle comes in. For in the midst of classics by Fathers and Doctors of the Church, we find O’Rahilly’s biography of Fr Doyle listed amongst these most important books.

The O’Rahilly book is a masterpiece, and O’Rahilly himself was surely a bona fide genius. But it’s not O’Rahilly’s genius that merited Tanquerey’s attention, but the spiritual genius of his subject.

Fr Doyle was a master spiritual tactician, with practical advice for everyone, no matter what their stage or state of life is. And it is surely this mastery of practical spiritual tactics that merits his inclusion on Tanquerey’s list of most important spiritual books. 

In his treatise on the spiritual life, Tanquerey dealt extensively with mortification. He had the following to say:

770 …To jeer at the austerities of former Christian days is a baneful error of modern times. As a matter of fact the saints of all ages, those that have been beatified in these latter days as well as those of old, have severely chastised their bodies and their exterior senses, well aware that man’s whole being must be brought into subjection, that in the state of fallen nature, man’s whole being must be crucified if he is to belong wholly to God…

771… St Paul was so alive to the necessity of mortifying the flesh that he punished it severely in order to escape sin and final reprobation: “But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection; lest perhaps when I have preached to others I myself should become a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).

So here we have Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey, master of spiritual theology, endorsing both physical mortification and, also, O’Rahilly’s study of Fr Doyle’s spiritual life. And Tanquerey himself has just been endorsed by Pope Francis, as a Christmas gift and as recommended spiritual reading for his closest collaborators in the Vatican.

Pope Tanquery
Pope Francis presents Tanquerey’s The Spiritual Life to the staff of the Vatican curia



Thoughts for December 23 from Fr Willie Doyle

Don’t lose sight of this principle, that true holiness is based on humility.

COMMENT: There is only one place in the Gospel where Jesus speaks about His own character, and urges us to follow it. In the 11th Chapter of St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:

Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Everything about this time of the year speaks of the humility and meekness of Christ. Being born of the unknown and humble virgin Mary. Being born while on a journey, with all of its inconveniences. Not even being born in an inn, but in a stable, surrounded by animals and all of the noises and smells that go with it. One of the most extraordinary moments of history – God being born as a helpless baby – goes unnoticed by the world. Christ is born in humility, He will live in humility and He will die in humility.

May we learn from the examples of Jesus, Mary and Joseph how to live with greater humility and simplicity of heart.