Thoughts for September 19 from Fr Willie Doyle

Try and remember that sanctification means daily, hourly, hard work, and this unflinchingly, when weariness comes.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle engaged in this daily, hourly hard work in his ceaseless quest for sanctity, always knowing, however, that God loved him and supplied him with the grace he needed.

Fr Doyle’s quote today brings to mind the prayer that St Pius X wrote to honour St Joseph. 

O Glorious St Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labour, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honour to employ and to develop by labour the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty; to work above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so destructive to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O Patriarch St Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity. Amen

Thoughts for August 19 from Fr Willie Doyle

St John Eudes

 

Two wings by which we can fly to God and become saints: the habit of little tiny acts of self-denial and the habit of making a definite fixed number of aspirations every day.

COMMENT: The use of aspirations was an important part of Fr Doyle’s spiritual life. Those under a certain age may be unfamiliar with aspirations and may even be unaware of what they mean. Aspirations are simple, short prayers of just a sentence or even a few words. They can be repeated in times of trial or temptation, or like many of the saints, on a regular or indeed constant basis in order to deepen our union with Christ.

In his diary Fr Doyle writes that constantly repeating aspirations was the penance of his life. Those who know something about Fr Doyle’s inner life will realise what a big claim that is!

Amazingly his diary records him saying tens of thousands of aspirations each day. It’s not quite clear how he managed this; in practice it probably means that his mind was always continually focused on God and that he lived St Paul’s recommendation that we pray without ceasing. He also records how saying some aspirations helped him in moments of temptation and weakness; he also used to pray aspirations to give him the strength to get out of bed on time. Perhaps we can all learn from that!

While we hear much less about the use of aspirations than in previous generations, the practice was very important to the saints.

St Josemaria Escriva writes:

There will be other occasions on which all we’ll need will be two or three words, said with the quickness of a dart — ejaculatory prayers, aspirations that we learn from a careful reading of Christ’s life: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” ”Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” ”Lord, I do believe, but help my unbelief,” strengthen my faith. “Lord, I am not worthy.” ”My Lord and my God!”… or other short phrases, full of affection, that spring from the soul’s intimate fervour and correspond to the different circumstances of each day.

Today’s saint, John Eudes, was also much devoted to the use of aspirations. Writing about himself in the third person, he says that he knows a person

…who by the frequent use of (aspirations) has arrived at such a stage that it is easy for him, even when taking his meals, to make actually almost as many acts of love for Jesus as he places morsels in his mouth. This he does not only without strain or trouble of inconvenience, but he is not thereby prevented from talking and taking recreation. I say this, not that you should do the same, for there would immediately be an outcry that I was asking things too difficult, but that you may know how much power there is in a holy habit, and how wrong the world is in imagining so much difficulty and bitterness where there is merely every kind of sweetness and delight.

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 Fr Doyle. 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. 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)

Preparing for Fr Doyle’s anniversary: Day 1 – the virtue of faith in the life of Fr Doyle

Counting today, Fr Doyle’s anniversary is 9 days away. It is traditional for Catholics to reflect on specific themes, or to pray for particular favours, for 9 consecutive days. This is a very ancient tradition and dates back to the earliest days of the Church – the apostles and Mary spent 9 days in prayer between the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

So, starting today, in addition to the normal daily post, we will have a specific post on a specific virtue in the life of Fr Doyle. Readers may like to reflect on Fr Doyle’s virtues, and perhaps develop their own private “novena” based around them, perhaps praying, privately, for Fr Doyle’s intercession and help. At the end of each day’s post I will include the text the original prayer for Fr Doyle’s intercession, approved for private devotion only. 

In all of this, please bear in mind that we do not wish to pre-empt any future judgement of the Church on the virtues of Fr Doyle, and will willingly submit to the judgement of the Church.

There are numerous virtues and qualities that one could pick from the life of Fr Doyle. I have chosen to stick with the 3 theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love) and the 4 cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance) and 2 of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Joy and Peace). So over the 9 days we will very briefly examine the evidence for one of these virtues and fruits in the life of Fr Doyle.

Please bear in mind that these reflections on Fr Doyle’s virtues are intended to be brief reflections that are necessarily incomplete in nature – a comprehensive treatment would require many many pages to complete!

Day 1: The virtue of Faith in the life of Fr Doyle

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (1814-1816):

1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity.”

1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But “faith apart from works is dead”: when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.

1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

There is much that could be said about the virtue of faith in the life of Fr Doyle. He certainly committed his “entire self to God”, not only through his life as a Jesuit, but by an ardent longing for sanctity, no matter what the cost might be. If faith apart from works is dead, we can say that Fr Doyle had a vibrantly living faith, for he devoted himself to good works for those around him, both before and during the war.

The Catechism says that we must confidently bear witness to the faith and spread it. Fr Doyle did this best in his actions, and by the ways in which he interacted with others, especially during the war. It is of significance that he was greatly mourned by the Protestant soldiers with whom he interacted. This was not an era of ecumenism as we know it today. It was a time of tension, especially in Ireland. The love that these Protestant soldiers had for Fr Doyle says much about the gentle, and effective, manner in which he spread the faith.

He also exhibited this gentleness in spreading the Faith in his encounter with Fanny Cranbush, the street prostitute who was subsequently implicated in a murder and executed. He saw her on the street, and gently urged her to go home and not to offend Jesus. These words, and especially the love and gentleness with which they were spoken, had a deep impact on her and the memory of them made her seek out Fr Doyle’s help before her death.

Fr Doyle lived at a time when societal trends were turning against faith and religion. While the faith held strong in Ireland for several decades longer than other countries, Fr Doyle was well aware of the challenges to faith that were growing in other countries. When he speaks of socialism here he is surely speaking of the most extreme forms, which has always attacked and persecuted religious faith. If his words below seem alarmist, consider the results of the October Revolution in 1917, or two decades later the consequences of the leftist persecution of the Church in Spain which saw literally thousands killed for no reason other than their faith. 

To the anxious watcher signs are not wanting that we shall not be long secure from the attacks of those who, on the Continent, have worked such havoc in the Church. The voice of the Socialist is heard in the land. The tide of infidel literature – cheap, clever, attractive – is slowly gaining ground, carrying with it the foul poison of doubt and incredulity, sparing nothing, however sacred or holy. 
 
How to save our dear land from such dangers is a problem which must interest every man and woman who has the interests of their country at heart. This was the problem which Catholics in other lands had to face. They saw the efforts made to draw the toiler from allegiance to his Church, the harm done to home and State by socialistic doctrines, and irresistible onward march of modern infidelity.

Fr Doyle’s faith was not merely abstract or intellectual – it was living and vibrant and fundamentally rooted in the person of Christ. We will end today with a quote from Fr Doyle on this very point.

The wretched spirit of Jansenism has driven our dear Lord from His rightful place in our hearts. He longs for love, and familiar love, so give Him both.

We conclude with a prayer to Fr Doyle for private use. 

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 Sacred Heart. For Your greater 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

Thoughts for August 3 from Fr Willie Doyle

Four Dangers to be Feared after a Retreat:

1 . Dissipation: There, it is over; amuse yourself.

2. Toning Down: Too much, too many, too hard, too often, too etc.

3. Putting Off: Wait a little, rest yourself, take your time.

4. Cowardice: You’ll never do it; you’re no good; it will be the same old story.

And Four Remedies:

1. Presence of God: No, it is not over, it is only just begun.

2. Exactness: No such thing; I’ll do all I have resolved; nothing too much for God.

3. Promptitude: No, at once; here goes; I may die to-day.

4. Determination: We’ll see; I am no good, but Someone good and powerful is with me.

COMMENT: Developing resolutions for the reform of our life is an important part of a good retreat. But Fr Doyle, the expert retreat giver who himself experienced such a deep reform of his own life through his own 30 day retreat just after ordination, knew full well the traps that await people after retreats.

A retreat can be a time of great graces and generosity. But when we return to our normal life we can start to get lazy, to lose our focus and our previous generosity.

St Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, gives some advice on this point. When faced with dissipation and desolation, we must never change course, we must stick with our resolutions more firmly than ever, especially if they were developed during a retreat when we experienced consolation and God’s grace in our prayer. If, at some subsequent time when we experience consolation once more, we may be free to adapt our resolutions, but never when facing difficulties and dissipations.

It is well to remember that, as Fr Doyle tells us, we are never alone in trying to live our resolutions – Someone who is all-powerful, and who desperately wills our sanctification, is ready to help us…

St Ignatius

30 July 1914

I long to get back to my little room at night, to calm and quiet, and yet I dread it, for He is often so loving there. I feel He is near because I cannot go to Him in the Tabernacle. It is such a helpless feeling to be tossed about as it were on the waves of love, to feel the ardent, burning love of His heart, to know He asks for love, and then to realise one human heart is so tiny. 

Thoughts for the Feast of St James from Fr Willie Doyle (Post 1 of 5 today)

St James

 

You ask how to pray well. The answer is, Pray often, in season and out of season, against yourself, in spite of yourself. There is no other way. What a man of prayer St. James, the Apostle must have been since his knees became like those of a camel! When shall we religious realize the power for good that prayer, constant, unflagging prayer, puts into our hands Did it ever strike you that when our Lord pointed out the ”fields white for the harvest”, He did not urge His Apostle to go and reap it, but to pray?

COMMENT: One thing really jumps out from Fr Doyle’s comment today – “there is no other way” for us than to pray. This doesn’t mean that we don’t work, or use our human talents, but that there is no other way for us to be successful in the use of these gifts than to pray and beg for God’s grace. If we are not united to God, no matter what activism we may be engaged in, we will achieve little or nothing.

The reference Fr Doyle makes to St James is of note as today is his feast day, and it is an especially important day in Spain, so greetings to the Spanish visitors to the site.

St James’ knees are reputed to have become as hard as camel’s from his many hours of kneeling in prayer. Whether they did in fact become calloused in this way is of course not hugely important, what matters is the example of this great Apostle in relying on God’s grace in prayer for his work.

Today also marks the date of Fr Doyle’s second last letter home from the Front before his death just a few weeks later. In this letter he tells his father:

We shall have desperate fighting soon but I have not the least fear, on the contrary a great joy in the thought that I shall be able to make a real offering of my life to God, even if He does not think that poor life worth taking.

Over the coming couple of weeks, as we approach the 102nd anniversary of that date on which God accepted the offering of Fr Doyle’s life, we will recount details of that “desperate fighting” and remember Fr Doyle’s steadfastness and dedication to duty under fire.

Thoughts for July 24 from Fr Willie Doyle

Do not give up prayer on any account, no matter how dry or rotten you feel; every moment, especially before Him in the Tabernacle, is a certain, positive gain; the effect will be there though you may not feel it.

COMMENT: We live in a very sentimental world. So much of the modern psyche is driven by feelings and by emotion. It is so pervasive that we can end up using feelings as the yardstick of our actions, and this can be a hard habit to break. This is especially true in prayer. 

God often provides consolations to beginners in the spiritual life precisely in order to reward and attract them to the life of the spirit. But sooner or later they will be taken away, either because of our own unfaithfulness and lack of attention, or because God wants to see if we really love Him, or if we are mere mercenaries who desire feelings for their own sake.

There can always be a temptation to abandon acts of piety in the face of this dryness and lack of feeling. This, of course, is precisely the wrong thing to do. Often it is precisely when we are dry and when we find prayer distasteful that we can gain most from it. 

Fr Doyle himself struggled with this temptation, and he occasionally tied himself to his pre dieu in order to overcome the temptation to abandon prayer when he experienced aridity. 

We perhaps can learn today from St Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church:

But if, after all this, you are still unrelieved, do not be disturbed at your dryness, however great it be, but continue striving after a devout attitude in God’s Sight. What numbers of courtiers appear a hundred times at court without any hope of a word from their king, but merely to pay their homage and be seen of him. Just so, my daughter, we ought to enter upon mental prayer purely to fulfil our duty and testify our loyalty. If it pleases God’s Divine Majesty to speak to us, and discourse in our hearts by His Holy Inspirations and inward consolations, it is doubtless a great honour, and very sweet to our soul; but if He does not vouchsafe such favours, but makes as though He saw us not,–as though we were not in His Presence,–nevertheless we must not quit it, but on the contrary we must remain calmly and devoutly before Him, and He is certain to accept our patient waiting, and give heed to our assiduity and perseverance; so that another time He will impart to us His consolations, and let us taste all the sweetness of holy meditation. But even were it not so, let us, my child, be satisfied with the privilege of being in His Presence and seen of Him.

St Francis de Sales

Thoughts for July 2 from Fr Willie Doyle

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.

Thoughts for June 28 from Fr Willie Doyle

If an aspiration, on the authority of the Blessed Cure d’Ars, often saved a soul, what must you not do each day you suffer so bravely! This thought certainly will help you and make the pain almost nothing, and will add to its merit, since the motive for bearing it will be all the higher.

COMMENT: Today’s quotation comes from a letter of spiritual direction Fr Doyle wrote to somebody who was sick. Like many popular spiritual directors of his era, Fr Doyle had a very heavy daily correspondence with many people, especially nuns. In fact, he found this work difficult as it placed a heavy burden on him – he was known to receive a couple of dozen letters seeking spiritual direction in a single day. However, despite the burden, he persevered, and indeed it seems that he took his own advice – he offered up his work and inconveniences and sufferings for others, especially for the salvation of souls. 

This principle applies to us all, irrespective of our role in life. We can offer up minor inconveniences, aches and pains, our work, in fact everything in our life for others. Seen in this light, every day presents a multitude of opportunities to help others, to merit grace and to grow in holiness.