16 June 1912

I felt the presence of Jesus very near to me while praying in the chapel at Ramsgrange. He seemed to want me to write down what He said: ‘I want you, my child, to abandon every gratification, generously, absolutely, for the love of Me. Each time you give in to yourself you suffer an enormous loss. Do not deceive yourself by thinking that certain relaxations are necessary or will help your work. My grace is sufficient for you. Give Me all at all times; never come down from the cross to which I have nailed you. Be generous, go on blindly, accepting all, denying yourself all. Trust in Me, I will sustain you, but only if you are really generous. Begin this moment and mortify every look, action, desire. No gratification, no relaxation, no yielding to self. Surrender yourself to Me as My victim and let Me make you a saint.’

COMMENT: Fr Doyle recorded this message 109 years ago today, on June 16, 1912. 

Fr Doyle was something of a mystic; the later editions of O’Rahilly’s biography make this much clearer than the earlier editions do. Fr Doyle seems to have received several messages similar to this one around this particular period of his life. Perhaps these messages or inspirations continued right to the end of his life, we do not know. 

What are we to make of such inspirations? Well, ultimately they matter little. While various kinds of inspirations and messages are not uncommon in the lives of saints and other holy people, they are neither necessary for sanctity nor are they are a guarantee that the person practiced heroic sanctity. In general, this website has tended to avoid discussion of the mystical graces that Fr Doyle seems to have received. There is a good reason for this – they are unnecessary for our own progress and, 100 years removed from the event, we cannot be sure whether they were truly divinely inspired. Indeed, we should avoid too much curiosity about such mystical phenomena in general, especially when they have not been approved by the Church. Even St Pio, surely one of the saints most closely associated with extraordinary mystical phenomena in recent centuries, used to become impatient with those who were too curious about such things, insisting that it is better to live by faith alone without seeking “proof” of the supernatural in this way. 

Clearly the core of this message – that of denying oneself always and in everything – is not of immediate, universal application. This was a particular call that Fr Doyle felt within himself, and it seems to have been approved by his confessor. It is not the road that most people are expected to follow. 

Nonetheless, there are three particular messages that we may take from today’s quote and apply to our own lives. 

Firstly, the idea that every time we yield, we suffer a loss. Obviously this is true of mortal sin. We suffer whenever we freely consent to such sin. We lose the life of grace in our soul, we lose all of the merit we have accumulated in our life to date and we would end up losing eternal life if we were to die without repenting. However, we also lose to an extent by giving in to venial sin. We may not lose the state of grace, but we also lose out on acquiring extra graces as a result of our struggle against sin. The same also applies to our purely temporal affairs. Every time we yield to the desire to eat chocolate we lose in our battle to stick to a diet; every time we yield to the temptation to stay in bed longer we lose in our battle to be more effective in our working day. The principle has many applications which we can easily apply to our own lives. 

Secondly, we see in today’s quote the importance of trusting in Jesus. According to Fr Doyle’s perception, Jesus indicated that His grace was sufficient for him. This echoes the famous prayer of St Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing dismay thee, all things pass. 

God never changes, patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing. 

God alone suffices.

Finally, Fr Doyle felt that Jesus said to him: “Let Me make you a saint”. We have to make serious efforts ourselves through various acts of piety and asceticism, but ultimately these are never enough on their own and they always require the addition of grace. If we do what we are meant to do, we can be assured that Jesus will provide the grace that we need to reach the sanctity He has in mind for us.

Ramsgrange Church in County Wexford. Completed in 1843. This is presumably the chapel Fr Doyle referred to.

Thoughts for June 13 from Fr Willie Doyle

The Moment of Benediction.

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! 

June 13 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. 

St Anthony

12 June 1917

Fr Doyle wrote about the following episode in a letter written on this day in 1917. The event happened at some point in the preceding weeks. Fr Doyle records many emotionally moving events in his letters home from the war, but I can think of few that are more poignant than this.

There were many little touching incidents during these days, one especially I shall not easily forget. When the men had left the field after the evening devotions I noticed a group of three young boys, brothers I think, still kneeling saying another rosary. They knew it was probably their last meeting on earth and they seemed to cling to one another for mutual comfort and strength and instinctively turned to the Blessed Mother to help them in their hour of need. There they knelt as if they were alone and unobserved, their hands clasped and faces turned towards Heaven, with such a look of beseeching earnestness that the ‘Mother of Mercy’ must have heard their prayer ‘Holy Mary pray for us now at the hour of our death. Amen.’

Thoughts for June 1 from Fr Willie Doyle

I assert fearlessly that if only we all prayed enough – and I mean by that a constant, steady unflagging stream of aspirations, petitions etc from the heart – there is no one, no matter how imperfect, careless or even sinful, who would not become a saint, and a big one. But you certainly never will until you learn to turn every action into a prayer and shake off the old tempter who strangles your efforts to pray.

Thoughts for May 30 from Fr Willie Doyle

We must be intellectually pious, that is, our piety should rest on the bedrock of principle, and not on mood, on sentiment, on spiritual consolation. 

COMMENT: In the Gospel of St Matthew Jesus tells us that it is an unfaithful and wicked generation that looks for a sign. But despite this, how many of us continue along this path, seeking consolations and signs in all sorts of ways? There are those who are overly fascinated with apparitions and with miracles and signs and wonders and with the mystical gifts of saints rather than with their witness of heroic virtue. These things are not bad in themselves, but they can be a distraction, for they do not touch upon the truly essential thing. Our task is to love God simply because he is God.

It is true that God may for a time give some people special consolations and gifts. However, it is more likely that we will face many periods of dryness and spiritual aridity. Many of the saints experienced long periods of spiritual darkness, but they persevered because they loved Jesus. They were not mercenaries…

St Josemaria Escriva has expressed the attitude we should adopt very succinctly:

When you go to pray, let this be a firm resolution: Don’t prolong your prayer because you find consolation in it or shorten it because you feel dry.

St Josemaria Escriva

Thoughts for May 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

I think our Lord wants your whole day to be one continued act of love and union with Him in your heart, which has no need of words to express it. Your attitude ought to be that of the mother beside the cot of her babe, lost in love and tenderness, but saying nothing, just letting the heart speak, though the wee one cannot know it as Jesus does. There is nothing more sanctifying than this life, which few, I fear, reach to, since it means a constant effort to bring back our wandering imagination.

12 April 1917

Kneeling on the altar steps Jesus told me to devote one day of each week to the work of sanctification and reparation for His priests in each part of the world, e.g. Monday for the priests of Europe etc.

COMMENT: Today’s quote was written in Fr Doyle’s diary on this day in 1917.

Fr Doyle was something of a mystic. Again and again he reports in his diaries the messages he felt he received in prayer. These messages were private and normally referred to his own spiritual life. It is not up to us to judge the authenticity of such private messages, though we should recall that prayer is not a monologue in which we rattle off words in God’s direction, but rather an intimate conversation with our Father. A conversation implies a two way flow of communication, and this communication can of course take the form of impressions, insights and perhaps even locutions from time to time. 

In any event, it is clear that Fr Doyle did feel that he received heavenly inspirations and that his directors seem not to have disagreed with him on this point. Indeed, as the famous French Jesuit spiritual writer Fr de Grandmaison once declared:

We must unhesitatingly say that the life of Fr Doyle was that of a great mystic, as indeed it seems to have been that of a saint.

Today’s words carry on the theme of yesterday’s commentary on Fr Doyle’s care for priests and their sanctification. Without priests the Church withers and suffers. Saying this does not undermine the serious call to holiness of lay people. But how can lay people grow in holiness without ready access to the nourishment of the sacraments and the formation that comes from holy priests? I am reminded of St John Vianney who, while trying to find the way to Ars on his first journey there, asked a local boy, and remarked that, while the boy had shown the priest the way to Ars, the priest would show the boy the way to Heaven. 

Today’s quote also shows us the universal nature of Fr Doyle’s concerns – he felt that he was called to work for the sanctification of all priests, not just Jesuits or not just Irish priests.

One final concluding through for today… It seems that Fr Doyle was not the only one to dedicate his prayers and work for a different intention each day of the week. Blessed Columba Marmion offered each day of the week as follows:

Monday: Souls in Purgatory

Tuesday: Order of St Benedict

Wednesday: Relations and those to whom I am under any obligation

Thursday: Sovereign Pontiff, bishops, clergy, religious Orders

Friday: Missionaries, sinners, heretics, infidels

Saturday: Spiritual children

Sunday: Abbot, Community, my own perfection

Perhaps there is something that we can learn from this for our own lives. We all face challenges each day – our duties and work, as well as inconveniences, weaknesses and illnesses common to all of humanity. We can choose to waste these, or else to “offer them up”. To use St Paul’s phrase, in some mysterious way we can make up for whatever is lacking in the suffering of Christ. Let us not waste these precious opportunities for merit.

Blessed Columba Marmion

Meditation on the fourteenth Station of the Cross by Fr Willie Doyle

The fourteenth station: Jesus is laid in the tomb

 

The final scene of the awful tragedy is drawing to a close. Reverently the faithful few bear the dead Christ down the hill of shame, that body from which all the care of loving hands cannot remove the marks of the cruel scourge, the rending nails, the lance’s gaping thrust. Into the tomb they bear Him, the burial place of a stranger, best suited to Him Who during His life had not where to lay His head. Reverently they lay Him down; one last, fond embrace of His own Mother before they lead her hence, and then in silence and in sorrow they leave Him, their dearest Master, to the watchful care of God’s own angels. Sin has done its work! Sin has triumphed, but its very triumph will prove its own undoing.

I have prepared a document with the text of Fr Doyle’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross. The file can be downloaded from here:

Stations of the Cross

If you like Fr Doyle’s writings, please send this file to friends and contacts, and maybe even to your local priest! If you have a blog yourself, please feel free to post it there as well. Perhaps in this way other people can come to know and love Fr Doyle. May Fr Doyle’s meditations enrich your experience in Holy Week!

Meditation on the thirteenth Station of the Cross by Fr Willie Doyle

The thirteenth station: Jesus is taken down from the cross

Mary stands at the foot of the cross to receive in her arms the lifeless body of her Son. Once more His head is resting on her bosom as it used to do long years ago when a little child He nestled to His Mother#s breast. But now that sacred head is bruised and swollen, stamped with the cruel mark of the mocking diadem; His hair all clotted with the oozing blood, tangled and in disorder. Even she, upon whose heart is stamped every lineament of her Son’s dear face, can scarcely recognise His features now. On every line is marked the anguish of long drawn agony, of torture and agonizing pain, of woe, unutterable woe, of sorrow, suffering and abandonment.

Meditation o the twelfth Station of the Cross by Fr Willie Doyle

The twelfth station: Jesus dies on the cross

 

Upon the cross He hangs now, the most abject and despised of all men, the butt for vile jests, a common mark for all to hurl their jibes at. There He hangs, in agony no human lips can tell, no mind conceive, an impostor, a vile hypocrite, a failure. “He came to make Himself a King! See, we have crowned His brow with a royal, sparkling diadem. He sought a kingdom! From that elevated throne let Him look upon the land which will never be His now. He threatened our Scribes with woes and punishments, let Him look to His own fate and if He has that power which some say was His, let Him come down now from the cross and we too shall believe in His word.”