I believe strongly in corporal penance as a means to the end. But a denial of your own will often costs more than a hundred strokes of the discipline. To interior penance you must not, and need not, put any limit.
COMMENTS: The discipline is a knotted whip used for corporal penance. Its use would have been standard in Fr Doyle’s time, and still today there are many religious organisations and indeed individuals who use such an implement. Our modern world does not understand such things, but then again, few generations of the past would understand the modern obsession with punishing our bodies in a gym…
We have discussed Fr Doyle’s approach to corporal penance in the past. It is clear that he had permission for his penances and that he felt he had a special calling to this harsh life. But it is also clear that he never encouraged others to follow him, and that he instead encouraged interior penances – small acts of self-denial. Indeed, he was an avid practitioner of such penances himself. Who can doubt that we would live in a much better world today if we could all control ourselves better and restrain our selfish impulses?
Many other saints have agreed with Fr Doyle’s comments on the importance of interior penance. St Philip Neri, in particular, comes to mind. He argued that holiness was three fingers deep, meaning that holiness comes from our brain or our mind (He would point to the gap between his eyes to emphasise that holiness was internal. This gap was three fingers wide, hence the expression that holiness is three fingers deep). Advent is a great time to try to acquire this internal holiness.