Thoughts for the Feast of the Holy Family from Fr Willie Doyle

And you, wives and bread-winners, have you no task within the fold, no little flock to tend and guard? Has not God committed to your care the innocent lambs, the little ones of your household? Within the pasture of your own family are you the good shepherd, or the thief and the hireling? . . . Jesus does not ask from His shepherds now the shedding of their life-blood But He does ask from them a death more hard, more lingering, a life-long death of sacrifice for His flock, . . . the daily crucifying of every evil passion, the stamping out of sloth, of anger, of drunkenness, the constant striving after the holiness of your state of life. . . . Look upon the great Christ, the Good Shepherd, hanging on the Cross. He is our model, our hero. Gaze well upon His bleeding wounds, His mangled limbs, that sad agony-stricken face. Look well, and pray with generous heart that he may make you in word and deed heroes in His service.

COMMENT: Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Fr Doyle has some rather direct words for mothers and fathers in today’s quote. Parents have a flock to guard. Children have immortal souls and they have been entrusted to their parents for a time. Parents have a serious obligation to put their children on the right path in life. Naturally, parents are not responsible if their children abandon their Faith in later life. But if their spiritual life was not nourished in the first place, if they were never provided with formation, if their innocence was never protected to begin with, then the day will come when parents will have to provide an account of their stewardship…

St Benedict gives us exactly this message in his Rule. Referring to the responsibility that an Abbot has towards his monks (which is the exact same responsibility a parent has towards their children), he says:

Let the Abbot always bear in mind 
that at the dread Judgment of God 
there will be an examination of these two matters: his teaching and the obedience of his disciples. 
And let the Abbot be sure that any lack of profit the master of the house may find in the sheep will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. 
On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all his pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behaviour, then he will be acquitted at the Lord’s Judgment.

 

Thoughts for December 30 from Fr Willie Doyle

 

Every little victory in the matter of food is a real triumph, for this is a real test of generosity. You will find many persons given to prayer, works of zeal, penance, but most seem to fly from denial of their appetite…St Francis de Sales used to say  “Unless you deny your appetite you will never be a saint” – a might saying! All the same, I think it would please our Lord more, at this Christmas season of joy, to relax a little and even indulge the body. It will help you to renew the fight later with more energy.

COMMENT: At first glance today’s quote from Fr Doyle may seem a little uncharacteristic. But it isn’t really unusual of him – Fr Doyle was a tough ascetic, but he was also fun-loving, good natured, totally “normal” and well-balanced. And we see that balance here. The immediate context of the above quote was advice to somebody about the necessity for some fasting from food in order to gain holiness. But there is a time for all things, and the “Christmas season of joy” is not the time for that form of asceticism. Christmas is a time to celebrate the Incarnation, a time to relax and recharge our batteries so that we may move forward again with more energy. However, of note here is that the above words were written to somebody who clearly desired penance and lived a temperate life. If we are gluttons all year long, Fr Doyle’s words are not a licence for even more self-indulgence!!

It’s also worth remembering that it is still the Christmas season! We are now only on the 6th day of Christmas, only half way there. While the commercial world starts to remove the decorations (if they have not already disappeared), we should continue to live the spirit of Christmas joy, even with a little indulgence.