I want you to know what I went through by volunteering for the Front. God made me feel with absolute certainty – I suppose to increase the merit of the offering – that I shall be killed. The struggle was hard, for I did not want to die; not indeed that i am afraid of death, but the thought that I could never again do more for God or suffer for Him in heaven made the sacrifice too bitter for words.
A want of will is the chief obstacle to our becoming saints. We are not holy because we do not really wish to become so. We would indeed gladly possess the virtues of the saints – their humility and patience, their love of suffering, their penance and zeal. But we are unwilling to embrace all that goes to make a saint and to enter on the narrow path which leads to sanctity. A strong will, a resolute will, is needed; a will which is not to be broken by difficulties or turned aside by trifling obstacles; a determination to be a saint and not to faint and falter because the way seems long and hard and narrow. A big heart, a courageous heart, is needed for sanctification, to fight our worst enemy – our own self-love.
COMMENT: If one was to pick a handful of quotes that summed up Fr Doyle’s spirit and life, this would definitely be on that list. He is correct – we are not holy because we do not really want to be holy. We are all called to holiness – every single one of us. And we are actually all capable of it – the grace is there for us to be holy if we really want it. Our holiness doesn’t depend on the actions of others or on the circumstances in which we live – holiness is as readily available now as it was for our ancestors during the 16th century or the 1st century. It is as obtainable for the wealthy as it is for the poor. But that doesn’t make it easy. We have to make many sacrifices to correspond to the graces we have received. We can do this if we want to – moral and spiritual perfection is an option for everyone.
St Ignatius recognised this reality. While he recuperated from his battle wounds, he was stirred up while reading the lives of the saints. Reflecting on their heroism, he realised that these spiritual heroes were still flesh and blood like he, and that he too could follow in their footsteps.
Yes, we have to want to be holy. But thankfully our holiness does not depend entirely on us – if it did we would get nowhere. We rely on God’s free gift of grace to us to transform us and make us holy. The discipline comes into play in terms of truly corresponding to that grace and making the sacrifices that it demands. But the grace is there for us if we want it, here, now, in the 21st Century just as much as it was in the lives of any saint in history.
As Blessed Columba Marmion said:
Now let us remind ourselves that, in these our days, the Heart of Jesus is not less loving nor His arm less powerful. God is ready to shed His graces upon us…as abundant and as useful as those he shed upon the first Christians. He does not love us less than he loved them.
I do not receive any money for ads on this site, and I do not have any control over the ads that appear here – it is all arranged by the site hosts who take the ads and the revenue. In fact, I generally am unaware of the ads as I am normally logged in as the administrator and hence I do not get to see them.
However I am aware that the number of ads seems to have increased in recent times. From some feedback received I have also learned that some of the ads are becoming objectionable. Someone has told me that an ad for Planned Parenthood has appeared on the site, and it seems that New Age style ads for “angel readings” have begun to appear.
All of this is unacceptable to me and is against the spirit of this site.
The only way I can stop this is to pay the site hosts to block ads. Effectively I have to replace the revenue that the ads currently generate for the site hosts. I intend to do this in the coming days, and hopefully we will be finished with obtrusive and offensive ads once and for all.
Christmas is only one month away. If you haven’t yet bought Christmas presents, why not consider giving someone a gift relating to Fr Doyle? Books (and even DVDs) are always great gifts, but even more so if the subject matter is inspiring and spiritually uplifting. Giving a gift related to Fr Doyle is a practical act of evangelisation and a way of spreading devotion to him.
There has been a big increase in the number of items relating to Fr Doyle in the last few years (a clear sign that something is “stirring” in terms of interest in Fr Doyle, and that devotion is growing). Any one of these would be a great gift to someone. Each has its own contribution to make.
Firstly, we’ll start with the DVD of the EWTN docudrama Bravery Under Fire. It is a detailed, 80 minute long exploration of Fr Doyle’s life, featuring detailed re-enactments of aspects of Fr Doyle’s life, as well as interviews about him. You can find the DVD in the EWTN religious catalogue here: https://www.ewtnreligiouscatalogue.com/Home+Page/MULTIMEDIA/EWTN+HOME+VIDEO/Docu-drama/BRAVERY+UNDER+FIRE.axd
If you are in Britain or Ireland, you can find the relevant version of the DVD here: http://www.ewtnireland.com/bravery-under-fire/ – Remember: DVD formats are different in different regions, so make sure you order the right one!
If, for some reason, somebody would like the DVD of my hour long interview with Fr Mitch Pacwa SJ on EWTN Live, you can find it at this link, searching for the relevant date (October 24 2018).
However it is worth noting that the full programme is on YouTube, though some people might prefer a DVD, especially if giving it as a gift to an older person who is not online, and who also has an interest in Fr Doyle.
In terms of books, there is my own modest contribution – To Raise the Fallen. This is 200 page book is a broad overview of Fr Doyle’s life – both military and spiritual – mostly in his own words, with some commentary from me. It would be a great gift for someone who knows a little about Fr Doyle and wants to know more, or even for anyone with a passing interest in history or World War 1. Fr Doyle’s letters are sure to grip people, and they might even gain from his fascinating spiritual notes. It is a useful tool of apostolate – it is a credible gift to give someone who is indifferent to – or alienated from – the Church. It also contains several prayers and meditations from Fr Doyle that have never been published before. For readers in the United States it is available here from Ignatius Press: https://www.ignatius.com/To-Raise-the-Fallen-P3056.aspx
And for readers in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe it is available from Veritas here: https://www.veritasbooksonline.com/to-raise-the-fallen-9781847308078-18300/ It is also available in bookstores and via Amazon, Book Depository etc.
Worshipper and Worshipped has the distinction of being the largest (700+ pages) and most detailed book about Fr Doyle, and the first book published about him in approximately 75 years. It is the definitive account of Fr Doyle’s war service. It would be a great gift for any World War 1 buffs and for those who already know Fr Doyle but who want probably the most complete assessment of his war years possible. It is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Worshipper-Worshipped-Across-Chaplain-1915-1917/dp/1908336862
Man of the People is the first children’s book about Fr Doyle that I am aware of. One of there greatest gifts we can give children is a love of books, and especially when they are inspiring and uplifting from a human and spiritual perspective. This 35 page book is available here: http://www.alanhannas.com/shopexd.asp?id=7115014
Fr Willie Doyle and World War 1, published by the Catholic Truth Society, is a wonderfully compact and well written booklet giving an essential overview of the life and spirit of Fr Doyle. CTS booklets are wonderful tools of apostolate – why not buy a bundle of them and distribute them liberally to others? It seems that this booklet is now already out of print, due to its popularity, and it is hoped that the Catholic Truth Society will do a reprint. In any event, it may be still found in some shops, or kindle formats are available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Willie-Doyle-World-War-20-Jan-2014/dp/B012HTY4LC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1543181714&sr=8-3&keywords=willie+doyle+kv+turley
Also very recently, Os Justi Press has republished Fr Doyle’s booklet on Vocations. This booklet had a phenomenal impact when it first appeared. How many owed their vocations partly, or fully, to this booklet? Hundreds? Thousands? Probably the latter! I will write more about this booklet in the coming weeks. It is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Vocations-Fr-William-Doyle-S-J/dp/1726083497/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543180606&sr=8-1&keywords=vocations+william+doyle
And let’s not forget the classics! The original book from the 1920’s that started it all, the biography by O’Rahilly is a spiritual masterpiece. It may not be as spiritually or theologically accessible to everyone 100 years later, but it remains the definitive overall biography of all of Fr Doyle’s life. The very detailed spiritual notes mean that it will be of most interest to those who appreciate Fr Doyle because of his spiritual brilliance, though the final two chapters about the war will be of interest to anyone of good will. The second edition is available as a reprint here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/professor-alfred-orahilly/father-william-doyle-sj/paperback/product-15463211.html It is also available in kindle versions.
Merry in God, published in 1939, is perhaps the most intimate book about Fr Doyle. That’s because it was written (anonymously) by his brother, Fr Charles Doyle SJ. Currently out of print, it was (largely) republished (with some minor editing) as a magazine called Trench Priest. The content is, of course brilliant, although the production values are not exceptional. The significant upside of this is that the book is tremendous value. Once again a brilliant present for those with an interest in Fr Doyle’s life as a whole. Available here: http://www.papastronsay.com/bookshop/product.php?ID=21
If you appreciate and admire Fr Doyle, do not keep him to yourself; spread devotion to him – get a book or a DVD as a gift for others this Christmas.
The life of Jesus was a continual prayer. Even during His public life He began, continued and ended everything He did by prayer, besides devoting whole nights and days to communing with His Father.
If we want our work for souls to be fruitful, we must bring prayer into it. If our children are not all that they ought to be, the cause may not be far to seek. Let us examine if we are praying enough for them, if our aspirations are ever ascending to the throne of God, to bless our work amongst those children and amongst others with whom we have to deal.
COMMENT: The only elaboration that Fr Doyle’s words require today is that of his own example. He was constantly immersed in prayer, often reciting thousands of aspiration each day, and regularly spending entire nights in prayer. It’s not coincidental that his own ministry as a writer, retreat master, preacher, spiritual director and military chaplain was marked by success and fruitfulness.
Don’t let the devil spoil the work by making you fret and worry.
COMMENT: This line from Fr Doyle is taken from a much longer letter of spiritual direction, the specifics of which are unlikely to be relevant to many of the readers of this website.
But this line, about the father of lies, and his capacity to make us worry, is relevant for us all…
One of the characteristics of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is peace and serenity. On the other hand, one of the traits of the enemy is worry and anxiety.
All of the saints faced worries and anxieties. Many were founders who faced financial worries. Many saints faced false accusations of scandal. Then there were those who underwent a severe trial of faith, experiencing a profound dark night of the soul. Then we have those “victim souls” who suffered intense illness and abandonment. Other saints had to separate themselves from friends and family in the process of entering religious life, or going away to the missions, or even converting to Catholicism. And of course there were the martyrs, who faced torture and horrific death.
One thing that characterises the saints throughout their trials is serenity. They had the peace that the world cannot give; they refused to give in to the temptation to fret and worry. We see this same tranquility and cheerfulness in Fr Doyle’s letters home to his father from the Front. It is hard to believe that bombs and gas attacks were being unleashed around one who was so happy and concerned for others.
As Fr Doyle wrote on another occasion:
Worries? Of course; and thank God. How else are you going to be a saint.
We who live in a relatively comfortable age – which is paradoxically marked by much anxiety and stress – have much to learn from the example of the saints.
The above image was published in an Irish newspaper at the end of 1916. The priest is unidentified, but we can well imagine Fr Doyle in this situation. The picture represents a scene from 2nd September 1916. Fr Doyle and his men had to suddenly march to the front one night in September 1916 alright, but it was on the evening of the 3rd and not of the 2nd.
Before we recount the events of 3 September 1916, let us read Fr Doyle’s reflection on his experiences in the Battle of the Somme that month. Writing to his father later in September 1916, he had this to say:
“I have been through the most terrible experience of my whole life, in comparison with which all that I have witnessed or suffered since my arrival in France seems of little consequence; a time of such awful horror that I believe if the good God had not helped me powerfully by His grace I could never have endured it. To sum up all in one word, for the past week I have been living literally in hell, amid sights and scenes and dangers enough to test the courage of the bravest; but through it all my confidence and trust in our Blessed Lord s protection never wavered, for I felt that somehow, even if it needed a miracle, He would bring me safe through the furnace of tribulation. I was hit three times, on the last occasion by a piece of shell big enough to have taken off half my leg, but wonderful to relate I did not receive a wound or scratch there is some advantage, you see, in having a good thick skin! As you can imagine, I am pretty well worn out and exhausted, rather shaken by the terrific strain of those days and nights without any real sleep or repose, with nerves tingling, ever on the jump, like the rest of us; but it is all over now; we are well behind the firing line on our way at last for a good long rest, which report says will be enjoyed close to the sea.”
Now for the events of 103 years ago today from O’Rahilly’s biography:
Each morning Fr. Doyle said Mass in the open and gave Holy Communion to hundreds of the men. “I wish you could have seen them kneeling there before the whole camp, recollected and prayerful a grand profession surely of the faith that is in them. More than one non-Catholic was touched by it; and it made many a one, I am sure, turn to God in the hour of need.” On the evening of Sunday, September 3, just as they were sitting down to dinner, spread on a pile of empty shell boxes, rgent orders reached the 16th Division to march in ten minutes.
“There was only time to grab a slice of bread and hack off a piece of meat before rushing to get one’s kit. As luck would have it I had had nothing to eat since the morning and was famished, but there was nothing for it but to tighten one’s belt and look happy”. There are occasions when even the world can appreciate Jesuit obedience! After a couple of hours tramp a halt was called and an order came to stock all impedimenta kits, packs, blankets, etc., by the side of the road. Fr. Doyle, it is almost needless to say, held on to his Mass things, though to his great sorrow for five days he was unable to offer the Holy Sacrifice “the biggest privation of the whole campaign.”
The night was spent without covering or blankets, sitting on the ground.
Tomorrow we shall pick up from this point, with some of Fr Doyle’s typical close shaves with death.