Thoughts for January 22 from Fr Willie Doyle

Life is too short for a truce.

COMMENT: How typical is this pithy statement from Fr Doyle! We are here for a short time and we must love God and our neighbour during this short time. We must do our best to overcome our weakness and sinfulness in the few short years that we have on earth. There is no time for a truce, there is no time to slacken off in the spiritual life, for he who does not advance falls back. Of course, this does not mean that we live with intense frenzy and nervous exhaustion. Fr Doyle never allowed a truce in his battle against sin, but he was also a source of profound serenity and calm for those around him. The same can be said for all the saints.

Today’s quote is also of relevance for our American readers, for on this day 46 years ago the Supreme Court of the United States legalised abortion on demand.

As far as we aware, Fr Doyle never commented on the issue of abortion; the concept of legal abortion was surely unimaginable for humanoid for his comtemporaries. Fr Doyle was distraught at the loss of life he saw in World War I; he would surely have been astounded at the even greater number of lives lost through abortion. Knowing the character of Fr Doyle, he would probably have responded with two very complementary approaches – a profound compassion, understanding and care for those women who have had an abortion or are tempted to have an abortion, and with great energy and effectiveness in the educational, legal and political battle to protect life.

Abortion is an issue that excites the emotions. This is as it should be given the seriousness of the issue, and it is an understandable reaction. However, too often pro-life advocates let their emotions negatively impact on the effectiveness of their work, engaging in destructive tactics. The secret of effective communication is to meet the audience where they are at. In fact, St Ignatius Loyola told the first missionaries that he sent to Ireland – Fr Salmeron and Fr Broet – to go in the door of the Irish, but bring them out the door of the Jesuits. We must speak to people in a calm and measured way, showing the clear scientific evidence of the humanity of the unborn and the evidence that abortion can also be damaging to women. And we must remember that support for unborn life is a human rights issue, not a specifically Catholic or religious issue. We must do all of this with truly genuine heartfelt compassion for those who face unwanted pregnancies and for those who have had abortions, while never selling out on the fundamental principle that life is to be protected at all costs and that abortion – without exception – is a gross abuse of human rights.

On this issue, those of us in Ireland look to the United States for hope and encouragement given the growth of the pro-life movement there. It is almost beyond belief that Irish voters have voted to remove all protection for unborn life, and that Irish politicians have introduced one of the most extreme abortion laws in Europe, allowing tax payer funded abortions on demand for first trimester and on very wide grounds thereafter, effectively without time limit in some cases. I

So, today we pray for true peace and healing for those who have had abortions; for help for those who are facing an unwanted pregnancy; for fortitude and prudence for those involved in the struggle against abortion around the world, for the conversion of those within the abortion industry, and for Ireland, that it may recover its appreciate for the human rights of the unborn. 

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Thoughts for January 20 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Angelo Paoli

 

For the poor people on Dalkey Hill Willie constituted himself into a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. He raised funds by saving up his pocket-money, by numberless acts of economy and self-denial; he begged for his poor, he got the cook to make soup, he pleaded for delicacies to carry to the sick. Once he went to the family apothecary and ordered several large bottles of cod-liver oil for a poor consumptive woman, and then presented the bill to his father! He bought a store of tea with which under many pledges of secrecy he entrusted the parlourmaid. On this he used to draw when in the course of his wanderings he happened to come across some poor creature without the means of providing herself with the cup that cheers. He by no means confined himself merely to the bringing of relief. He worked for his poor, he served them, he sat down and talked familiarly with them, he read books for the sick, he helped to tidy the house, he provided snuff and tobacco for the aged. One of Willie’s cases — if such an impersonal word may be used — was a desolate old woman whose children were far away. One day noticing that the house was dirty and neglected, he went off and purchased some lime and a brush, and then returned and whitewashed the whole house from top to bottom. He then went down on his knees and scrubbed the floors, amid the poor woman’s ejaculations of protest and gratitude. No one knew of this but the cook and parlourmaid who lent him their aprons to save his clothes and kept dinner hot for him until he returned late in the evening. While thus aiding his poor friends temporally, he did not forget their souls. He contrived skilfully to remind them of their prayers and the sacraments; he also strongly advocated temperance. There was one old fellow on the Hill whom Willie had often unsuccessfully tried to reform. After years of hard drinking he lay dying, and could not be induced to see a priest. For eight hours Willie stayed praying by the bedside of the half-conscious dying sinner. Shortly before the end he came to himself, asked for the priest and made his peace with God. Only when he had breathed his last, did Willie return to Melrose. His first missionary victory!

COMMENT: These lines come from O’Rahilly’s biography of Fr Doyle, and they describe his charitable activities as a young boy while living in Dalkey. It is not clear what age he started this kind of work, but given that he went to school in England at the age of 11, it must have been before this age (or else during school holidays). What a marvellous example for us! Fr Doyle’s later life shows the same charity and concern for others, even to the point of offering his own life to serve wounded soldiers.

Today is the feast of the Carmelite Blessed Angelo Paoli. He lived in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Rome. He was known as the father of the poor, and established hospitals and hostels to care for the poor of Rome. His motto was “Whoever loves God must go to find Him among the poor”.

In the lives of both Blessed Angelo and of Fr Doyle we find genuine Christian love. In effect, they followed the advice of St Francis of Assisi – to preach always, and when necessary to use words.

In a hostile climate where Catholics are viewed with such jaundiced eyes, the only way to touch people’s hearts is through love. After all, God is Love! This is the same recipe that made Catholicism so compelling 2,000 years ago. There was something about the early Christians that attracted so many converts, even at the risk of death and torture. Ultimately, this attraction was Jesus Christ, but surely it was the love that Christians had for all people that first opened the door to grace and conversion. Just as the world was evangelised through love 2,000 years ago, it can only be re-evangelised through love today.

G.K Chesterton, when asked to write an essay on what was wrong with the world, simply wrote “I am”. There is a real truth here. I am what is wrong with the Church. I am the reason why there are so may empty seats at Mass on Sunday. I am the reason that so many of my contemporaries are unaware that the Church is first and foremost about love…

Let us follow the example of Blessed Angelo and of Fr Doyle, by finding Christ in those around us, by loving them, and thus changing the world.

18 January 1912

I felt Jesus asking me to make a long visit and wishing to speak to me. His message was:

  1. To note down the big sacrifices of each day as this helps me to generosity.
  2. To make a spiritual Communion with each person receiving.
  3. Greater abandonment still of all comfort – ‘absolute nakedness’.
  4. To make a half-hour’s visit during the day when I am able

COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote these words in his private diary on this day in 1912. He was not only an ascetic, but also a mystic, and this quote represents what he understood Jesus to be saying to him in prayer on this day. Fr Doyle was no fool. He was a well-formed Jesuit and an expert spiritual director, especially of others in religious life, and so we must assume that this words were indeed something akin to a locution. As such they form a private inspiration for Fr Doyle rather than some form of revelation for the use of others. 

Nonetheless, there is surely one lesson we can take from this message, and it is a message that one finds again and again in the writings of Fr Doyle – a call to greater generosity with God, and by extension, with others. This is something applicable to us all. The precise implementation of this generosity will surely suffer from person to person, but the fact that we are all called to an ever increasing generosity is surely a basic element of the Christian spiritual life.

Thoughts for January 17 from Fr Willie Doyle

The temptation of St Anthony the Abbot

 

Are you not foolish in wishing to be free from these attacks of impatience, etc.? I know how violent they can be, since they sweep down on me at all hours without any provocation. You forget the many victories they furnish you with, the hours perhaps of hard fighting, and only fix your eyes on the little tiny word of anger, or the small fault, which is gone with one “Jesus forgive me.”

COMMENT: We cannot totally avoid temptation. It is true that we should seek to avoid occasions of sin and not place ourselves in the path of temptation. But temptation will come to us nonetheless. Today’s quote is somewhat consoling for us, for it reveals that Fr Doyle, just like the rest of us, suffered from temptations. But temptations, despite the distress the may cause, are an occasion for demonstrating our love of God by the efforts we make to overcome them. Fr Doyle himself struggled with impatience, but he brought the same methodological efficiency to bear in eradicting it that he brought to all aspects of his spiritual life.

Today is the feast of St Anthony the Abbot. St Athanasius, Doctor of the Church, was one of his disciples and tells us that Anthony was sorely tempted on numerous occasions throughout his time of solitude as a hermit in the desert. We may turn with confidence to him in our trials and temptations.

Many great spiritual writers have outlined ways in which temptation should be faced and how we can profit from them. The following is from the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis:

So long as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation. Whence it is written in Job: “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” Everyone, therefore, must guard against temptation and must watch in prayer lest the devil, who never sleeps but goes about seeking whom he may devour, find occasion to deceive him. No one is so perfect or so holy but he is sometimes tempted; man cannot be altogether free from temptation.

Yet temptations, though troublesome and severe, are often useful to a man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed. The saints all passed through many temptations and trials to profit by them, while those who could not resist became reprobate and fell away. There is no state so holy, no place so secret that temptations and trials will not come. Man is never safe from them as long as he lives, for they come from within us — in sin we were born. When one temptation or trial passes, another comes; we shall always have something to suffer because we have lost the state of original blessedness…

When a man is not troubled it is not hard for him to be fervent and devout, but if he bears up patiently in time of adversity, there is hope for great progress.

Thoughts for January 16 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Chiara Luce Badano

Jesus knows I have only one wish in this world: to love Him and Him alone. For the rest He has carte blanche to do as He pleases in my regard. I just leave myself in His loving hands, and so have no anxiety or care, but great peace of soul.

Take, O Lord, and receive my liberty, my health and strength, my limbs, my flesh, my blood, my very life. Do with me just as You wish; I embrace all lovingly – sufferings, wounds, death if only it will glorify You one tiny bit.

COMMENT: The confident embrace of God’s will, even if this means suffering and difficulties, is the hallmark of high sanctity. In today’s quote, Fr Doyle shows us his complete acceptance of God’s will. Every time we say the Our Father, we express our willingness that God’s will be done on earth. Most of us think very little about what this means. So often we really mean that we want our will to be done; so often we can automatically assume that God’s will coincides nicely with our own. But it doesn’t always happen this way. Some of the most difficult moments in life occur when God’s will fundamentally differs from our own. In such circumstances we must learn to trust in God, and remember that He is a loving Father who directs everything to our ultimate good, even if it means suffering in the short term. Yes, this may be hard to accept, but we see the truth of this again and again in the lives of the saints. We see the serenity of victim souls like St Therese or St Gemma Galgani despite their illness; we see the cheerfulness of martyrs as they face death; we see the joy of St Francis or St Teresa or St John of the Cross as they embraced radical poverty. We see a particularly striking example of this in the life of the recently beatified Chiara Luce Badano who died at the age of 18 in 1990 from bone cancer. Her parents report that she went through a short struggle to accept the cross of cancer, but having once accepted it, she radiated peace and serenity. And of course we see the good humour of Fr Doyle himself so eloquently expressed in all of his letters sent home from the trenches. None of this is easy to do. It is certainly easy to write and to theorise about the life of the saints when all is going well, but it is surely more difficult to embrace God’s will with complete joy and abandonment when we truly face great difficulties. Yet that is what sanctity ultimately means. While we should not pretend that it is easily acquired, ultimately there is a peace to be found in abandoning ourselves into God’s loving hands. The challenge is to learn how to willingly find this abandonment and peace at all times of life, not just when we have run out of options and have no choice but to accept the finality of God’s will.

Fr Doyle’s prayer today is very similar to the Suscipe of St Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits. Here is the full text of St Ignatius’ prayer:

Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

 

 

Thoughts for January 14 from Fr Willie Doyle

Worries? Of course; and thank God. How else are you going to be a saint? “When thou comest to the service of God, prepare thy soul for temptation” – which means trials and worries of all kinds.

If you train yourself to see God’s hand in all things and rather to be glad when everything goes wrong, you will enjoy great interior peace. Here is a most important spiritual maxim for you: A soul which is not at peace and happy will never be really holy. 

Thoughts for January 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

Live for the day, but let it be a generous day. Have you ever tried giving God one day in which you refused him nothing, a day of absolute generosity?

COMMENT: One theme that arises frequently in Fr Doyle’s writing is that of generosity. He felt he was called to greater generosity with God. What does this mean? Obviously it means an even more determined battle against sin. Can we say that we are really generous with God if we wilfully persist in sin, without a conscious battle to fight against it? But there is more, for not only are we called to the “negative” battle against sin, we are called to a “positive” battle to acquire the virtues, to love God and others more, and to show this love in needs and not merely in sweet words or good intentions that never go anywhere…

God has given us everything we have. Our body. Our mind. Our will. Our talents. Our time on this earth. And He wishes to give us an eternity of union with Him in unimaginable joy. And in response He wants our generosity. 

We are sinners, with inherent weaknesses and defects that require much effort and grace to overcome. A day of “absolute generosity”, as suggested by Fr Doyle, is surely beyond most, if not all, humans, except perhaps for those who have reached the the very highest stages of the spiritual life in the unitive way. But still we should struggle each day to be a little bit more generous with God and with others. We should not fear being generous with God, as can sometimes happen. St Josemaria Escriva puts us at ease on this point:

God does not let himself be outdone in generosity.