You can test your love infallibly and find out how much you have by asking yourself this question: What am I willing to suffer for Him? It is the test of St Francis de Sales: “Willingness to suffer is a certain proof of love”
The first ever novena was in the Upper Room, between the moment when Jesus ascended into Heaven and when the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the apostles. Based upon this historical event, Christians have traditionally prayed novenas for special intentions.
This year, let us all pray especially in these days for a special intention relating to Fr Doyle…
V. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
R. And kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you will renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of your faithful,
grant that by that same Holy Spirit,
we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in your consolation,
Through Christ our Lord.
Prayers are requested through the intercession of Fr Doyle for a 14 year old girl from Australia called Kateri who is currently receiving treatment for leukemia. Let us pray not only for Kateri’s complete healing and restoration to health, but also for the relief of the side effects of her medical treatments, and for peace and consolation for her family, who suffer alongside her at this time.
O Jesus, who has given us the example of Your servant, Father Willie Doyle, graciously grant us the favours we ask You through his intercession…[Pray here for the healing of Kateri]
Teach us to imitate his love for You, his heroic devotion to Your service, his zeal for repairing the outrages done to Your Sacred Heart. And, for Your greater glory and for the salvation of souls, hear our prayer and grant that the credit we believe he enjoys Heaven may be recognised solemnly by the Church, so that we may soon be able to venerate him in public worship.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be
During midnight Mass at Dalkey Convent I made the oblation of myself as a member of the League of Priestly Sanctity…Our Lord gave me great graces during the Mass and urged me more strongly than ever to throw myself into the work of my sanctification so that I may draw many other priests to Him. He wants the greatest possible fervour and exactness in all his priestly duties.
Sir William Bernard Hickie was Major General of the 16th Irish Division and knew Fr Doyle extremely well. He wrote the following in a letter to friend on 18 November 1917, 3 months after Fr Doyle’s death:
Fr Doyle was one of the best priests I have ever met, and one of the bravest men who have fought or worked out here. He did his duty, and more than his duty, most nobly, and has left a memory and a name behind him that will never be forgotten. On the day of his death, 16th August, he had worked in the front line, and even in front of that line, and appeared to know no fatigue – he never knew fear. He was killed by a shell towards the close of the day, and was buried on the Frezenberg Ridge… He was recommended for the Victoria Cross by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by myself. Superior Authority, however, has not granted it, and as no other posthumous reward is given, his name will, I believe, be mentioned in the Commander-in-Chief’s Despatch…I can say without boasting that this is a Division of brave men; and even among these, Fr Doyle stood out.
The Fruit of the Third Week
The thought that Jesus has suffered so much for me to atone for my sins and past careless life in religion, has filled me with a great desire to love Him in return with all my heart, I feel, too, a growing hunger and thirst for suffering and mortification, because it makes me more like to my suffering Jesus, suffering all with joy for me.
Every day has deepened my shame, sorrow and hatred for my negligent tepid life since I entered the Society, and strengthened my resolve and desire to make amends by a life of great fervour. I feel my past sinful life will be a spur for me to aim at great holiness.
COMMENT: In these notes, Fr Doyle reflects on a desire for mortification and for personal reform as fruits of the Third Week of his Spiritual Exercises in 1907. The desire for mortification tends to strike those who are already advanced in the spiritual life, so we should not be unduly worried if we do not desire penance. But whether we desire it or not, we still need it, especially as we set out on the path of personal reform. However, we need not copy the penances of Fr Doyle, but instead we should follow his advice, which is to pursue penances in the ordinary circumstances of our life, fulfilling our duties as best we can.
We have been asked to seek the intercession of Fr Willie Doyle for a little five-year old Irish girl, Sarah B, who suffers from Neurofibromatosis (Von Recklinghausen’s disease) and has been diagnosed with two tumours in her head, one on the optic nerve of the eye and one in the brain. These tumours are benign, but they are both inoperable. She is undergoing treatment to shrink the tumours, but prayers to Fr Willie would be deeply appreciated for the healing of the tumours and her condition as the Neurofibromatosis is incurable.
Please pray to through Fr Willie’s intercession for Sarah’s healing and cure, and please share this information with others so that many people around the world will turn to his intercession.
Prayer through the intercession of Fr Willie 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…(Pray here for the healing and cure of Sarah B.)
Teach us to imitate his love for You, his heroic devotion to Your service, his zeal for repairing the outrages done to Your Sacred Heart. And, for Your greater glory and the salvation of souls, hear our prayer and grant that the credit we believe He enjoys in Heaven may be recognised solemnly by the Church, so that we may soon be able to venerate him in public worship.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be
Meditating on the Particular Judgement, God gave me great light. I realised that I should have to give an exact account of every action of my life and for every instant of time. To take only my seventeen years of religious life, what account could I give of the 6,000 hours of meditation, 7,000 Masses, 12,000 examinations of conscience, etc.? Then my time how have I spent every moment? I resolved not to let a day more pass without seriously trying to reform my life in the manner in which I perform my ordinary daily duties. For years I have been “going to begin,” and from time to time made some slight efforts at improvement. But now, dear Jesus, let this change be the work of Thy right hand.
To perform each action well I will try and do them: (a) with a pure intention often renewed, (b) earnestly, punctually exactly, (c) with great fervour. How little I think of committing venial sin, and how soon I forget I have done so! Yet God hates nothing more than even the shadow of sin, nothing does more harm to my spiritual progress and hinders any real advance in holiness. My God, give me an intense hatred and dread and horror of the smallest sin. I want to please You and love You and serve You as I have never done before. Let me begin by stamping out all sin in my soul.
We could not take pleasure in living in the company of one whose body is one running, festering sore; neither can God draw us close to Himself, caress and love us, if our souls are covered with venial sin, more loathsome and horrible in His eyes than the most foul disease. To avoid mortal sin I must carefully guard against deliberate venial sin, so to avoid venial sin I must fly from the shadow of imperfection in my actions. How often in the past have I done things when I did not know if they were sins or only deliberate imperfections and how little I cared, my God!
COMMENT: Today we continue with our reflections from the notes Fr Doyle took during the Spiritual Exercises of 1907.
The particular judgement is the moment of judgement immediately after our death. Typically it is understood as a moment in which we must render an account of our lives. As Fr Doyle put it: “I realised that I should have to give an exact account of every action of my life and for every instant of time”. And indeed, not just our actions, but our thoughts as well…
The only response we can make to this is to reform our lives, and the ideal way in which to do this is to reform our performance of our daily duties as Fr Doyle suggests. Otherwise we run the risk that our reform will be merely imaginary and superficial in nature.
Today is also the feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque. Fr Doyle was greatly devoted to her. She was chosen by the Lord to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. As we consider the particular judgement today, let us learn from the life of St Margaret Mary the reality that Jesus loves us intensely, and let us learn to see the particular judgement through the lens of this love. But let us also remember the other aspect of St Margaret Mary’s life, and that is the need for us to make reparation to the Sacred Heart for our sins. The best way for us to do this is through continuous conversion and making the sacrifice of doing our duties well.
I would also ask readers for their prayers for the repose of the soul my father who died 13 years ago today.
I cannot deny that I love Jesus, love Him passionately, love Him with every fibre of my heart. He knows it, too, since He has asked me to do many things for Him, which have cost me more than I should like to say, yet which with His grace were sweet and easy in a sense. He knows that my longing, at least, even if the strength and courage are wanting, is to do and suffer much more for Him, and that were He tomorrow to ask for the sacrifice of every living friend, I would not refuse Him. Yet with all that, with the intense longing to make Him known and loved, I have never yet been able to speak of Him to others as I want to.
COMMENT: The intense love of Christ was a central aspect of the spirit of Fr Doyle. The centrality of Christ was also central to another Irishman whose feast we celebrate today.
Blessed Columba Marmion was born in Dublin and was a priest of the Dublin diocese, acting as a seminary professor, chaplain to the Redemptoristine Convent in Drumcondra and as a curate in the parish of Dundrum in the south of Dublin. However, he felt the call to the monastic life and entered the Benedictine monastery of Maredsous in Belgium, ending up as abbot. He was a renowned spiritual writer and spiritual director. The love of Christ, and our divine adoption as children of God were central to his teaching and spirituality. He emphasised that Christ must be central to our spiritual life, and that holiness ultimately comes about through God’s grace acting in the soul. Our job is to dispose ourselves to receive that grace. His formula for growth in holiness, based on the writings of St Paul, is that we must die to sin, and then live for God – the more we remove the roots of sin from our soul, the greater the liberty God will have to work there.
As he wrote in his classic book Christ in His Mysteries:
It is, then, upon Christ that all our gaze ought to be concentrated. Open the Gospel: you will there see that three times only does the Eternal Father cause His Voice to be heard by the world. And what does this Divine Voice say to us? Each time the Eternal Father tells us to contemplate His Son, to listen to Him, that He may be thereby glorified: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him”. All that the Father asks of us is to contemplate Jesus, His Son, to listen to Him, so as to love and imitate Him, because Jesus, Being His Son, is equally God.
Like Fr Doyle, Blessed Columba suffered greatly in the First World War. He was concerned that his monks would be called up for the war effort, so he placed them in other monasteries, and travelled extensively during the war years to raise funds to support his monks in Belgium. During this period he was disguised as a cattle dealer – on one occasion he turned up in this disguise at Tyburn Convent in London where he was well known, but he was initially turned away because they didn’t recognise him in his disguise. He had no papers or passport during these dangerous travels. When trying to cross the border into England, he was challenged for not having a passport. He responded by saying: “I’m Irish, and the Irish need no passport, except to get into hell, and it’s not to hell that I’m going!” He was then allowed to enter England without the necessary papers!
During this period, he commented on his sufferings in a letter:
I have seldom suffered more in every way, than for some time past. I feel we have to take our part in the general expiation which is being offered to God’s justice and sanctity. My soul, my body, my senses, God Himself, all things seem combine to make me suffer. May His holy name be blessed.
Very few Irish people who were not martyred have been beatified or canonised since the Council of Trent, despite many excellent candidates, of which both Columba Marmion and Fr Doyle surely stand in the first rank.
Let us continue to pray and work that more Irish examples of holiness may be recognised in order to act as positive examples for the much needed renewal of this country.
During his time away from the trenches Fr Doyle often stayed in a convent in Locre. If my memory serves me correctly, he had an uninterrupted 13 hour sleep after one particularly trying period at the front, and on one occasion he got locked out and had to sleep on a bench outside.
In any event, these nuns of St Anthony’s Institute obviously held Fr Doyle in very great esteem. They were heartbroken when they heard of his death, and on August 21 1917 they sent the following note to Fr Frank Browne, requesting that Fr Doyle’s body be buried in their convent.
What very sad news I have received! Our good brave holy Fr. Doyle has been killed! Compassionate Lord Jesus give him eternal rest! Rev. Fr Browne will accept my condolence, my feelings of sympathy in the great loss of our good Fr. Doyle, your confrere. Notre petit saint, he has now received his recompense for his holy life, his great love for God and neighbour. Oh! he was so much loved by everybody and we shall never forget him. We are all very glad to have had him with us in the convent and to have made his life as comfortable as possible. Were it not possible Rev. Fr. to bring his holy body to the convent? It were a great honour to us to have it.
Of course, Fr Doyle’s body was never found, and so the “holy body” of the “petit saint” never returned to St Anthony’s Institute.