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.
If there is any certain mark of the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul, if there is any visible pledge of future happiness destined for man, assuredly it is lightness of heart and joy of spirit.
COMMENT: One of the most striking things about O’Rahilly’s biography of Fr Doyle was the level of detail he revealed about Fr Doyle’s asceticism. It is debateable whether it was good to publish these intimate details of Fr Doyle’s life. But what is not up for debate is that the details of Fr Doyle’s penances were a complete surprise to everyone who knew him, with the probable exception of his confessor, who seems to have generally approved of his penances and recommended very few amendments to them.
Fr Doyle’s penances were such a surprise precisely because he was a thoroughly normal, healthy, fun loving, joyful and energetic man who did not indiscriminately advertise the secrets of his spiritual life. Apart from a nervous breakdown around the age of 20, he fully possessed the lightness of heart and joy of spirit to which he refers in today’s quote. Fr Doyle had a winning personality – not everyone can attract the hard pressed soldiers who absolutely loved him and who flocked to him in moments of extreme danger. He was renowned for his practical jokes, good cheer and concern for all. To read his unabridged letters home from the trenches reveals an astounding joy and lightness of spirit in the midst of the most dreadful scenes of carnage, loss and danger. It is this joyful spirit in the face of death and despair that is one of the strongest arguments for Fr Doyle’s sanctity.
Do we realise the infinite possibilities of grace which lie hidden in the Tabernacle? Jesus only awaits our coming: and even before we have begun to beg His help, He has opened the treasures of His Sacred Heart and filled our hands with precious gifts. What monarch ever rewarded his subjects as Jesus repays us for the little trouble it costs us to visit Him even for one short moment.
Are you weary of the fight already and willing to give in to the enemy? Never mind, come back, begin again, Jesus wants you. There are millions of pagans to be saved, a hundred thousand dying sinners every day to be rescued.
COMMENT: Today’s quote captures the essence of Fr Doyle’s spirit – he was a real fighter given over to spiritual combat, and he was a true missionary dedicated to saving souls, even to the point of losing his own life in the process. These two dimensions encapsulate his inner life of asceticism and his outer life of zealous apostolate.
These two concepts – spiritual combat and apostolate – are firmly rooted in the lives of the saints and indeed in the teaching of Jesus. After all, we follow Christ who told us to fight by denying ourselves, to take up our cross daily, to strive to be perfect, to sin no more. He also sent out His disciples to bring the good news to people and to save souls.
Today is the feast of St Simon Stock, the Carmelite friar to whom, according to the long standing tradition, Our Lady revealed the scapular promises. In essence, tradition tells us that those who wear the brown scapular will have the grace of final perseverance. The scapular is not a good luck charm or a piece of superstition. But it is an important sacramental. We are not obliged to believe in the promises relating to the scapular, but it has a long tradition in the Church, and many saints died wearing it.
I feel ashamed at times that I do not profit more by His nearness, but I know that he makes allowances for weak, inconstant nature.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle occasionally wrote about what he called the “abuse of grace” – the idea that we fail to profit from all of the graces that God gives us. We are all almost certainly guilty of this failing to one degree or another.
In Ireland, and possibly in other parts of the world as well, May is the month in which children traditionally receive Holy Communion for the first time. In this part of the world it is a very big deal, but not always in the best way – it can become a secular rite of passage with little spiritual meaning for the child and the family. In Ireland, the worrying thing about First Holy Communion is that it may be years before some children will receive the their Second Holy Communion…
But those of us who do attend the sacraments, and have been doing so for some years, have no cause for complacency. How many times have we received the Eucharist since our First Holy Communion? Most adults will have attended Mass at least hundreds, and probably thousands, of times since receiving the Lord for the first time. Have we profited by His nearness during all of these years? Many of us have already received the Eucharist more frequently than many of the saints did. Is there interior and exterior fruit in our lives that gives testimony to all of that grace that was on offer for us?
If we are concerned about the state of the world or the state of the Church, we really need look no further than this very point – our failure to profit from the nearness of Christ in the Eucharist. We are called to holiness and to perfection. We simply cannot reach this by ourselves, but we can make strides in that direction by relying on God’s grace and removing obstacles to the workings of that grace in our souls. Those who are holy really impact the world around them for the better. The lives of the saints prove this for us beyond doubt. If we are dismayed at the state of the world, or the state of the Church, or the sad reality that many of the young children who receive the Lord this month may not do so again until they next attend a wedding or a funeral, then we need to examine ourselves on our efforts to correspond to God’s graces.
Thankfully it’s never too late. As Fr Doyle says, Jesus “makes allowances for weak, inconstant nature”. If we try to profit more from His nearness, we will slowly begin to reform ourselves, and our world.
You would throw up your hands in horror were you to see my room at the present moment. It is a scene of chaos and disorder that would discourage and frighten even that patient and persevering arranger of confusion and disorder, the Little Mother (Fr Doyle’s nickname for his mother). For the past week examinations have been in full swing. Now it is a comparatively easy task to sit down and set an examination paper that will keep a couple of hundred boys hard at work for three hours; but it is quite a different proposition to wade through and correct the output of the said boys during these hours. Can you wonder, then, that my pale and emaciated countenance grew still paler and more emaciated, and that my hair, usually so well behaved, stood on end, as day by day I watched the pile of examination papers rise higher on my table? But gazing would never reduce that pile, so with a cry to heaven for help I plunged at it and fought my way through to the last sheet.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle wrote this letter to his father while he was a seminarian. Between 1894-1898 he was stationed in Clongowes school as a teacher and prefect (this is where Blessed John Sullivan spent almost all of his priestly life). It is interesting to note that he never lost his good humour in writing to his father. In fact, it seemed to intensify over time. His letters written 20 years later from the war show an even more exuberant joy.
During this exam season, let us remember to pray for students and for their families, and for those charged with correcting all of them!
I saw many interesting places and things during my weeks of travel. But over all hung a big cloud of sadness, for I realised as I never did before how utterly the world has forgotten Jesus except to hate and outrage Him, the fearful, heart-rending amount of sin visible on all sides, and the vast work for souls that lies before us priests. My feelings at times are more than I can describe. The longing to make up to our dear Lord for all He is suffering is overwhelming, and I ask Him, since somehow my own heart seems indifferent to His pleading, to give me the power to do much and very much to console Him.
COMMENT: Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. We are not obliged to believe in the authenticity of apparitions. However, the Church has approved of the Fatima apparitions; the remarkable miracle of October 1917 testifies to its authenticity, and the popes since then have shown a special interest in them. Pope John Paul was shot on this day 38 years ago, and attributed his miraculous survival to Mary’s intercession – he even had the assassin’s bullet placed in the crown of the statue of Our Lady in Fatima. Pope Benedict visited Fatima and spoke of how the message of the apparitions is still of relevance for us today. And Pope Francis canonised the two shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta Marto in Fatima in 2017.
Fr Doyle’s quote today is quite apt for this feast, for the apparitions at Fatima are a call to conversion and a call to reparation for the sins of the world. Perhaps some people mistakenly think of Fatima in a negative manner or as something old fashioned or no longer relevant in the 21st century. But who can doubt that the world has forgotten Jesus more now than in 1917 when the apparitions occurred and when Fr Doyle died? Isn’t there more need for penance and reparation for the awful sins that have occurred since 1917? The Russian Revolution; the horrors of the First World War; the persecution of the Church in Mexico and in Spain; the Second World War; the Communist persecution and its millions of victims; the general breakdown of public morality and sins connected to this, especially abortion; the growth of aggressive secularism that seeks to remove the Church from the public square; the growth of materialism and the pursuit of wealth at all costs which oppresses the poor and which even destroys our natural environment. And then there are the outrageous sins of those in the Church who should have loved and protected children but who instead preyed on them. And in all of this let us not forget our own sins, for none of us are innocent either…
Truly there is an even greater need for penance and reparation now than there was in 1917. Yet there is always hope and mercy and God’s grace to help us get back on the right track. So while we have much to be sorrowful for, we also have much to be thankful for. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not withstand against the Church, and at Fatima Mary promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph…