Today is the feast of St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael, the archangels.
This feast was significant in Fr Doyle’s spiritual life, for he made a vow to the Sacred Heart on this very day 111 years ago during one of his late night vigils Here is the text of the vow:
“Most loving Jesus, kneeling before You in the Blessed Sacrament, I solemnly consecrate myself to Your Sacred Heart by vow. I vow always to be Your faithful lover and to strive every day to grow in Your love. In imitation of the oblation which B. Margaret Mary made of herself, I now wish to give myself up absolutely and entirely, without any reserve whatever, to Your most Sacred Heart, that You may be free to do with me, to treat me, as You wish, to send me whatever suffering or humiliation You wish. I desire to put no obstacle to the action of grace upon my soul, to be a perfect instrument in Your divine hands, to be Your victim should You so desire. I want to make this oblation and immolation of myself to Your Sacred Heart as completely as possible, and in the manner which You wish me to make it, O my Jesus. Therefore, again, by this vow, I make a complete surrender of myself and all I have to You. Do with me as You will, for from this hour I am wholly Yours. Amen.
Feast of St. Michael, Friday, Sept. 29th, 1910.
Made at Midnight. Signed W. J. DOYLE, S J.”
One year later, while on retreat, he added to this vow as follows:
I deliberately vow, and bind myself, under pain of mortal sin, to refuse Jesus no sacrifice, which I clearly see He is asking from me. Amen.
(1) Until I get permission to make it permanently, this will only bind from day to day, to be renewed each morning at Mass.
(2) To avoid scrupulosity, I am quite free unless I honestly believe the sacrifice is asked.
(3) Any confessor may dispense me from the vow at any time.
Feast of St. Michael, Tullabeg. September 29th, 1911.
Though not coming under the matter of the vow, my aim will be :
(a) Never to avoid suffering e.g. heat or cold, unpleasant people etc.
(b) Of two alternatives, to choose the harder e.g. ordinary or arm chair.
(c) To try and let absolutely no occasion of self-denial pass: they are too precious.
(d) As far as possible, not to omit my ordinary penances when a little unwell.
(e) My constant question to be: What other sacrifice can I make? What more can I ive up for Jesus? How can I do this action more perfectly ?
REASONS FOR MAKING VOW.
(1) The immense help it will be to become fervent.
(2) Additional great merit from doing the acts under vow.
(3) I see now what was the strange want which I have felt so often in my life. I have been urged by grace for years to take some such step, but only recently clearly saw what I should do.
(4) My sanctification depends on doing this.
(5) I wish to do my utmost to please my dear Jesus.
(6) I feel simply I must make this vow as if I had no power to refuse, which shows me that all this is the work of grace, and not my doing in the least.
(7) Since Jesus, out of pure love for me, has always lived this life, and since I have promised to imitate Him, how can I now refuse to do so?
(8) I shall gain immensely by this vow, my work for others will be blessed, more souls will be saved and greater glory given to God.
(9) What shall I lose? A little gratification which brings no real pleasure but always leaves me unhappy, for I feel I am resisting grace.
I make this vow with immense distrust of myself and my power to keep it, but place all my confidence and trust in Thee, O most loving Heart of Jesus.”
By the time Fr Doyle made this second vow 110 years ago today, he had advanced far in the spiritual life and was actively seeking daily sacrifices to offer to the Lord for others. We may not be called to imitate Fr Doyle’s specific penances but we can still learn a lot from his spirit of generosity, even if the way we live this generosity is different from the ways open to Fr Doyle.
Four years after this Fr Doyle seems to have had an inspiration in prayer. Writing on this day in 1915 he says:
Meditating on the words of our Lord to Blessed Margaret Mary: “I seek for My Heart a victim willing to sacrifice itself for the accomplishment of My desires,” I begged Jesus to tell me the meaning of these words. This seemed to be His answer, written as I knelt before the Tabernacle:
(1) “The victim whom I seek for must place himself in My hands that I may do absolutely what I will with him. Only in this way can My secret plans and designs be carried out. If the victim deliberately refuses to do what I want, all My plans may be spoiled.
(2) “The victim must surrender his body for any suffering or disease I may please to send, (but not asked for). There must be no holding back in this surrender through fear of any sickness whatever. This includes the joyful acceptance of all little bodily pains and the not seeking remedies for them, except when absolutely necessary.
(3) “The victim must give Me his soul that I may try it by temptation, plunge it in sadness, purify it by interior trials. In this state its prayer must be, ‘Fiat, Thy will be done’
(4) “Perfect abandonment to My will in every detail must be the very life of My victim, the most absolute humble submission to My pleasure his constant aim. Every little thing that happens must be recognized and welcomed as coming straight from My hand. The victim will wait till the voice of obedience speaks and then do exactly what I have made known, this promptly, earnestly, gladly because it is My will. There must be no likes or dislikes; no wishing for this thing to end or the other to begin, to be sent here or there, not to have this work to do, etc. My victim must have only one wish, one aim, one desire, — to do what I want in all things; this I shall make known from moment to moment.
(5) “The victim should strive to carry out what I seem to ask, fearless of the pain involved, regardless of the possible consequences, only trusting in My all-powerful help and protection. In this way, using My victim as an instrument, I shall secretly accomplish my desires in souls. My child, do you accept this office with its conditions?”
Jesus, most humbly I offer myself as Thy victim. Amen.
Once again, we see that Fr Doyle seems to have felt that he had a specific calling to a hard life. There are many saints who perceived this inspiration towards being a victim of reparation, with a calling to suffer for others. Later in his life Fr Doyle perceived that this calling was specifically to suffer in reparation for the sins of priests.
Also today we honour the archangels. In a particular way in our own time we pray for the protection and help of St Michael, protector of the Church. Scripture is very clear about the existence and role of angels, and also very explicit about the role of St Michael. Consider the words of St John Paul II from some addresses in 1987:
The continuous struggle against the devil that characterises Michael the Archangel is still going on since the devil who seeks to take advantage of every situation is still living and operative in the world.
There are periods in which the existence of evil among men becomes singularly apparent. We have the impression today that people do not want to see the problem. Everything possible is done to remove from public awareness the existence of the “cunning attacks of the devil” who “holds dominion over the underworld…Nevertheless there are historical periods when the profound truth of this revelation of faith is expressed with greater force and is almost tangibly perceived.
We conclude with a prayer from Lauds:
Send Michael, the prince of the heavenly hosts, to the aid of your people. May he defend them against Satan and his angels on the day of battle.