He has been tugging at my heart for so many years, urging me in so many ways to give myself wholly to Him, to give all and refuse Him nothing. I dread lest now I shall again refuse Him – perhaps it is the last time He will ask me to do what He wants.
COMMENT: Perhaps this will be our last Advent. Perhaps some of us will not even live to see Christmas. Jesus is always tugging at our hearts, and waiting for us to repay His great love with our own small love. Advent is a time of great spiritual preparation. Let us not waste it.
Let us love silence and recollection. When we are at home with silence we are at home with God. Silence seems impossible to busy people. But “silence of the heart”, interior silence, is always possible.
COMMENT: We live in a noisy world. And that “noise” is made all the louder by the ever present reality of smartphones and social media. This is especially problematic for young people whose concentration spans are radically shortened by their ongoing exposure to the fast moving world of computers, games and social media.
But silence is necessary for us. It was in the stillness of a gentle breeze that Elijah encountered God on Horeb – it was not in the violent wind or in the fire or in the earthquake, but in the silence. And it was in the silence of a cave that the Saviour was born for us. As St Josemaria Escriva said:
Silence is the door-keeper of the interior life.
Advent should be a time for silence as we prepare for Christmas but so often today it is a time of noise and parties and excess. As Fr Doyle tells us, silence of the heart is always possible for us, but we have to make an effort. For those of us living in the middle of the world, the first step will be unplugging the TV, removing the headphones and turning off the smartphone…
I believe that Our Lord is asking for victims who are willing to suffer much in reparation for sins, especially those of priests. I know some who go so far in their generosity as to do heroic penance, feeling asked it…I know the result has been wonderful grace and burning desire to suffer and always to suffer for Jesus’ love.
God delights to honour His saints by bestowing upon them special graces which mark them off from the rest of mankind. To one He gives a burning zeal for souls; to another the thirst for suffering and humiliation, but on Mary alone He bestowed the supreme privilege of freedom from the taint of sin.
From the first moment of her conception till she closed her eyes forever on this world, Mary was undefiled, unspotted by the least taint of sin. Never for an instant did the fierce and fiery burst of temptation ruffle the calm of her holy soul; for her the forbidden pleasures of this life, for which man will barter his priceless soul, had no false attraction. Sin might rage around her, hell might move its mighty depths, but nought could tarnish the spotless beauty of her who was to be the Mother of God.
I believe strongly in corporal penance as a means to the end. But a denial of your own will often costs more than a hundred strokes of the discipline. To interior penance you must not, and need not, put any limit.
COMMENTS: The discipline is a knotted whip used for corporal penance. Its use would have been standard in Fr Doyle’s time, and still today there are many religious organisations and indeed individuals who use such an implement. Our modern world does not understand such things, but then again, few generations of the past would understand the modern obsession with punishing our bodies in a gym…
We have discussed Fr Doyle’s approach to corporal penance in the past. It is clear that he had a special calling for this type of penance. But it is also clear that he never encouraged others to follow him, and that he instead encouraged interior penances – small acts of self-denial. Indeed, he was an avid practitioner of such penances himself. Who can doubt that we would live in a much better world today if we could all control ourselves better and restrain our selfish impulses?
Many other saints have agreed with Fr Doyle’s comments on the importance of interior penance. St Philip Neri, in particular, comes to mind. He argued that holiness was three fingers deep, meaning that holiness comes from our brain or our mind (He would point to the gap between his eyes to emphasise that holiness was internal. This gap was three fingers wide, hence the expression that holiness is three fingers deep). There is no better time than Advent for trying to acquire this internal holiness.
I want you to make a greater effort to see the hand of God in everything that happens, and then to force or train yourself to rejoice in His holy will. For example, you want a fine day for some reason and it turns out wet. Don’t say, “Oh, hang it!” but give our Lord a loving smile and say: “Thank You, my God, for this disappointment.” This will help you to keep down impatience, irritability, etc., when people annoy you. Then when some hard trial is past, look back on it, see how you ought to have taken it, and resolve to act that way in future.
COMMENTS: The great spiritual writers recommend that we try to live constantly in the presence of God at all times, and see all things as coming from His hands and as a manifestation of His will for us at that moment. Such a mentality helps us to overcome passing feelings of sadness and disappointment.
Blessed Columba Marmion once wrote (unfortunately I cannot find the exact quote) that we are often sad because we think too much about ourselves, and not enough about Christ who loves us and dwells within our soul.
Today is also the feast of St Nicholas of Myra, the inspiration for Santa Claus. Let us remember this great saint today. He is badly mistreated and neglected in our modern culture, and his reputation is abused in an effort to sell material things at this time of year.
St Nicholas is known as a great intercessor for material and financial concerns. In these tough times we can have recourse to him in our temporal needs. There is nothing wrong with doing this, so long as we act with detachment and do not seek his help from a selfish or materialistic motivation. Indeed, St Nicholas himself was notoriously generous with his resources (hence the development of the Santa Claus character), so we may also pray to him for the grace of detachment.
Here is a video which may help us to remember the true St Nicholas.
You must trust entirely in our Lord. He alone can help you. Give God His time. Be generous with Him and He will be so with you.
COMMENT: The effectiveness of a message is often determined by the credibility of the person delivering it. Toothpaste companies try to feature dentists in their ads. Similarly, ads for household cleaning products will feature busy housewives who seem concerned for the welfare of their children. Source credibility is everything.
When considering today’s quote, we have a source of the highest credibility. Fr Doyle lived this message, and was living proof of the power of trusting in God. This was not just evident in the war years – even as a retreat master, spiritual director and missionary, Fr Doyle was remarkably effective. It was said that he never encountered a sinner that he could not win back to the faith. His fundraising work for poor African children was also very successful. His work promoting vocations met with remarkable success, even after he died. Some time ago I received a letter from a World War II veteran who was given one of Fr Doyle’s pamphlets on the priesthood by his own military chaplain. This man subsequently became a priest because of this pamphlet. Years later he met the military chaplain who gave him the leaflet; this chaplain revealed that he knew of at least 11 other men who became priests after reading Fr Doyle’s pamphlet on priesthood and vocations.
Fr Doyle was generous with God and trusted Him completely. We see the wonderful effects of this generosity and trust in his life just as we see it in the lives of all the saints. And yet despite these examples we so often hold back, lacking in trust and generosity…