I think it is evident that, in these days of awful sin and hatred of God, our Blessed Lord wants to gather round Him a legion of chosen souls who will be devoted, heart and soul, to Him and His interests, and upon whom He may always count for help and consolation. Souls who will not ask “How much must I do?” but rather “How much can I do for His love?” A legion of souls who will give and not count the cost, whose only pain will be that they cannot do more and give more and suffer more for Him who has done so much for them. In a word souls who are not as the rest of men, fools perhaps in the eyes of the world, for their watchword is sacrifice and not self-comfort.
COMMENT: If the early 1900’s were “days of awful sin and hatred of God” as Fr Doyle claimed, things would appear to be worse 100 years later.
But God is faithful. Whenever there is a crisis, God raises up a “legion of chosen souls” to respond. The history of the Church has always shown this to be the case. God still calls for loyal followers. But are we ready to respond?
Today’s saints – Charles Lwanga and his companions from Uganda were pages in the court of King Mwanga of Buganda. Because of their Catholic faith, they resisted the sexual advances of the King. They died cruel and violent deaths because of their fidelity to Christ and the king’s hatred of their faith. St Charles, like many of the others, was burned to death, but some had even crueler torment. St Matthias Mulumba Kalemba, for example, was tortured in a most vicious fashion and took three days to die.
Here is an excellent short video about the martyrs.
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.
You seem to be a little upset at not being able to feel more that you really love our Lord. The mere longing desire to do so is a certain proof that love, and much of it, exists in your heart. But 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?
Dear Sir — One is often struck, on glancing over the papers, at the numerous appeals made to provide ‘comforts for our troops,’ but no one ever seems to think that the souls of those who have fallen in battle may possibly be in need of much greater comfort than the bodies of their comrades who survive.
With all the spiritual help now at their disposal, even in the very firing line, we may be fairly confident that few, if any, of our Catholic men are unprepared to meet Almighty God. That does not mean they are fit for Heaven. God’s justice must be fully satisfied, and the debt of forgiven sin fully atoned for in Purgatory. Hence I venture to appeal to the great charity of your readers to provide ‘comforts for our dead soldiers’ by having Masses offered for their souls. Remembrance of our dead and gratitude are virtues dear to every Irish heart. Our brave lads have suffered and fought and died for us. They have nobly given their lives for God and country. It is now our turn to make some slight sacrifice, so that they may soon enter into the joy of eternal rest. — Very faithfully yours, NEMO.
COMMENT: This letter appeared in the Irish Catholic on this day in 1917. The author was, of course, Fr Doyle himself, who, due to his characteristic humility, wished to disguise his identity and wrote under a pseudonym.
Was there any limit to his care for the soldiers? He looked after their physical needs, he shared his meagre food with them, he gave up all comfort and even life itself in order to bring the sacraments to them. And here, in the midst of all his other activities, he found time to write a letter back home to encourage Masses for the dead. What a simple, yet loving, act this was. He was willing to sacrifice his time to provide aid for the souls of Irish soldiers in purgatory.
Perhaps we can examine our conscience on this issue today. Do we pray for the dead? Do we remember our deceased loved ones? Do we take time out of our busy lives to write letters or emails to those who would appreciate it? Do we write letters to newspapers to defend the Church in the midst of the persecutions she faces in these times? If Fr Doyle, facing death every day, found time to do this, do we have any real excuse?
Today is also the feast of St Philip Neri, who died in 1595. St Philip is one of those remarkable, lovable saints. There are many aspects of St Philip’s life that are similar to that of Fr Doyle’s. Both were renowned for their cheerfulness and love of practical jokes; both had a very affectionate and passionate love for Christ which revealed itself with the tenderness with which they greeted religious items and statues; both longed to go on the missions but could not – St Philip understood that Rome was to be his Indies. Both were devoted to the ministry of the Confessional. In fact, St Philip was one of the truly great confessors who was given the mystical gift of reading souls. In relation to today’s quote from Fr Doyle about the souls in Purgatory, we can recall that St Philip was always concerned about these departed souls, and when he approached death he begged those whose confessions he heard to say a rosary for his own soul after death. St Philip is one of those very lovable saints who is perhaps not as widely known today as he should be, especially in English speaking countries.
Remarkably, St Philip also has a military connection – he is the patron saint of the US Special Forces, a remarkable fact about an Italian saint who died over 400 years ago and who, as far as I am aware. never had any connection with the military during his earthly life.
Jesus is looking at me as once he did upon blind Bartimaemus: “What wilt thou that I do to thee?” Lord, that I may see myself as You see me. Lord that my eyes may be open to the shortness of life. Lord, that I may understand the value of one degree of merit, and so heap up many.
A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows sharper with use.
COMMENT: How correct Fr Doyle’s assessment is! The more we criticise others, the more critical we can become ourselves. Like all vices, the more we engage in them, the easier and easier it becomes to keep engaging in them, and to grow worse over time. That is why big sins don’t normally arise out of thin air – they are normally preceded by smaller infidelities that weaken our resolve and undermine our spiritual lives. On the other hand, just like with exercise, the gradual pursuit of virtue strengthens us, and equips us for ever greater acts of virtue and charity. If our sins become “sharper” with use, then so too do our virtues. And that is precisely why Fr Doyle’s methodical pursuit of holiness is so important. It may seem old fashioned or pedantic, but it is the safe and sure path that the saints followed, and it is the path that Jesus Himself recommended when He told his disciples that those who are faithful in little things will also be faithful in greater things.
How often have we murmured against the good God because He has refused our petitions or frustrated our plans. Can we look into the future as God can do? Can we see now and realise to the full the effect our request would have had if granted? God loves us, He loves us too dearly to leave us to the guidance of our poor judgements; and when He turns a deaf ear to our entreaties it is as a tender Father would treat the longings of a child for what would work him harm.