Counting today, Fr Doyle’s anniversary is 9 days away. It is traditional for Catholics to reflect on specific themes, or to pray for particular favours, for 9 consecutive days. This is a very ancient tradition and dates back to the earliest days of the Church – the apostles and Mary spent 9 days in prayer between the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
So, starting today, in addition to the normal daily post, we will have a special post on a specific virtue in the life of Fr Doyle. Readers may like to reflect on Fr Doyle’s virtues, and perhaps develop their own private “novena” based around them, perhaps praying, privately, for Fr Doyle’s intercession and help. At the end of each day’s post I will include the text the original prayer for Fr Doyle’s intercession, approved for private devotion only.
In all of this, please bear in mind that we do not wish to pre-empt any future judgement of the Church on the nature of the virtues of Fr Doyle.
There are numerous virtues and qualities that one could pick from the life of Fr Doyle. I have chosen to stick with the 3 theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love) and the 4 cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance) and 2 of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Joy and Peace). So over the 9 days we will very briefly examine the evidence for one of these virtues and fruits in the life of Fr Doyle.
Please bear in mind that these reflections on Fr Doyle’s virtues are intended to be brief reflections that are necessarily incomplete in nature – a comprehensive treatment would require many many pages to complete!
Day 1: The virtue of Faith in the life of Fr Doyle
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (1814-1816):
1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity.”
1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But “faith apart from works is dead”: when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.
1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
There is much that could be said about the virtue of faith in the life of Fr Doyle. He certainly committed his “entire self to God”, not only through his life as a Jesuit, but by an ardent longing for sanctity, no matter what the cost might be. If faith apart from works is dead, we can say that Fr Doyle had a vibrantly living faith, for he devoted himself to good works for those around him, both before and during the war.
The Catechism says that we must confidently bear witness to the faith and spread it. Fr Doyle did this best in his actions, and by the ways in which he interacted with others, especially during the war. It is of significance that he was greatly mourned by the Protestant soldiers with whom he interacted. This was not an era of ecumenism as we know it today. It was a time of tension, especially in Ireland. The love that these Protestant soldiers had for Fr Doyle says much about the gentle, and effective, manner in which he spread the faith.
He also exhibited this gentleness in spreading the Faith in his encounter with Fanny Cranbush, the street prostitute who was subsequently implicated in a murder and executed. He saw her on the street, and gently urged her to go home and not to offend Jesus. These words, and especially the love and gentleness with which they were spoken, had a deep impact on her and the memory of them made her seek out Fr Doyle’s help before her death.
Fr Doyle lived at a time when societal trends were turning against faith and religion. While the faith held strong in Ireland for several decades longer than other countries, Fr Doyle was well aware of the challenges to faith that were growing in other countries. When he speaks of socialism here he is surely speaking of the most extreme forms, which has always attacked and persecuted religious faith. If his words below seem alarmist, consider the results of the October Revolution in 1917, or two decades later the consequences of the leftist persecution of the Church in Spain which saw literally thousands killed for their faith.
To the anxious watcher signs are not wanting that we shall not be long secure from the attacks of those who, on the Continent, have worked such havoc in the Church. The voice of the Socialist is heard in the land. The tide of infidel literature – cheap, clever, attractive – is slowly gaining ground, carrying with it the foul poison of doubt and incredulity, sparing nothing, however sacred or holy.How to save our dear land from such dangers is a problem which must interest every man and woman who has the interests of their country at heart. This was the problem which Catholics in other lands had to face. They saw the efforts made to draw the toiler from allegiance to his Church, the harm done to home and State by socialistic doctrines, and irresistible onward march of modern infidelity.
Fr Doyle’s faith was not merely abstract or intellectual – it was living and vibrant and fundamentally rooted in the person of Christ. We will end today with a quote from Fr Doyle on this very point.
The wretched spirit of Jansenism has driven our dear Lord from His rightful place in our hearts. He longs for love, and familiar love, so give Him both.
We conclude with a prayer to Fr Doyle for private use.
O Jesus, who has given us the example of Your servant, Father William Doyle, graciously grant us the favours we ask You through his intercession…[Make petition.]
Teach us to imitate his love for You, his heroic devotion to Your service, his zeal for repairing the outrages done to Sacred Heart. For Your greater glory and for the salvation of souls hear our prayer and show us the credit he now enjoys in heaven so that we may soon be able to venerate him in public worship.”
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be