I find the temptation growing stronger every day to leave aside all work that is not absolutely necessary and to spend the time with Jesus. Why does He make me realise so much His loneliness in the Tabernacle and His longing for ‘one to console Him’ and at the same time fill my hands with so many things to do? My room here is opposite the little oratory, only a thin partition separates the two rooms; and it is hard to sleep when I fancy I can almost hear the beating of His heart of love. He is always ‘calling’ and He seems so happy and consoled when I steal in to Him when everyone else is asleep and He is left alone. These moments before Him are rich in grace, especially recently, and I find it hard to think of anything but Jesus and His love. I long to open wide my heart and to let Him hide Himself there, deep, deep down, to bend over Him with tenderest love and give Him every mark of affection, to have Him transform me into Himself, so that I can exclaim ‘I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me!’ (Gal. 2:20).
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these notes on 12 May 1913 – 108 years ago today.
Fr Doyle was clearly something of a mystic. This is not just my own judgement – it is based on the evidence presented to us in his own diaries and it is also the opinion of the well known Jesuit spiritual writer and theologian Fr de Grandmaison. Fr Doyle’s life of action in the trenches and his austere penances can tend to obscure this mystical aspect of his spirituality. Yet his diary around this time is full of these passionate exclamations of his love for God.
This same pattern of burning love for Christ can be found in the lives of all of the saints. There are (as usual!) several interesting similarities between Fr Doyle and one of today’s saints, Leopold Mandic, a Capuchin friar from Montenegro who spent much of his life in Padua and who died in 1942.
St Leopold was one of the great saints of the confessional, often spending 10-15 hours per day hearing confessions in his small, unheated and unventilated room. While Fr Doyle often spent similar amounts of time hearing confessions when conducting missions, it was really during his period as chaplain when his devotion to confession was obvious for all to see as he often risked his life to hear the confessions of wounded soldiers.
Fr Doyle is often remembered for his cheerful emphasis on personal austerity, although this was always of a very moderate and balanced type where other people were concerned. We can find this same emphasis in St Leopold’s life and specifically in his advice to a penitent:
It is not a question of performing extraordinary acts of penance. It suffices to patiently bear the common trials of our miserable life: misunderstandings, lack of gratitude, humiliations, sufferings caused by changes of season and the atmosphere in which we live. God wills all this as a means to work out our Redemption. But in order for these trials to be efficacious and help our soul, we must not seek to flee from them by every possible means. Excessive care for comfort and constant search for ease, have nothing to do with the Christian spirit. That is certainly not taking the cross and following Jesus. Rather it’s running from it. And whoever suffers only what he could not avoid will hardly have any merits.
St Leopold, like Fr Doyle, had a passionate love for Jesus. As he wrote once:
The love of Jesus is a fire which is fuelled with the wood of sacrifice and love for the cross; if it isn’t fed in that way, it goes out.
St Leopold’s description of the life and death of holy priests aptly fits both his own life and that of Fr Doyle:
A priest must die from apostolic hard work; there is no other death worthy of a priest.
The sanctity of some individuals seems to shine out from their faces; it seems to emanate from their being, even through the medium of photography. St Leopold is one such saint. May he intercede for us who continue our pilgrimage on this earth.
Today is also the feast of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, the first prelate of Opus Dei and successor of St Josemaria Escriva. It was he, while visiting Ireland in 1980, who revealed that the following point of meditation by St Josemaria Escriva was, in fact, based on the life and spiritual struggles of Fr Doyle:
We were reading — you and I — the heroically ordinary life of that man of God. And we saw him fight whole months and years (what ‘accounts’ he kept in his particular examination!) at breakfast time: today he won, tomorrow he was beaten… He noted: ‘Didn’t take butter…; did take butter!’
May you and I too live our ‘butter tragedy’.