Thoughts for January 8 from Fr Willie Doyle

Blessed Eurosia Fabris Barban

It is a mother whose gentle care was ever round you, whose arms were open wide that you might nestle on her bosom and tell a mother’s heart your joys and childish sorrows. Well now do you recall the thousand little ways that love for you was shown, the welcome smile, the kindly word, the soft kiss implanted on your cheek.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle clearly loved his own mother and he recognised the importance of this motherly love in his own life. Today is the memorial of Blessed Eurosia Fabris Barban who reached great holiness through her vocation as a mother.

Mamma Rosa, as she was called, was born in Italy 1866 and died in 1932. She was from a humble and poor family, and had only 2 years of formal schooling. When she was 20 years old, one of her neighbours died, leaving behind 2 small children under 2 years old. Mamma Rosa took them in and raised her as her own. Soon after this she got married and had 9 children of her own. Her home became a gathering place for the children of her town. In addition to raising 11 children, she became a Franciscan tertiary and was renowned for her care of the poor and sick of the region and through it all managed to maintain a deep prayer life.

There is something refreshing about Blessed Eurosia, as there is about Fr Doyle and many of the other modern examples of holiness – they found their holiness in the midst of ordinary activities. Blessed Eurosia simply served God as a mother. Fr Doyle simply served God as a preacher and spiritual director and in the last years of his life as a military chaplain. In both cases, the fulfilment of the duties that God placed before them gave ample scope for them to strive for perfection. Their lives do not exhibit the physical miracles that we often associate with some of the older, more well known saints. As such, it becomes easier for us to imagine that we follow their example, even in very small ways.

Let us pray today in a special way to Blessed Eurosia for mothers, that they may be faithful to their calling to create loving homes in the midst of a world that increasingly devalues the importance of their role.

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Thoughts for January 7 from Fr Willie Doyle

It seems to me I have failed to keep my resolutions because I have not acted from the motive of the love of God. Mortification, prayer, hard work, become sweet when done for the love of Jesus.

COMMENT: We are now 1 week into the year 2019. How have we kept our resolutions for the year? Most of us will have lived them imperfectly. Some may even have already abandoned them altogether. We are not alone. Fr Doyle struggled to stick to his resolutions, and so too did all the saints. But it was the constant struggle, despite failures, that made them so great. Don’t give up – start again!

 

Thoughts for January 4 from Fr Willie Doyle

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Recognise God’s graces to you, and instead of thinking of yourself and your faults, try to do all you can for God, and love Him more.

COMMENT: One danger in the spiritual life is that we become self-absorbed with our own sins and weaknesses and progress. Of course, in all things balance is needed. We must be aware of our faults and strive to overcome them, but we must always keep the primary focus on Christ rather than on ourselves.

Today the Church presents to us the lives of two interesting women of very different backgrounds whose feasts occur today.

St Elizabeth Ann Seton was a convert from Episcopalianism. She had married into a wealthy family and had five children, although she was left impoverished when her husband died. On her conversion to Catholicism, which scandalised some of her Episcopalian friends, she established a school in Boston. She was then invited to establish a school in Baltimore and ultimately ended up founding a religious community which is today known as the Sisters of Charity of New York.

Today is also the feast of Saint Angela of Foligno who lived in the 13th century, and was canonised by Pope Francis in 2013 (although without a public ceremony). She too was married, and described the first 30 years of her life as mortally sinful and adulterous. She was very attached to the pleasures of the world, and seems to have even made bad Confessions and received sacrilegious Communions. She reformed her life, and after the death of her husband and children, became a Franciscan tertiary and great mystic who also provided for the poor and the destitute.

Instead of thinking of themselves and their faults, both St Elizabeth Ann Seton and St Angela of Foligno experienced the healing power of Christ and completely changed their lives and in the process transformed the lives of those around them. Surely the Episcopalian Elizabeth Ann Seton never imagined herself founding Catholic schools and a religious community; surely the adulterous Angela of Foligno never imagined herself a mystic who would still be remembered 700 years after her death. Similarly, the young Willie Doyle, with his constant stomach sicknesses and nervous breakdown probably never imagined that his heroism would be remembered and admired a century after his death.

God has his plans; if we love Him with all our heart He will lead us in ways we cannot yet imagine.

Saint Angela of Foligno

Thoughts for January 3 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Giuseppe Maria Tomasi

He seems to me to want a year of great devotedness, intense sympathy and passionate love…Even one year of such a life would help a little, would help much to heal the wounds so many and so deep in His tender Heart. We must love Him and make Him loved more and more. He seems chiefly to ask complete abandonment to His pleasure, not lifting a finger to hinder His holy Will, but letting Him do with us exactly as He pleases.

COMMENT: Our new year’s resolutions should ultimately orient us towards serving God and others with greater dedication. Of course, a resolution written in such a manner would achieve very little as it if far too vague and is not capable of being measured. Instead we should try to develop resolutions based on particular areas of life where we are weak, for example resolutions to be more patient or to avoid gossip or to be more cheerful or to get up (and go to bed!) on time each day.

Today is the feast of St Giuseppe Maria Tomasi, a great reforming saint who lived in Rome in the 17th Century. His example seems to be an appropriate one to try to emulate for the year ahead. He was born into wealth and power, and his father was Prince of Lampedusa. St Giuseppe gave up his life of wealth and privilege to become a priest. He was noted for his learning and his scholarship and was made a cardinal. However, having been placed once more in a position of power, he strove to live with humility and poverty, teaching children their catechism and remaining dedicated to his studies. He is particularly noted for his work in the reform of the liturgy, in particular by being faithful to the ancient traditions of the Church.

In the lives of both St Giuseppe Maria Tomasi and Fr Doyle, we see shining examples of apostolic zeal and dedication to the duties of life. May they both pray for us as we attempt to emulate their virtues in the year ahead.

More information on St Giuseppe Maria Tomasi can be found here.

 

 

Thoughts for January 2 from Fr Willie Doyle

 

I can imagine I am a soul in Hell, and God in His mercy is saying to me, “Return to the world for this year and on your manner of life during the year will depend your returning to Hell or not.” What a life I should lead! How little I should think of suffering, of mortification! How I would rejoice in suffering! How perfectly each moment would be spent!

COMMENT: The thought of Hell is an unpleasant one. Yet the Gospel contains numerous references to the possibility of eternal damnation – if we want to ignore this aspect of the Gospel we would end up deleting quite a lot of the Gospel texts! It is sometimes suggested that the spiritual and devotional practices of previous generations were a little unbalanced and a little too focussed on Hell and damnation; well in contrast there is a temptation today to go too far in the opposite direction and ignore it altogether. Swinging the pendulum to the other extreme does not make up for the perceived mistakes of the past, it simply compounds them with other mistakes. After all, if Hell does not exist, or is not even a remote possibility for us, then why do we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Saviour? What did He come to save us from, if not from sin and Hell?

Whether we imagine Hell as a place of burning fires (as suggested by the Gospels and by the experiences of mystics such as St Teresa or St Faustina or the children of Fatima), or as a state of eternal regret and depression for the loss of God, it is clear that it is a place/state we should do everything in our power to avoid. The mental exercise in Fr Doyle’s quote today is a very valuable one as we start the new year. If we knew this was to be our last year, how differently we might live it!

However, the reality of our situation is even more acute than this mental exercise. Our eternal destiny does not depend on how we live this year, but how we live this moment! We cannot change what we have done in the past, and we are not guaranteed the future. Not even the most powerful or wealthy individuals can prevent death or guarantee that they will be alive tomorrow. Fr Doyle always emphasised the importance of the present moment, and of doing our duty well. This is the ordinary discipline and penance that we are all called to follow.

Thoughts for New Year’s Day from Fr Willie Doyle

Feast of Mary, Mother of God

A New Year! What visions of almost boundless good, hidden in the fair bosom of the new-born year, rise up before me. What treasures of grace, what innumerable opportunities of merit are within my grasp if only I seize them.

COMMENT: Fr Doyle believed in using his time well. One very definite aspect of his personality was his efficiency and work ethic – he realised that time was a great gift from God and that he would have to account for how he used it. This is a very fruitful thought for us as we prepare for the new year ahead of us. 

107 years ago today, on New Year’s Day 1912, Fr Doyle made the following notes in his diary.

This morning at Kilmacud (presumably at the Carmelite convent in that suburb, about 5-6 miles south of Dublin city) Jesus again told me what He wants: ‘to refuse Him no sacrifice, to bear every little pain and inconvenience without relief, to give myself absolutely no gratification at meals even when not well or on feasts, and to regard food only as a means of living, to increase my corporal penances’. So strong, clear and persistent is this light, filling my soul with peace, that I feel absolutely convinced it is the will of God. I have begun, therefore, to mark days of ‘absolute sacrifice’ for Jesus. 

This is not the new year’s resolution that is expected of us! But it was what Fr Doyle felt he was called to do, and this call, far from being harmful for him, actually filled him with peace. It was this ascetical training that prepared him so well for his heroism in the trenches. 

 

 

Thoughts for the last day of the year from Fr Willie Doyle

 

“All our days are spent.” (Psalm 89. 9). The hour will come for each of us when we shall echo these words of the Psalmist, when with anxious eyes we shall watch the last few sands of our life run out for ever. What avail then will be our useless regrets that we have made such little use of those precious days? Will our bitter sorrow and biting remorse bring back even one of the moments we have so uselessly squandered in idle pleasure or consumed in sinful deeds?

COMMENT: The last day of the year is actually a very important one. Even those with no faith tend to take stock of their lives and develop resolutions to improve themselves. We don’t have to confine our formation of resolutions to New Year’s Eve, although it is an excellent time to start. In addition to traditional resolutions like eating more healthily, exercising more, working harder and so forth, we must remember the importance of spiritual resolutions. These can include being more faithful to our prayer, adopting certain regular acts of penance or attempting to root out a particular vice or weakness.

The end of the year also reminds us that we are closer to death. It is a simple fact that we are one year closer to death than we were at the start of 2018. Perhaps we, or one that we love, may not live to see beyond 2019. We should not become morbid or depressed with these thoughts of the approach of death, and it would be unhelpful to fixate too much on this, but it is similarly unhelpful – and unrealistic – to ignore the thought altogether. Instead, let us be prepared to meet Christ whenever He may call us, whether it is in 2019 or several decades away.

The end of the year is also a time to be thankful. For many people 2018 may have been a tough year. But no matter how hard it has been, there are always things to be thankful for. There may have been many dangers from which we have been spared that we are not even aware of. Let us give thanks to God for all of His blessings, both those we remember and those we will only see when we die. The last day of the year is also a good day on which to obtain a plenary indulgence. The Church grants this indulgence, under the usual conditions, to all those who publicly sing the Te Deum on this last day of the year.

Time is a great treasure given to us. Along with our talents and our love, it is really all that we can give to God. According to Fr Francisco Fernandez Carvajal:

Time represents the separation between the present and that moment when we stand before God with our hands either empty or full. Only now in this life can we obtain merit for the next. In fact, each single day of ours is a period given us by God, so that we may fill it with love for him, with love for those around us, with work well done, with putting the virtues into practice.

And as St Alphonsus Liguori tells us:

Time is a treasure of inestimable value because in every moment of time we can gain an increase of grace and eternal glory. If the Blessed in Heaven could grieve they would do so for having lost so much time, and in hell the lost souls are tormented with the thought that there us now no more time for them. 

Have we filled 2018 with love for God and others and acquire more eternal glory? If not, then 2019 presents a new opportunity to grow in love…

Finally, here is a worthwhile meditation for New Year’s Eve by Bishop Richard Challoner of London who died in 1781, and whose cause for beatification is an extremely worthy one. As a child, Fr Doyle used to read Challoner’s meditations to his father, and perhaps this is one of the ones that he read and meditated on himself. These daily meditations nourished (at least in part) the early piety of Fr Doyle and they are now available on kindle for a very reasonable price here Amazon.com and here Amazon.co.uk

Consider first, that the year is now come to a conclusion: it is just upon the point of expiring: all these twelve months that are now past, have flown away into the gulf of eternity; they are now no more; they shall return to us no more. All our years pass in this manner, they all hasten away one after another and hurry us along with them, till they bring us also into an endless and unchangeable eternity. Our years will all be soon over; we shall find ourselves at the end of our lives much sooner than we imagine. O let us not then set our hearts upon any of these transitory things. Let us despise all that pass away with this short life, and learn to adhere to God alone, who never passes away, because he is eternal. Let us always be prepared for our departure hence.

Consider 2ndly, that as the year is now past and gone, so are all the pleasures of it: all our diversions, all our amusements, in which we have spent our time this year, are now no more: the remembrance of them is but like that of a dream. O, such is the condition of all things that pass with time! Why then do we set our esteem or affection upon any of them? Why are we not practically and feelingly convinced of the emptiness and vanity of them all; and that nothing deserves our love or attention but God and eternity? And as the pleasures of the year are all past, so are all the displeasures and uneasinesses, pains and mortifications of it: they are also now no more than like a dream: and so will all temporal evils appear to us a little while hence when we shall see ourselves upon the brink of eternity. Let us learn, then, only to fear those evils which will have no end, and the evil of sin, which leads to these never-ending evils.

Consider 3rdly, how you have spent your time this year. It was all given you by your Creator, in order to bring you forward to Him, and to a happy eternity. O how many favours and blessings have you received from him every day of the year! How many graces and invitations to good! And what use have you made of these favours? What virtue have you acquired this year? What vice have you rooted out? What passions have you overcome? Have you made any improvement at all in virtue, since the beginning of the year? Instead of going forward to God, have you not rather gone backward? Alas! what an account will you have to give one day for all this precious time, and for all these graces and blessings, spiritual or corporal, which you have so ungratefully abused and perverted during the course of this year. Then as to your sins, whether of omission or commission against God, your neighbours, or yourselves – which you have been guilty of this year, either by thought, word, or deed – what a dreadful scene will open itself to your eyes upon a little examination! And little have you done during the course of this year to cancel them by penance. O, how melancholy would your case be, if your eternal lot were to be determined by your performances of the past year!

Conclude by giving thanks to God for all his blessings of this year; and especially for his patience and forbearance with you in your sins. Return now at least to him with your whole heart; begging mercy and pardon of all the sins of the year, and for all the sins of your life. And resolve, with God’s grace, if he is pleased to give you another year, to spend it in such a manner as to secure to your souls the never-ending year of a happy eternity.