Instead of a quote from Fr Doyle, today we present, courtesy of the Irish Messenger, a scanned copy of a booklet published in 1931 entitled “Father Willie”. It seems appropriate to look at this booklet today, the day following his anniversary. And the title of today’s post, suggesting that Fr Doyle is a “wonder worker” is not mine, but rather comes from this Jesuit pamphlet.
No author is mentioned for this booklet which leads me to believe that it was written by Fr Doyle’s brother Fr Charles Doyle SJ. Fr Charlie was Fr Willie’s great friend and boyhood companion, and it was he who recruited Willie to the Jesuits – Willie had considered becoming a diocesan priest and decided to become a Jesuit following some prodding from Charlie.
The first 19 pages of the booklet provide a short biography of Fr Doyle’s life which might be of special interest for individuals who are relatively new to Fr Doyle. There are some letters attesting to people’s devotion to Fr Doyle, followed by an incredible 26 pages of reported favours and cures allegedly granted through Fr Doyle’s intercession.
The figures are astounding. The booklet was published in 1931, a mere 14 years after Fr Doyle’s death, and only 11 years after the first edition of O’Rahilly’s biography was first published. In that time, more than 6,000 alleged favours were reported through Fr Doyle’s intercession!
These alleged favours came from all around the world – amongst many other countries from every continent, there are 101 from Australia, 21 from New Zealand, 53 from India, 11 from Brazil, 71 from various parts of Africa, 57 from Holland, 791 from England, 1,872 from the United States and 3,197 from Ireland.
These figures are truly amazing in an era before the internet and global mass media, especially when one considers the social and economic situation in the 1920’s. It is also likely that many more people felt that they received favours from Fr Doyle but never got around to reporting them. Furthermore, we know that many others wrote simply to express their devotion to Fr Doyle, to ask for relics or to encourage his Cause to be opened. There are more than 50,000 such letters.
Of course, without further details, and without the guidance of the Church, one cannot say with certainty that Fr Doyle answered these prayers, or that there is anything other than natural processes at work. Some of the alleged favours are small. Having said that, some seem to involve significant and unexplained healings.
The one conclusion that we can definitely draw from this booklet was that there was a significant, global devotion to Fr Doyle in the first half of the 20th Century, and that many thousands of people felt that their prayers were answered through his intercession.
Some people do not fully appreciate the Communion of Saints. In our natural world, we do not hesitate to ask others – friends, family, priests – to pray for us and for our concerns. The doctrine of the Communion of Saints is the very same, except we ask our friends in Heaven (the saints) to pray for us. It is not the saints themselves who answer our prayer, and we do not strictly pray to them, but we ask them to intercede for us with God. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses it:
They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.
So, let us remember that we have a friend in Fr Doyle, and ask him for his help in our temporal and spiritual needs, whether they are big or small. And let us remember that the best way to ensure the beatification and canonisation of those we admire is through reporting favours we feel have come through their intercession.
Here is the booklet: