Thoughts for the Feast of the Epiphany from Fr Willie Doyle

Epiphany 2

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.

Thoughts for the Feast of St John from Fr Willie Doyle

St John

Try to get down low and follow out what He Himself taught: “Unless you become as little children.” This will make you more confiding, more trustful and more naturally loving, which sometimes we are not, our love for Him being much too formal and prim.

COMMENT: Today is the feast of St John the Apostle, often referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. There was a particular closeness between Jesus and St John; John alone amongst the male followers of Jesus remained steadfast even up to the crucifixion, and it was to St John that Jesus entrusted Mary.

In the lives of both Fr Doyle and St John we see two men who were not afraid to love Jesus with a deep personal love. It is this personal love that counteracts the stereotype of Christianity being a mere system of rules and morality. As Pope Francis keeps reminding us, at the heart of Christianity is the love and service of Christ, from which all other moral and charitable works flow. The feast of the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is a good day to remember the primacy of the love of Christ in our spiritual lives. We shall conclude with some notes from Fr Doyle’s diary which clearly show his abiding and deeply personal love for the person of Jesus.

I once more had the opportunity for some quiet prayer before the life-size crucifix in the church which I love so much. I could not remain at His feet but climbed up until both arms were around His neck. The Figure seemed almost to live, and I think I loved Him then, for it was borne in upon me how abandoned and suffering and broken-hearted He was. 

Thoughts for Christmas Day from Fr Willie Doyle (Post 1 of 3)

Nativity

What impressed me most in the meditation on the Nativity was the thought that Jesus could have been born in wealth and luxury, or at least with the ordinary comforts of life, but He chose all that was hard, unpleasant and uncomfortable.

This He did for me, to show me the life I must lead for Him. If I want to be with Christ, I must lead the life of Christ, and in that life there was little of what was pleasing to nature. I think I have been following Christ, yet how pleasant and comfortable my life has always been ever avoiding cold, hunger, hard work, disagreeable things, humiliations, etc. My Jesus, You are speaking to my heart now. I cannot mistake Your voice or hide from myself what You want from me and what my future life should be. Help me for I am weak and cowardly.

Christmas 2010

Thoughts for December 15 from Fr Willie Doyle

God has many gifts to bestow upon us, but none more precious than time. Yet how we abuse this royal gift! How little we think of it! How we despise these golden moments, moments whose true value we shall not really prize till alas! too late – when time shall be no more to us.

COMMENT: Time is a precious gift. When it comes to time, every one is, in a sense equal. Some will have longer lives than others, but for each of us our individual days are the same – rich and poor alike all have 24 hours in the day. We can use it well, or we can squander it. Each day is a precious opportunity to fill our time with service and love, seeking the glory of God and increasing our own merit in Heaven. But however many days we have, and however we choose to use each of those hours God has given us, one thing is clear – when we die we shall have to render an account of how we have used our time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this very clear:

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ…Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven – through a purification or immediately – or immediate and everlasting damnation.

In Chapter 25 of St Matthew’s Gospel Jesus describes the Last Judgement and the separation of the sheep and the goats. The “goats” are those who did not practice the works of mercy. It’s not necessarily the case that they did bad things, but rather that they failed to do good things. They failed to feed and clothe the poor, to do the good that was expected of them. In a sense, they squandered the precious gift of time that they were given, they failed to use it to do good things. And in the Lord’s own words, their punishment is eternal separation from God in Hell. 

The parable of the talents shows us how we should live: always trying to produce fruit with the gifts – including the time – God has given us. St Benedict also wants us to use our gifts well:

For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that he will never as an angry father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory. 

Foremost amongst these “good things” St Benedict speaks of is the gift of time. Few of us consistently use our time well – it is a hard battle, especially in a world with so many distractions. But we shall have to render an account of our misuse of time. Yes, we shall give our account to a merciful God who loves us and understands our weakness. But our merciful and understanding judge may well also be a disappointed judge at our failure to correspond to the graces we have received…

We are weak, We will fail. But the key thing is that we try, and that we turn to the mercy of God when we fail in our efforts, and then get up and fight again, and never get tired of beginning again.

Detail showing a soul condemned to Hell in Michaelangelo's The Last Judgement (Sistine Chapel)
Detail showing a soul condemned to Hell in Michaelangelo’s The Last Judgement (Sistine Chapel)

Thoughts for November 25 from Fr Willie Doyle

Jesus agony

The life of Jesus was a continual prayer. Even during His public life He began, continued and ended everything He did by prayer, besides devoting whole nights and days to communing with His Father.

If we want our work for souls to be fruitful, we must bring prayer into it. If our children are not all that they ought to be, the cause may not be far to seek. Let us examine if we are praying enough for them, if our aspirations are ever ascending to the throne of God, to bless our work amongst those children and amongst others with whom we have to deal.

COMMENT: The only elaboration that Fr Doyle’s words require today is that of his own example. He was constantly immersed in prayer, often reciting thousands of aspiration each day, and regularly spending entire nights in prayer. It’s not coincidental that his own ministry as a writer, retreat master, preacher, spiritual director and military chaplain was marked by success and fruitfulness.

Thoughts for November 19 from Fr Willie Doyle

Agony in the garden

We can never sufficiently thank Him for so completely showing us in the Garden that He was a man by praying to escape the storm.

COMMENT: Jesus showed us His humanity on many different occasions, but nowhere more movingly than during the Agony in the Garden. As Fr Doyle tells us in today’s quote, there is nothing wrong with asking God to relieve our sufferings and to spare us particular trials, so long as we are also ultimately resigned to God’s holy will.

Let us pray for God’s protection in all of our difficulties, and in particular for those who suffer from worry about the future. The uncertain times we live in are a great source of anxiety for many, especially due to the rise of terrorism and violence. Let us look to our Master, and confide whatever worries us to Him.

Thoughts for October 21 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Joseph the Worker
St Joseph the Worker

Fr Doyle wrote the following notes on the “hidden life” of Jesus as a young boy and man in Nazareth. These reflections from the second week of the Spiritual Exercises of 1907  are so direct and readily applicable to our own lives that they do not require any further comment or elaboration.

During the reflection on the Hidden Life I got a light that here was something in which I could easily imitate our Lord and make my life resemble His. I felt a strong impulse to resolve to take up as one of the chief objects of my life the exact and thorough performance of each duty, trying to do it as Jesus would have done, with the same pure intention, exquisite exactness and fervour. To copy in all my actions walking, eating, praying Jesus, my model in the little house of Nazareth. This light was sudden, clear and strong. To do this perfectly will require constant, unflagging fervour. Will not this be part of my “hard life”?

I should examine all my actions, taking Jesus as my model and example. What a vast difference between my prayer and His; between my use of time, my way of speaking, walking, dealing with others, etc., and that of the child Jesus! If I could only keep Him before my eyes always, my life would be far different from what it has been.

Each fresh meditation on the life of our Lord impresses on me more and more the necessity of conforming my life to His in every detail, if I wish to please Him and become holy. To do something great and heroic may never come, but I can make my life heroic by faithfully and daily putting my best effort into each duty as it comes round. 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.