Thoughts for January 23 from Fr Willie Doyle

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.

COMMENT: The incarnation was one of the central moments of history, and the reality that the Word was made flesh is central to Catholicism. God has taken on human form. We can know Him. God is revealed to us in the sacred Humanity of Christ. Jesus should be our model and guide; we should seek to know Him through scripture, through prayer and through the Eucharist.

The Humanity of Christ was central to the spiritual life of many of the saints. St Teresa of Avila is particularly known for her devotion to the Humanity of Christ. It was while meditating in front of an image of Christ being scourged at the pillar that she experienced her deeper conversion to Christ.

Here are some words from St Teresa:

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.
Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example. 
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

 

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Thoughts for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord from Fr Willie Doyle

 

It is useful from time to time to pause and ask ourselves if we are, like the child Jesus, growing in wisdom and grace. Does each evening see us farther on the path of perfection, holier in the eyes of the heavenly court, more pleasing and dearer to God?

COMMENT: Today is the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, and it gives us an opportunity to consider the grace of our own baptism and its implications for us. Our Lord did not need to be baptised, but we do. Baptism is a sacrament of extraordinary importance. Unfortunately today it can be often seen as a naming ceremony, a day out and a day of welcoming a child into a local community. Yes, these things are good, and they are all a part of what baptism is, but they are not the important part of baptism, and we somewhat miss the point if this is where it all begins and ends for us.

Baptism is the sacrament in which we become the adopted sons and daughters of God. It is, in fact, the sacrament in which the seed of all the graces of our life has been planted in our soul. Our entire life, then, is a campaign to cultivate that grace and to eradicate those faults that would seek to strangle it.

The great Irish spiritual writer Blessed Columba Marmion has written beautifully on this theme. The following excerpts come from his classic book Christ the Life of the Soul:

We lost everything at once by a single fault of Adam, but in baptism God does not give us back at once all the integrity of the Divine gift. In order that it may be a source of merit because of the effort it calls forth, He leaves us in concupiscence, the source of sin, which tends to diminish or destroy the Divine life. Therefore our whole existence ought to be the realisation of what baptism inaugurates…Grace is the principle of life in us, but it is a germ we must cultivate; it is that kingdom of God within us that Our Lord Himself compares to a grain of mustard seed which becomes a great tree. So it is with the Divine life in us…

Let us often renew the virtue of this sacrament of adoption and initiation by renewing the promises made in baptism, so that Christ, born in our souls in faith upon that day, may grow more and more in us. That is a very useful practice of piety…stir up in yourselves the grace received at baptism, by renewing the promises then made. For example, when after Communion, while Our Lord is really present in our hearts, we renew with faith and love our dispositions of repentance, of renunciation of Satan, sin and the world, so as to attach ourselves only to Christ and His Church, then the grace of baptism springs up from the depth of our souls, where the character of baptism remains indelibly engraved. And this grace produces, through the virtue of Christ, Who dwells in us with His Spirit, as it were a new death to sin, a new inflowing of Divine life, a new intensity of union with Jesus Christ.

So often we forget the magnificence of the sacrament of baptism. Indeed, how many know that the Church grants a plenary indulgence if we renew our baptismal promises on the anniversary of our baptism? How many of us even know the date of our baptism?

As Fr Doyle suggests, each evening should see us having cultivated the grace of baptism just a little bit more that day.

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.

Thoughts for the Feast of the Holy Family from Fr Willie Doyle

And you, wives and bread-winners, have you no task within the fold, no little flock to tend and guard? Has not God committed to your care the innocent lambs, the little ones of your household? Within the pasture of your own family are you the good shepherd, or the thief and the hireling? . . . Jesus does not ask from His shepherds now the shedding of their life-blood But He does ask from them a death more hard, more lingering, a life-long death of sacrifice for His flock, . . . the daily crucifying of every evil passion, the stamping out of sloth, of anger, of drunkenness, the constant striving after the holiness of your state of life. . . . Look upon the great Christ, the Good Shepherd, hanging on the Cross. He is our model, our hero. Gaze well upon His bleeding wounds, His mangled limbs, that sad agony-stricken face. Look well, and pray with generous heart that he may make you in word and deed heroes in His service.

COMMENT: Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Fr Doyle has some rather direct words for mothers and fathers in today’s quote. Parents have a flock to guard. Children have immortal souls and they have been entrusted to their parents for a time. Parents have a serious obligation to put their children on the right path in life. Naturally, parents are not responsible if their children abandon their Faith in later life. But if their spiritual life was not nourished in the first place, if they were never provided with formation, if their innocence was never protected to begin with, then the day will come when parents will have to provide an account of their stewardship…

St Benedict gives us exactly this message in his Rule. Referring to the responsibility that an Abbot has towards his monks (which is the exact same responsibility a parent has towards their children), he says:

Let the Abbot always bear in mind 
that at the dread Judgment of God 
there will be an examination of these two matters: his teaching and the obedience of his disciples. 
And let the Abbot be sure that any lack of profit the master of the house may find in the sheep will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. 
On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all his pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behaviour, then he will be acquitted at the Lord’s Judgment.

 

Thoughts for the Feast of St John from Fr Willie Doyle

 

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. 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

 

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.

Thoughts for the Feast of Christ the King from Fr Willie Doyle

 

I have long had the feeling that, since the world is growing so rapidly worse and worse and God has lost His hold, as it were, upon the hearts of men, He is looking all the more earnestly and anxiously for big things from those who are faithful to Him still. He cannot, perhaps, gather a large army round His standard, but He wants every one in it to be a hero, absolutely and lovingly devoted to Him; if only we could get inside that magic circle of generous souls, I believe there is no grace He would not give us to help in the work He has so much at heart – our personal sanctification.

COMMENT: In the liturgical calendar of the Ordinary Form, today is the feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the liturgical year. Christ asks us to serve in His army, to follow His standard. It takes even greater commitment to follow Christ now than it did in other generations. But by the same token, even more grace is available to assist us.

Christ is the King Who ordains all things for our sanctification and who longs for our union with Him in Heaven. Such thoughts are deeply comforting in the midst of a confused and troubled world.