Thoughts for January 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

Live for the day, but let it be a generous day. Have you ever tried giving God one day in which you refused him nothing, a day of absolute generosity?

COMMENT: One theme that arises frequently in Fr Doyle’s writing is that of generosity. He felt he was called to greater generosity with God. What does this mean? Obviously it means an even more determined battle against sin. Can we say that we are really generous with God if we wilfully persist in sin, without a conscious battle to fight against it? But there is more, for not only are we called to the “negative” battle against sin, we are called to a “positive” battle to acquire the virtues, to love God and others more, and to show this love in needs and not merely in sweet words or good intentions that never go anywhere…

God has given us everything we have. Our body. Our mind. Our will. Our talents. Our time on this earth. And He wishes to give us an eternity of union with Him in unimaginable joy. And in response He wants our generosity. 

We are sinners, with inherent weaknesses and defects that require much effort and grace to overcome. A day of “absolute generosity”, as suggested by Fr Doyle, is surely beyond most, if not all, humans, except perhaps for those who have reached the the very highest stages of the spiritual life in the unitive way. But still we should struggle each day to be a little bit more generous with God and with others. We should not fear being generous with God, as can sometimes happen. St Josemaria Escriva puts us at ease on this point:

God does not let himself be outdone in generosity. 

10 January: Anniversary of Fr Paul Ginhac SJ

Fr Paul Ginhac SJ

Today is the anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Fr Paul Ginhac SJ who died on this day in 1895. Fr Ginhac was a French Jesuit whose life and example seems to have had an impact on the spirituality of Fr Doyle. At any rate, he was sufficiently impressed with Fr Ginhac’s virtues that he translated a 380 page official biography of Fr Ginhac from French into English and organised its publication and distribution. He also distributed relics and prayer cards of Fr Ginhac in order to support the cause for his beatification. We can be sure that the spirituality of Fr Ginhac was of great personal importance for Fr Doyle if he went to this trouble in the midst of an already busy life – he had more than enough to do without taking on the task of translating a large book like this!

Fr Ginhac’s cause does not seem to have progressed much since the 1920’s. Perhaps future generations will take a renewed interest in this holy priest who so strongly inspired the heroism of Fr Doyle. After all, sometimes sainthood causes take centuries to progress.

Below is the relevant section of O’Rahilly’s biography dealing with Fr Doyle’s translation of Fr Ginhac’s biography. At the end of this post I have included a scan of some pages from the book, including Fr Doyle’s Foreword.

It will be convenient to mention here Fr. Doyle’s translation of the Life of Pere Ginhac by A. Calvet, S.J. “Printer after printer refused to have anything to do with the book,” he wrote, “though I staked Fr. Ginhac’s reputation that it would prove a financial success.” Finally Messrs. R. and T. Washbourne undertook to produce the work, and it appeared in 1914 as A Man after God’s Own Heart: Life of Father Paul Ginhac, S.J. When Fr. Doyle heard that the price was fixed at 8/6 net, he thought that the sale was killed for “not many people would care to invest such a sum in the life of a man no one had ever heard of.” But to his astonishment 900 copies went through in the first year, and up to December 1916 altogether 1,244 copies had been sold. “Pere Ginhac,” he wrote to his father, “has certainly worked this miracle if he never did anything else; and I am beginning to think he is not a bad sort of an old chap, even though he looked so desperately in need of a square meal!” Fr. Ginhac’s portrait certainly represents him as cadaverous and grim-visaged, a contrast with his admirer and translator, whose mortified life was never allowed to interfere with his buoyant naturalness and irrepressible spirit of fun. The book seems to have impressed and helped many readers, for Fr. Doyle continues: “I have had a pile of letters from all parts of the world — Alaska, Ceylon, South Africa, etc. — asking for relics and mentioning many favours received through the holy father’s intercession; so that the labour of getting out the volume (and it was not light) has brought its own reward.” Thus wrote Fr. Doyle a month before his death. Little did he dream that his own life would be written, and that his influence would be mingled with that of his fellow-religious whom he helped to make known to others.

Some pages from the book translated by Fr DoyleFr Ginhac

The full text of the book can be found here: https://archive.org/details/ManAfterGodsOwnHeart

 

 

9 January 1917

Continuing from yesterday’s post about 8 January 1917…

Our visitor from the sky was back again today repeating his old trick, with the same success, this time against one of our captive balloons. It was a thrilling sight to see the huge bag of fire gas burst into fire as the bullets hit it, and more thrilling still to watch the two unfortunate occupants of the car jump for their lives, fall like stones through the air, more rapidly each second till, with an intense gasp of relief, we saw the parachute open and both men land unhurt in safety.

Thoughts for January 9 from Fr Willie Doyle

How grand it is to be tired in working for Jesus! To lay our head on the pillow at night worn out by a hard day’s work for our dear Master, with the knowledge that we have not spared ourselves, but have toiled and borne the heat and burden of the day to prove our love. A sweet, consoling thought that  makes us long for the morning light to put our love to a further test. 

8 January 1917

Our airmen, very justly, have earned a big reputation for their skill and daring, but the ‘Allyman’ can still give them points in cuteness. The word ‘Allyman’ is probably new to you, but is the word used by our Irish boys for the enemy. They picked it up in France and it is simply a corruption of Les Allemands, the Germans.

Time after time I have seen our air squadrons sailing up and down, looking in vain for some Boche to devour and then the moment they went back to the rear for lunch out came the cautious Hun, took all the photos he wanted, noted positions of guns etc. and returned safely to his lines in peace, without a nasty air fight, in which he generally comes off second best.

This afternoon I saw a very clever bit of work. One of our planes was going along on its usual beat when literally, like a bolt from the blue, a German airman shot down on him from the sky. He had crept up at such a height that even our vigilant observers had not noticed him, then fixing his bearings by means of a powerful telescope he dived straight for our man before the latter realised what was taking place. There was a loud rattle of machine gun fire and the enemy was off as fast as he had come. I saw a thick column of black smoke rising from our aeroplane – a bullet had struck the petrol tank and the next instant it burst into flames.

Wherever the pilot was he was certainly a brave, cool fellow. To dive at once for safety would have meant destruction, for the rush of the wind would have carried the flames to the wings of the machine, and so with the petrol tank blazing fiercely behind him, he brought his plane slowly to the ground and saved his own and his observer’s life, though he was badly burnt in doing so.

Thoughts for January 8 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Eurosia Fabris Barban

 

It is a mother whose gentle care was ever round you, whose arms were open wide that you might nestle on her bosom and tell a mother’s heart your joys and childish sorrows. Well now do you recall the thousand little ways that love for you was shown, the welcome smile, the kindly word, the soft kiss implanted on your cheek.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle clearly loved his own mother and he recognised the importance of this motherly love in his own life. Today is the memorial of Blessed Eurosia Fabris Barban who reached great holiness through her vocation as a mother.

Mamma Rosa, as she was called, was born in Italy 1866 and died in 1932. She was from a humble and poor family, and had only 2 years of formal schooling. When she was 20 years old, one of her neighbours died, leaving behind 2 small children under 2 years old. Mamma Rosa took them in and raised her as her own. Soon after this she got married and had 9 children of her own. Her home became a gathering place for the children of her town. In addition to raising 11 children, she became a Franciscan tertiary and was renowned for her care of the poor and sick of the region and through it all managed to maintain a deep prayer life.

There is something refreshing about Blessed Eurosia, as there is about Fr Doyle and many of the other modern examples of holiness – they found their holiness in the midst of ordinary activities. Blessed Eurosia simply served God as a mother. Fr Doyle simply served God as a preacher and spiritual director and in the last years of his life as a military chaplain. In both cases, the fulfilment of the duties that God placed before them gave ample scope for them to strive for perfection. Their lives do not exhibit the physical miracles that we often associate with some of the older, more well known saints. As such, it becomes easier for us to imagine that we follow their example, even in very small ways.

Let us pray today in a special way to Blessed Eurosia for mothers, that they may be faithful to their calling to create loving homes in the midst of a world that increasingly devalues the importance of their role.

Thoughts for January 7 from Fr Willie Doyle

 

It seems to me I have failed to keep my resolutions because I have not acted from the motive of the love of God. Mortification, prayer, hard work, become sweet when done for the love of Jesus.

COMMENT: We are now 1 week into the year 2021. How have we kept our resolutions for the year? Most of us will have lived them imperfectly. Some may even have already abandoned them altogether. We are not alone. Fr Doyle struggled to stick to his resolutions, and so too did all the saints. But it was the constant struggle, despite failures, that made them so great. Don’t give up – start again!

Thoughts for the Feast of the Epiphany from Fr Willie Doyle

 

I contrast the obedience of St. Joseph with my obedience. His so prompt, unquestioning, uncomplaining, perfect; mine given so grudgingly; perhaps exterior without interior conformity with the will of the Superior. I realise my faults in this matter, and for the future will try to practise the most perfect obedience, even and especially in little things. “An obedient man shall speak of victory.” (Proverbs 21, 28.)

COMMENT: Joseph was a model of obedience. He was told not to abandon Mary, he was told to name the baby Jesus and he was told to flee to Egypt. Joseph’s obedience was always prompt and full.

We find the same obedience on the part of the Magi in today’s Gospel. They followed the star, even though they did not know where it was going, and they went home a different way, following the inspiration of their dream not to tell Herod where Christ was to be found. We can learn much from the obedience of the Magi and of St Joseph.

However, we are not called to necessarily follow what our dreams tell us to do!! But we are called to be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit or of our Guardian Angel. The most basic way in which we show this obedience is by being faithful to our vocation and the duties of our state in life. But there are also other times when we may feel a certain stirring in our soul. Perhaps this is a call to prayer. Or it may be an urge to speak to a person we meet somewhere on our travels, opening up a subtle opportunity for evangelisation. It may even be an inspiration to act with greater generosity and charity towards somebody in need.

With time and the help of grace, we can more easily distinguish between those genuine promptings of the Holy Spirit, and other random thoughts, figments of our imagination or even temptations.

Fr Doyle himself exhibited this obedience to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. On at least one occasion his life was saved when he followed a forceful inspiration to take his gas mask with him on his travels at the front. Soon after, the Germans launched an unexpected gas attack which would have certainly killed Fr Doyle had he not been equipped with his mask.

The book Merry in God, written anonymously by Fr Doyle’s brother, Fr Charles Doyle SJ, contains a charming account of how Fr Doyle saw a street prostitute in an unnamed English town and gently told her to go home and to avoid hurting Jesus. Some time later he was summoned to this same girl’s prison cell the night before she was due to be executed for her role in a murder plot. The girl herself was utterly ignorant of the faith, but she insisted that the gentle Irish priest who spoke so kindly to her years before be found and brought to her cell to help her. Perhaps the inner prompting to gently speak with this girl of the love of Jesus was the cause for the salvation of her soul. Much hangs on our discernment of, and obedience to, the will of God.

 

January 5: On the need for more Irish canonisations

St Charles of Mount Argus

Today is the feast of St Charles of Mount Argus, a Dutch Passionist priest who spent about 30 years of his life in Dublin, dying here in 1893 at the age of 71. He greatly loved by the people of Dublin, primarily because of his humility and simplicity. He was not a great preacher, but he was extremely gentle in the confessional. Like many of those who excel in the virtue of humility, he received many graces from God, including many graces within his own spiritual life as well as the grace of healing. Each day hundreds of people would flock to the monastery at Mount Argus to receive his blessing and those with means from far away would often send carriages to collect him and bring him to someone who was sick or dying. There were many reports of wonderful healings and these reports continue to this day, now that his power of intercession is even greater in Heaven. For an eye witness account of the life and virtues of St Charles click here.

There is no mention that I can find of St Charles in the writings of Fr Doyle, but it is certain that Fr Doyle would have been aware of him. Fr Doyle was 20 when St Charles died, and his reputation for holiness was alive and well, so Fr Doyle must have been aware of St Charles and his holy life.

The feast of St Charles gives us a good excuse to consider the following important question which is relevant to Fr Doyle: Why are there so few recent Irish saints? St Charles is the only canonised saint of modern times (within the last 500 years at least) to have died in Ireland. And he wasn’t even Irish; he was Dutch! This points to an interesting thing about this so-called land of saints and scholars – we are pretty poor at having worthy candidates beatified and canonised. When one compares Ireland to other countries with strong Catholic heritage – Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, France, even parts of Germany, we perform very poorly when it comes to canonisations. Of course, it’s not a contest and the numbers themselves don’t really matter. Yet, at another level, the numbers are a kind of barometer that tell us something about the spiritual climate of a country. After all, a vibrant Catholic culture will foster holiness. This holiness will be recognised by others, who will then be motivated to promote these examples of holiness in an effective and professional manner. Other people will join in this process by praying for miracles. All of this needs institutional support from the religious orders, dioceses and parishes. Thus, a healthy, properly functioning Catholic culture will steadily produce canonised saints. The dearth of Irish saints since the Council of Trent points to something amiss about Irish Catholicism, especially when we consider the increased frequencies of beatifications and canonisations within the Church over the past 3 decades.

Let us look at the Irish situation. St Charles of course stands out, but while we have adopted him as our own, he was Dutch, and interestingly both of the miracles for his beatification and canonisation were worked in the Netherlands. St Oliver Plunkett is of course Irish through and through, but his situation was slightly different as he was a martyr which makes his canonisation a little easier. He died in London and his canonisation miracle occurred in Italy by the way. Blessed Edmund Rice also lived and died in Ireland, and his beatification miracle was worked for a man in Newry in Northern Ireland. Then of course there is Blessed Columba Marmion who was a Dubliner but who became renowned as the abbot of a Belgian monastery. He is not widely known in Ireland. His beatification miracle was worked in the United States. Then there are the 17 Irish martyrs who were beatified in 1992. Most unfortunately they are even less well known in Ireland than Columba Marmion. Most recently, John Sullivan SJ was beatified in May of 2017, the first Irish beatification in almost 2 decades.

And that’s it. That’s the sum total of Ireland’s effectiveness to date in promoting Irish models of sanctity since the Council of Trent. Of course, it’s not for the lack of good candidates. There were dozens of other martyrs from the penal times that deserve recognition, in addition to candidates like Venerable Matt Talbot, Mary Aitkenhead, Catherine McCauley, Nano Nagle, the three Legion of Mary candidates Edel Quinn, Alfie Lambe and Frank Duff and of course Fr Doyle himself. There are of course, many other worthy causes besides these that have yet to be considered. One thinks immediately of Fr James Cullen SJ, founder of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (Fr Doyle was a friend of his who served on the Council of the Pioneers) and Archdeacon Cavanagh, the parish priest of Knock at the time of the apparitions there, as well as Fr Henry Young, a holy priest who served the poor in Dublin who is now sadly all but forgotten. There are other worthy causes for holy lay people that deserve consideration also. As an Irish poem says:

Why are saints so difficult to recognise, 

In these days, not like in olden times,

When we had a resident saint in each oak-grove,

A holy well in each townland, miracles galore?

By the law of averages, if, as philosophers maintain,

And common sense agrees, human nature doesn’t change,

And we are the mixture as before, there must be

Saints somewhere, if only we had eyes to see

We should celebrate those who have already been raised to the altars, and today is a great day of celebration for our own adopted St Charles of Mount Argus. But we should not forget those who have yet to be recognised formally, and the best way to do this is by actually promoting their cause and making them well known, and in particular by asking their help in prayer. If we do not ask for miracles, they will not be granted! And in fairness, we should also celebrate four recent positive moves in terms of Irish saints – Mary Aitkenhead was declared Venerable in 2015 as was Nano Nagle in 2013; the cause for canonisation of 7 Columban priests from Ireland or of Irish heritage was also opened. These priests were martyred in Korea in the middle of the last century. More on them here http://fatherdirector.blogspot.ie/2013/08/new-irish-martyrs-cause-just-opened.html This is all very positive news. And most significantly of all the beatification of John Sullivan. Yet, one has to ask – how many of those who practice their faith in Ireland know this news? How many even know of the heroic virtue of any of these people I have mentioned? The promotion of local heroes has always been a core part of the evangelising efforts of the Church. Why are such local heroes not mentioned more often in our churches? 

Some people may mistakenly believe that having local saints is an irrelevancy or of low priority. With respect, I think they are gravely mistaken. If we truly believe in the Communion of Saints, then we want people to know about Irish saints and as a consequence to have recourse to their help in prayer. Local saints also give us a closer and more contemporary model to follow. The saints all reflect some particular aspect of God. While we should always strive to imitate Christ above all, it can be easier for some people to imitate a saint who was closer to them in time and culture and state of life. Pope Benedict wisely recognised this reality. Speaking on this very theme at the Chrism Mass for Holy Thursday in 2012, Pope Benedict said:

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided “translations” on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a “translation” of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such “translations” of Jesus’ way into historical figures.

So many people have rejected the Church out of disgust at what they perceive to be the sins of priests and religious. Well, let us then promote models of love and selflessness who encapsulate the beauty of our Faith! Surely we should show people what Catholics are meant to be – we are all called to be saints, so let us show people real men and women who lived in a time and place like our own and whose lives reflect the love of Christ for humanity. Finally, the recognition of local sanctity gives a morale boost to a local Church, and we all know how badly that is needed today!

In conclusion, let us thus remember the beautiful words of Pope Benedict in his letter to the Church in Ireland a number of years ago in which he also calls on us to remember our local saints:

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember “the rock from which you were hewn” (Is 51:1). Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self-examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in his Son Jesus Christ.