The conviction has been growing that nocturnal adoration will be established only if I spend much time myself before the Blessed Sacrament at night. I know well that Jesus not only wants me to sacrifice much of my sleep, but also to rise sometimes during the night to adore and console Him in the Tabernacle. The repugnance (and yet attraction) to this is extraordinary.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these words on July 2, 1917, just 6 weeks before his death. The circumstances in which he was living at that time are almost incomprehensible to us who live in such relative comfort in this era of peace. Yet, despite the inherent discomfort of life in the thick of war, he felt called to reduce his sleep even more and to rise in the night to adore Christ in the Eucharist. It is interesting to note how he combined a great attraction with a great repugnance. This can often be the case in the spiritual life – we see the same paradox in the lives of many saints. In fact, Fr Doyle occasionally tied himself to his pre dieu in the morning in order to stick to his resolution not to cut his time of prayer short.
Throughout his life, Fr Doyle was a great advocate of nocturnal adoration, a very fitting way to combine prayer and penance. For most of us, our personal circumstances do not allow us to emulate Fr Doyle’s adherence to this devotion. If this is the case we should strive to live our life of prayer and penance in a way that fits with our ordinary life and obligations, being generous with God while also being balanced; always remembering the primacy of the obligations that attach to our own state in life.
Do nothing without consulting Him in the Tabernacle. But then act fearlessly, if you see it is for His honour and glory, never minding what others may think or say. Above all, “cast your care upon the Lord and He shall sustain you”, (Psalm 54. 23). Peace and calm in your soul, prayer ever on your lips, and a big love in your heart for Him and His interests, will carry you very far.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle had a tremendous devotion to the Eucharist which sustained his austere life of hard work, both in and out of the trenches. His advice to us today reflects the story of Jesus telling the apostles to let down their nets for a catch even though the task seems pointless (Luke 5:4-7):
And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
Do we act fearlessly today when the Holy Spirit inspires us? Or are we still too concerned about “what others may think or say”?
Jesus told me today that the work of regeneration and sanctification is to be done by leading souls to Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these notes in his diary on June 21, 1917, slightly less than two months before his death. Was this based on an actual vision or a locution or just a simply inspiration? We do not know, but ultimately it does not matter for the truth of what Fr Doyle writes is plain for us to see.
Today is also the feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga, a young Jesuit who died at the age of 23 in 1591. St Aloysius was – like pretty much every saint – deeply devoted to the Eucharist. He begged the Lord that he would die within the Octave of Corpus Christi and received his first Holy Communion from the great St Charles Borromeo.
Let us pray to St Aloysius that we may acquire some small taste of the devotion that both he and Fr Doyle both had for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The priest turns and raises aloft the Sacred Host. In loving adoration, in reverent awe, the invisible angels fall prostrate. The bell tinkles softly, fragrant clouds of sweet-smelling incense ascend on high, and in the remotest corner of the vast church every head is bowed in adoration. It is a solemn moment, a moment when the silent streams of grace pour down upon our souls. God’s hands are lifted up to bless us; His sacred face is turned upon us, and He waits oh ! so eagerly for us to ask some favour that He may win our hearts by His generosity. Let us ask, then, confidently and show our trust in God’s great goodness by the boldness of our requests.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle recommends that we be bold in our requests. This comes from a priest who knew the power of God, for he saw it at work firsthand in his own life.
God wants to give us His blessings and His graces. It is true that he doesn’t want to be treated like a heavenly ATM machine, and there is surely something defective in our spiritual life if we only call on Him when we are in trouble. But none of this changes the fundamental generosity of God. He wants to help us, and sometimes He will even work real miracles to assist us. If we do not ask for miracles we will not receive them!
Today is the feast of one of the great miracle workers in the Church – St Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church. In many churches, St Anthony’s statue is one of the most popular ones; it is not unusual across Europe to find an overflowing pile of papers stuck into the statue’s hands. These requests for favours come from all sorts of people of every age. Perhaps there are those who might be tempted to sneer at this simple piety and devotion. It is surely not to everyone’s taste, but that does not mean that it is not to God’s taste. St Anthony’s enduring popularity surely indicates that he is an effective intercessor for those of us who still journey on this earth.
Let us be bold in our requests, both to God Himself, and also through the intercession of Mary, our guardian angel, the souls in Purgatory and the saints.
Do we realise the infinite possibilities of grace which lie hidden in the Tabernacle? Jesus only awaits our coming: and even before we have begun to beg His help, He has opened the treasures of His Sacred Heart and filled our hands with precious gifts. What monarch ever rewarded his subjects as Jesus repays us for the little trouble it costs us to visit Him even for one short moment.
I feel ashamed at times that I do not profit more by His nearness, but I know that he makes allowances for weak, inconstant nature.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle occasionally wrote about what he called the “abuse of grace” – the idea that we fail to profit from all of the graces that God gives us. We are all almost certainly guilty of this failing to one degree or another.
In Ireland, and possibly in other parts of the world as well, May is the month in which children traditionally receive Holy Communion for the first time. In this part of the world it is a very big deal, but not always in the best way – it can become a secular rite of passage with little spiritual meaning for the child and the family. In Ireland, the worrying thing about First Holy Communion is that it may be years before some children will receive the their Second Holy Communion…
But those of us who do attend the sacraments, and have been doing so for some years, have no cause for complacency. How many times have we received the Eucharist since our First Holy Communion? Most adults will have attended Mass at least hundreds, and probably thousands, of times since receiving the Lord for the first time. Have we profited by His nearness during all of these years? Many of us have already received the Eucharist more frequently than many of the saints did. Is there interior and exterior fruit in our lives that gives testimony to all of that grace that was on offer for us?
If we are concerned about the state of the world or the state of the Church, we really need look no further than this very point – our failure to profit from the nearness of Christ in the Eucharist. We are called to holiness and to perfection. We simply cannot reach this by ourselves, but we can make strides in that direction by relying on God’s grace and removing obstacles to the workings of that grace in our souls. Those who are holy really impact the world around them for the better. The lives of the saints prove this for us beyond doubt. If we are dismayed at the state of the world, or the state of the Church, or the sad reality that many of the young children who receive the Lord this month may not do so again until they next attend a wedding or a funeral, then we need to examine ourselves on our efforts to correspond to God’s graces.
Thankfully it’s never too late. As Fr Doyle says, Jesus “makes allowances for weak, inconstant nature”. If we try to profit more from His nearness, we will slowly begin to reform ourselves, and our world.
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 – 106 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, 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!’