“Holiness was as natural to Fr Doyle as wings to a bird”

Monsignor Quinn
Monsignor Quinn


Some time ago I read the Life of Father William Doyle, the Irish Jesuit-Chaplain, who was killed in the late World War. It was made up chiefly from a Diary which he kept, and which, I am sure, he never intended for eyes other than his own. What struck me most in his life was the fact that this good missionary priest had never done anything extraordinary. One day, not long ago, I met a Good Shepherd nun who had known Father Doyle very intimately in Ireland. I asked her if she could tell me anything about the secret of his holiness. She told me that holiness was as natural to Father Doyle as wings are to a bird. She had known him in his youth, and she had greeted him upon the occasion of his ordination. Like (Saint) Therese, he had always the desire of going on a foreign mission where he might suffer martyrdom.

He was never singular. In a gathering he was just one of his brethren, earnest in his work, and just as eager as the rest in his play. He practiced mortifications, but they were simple ones. For example, he ate everything at table just as it came from the kitchen. He refrained from using salt, and only when he was away from home did he take butter. This he did to avoid being noticed. This may all sound very childish, but have you ever noticed that those who appeal most to the worldliest and busiest of men are the orphan child and the old man who has been reduced once more by the ravages of age to a second childhood? The charge our nuns in the orphan asylums, and those Little Sisters of the Poor in our homes for the aged never want sympathy.

Hence we find that our little Saint performed no exterior works of greatness. She used to speak of her way to holiness as “The Little Way for Little Souls”. Like the holy Jesuit whom I have just mentioned, she did the common things of life uncommonly well. Herein lay the secret of her sanctity. Herein lies for us the happy thought that we, too, and will become saints of God, if we but perform the ordinary duties of our state in life extraordinarily well.

Holiness was as natural to Fr Doyle as wings to a bird! What a wonderful testimony!

These words were written by the Servant of God Servant of God Monsignor Bernard Quinn, who was born on this day in 1888 in New Jersey. His father and mother were both Irish – from Counties Cavan and Offaly respectively. Monsignor Quinn was himself a chaplain in the First World War, and perhaps this is why Fr Doyle’s life and example impressed him so much. They both also shared a great devotion to St Therese. Fr Doyle also went to Lisieux; he visited Therese’s grave but it is not recorded if he said Mass in the room in which she was born.

Monsignor Quinn was renowned for his remarkable pastoral care for the black people in his area, long before this was seen as normal or acceptable. He was known as a second St Peter Claver, after the Jesuit saint who tended to the black slaves in South America in the 17th Century. In this stance he showed great courage and a pioneering spirit, something else that he shared with Fr Doyle (Fr Doyle was a pioneer in encouraging retreats for lay people in the face of some clerical opposition; he also organised very effective fundraising campaigns for the missions through what he called his “Black Baby Crusade”).

Monsignor Quinn died at the early age of 52 in 1940 and his cause was officially opened in 2010. More information on Monsignor Quinn can be found at www.fatherquinn.org Monsignor Quinn wrote a booklet and novena in honour of St Therese (from which today’s quote was taken). It can be found here: http://www.fatherquinn.org/docs/writings/THE_LITTLE_FLOWER_BOOKLET_1925.pdf

In the example of the Servant of God Monsignor Quinn we find another holy soul who admired, and was inspired by, Fr Doyle.

St Teresa of Calcutta and Fr Doyle

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Today is the feast of the newly canonised Saint Teresa of Calcutta, one of the most famous and popular Catholics of recent times. Saint Teresa was Albanian, but she lived in Dublin for a number of years while she was a Loreto sister. In fact, the house she lived in was in Rathfarnham, very close to the Jesuit house there where Fr Doyle had spent some time. The young St Teresa had obviously come in contact with the Jesuits there, and she read Alfred O’Rahilly’s biography of Fr Doyle and was very impressed. She even decided to adopt some of Fr Doyle’s spiritual practices.

Here is a description from the book “Come be my Light” written by Fr Brian Kolodiejchuk MC, the postulator for her canonisation cause.

It was this mysterious feature of love that moved Mother Teresa to seal the total offering of herself by means of a vow and thus tangibly express her longing to be fully united with her Beloved…Thus for Mother Teresa the vow was the means of strengthening the bond with the One she loved and so experiencing the true freedom that only love can give.

Mother Teresa would have read about the practice of making private vows in the spiritual literature of her time.

Irish Jesuit Fr William Doyle, made numerous private vows, as he found this practice a help in keeping his resolutions. One such vow, which he made in 1911 and renewed from day to day until he could obtain permission from his confessor to make it permanently, was “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”.

Fr Kolodiejchuk then describes how Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero (an Italian nun) and St Therese of Lisieux both adopted this same spiritual practice. He then concludes:

Reading about this promise of her patron saint (St Therese) as well as the private vows made by Fr Doyle and Sr Benigna Consolata no doubt inspired Mother Teresa and influenced her to do the same.

How remarkable – yet another saint who has been inspired by Fr Doyle’s example! St Teresa is added to the list of those whose holiness has been formally recognised by the Church and who were inspired by Fr Doyle: St Josemaria Escriva, St Alberto Hurtago and the soon to be beatified Venerable John Sullivan. 


Fr Willie the Wonder Worker?

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 this site. 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, a staggering 6,426 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. The true figure is likely much higher than 6,426,

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 quite 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. The 6,426 alleged favours mentioned in this booklet, as well as the emails that I receive through this website, suggest that Fr Doyle may indeed be interceding for us with the Father. 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:

Fr Willie (1931)

Pilgrimage next year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fr Doyle’s death?

One year from today will mark the centenary of Fr Doyle’s death as a “martyr of charity”. It is a significant anniversary.

A number of people have suggested to me that a “pilgrimage” should be held to walk in Fr Doyle’s footsteps and to celebrate his life.

What I would have in mind is something along the following lines:

This is only an indicative suggestion. At the moment I am merely canvassing interest in such a trip. I have no idea how much it would cost or what the arrangements would be. But I have received enough enquiries to suggest that such a trip would appeal to a number of people. If it is of interest please send me an email or perhaps leave a comment below…

What will YOU do for Fr Doyle over the next two days?

Fr Doyle’s anniversary is in two days time – August 16. It is an excellent time to tell people about his life and his message. I always find that people are amazed at is life and his heroism when they first encounter him – this, at least, has been my experience and the experience of many people that I know. 

Perhaps it would be good to take the opportunity of his anniversary to tell people about Fr Doyle? Perhaps his example has enriched your life in some way? There’s no better way to thank him than by telling others about him. 

You could refer people to this site – talk to them, email them, or put a note about it on Facebook or twitter or some other social network. 

Have you told your local priest about Fr Doyle? Or if you are in a prayer group, have you told them?

Have you read any of the books about Fr Doyle? The classic and original O’Rahilly biography, or Carole Hope’s Worshiper and Worshipped, or the Catholic Truth Society booklet? Links to all of these are available in the right hand column (if you read this on a smart phone the column may not be there, but will be if you read it on a computer).  

Perhaps you might want to send somebody this newsletter on Fr Doyle from St Joseph’s Abbey in Flavigny in France? Flavigny newsletter May 2013

Or maybe you might want to send somebody this short video

Or this one


Or this radio interview: http://www.ewtn.com/live/ewtnplayer/html5audio.asp?~CJ20160709.mp3

If you admire Fr Doyle and his heroism, then try to share that admiration with others on this weekend of his 99th anniversary!


Prayers please

I rarely ask for prayers for myself on this site. However I am having an ongoing problem that is proving difficult to resolve in a timely manner. I would be most grateful if anyone could offer some prayers for this intention, both that the problem is resolved speedily and that I may persevere with more patience if it is not. Perhaps you may even wish to use the original private prayer for Fr Doyle’s intercession authorised by the Church many years ago. 

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 Your 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

On this note, it is worth remembering that Fr Doyle is a powerful intercessor. In the 14 years after his death there were 6,426 reported alleged favours through his intercession. Some of them are detailed at the end of this booklet: Fr Willie (1931) While some of the “favours” are trivial, not all of them are, and the sheer number from across the world is an indication of the trust many had in Fr Doyle’s intercession for them.

25 July 1923: Praise for Fr Doyle from the Methodists

The President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, in an address made on this day in 1923, had the following praise for Fr Doyle:

I have been profoundly stirred in recent months by the experience of a young Roman Catholic saint, a member of the Society of Jesus, a tremendous lover of Jesus, a tremendous soul-winner, a great human and a great humorist.

He had presumably been reading an early edition of the O’Rahilly biography and was deeply impressed at Fr Doyle’s example. Of course, in referring to Fr Doyle was a saint he was using the term in a popular and unofficial manner. 

This quote, from a non-Catholic clergyman, is just one of innumerable examples of how Fr Doyle’s admirable holiness and humanity have inspired people from all sorts of backgrounds and philosophies. Fr Doyle was all things to all men – almost everyone can find something appealing and attractive about him once they study his life and spirit with an open mind.