Last night I rose at one a.m. and walked two miles barefooted in reparation for the sins of priests to the chapel of Murrough (Co. Clare), where I made the Holy Hour. God made me realise the merit of each step, and I understood better how much I gain by not reading the paper; each picture, each sentence sacrificed mean additional merit. I felt a greater longing for self-inflicted suffering and a determination to do more “little things”.
To Mary’s feet in heaven today the angels come in never-ending stream to lay before her the offerings of her loving earthly children. To their Queen they bear fair wreaths of lovely roses. In many a lonely cottage or amid the bustle of the great city have these crowns been formed. Little ones and old folk, the pious nun and holy priest, the sinner too and many a wandering soul, have added to the glory of the Queen of Heaven; and from every corner of this earth to-day has risen the joyous praise of her who is Queen of the Holy Rosary. On earth she was the lowly handmaid of the Lord, and now all generations proclaim the greatness of her name.
COMMENT: Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Fr Doyle was of course very devoted to the rosary, and it formed an important part of his spiritual life.
He wrote the following in his diary on 22nd January 1915:
Last night I rose at twelve and knelt in the cellar for an hour to suffer from the cold. It was a hard fight to do so, but Jesus helped me. I said my rosary with arms extended. At the third mystery the pain was so great that I felt I could not possibly continue; but at each Ave I prayed for strength and was able to finish it. This has given me great consolation by showing the many hard things I could do with the help of prayer.
Fr Doyle was renowned for encouraging the soldiers to say the rosary, especially during the May devotions when he organised Marian processions. He makes the following touching observation in a letter to his father:
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 surely must have heard their prayer: Holy Mary pray for us now at the hour of our death. Amen.
As has been mentioned many times in the past, Fr Doyle had a great sense of humour and cheerfulness, so the following humorous anecdote deserves mention on this feast (bearing in mind the courage it must have taken to even summon up this cheerfulness when faced with the horrors of war):
When night fell, I made my way up to a part of the Line which could not be approached in daylight, to bury an officer and some men. A couple of grimy, unwashed figures emerged from the bowels of the earth to help me, but first knelt down and asked for Absolution. They then leisurely set to work to fill in the grave. “Hurry up, boys”, I said, “I don’t want to have to bury you as well”, for the spot was a hot one. They both stopped working much to my disgust, for I was just longing to get away. “Be gobs, Father”, replied one, “I haven’t the divil a bit of fear in me now after the holy Absolution”. “Nor I”, chimed in the other, “I am as happy as a king”. The poor Padre who had been keeping his eye on a row of crumps (German shells) which were coming unpleasantly near felt anything but happy; however there was nothing for it but to stick it out as the men were in a pious mood; and he escaped at last, grateful that he was not asked to say the rosary.
Today was previously known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory. It origin commemorates the famous, and historically significant, victory of Christendom against the Turkish forces in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Pope St Pius V had urged Christians to pray the rosary for the success of the Christian forces, and despite the superiority of the Turkish navy, Christendom had a famous victory in this crucial naval battle in over 1,500.
We may not be called to military victories at this precise moment, but we are still called to victories against the enemy of our soul and the vices and defects he inspires within us. Many the Queen of the Rosary, the mediatrix of grace, procure for us the victory we need.
Meditating on the words of our Lord to Blessed Margaret Mary: “I seek for My Heart a victim willing to sacrifice itself for the accomplishment of My desires,” I begged Jesus to tell me the meaning of these words. This seemed to be His answer, written as I knelt before the Tabernacle:
(1) “The victim whom I seek for must place himself in My hands that I may do absolutely what I will with him. Only in this way can My secret plans and designs be carried out. If the victim deliberately refuses to do what I want, all My plans may be spoiled.
(2) “The victim must surrender his body for any suffering or disease I may please to send, (but not asked for). There must be no holding back in this surrender through fear of any sickness whatever. This includes the joyful acceptance of all little bodily pains and the not seeking remedies for them, except when absolutely necessary.
(3) “The victim must give Me his soul that I may try it by temptation, plunge it in sadness, purify it by interior trials. In this state its prayer must be, ‘Fiat, Thy will be done’
(4) “Perfect abandonment to My will in every detail must be the very life of My victim, the most absolute humble submission to My pleasure his constant aim. Every little thing that happens must be recognized and welcomed as coming straight from My hand. The victim will wait till the voice of obedience speaks and then do exactly what I have made known, this promptly, earnestly, gladly because it is My will. There must be no likes or dislikes; no wishing for this thing to end or the other to begin, to be sent here or there, not to have this work to do, etc. My victim must have only one wish, one aim, one desire, — to do what I want in all things; this I shall make known from moment to moment.
(5) “The victim should strive to carry out what I seem to ask, fearless of the pain involved, regardless of the possible consequences, only trusting in My all-powerful help and protection. In this way, using My victim as an instrument, I shall secretly accomplish my desires in souls. My child, do you accept this office with its conditions?”
Jesus, most humbly I offer myself as Thy victim. Amen.
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 famous 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
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.
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…