Monday, 22 October 2018

Father William Doyle S.J. (1873-1917) - good priest, courageous man, true shepherd of souls.

The article below was first posted ten years ago, on 19th October, 2008, on my blog 'whitesmokeahoy'. I feel it appropriate to remind ourselves of this holy and courageous priest, a true shepherd of his flock. 

Good day friends of the Pro Papa League.

We have recently received the latest edition of ‘Catholic’ published by the F.SS.R Transalpine Redemptorists, Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay. This is the first edition published since the reconciliation with Rome, and it maintains the high standards that we have come to expect over the years. There is an excellent editorial by Fr Michael Mary FSSR, Superior General, together with the usual wide range of learned and interesting articles, Church news past and present, announcements, photographs, quiz, etc. I fully recommend this publication, which maintains its traditional Catholic ethos, to those who have not yet subscribed. Each edition of ‘Catholic’ includes a book of specifically Catholic interest, abridged and reprinted in soft-back format, produced by ‘The Desert Will Flower’ Press. The latest book is ‘Trench Priest, The Life of Fr William Doyle, S.J.’ This is the abridged biography of an Irish Jesuit priest who died in 1917, aged 44 years, nr Ypres, on the battlefields of Belgium, whilst serving as Chaplain to several Irish regiments. This book vividly brings to life the selfless devotion and courage shown by Fr Doyle in the terrible blood-bath and horror of the Western Front, an account of heroic faith and true charity which genuinely brought tears to my eyes. The deep faith, trust in God, selfless love for others of whatever creed, courage, and devotion to duty, exhibited by Fr Doyle in all circumstances, shines like a beacon in the darkness of hell. It is only possible to include here a few extracts from this absorbing book, but it is appropriate to do so, particularly as we will soon be in November, the month of ‘All Saints’ and the ‘Holy Souls’, and I have absolutely no doubt that ‘Fr William Doyle S.J.’ is inscribed on the Roll of Honour for both.

‘All through the worst hours an Irish Padre went about among the dead and dying, giving Absolution to his boys. Once he came back to headquarters, but he would not take a bite of food or stay, though his friends urged him. He went back to the field to minister to those who were glad to see him, bending over them in their last agony. Four men were killed by shell-fire as he knelt beside them, and he was not touched – not touched until his own turn came. A shell burst close by, and the Padre fell dead’ ( Philip Gibbs, in the Daily Chronicle and Daily Telegraph)

‘The Orangemen will not forget a certain Roman Catholic chaplain who lies in a soldier’s grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battlefield with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give them Absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face , watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smilingly he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Ginchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a saint – they speak his name with tears’ (Percival Phillips, in the Daily Express and Morning Post)

‘Fr Doyle felt fear deeply. He had a highly- strung nervous system and a vivid imagination that visualised danger fully, and realised the risk before him – all the physical elements of cowardice were his. He went out to perils, not at the word of command that meant death to disobey, not with the lust of battle surging in his veins and sweeping him along with a primitive savage longing to kill, not in the company of cheering, sustaining comrades. Fr Doyle had no word of command but his conscience and his sense of duty. He had no violent emotions to blind him to danger. Usually he had no comrade to bear him company save grim Death, who walked very close to him at times. It may sound a paradox, but it is perfect truth: Fr Doyle was the biggest coward in the 16th Division, and the bravest man in the British Army! An even more striking description was given by one of his men,, who declared emphatically that Fr Doyle was ‘the bravest man in the war’. (A Colonel who knew him intimately)

Fr Doyle was awarded the Military Cross at the battle of the Somme,, recommended for the D.S.O. at Wytschaete, and the Victoria Cross at Frezenberg. Though recommended for the VC by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by General Hickie, commander of 16th Division, ‘superior authority’ did not agree. Possibly the fact that he was an Irish Roman Catholic priest influenced the decision of those ‘superior authorities’? Beyond the tributes of this world, numerous favours and cures have been attributed to his intercession, and to the use of his relics. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. To order please use the ‘Transalpine Redemptorist’ link on my sidebar which will take you straight to their blogsite.


More from ‘Thoughts from St Alphonsus’ by Rev C McNeiry CSSR

‘Humiliation is the touchstone of sanctity. You will acquire
more merit by meekly receiving an affront, than by fasting ten
days on bread and water.’ (October 24th)        

‘Ecclesiasticus says that her bonds are a healthful binding,
and that in the latter end thou shalt find rest in her. You will
be indeed fortunate if at death you are bound with the sweet
chains of the love of the Mother of God. These chains are chains
of salvation.’ (November 17th)

All ye holy angels and saints, guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVIth
O Holy Mother of Christ, pray for our Holy Father and for us thy children.

 Much has happened in the Church over the past ten years. We enjoyed many blessings during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, most importantly the 'Motu Proprio' (2007) which confirmed that the traditional Latin Mass prior to Vatican II had never been abolished, and that priests were free to celebrate this Mass whenever they wished without the need to first obtain the permission of their bishop. The Ordinariate was officially set up which has brought many good clerics and laity into the Church, with many ordained as Catholic priests, and the Ordinariate playing an increasingly active and important role in the life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. This spiritually invigorating state of affairs came to an abrupt halt with the unexpected resignation/retirement of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, and the advent of a new papacy under Pope Francis. We know what has happened over the past five years; the papal attack on Church tradition in all its forms; the disgraceful political machinations in the Synod on the Family; the selection of certain bishops and cardinals known to share the Pope's views on various matters, not least the  LGBT influence within  the Church; the ambiguous wording of papal encyclicals opening the door to sacrilegious practice regarding receipt of Holy Communion by those in invalid 'marriages'; aggressive persecution of any opposition to papal authority eg. the Knights of Malta fiasco; the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, particularly in Vatican circles and in the upper hierarchy of the Church world-wide, which while clearly developing over several decades, has not been helped by the Pope's response, or to be precise his lack of response; also his choice of inner circle of advisers several of whom have themselves been subject to investigations for various matters;  the financial scandals which have been under scrutiny for many years, the latest involving a thirteen million dollar donation to a Vatican hospital already suspected of serious financial mismanagement. The list goes on, and as we approach the final days of the Youth Synod, one wonders what surprises lie in store. Rumour has it, and it may be no more than rumour, that Pope Francis plans to introduce a new form of the Mass sympathetic to Protestant thinking, originally devised by Pope Paul VI during Vatican II, but not actually celebrated.  Throughout this pontificate it would seem that Pope Francis has little time for tradition within the Church, instead steering the barque of Peter into the dark and dangerous waters of contemporary thinking, sowing cockle in the wheat-fields of the Faith. We will not lose heart, for we know from Our Lord’s words the outcome of the parable of the cockle and the wheat, and we also know from Our Lord that a good tree will bring forth good fruit, and a bad tree bad fruit. Future generations will be aware of the history of this pontificate with all its ramifications, and will make their own judgment. I fully accept, respect and honour the See of Peter, and pray for the incumbent whoever that may be. However, humanly speaking, I do not hold all incumbents in the same esteem, if at all.

Mary and Piety-- Ballade of Illegal Ornaments' by H. Belloc.

                         'Maddona and Child'  by Montagna             'Mary and Piety'  by T S Gregory We do not lo...