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Full text of "Father William Doyle S.J."

CD 



CO 




FROM-THE- LIBRARY OF 
TR1NITYCOLLEGE TORONTO 



PRESENTED A.D. 19 *. 8 .„. 

from the library of the 
BY late Rev. G.H.Shortt 



t 





FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



Kibil Obsiat: 

IOANNES WATERS 

Censor Theol. Deputatus. 

Imprimatur : 

EDM. CAN. SURMONT 

Vic. Gen. 

Westmonasterii) die 4 Oct. , 1919. 



FATHER 

WILLIAM DOYLE 

SJ. 



BY 

ALFRED O'RAHILLY 

Professor in the National University of Ireland 
Registrar of University College, Cork 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 



FOURTH IMPRESSION 



LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO, 
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON, B.C. 4. 

55 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK 
BOMBAY, CALCUTTA AND MADRAS 

1922 

All rights reserved 




BX 



MAY 2 2 1948 



PATRIBUS FRATRIBUSQUE 
PROVINCIAE HIBERNIAE 

SOCIETATIS IESU 
HOC SOCII MONUMENTUM 



PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION 

AFTER the death of Father Doyle, who was not only 
my friend but the guide and helper of several who 
are near and dear to me, I undertook, at my sister's 
suggestion, to write a brief memoir of his life. This task, 
lightly undertaken as a personal tribute, has now grown into 
unforeseen dimensions. Neither I nor anywie else then sus 
pected the existence of a series of spiritual journals and 
personal records which Fr. Doyle had written for his own 
exclusive use and guidance. Had he died after an ordinary 
illness in his own room, he would undoubtedly have 
completely destroyed these intimate papers. It was the 
chance, the providential chance, of his death as a martyr of 
charity on a far-off Flemish battlefield which rescued these 
notes from the fate that he had destined for them. They were 
found among his few belongings in his room in Rathfarnham 
Castle, accompanied by explicit instructions directing that 
in the event of his death they should be burnt unopened. 
Fortunately his Superior, Fr. J. Brennan, S.J., and his brother, 
Fr. C. Doyle, S.J., decided that this injunction would be 
best observed by formally violating a request which had 
been inspired by motives that had ceased to count. These 
papers were accordingly handed over to me ; and it is from 
these intimate self-revelations, which were never intended 
for any eye save the writer's own, that the greater, or at 
least the more valuable, portion of the present book has been 
compiled. Had I anticipated that this mass of material 
existed, I would have left this biography to more competent 
hands, especially as I could devote to it only some of the 
scanty leisure of a busy life. 

But having once undertaken it, I felt that I could not 
act as a mere transcriber or editor. Without in any way 
obtruding my own views, which in such matters are of no 



Vlll. 



PREFACE 



account, I have attempted to give a study as well as a record. 
I have sought not only to chronicle the thoughts and 
experiences of Father Doyle, but also in some measure to 
give them their true perspective by inserting them in the 
rich and inclusive tradition of Catholic spirituality. With 
this object in* view I have drawn, more extensively than is 
usual in a mere biography, on other spiritual writers, 
especially on those who were Fr. Doyle's favourite authors. 
I have tried, in particular, to lay stress on the spiritual 
ideals of S. Ignatius, as revealed in his Letters and in the 
Spiritual Exercises, and to distinguish carefully between 
these general ideals and their individual adaptations or 
special developments. On this point I may have been 
excessively careful and irritatingly insistent. But my 
intention, however defective its execution, has been to make 
this book not merely a sketch of the life of Fr. Doyle, but 
also, as I am convinced he himself would have wished, the 
prolongation of his life-work. 

The latter portion of this memoir recounts Fr. Doyle's 
experiences as Military Chaplain. It has been compiled 
almost entirely from the letters or budgets which he used 
to send home to be perused by his relatives and intimate 
friends, without the slightest ulterior thought of publication. 
In including these interesting letters from the Front, it has 
not been my intention, any more than it was the writer's, 
to make another addition to ' war literature.' This book 
-claims to be simply the record of an apostolic life and the 
study of a very remarkable spiritual personality. His 
•experiences at the Front are of biographical and spiritual 
interest and help to correct what might otherwise be a partial 
or misleading impression. 

In obedience to the decree of Pope Urban VIII. I protest 
that all that is written in this life of Fr. Doyle has no other 
force or credit than such as is grounded on human authority. 
Hence no expression or statement is intended to assume 
the approbation or anticipate the decision of the Church. 

Were it not for the continual assistance and encouragement 
of Father Charles Doyle, S.J., this memoir would never 



PREFACE ix. 

have been undertaken or written. Father F. Browne, S.J., 
readily supplied me with information on many points con 
nected with the last two chapters. I have to thank my 
sister, Sister M. Anthony, for much help in transcription. 
The map was kindly drawn for me by Mr. D. R. Kennedy, 
B.E. I am much obliged to the printers, Messrs. Purcell 
and Co., Cork, for their interest, attention and efficiency. 

Cork, F&bruary, ig2o. 



PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION 

ONLY a few minor changes have been made in this 
edition. I have added in an Appendix some further 
letters of Fr. Doyle which have subsequently come 
to light. In an Afterword I have attempted, by some 
general considerations on Catholic hagiography, to reply to 
the very few unfavourable criticisms which have reached 
me. The publication of Fr. Doyle's Life has been amply 
justified by the unexpectedly rapid sale of the first edition. 

Cork, July, 1920. 



PREFACE TO NEW IMPRESSION. 

T I THE second edition was sold out immediately on 
-l_ publication. I set about preparing a final and 
complete edition, but circumstances over which I had 
no control interfered with my work. I am therefore com 
pelled to re-issue the second edition in order to satisfy the 
insistent demand. I have added a photograph of Fr. Doyle 
at the age of fifteen ; and in the light of further information 
I have modified the note on page 328. 

Military Prison in Field, 

Bere Island, June, 1921. 



CONTENTS 

• 

Chapter 

I. Childhood and Youth (1873—1891) 



Page 



II. From Noviceship to Priesthood (1891 — 1907) 10 — 29 





I. Tullabeg (1891— 1893) 


10 






2. Clongowes (1894 — 1898) 


12 






3. Philosophy (1898 — 1901) 


18 






4. Clongowes and Belvedere (1901 — 1904) 


21 






5. Theology (1904—1907) 


23 






6. Some Notes written during Theology 


26 




III. 


Tertianship (1907 — 1908) 




30—39 


IV. 


Diary of Long Retreat (1907) 




40—63 


V. 


Apostolate 


. . 


64—86 




I . Missions and Retreats 


.. 64 






2. Retreats for the Workers 


.. 7 I 






3. The Holy Childhood 


•• 79 






4. Vocations 


.. 80 




VI. 


Inner Life 


. . 


87 — 121 




i . Introduction 


.. 87 






2. Interior Union . . 


92 






3. Personal 'Attachment to Christ 


99 






A Praver 


107 




VII. 


Mortification and Suffering 


• • 3 


:22 — 169 




I . Self -Conquest 


122 






2. Life of Immolation 


•• 133 






3. Priestly Sanctity and Reparation 


•• 154 






4. Holy Follies 


.. 161 




VIII. 


Spiritual Direction 


] 


70—213 




I . His own Soul 


170 






2. Director of Others 


i?3 






3. Discouragement 


178 






4. Union and Abandonment 


187 






5. The Cross ... 


195 






6. Little Things ... 


201 






7. Praver 


2O6 






8. Mortification 


. . 211 





Xll. 



CONTENTS 



Chapter 

IX. 


Mil 
i. 

2. 

3- 
4- 
5- 
6. 

7- 
8. 


itary Chaplain 1916 
The Great Adventure . . 


• 


• 


Page 
. . 214—274 

215 

220 
221 
226 


Cure of Mazingarbe 


• 








23T 

242 

251 
200 


Another Spell at the Front . 
The Somme 
Christmas at the Front 





X. Military Chaplain 1917 



275—335 



I. 

3. 

3- 

4- 

5- 

0. 

•t. 


Easter in the Pas de Calais . 
May Devotions 
The Padre in the Trenches 
Wytschaete Ridge 
His Last Sermon 
The Battle of Ypres . . 
The End . . 


. • 




275 
279 
283 
291 
302 

307 
. 326 



Appendix (Further Letters) 
Afterword (An Apology for Saints) 
Index 



336—357 
358—374 



375 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Portrait of Father Doyle 
Schoolboy, Novice, and Scholastic 
Father Doyle at the Age of Fifteen 
Father Doyle, Aberdeen, 1908 
Map of the Front 
Military Chaplain 



Frontispiece 
.To face page 2O 

„ „ 86 
„ 170 

Page 223 
To face page 260 



FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



CHAPTER I. 
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH (1873—1891) 

IT is chiefly in the light of a man's subsequent development 
that the incidents of childhood become interesting and 
significant, for the child is father of the man. It is often 
in the artless sayings and doings of the child, and in the 
impulsive spontaneity of the youth, that we can best discern 
that groundwork of natural character which in the man 
is generally concealed by conventionality or self-control. 
Unfortunately in the case of the present biography the 
records are scanty, but by collecting some scattered anecdotes 
and reminiscences, it has been possible to trace in the boy 
hood of the future Jesuit and Apostle some of those human 
and lovable characteristics which remained to the end. 

William Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born at Melrose, 
Dalkey, Co. Dublin, on 3rd March, 1873. His father is 
Mr. Hugh Doyle, an official of the High Court of Justice 
in Ireland, who is still alive and active though in his eighty- 
eighth year ; his mother was Christina Mary Doyle, nde 
Byrne. 1 Willie was the youngest of seven children, four 
boys and three girls. The eldest and youngest of the girls 
married ; the second became a Sister of Mercy. The eldest 
boy after a short stay in the Jesuit Novitiate entered Holy 
Cross College, Clonliffe, whence he passed to the College of 
the Propaganda, Rome. Ten days before his ordination he 
caught fever and died in 1887 in the twenty-eighth year of 

i. — She died at 7 a.m. on igth March, 1915, at the age of 83. Willie had 
jus't returned from a Mission in Glasgow and so was able to be with her at the 
end and to say Mass immediately for her. Next year, in a letter from the Front 
(i7th March, 1916) he writes to his Father : "I shall not forget the anniversary 
on Sunday, though I doubt if she needs our prayers." 



2 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

his age. The second son entered the legal profession and 
is the present Recorder of Galway. Willie's third brother, 
a few years older than himself, and the inseparable companion 
of his boyhood, became a Jesuit. 

Willie was a frail and delicate child, though like most 
highly strung children, he had great reserves of energy. All 
through life, indeed, ill-health was one of his great trials, 
and for some years before his death he suffered acutely from 
an internal complaint. But, curiously enough, his nearest 
approach to death was due, not to sickness, but to an 
accident. When he was quite a little fellow, his nurse 
one night placed a lighted candle on his little cot, probably 
to enable herself to read or sew. The nurse fell asleep, and 
the candle overturned and set the bed clothes on fire. 
Fortunately his father, who was sleeping in the next room, 
was awakened by the smoke and rushed into the nursery. 
He found the cot on fire, and little Willie fast asleep with 
his legs curled up, as though he felt the fire creeping towards 
him. In an instant the child was lifted out of bed, and the 
mattress and bed clothes thrown out through the window. 
As a military chaplain Father Willie once laughingly alluded 
to this escape as his first experience under fire. 

For all his future holiness, Willie was by no means a stilted 
or unnatural child. He played games and he played pranks ; 
and though he cannot be said to have been naughty, he 
was also far from being irritatingly or obtrusively pious. It 
is consoling to find that, like most of us, he played at being 
a soldier. He was seven years old when it was decided 
that he should emerge from the stage of velvet suit and 
long curls. On his return from the fateful visit to the 
hairdresser's, his mother seemed sad on seeing Willie with 
his shorn locks. But the little fellow himself was delighted, 
and sturdily insisted that soldiers did not wear curls, at 
least not nowadays. His mother had to make a soldier's 
suit for him, with red stripes down the sides ; and when 
he won a great battle, a couple of stripes had to be added 
to one sleeve ! This is how his old nurse describes his 
youthful exploits : 

" His love to be a soldier even from his babyhood was 
wonderful— to fight for Ireland. He would arrange his 



CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 3 

soldiers and have them all ready for battle. The nursery 
was turned upside down, to have plenty of room for fighting, 
building castles, putting up tents, all for his soldiers. Poor 
nurse looked on, but was too fond of him to say anything. 
He and a brother with some other little boys were having 
a great battle one day. He was fighting for Ireland ; his 
brother was fighting for England, as he said his grandmother 
was English. There was a flag put up to see who was able 
to get it ; the battle went on for some time, then in a moment, 
Master Willie dashed in and had the flag in his hand, though 
they were all guarding it. They could not tell how he got 
it ; he was the youngest and smallest of the lot." 

How curiously and prophetically appropriate is this 
characteristic of him, who was to be enrolled in the Company 
of Jesus and to die on the battlefield as a soldier of Christ ! 

There are many indications that Willie's youthful militarism 
was prompted by something deeper than a primitive instinct 
of pugnacity. Just as in after years he loved to aim at the 
Ignatian ideal of " distinguishing oneself in the service of 
one's Eternal King," so, even as a youngster, he felt the 
call to be foremost in energy and service. Long before he 
read of the saint of Manresa, he had a natural affinity with 
the soldier of Pamplona. And it was not always the mimic 
battle of the nursery ; even at this early age he started real 
warfare, he began a life-long struggle against himself. At 
the beginning of Lent, when he was quite a little boy, an 
old Aunt, chancing to go into his Mother's bedroom, found 
him gesticulating and talking in front of the mirror. " You 
villain, you wretch," he kept saying to his reflection, " I'll 
starve you, I'll murder you ! Not a sweet will you get, 
not a bit of cake will you get ! " 

This is one of the few glimpses we obtain of Willie's interior 
life during his boyhood. Even of his maturer soul-struggles 
we should know little or nothing were it not for the chance 
preservation of his notes and diaries. There is a danger 
lest these revelations of penance and mortification should 
mislead a reader, who was not personally acquainted with 
Fr. Doyle, into fancying that he was exteriorly repellent 
or gloomily ascetic. Throughout his life he retained a fund 
of humour and kindliness ; no one would suspect his slow 



4 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

struggle for self-mastery and perfection. That even in 
boyhood he sought self-conquest and recollection, and 
experienced the working of God's grace, we can have no 
doubt. There is no record, however, save in the archives 
of Him who seeth in secret, where even the sparrow's fall is 
registered and the hairs of our heads are numbered. But 
neither in youth nor in after life was his virtue fugitive and 
cloistered ; his light so shone before men that they saw his 
good works, his thoughtful kindness and self-sacrificing 
charity. 

No man, it is said, is a hero to his valet ; at any rate, 
domestic servants are apt to be severe critics. Willie, 
however, was deservedly a favourite. He always tried to 
shield the maids when anything went astray or was neglected. 
He was ever on the look out for an opportunity of some 
act of thoughtfulness. Thus sometimes after a big dinner 
at Melrose, the cook would come down next morning and 
find the fire lighting and the dinner things washed. Willie 
had been playing the fairy ! Again, whenever a maid was 
looking ill, he used to volunteer privately to do her work. 
A servant of the family, who gave many years of faithful 
service, still remembers her first arrival at Dalkey. As she 
was timorously proceeding to Melrose, she met the two 
brothers walking on stilts along the road. " How are you, 
Anne ? " said Willie, divining that this was the new maid. 
He alighted and insisted on taking whatever she was 
carrying. Before she had her things off, he had tea ready 
for her. 

" I know I was really awkward after leaving the rough 
country," writes Anne. " I had got orders to have the 
boots cleaned that evening. But the good saint took them 
out to the coach-house and brought them in shining. No 
one knew only Kate (the parlourmaid) he did it so quietly. 
To put it off he made the remark, ' I dare say you have no 
such thing in the country as blacking.' Not understanding 
the coal fire, and while I was learning, he would run down 
stairs and have the fire lighting and the kettle on by the time 
I would arrive. Then when breakfast was ready, he would 
come to the kitchen and ask how did I get on with the fire 
that morning ? " 



CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 5 

For the poor people on Dalkey Hill Willie constituted 
himself into a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. He raised 
funds by saving up his pocket-money, by numberless acts 
of economy and self-denial ; he begged for his poor, he got 
the cook to make soup, he pleaded for delicacies to carry 
to the sick. Once he went to the family apothecary and 
ordered several large bottles of cod-liver oil for a poor con 
sumptive woman, and then presented the bill to his father ! 
He bought a store of tea with which under many pledges 
of secrecy he entrusted the parlourmaid. On this he used 
to draw when in the course of his wanderings he happened 
to come across some poor creature without the means of 
providing herself with the cup that cheers. He by no means 
confined himself merely to the bringing of relief. He worked 
for his poor, he served them, he sat down and talked familiarly 
with them, he read books for the sick, he helped to tidy 
the house, he provided snuff and tobacco for the aged. One 
of Willie's cases — if such an impersonal word may be used — 
was a desolate old woman whose children were far away. 
One day noticing that the house was dirty and neglected, 
he went off and purchased some lime and a brush, and then 
returned and whitewashed the whole house from top to 
bottom. He then went down on his knees and scrubbed 
the floors, amid the poor woman's ejaculations of protest 
and gratitude. No one knew of this but the cook and 
parlourmaid who lent him their aprons to save his clothes 
and kept dinner hot for him until he returned late in the 
evening. While thus aiding his poor friends temporally, he 
did not forget their souls. He contrived skilfully to remind 
them of their prayers and the sacraments ; he also strongly 
advocated temperance. There was one old fellow on the 
Hill whom Willie had often unsuccessfully tried to reform. 
After years of hard drinking he lay dying, and could not 
be induced to see a priest. For eight hours Willie stayed 
praying by the bedside of the half-conscious dying sinner. 
Shortly before the end he came to himself, asked for the 
priest and made his peace with God. Only when he had 
breathed his last, did Willie return to Melrose. His first 
missionary victory ! 

When we hear of these acts of charity and zeal exercised 



6 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

at an age which is often associated with selfish thought 
lessness, we may be inclined to imagine that Willie Doyle 
was a prim, stilted, ' goody-goody ' sort of boy. Nothing 
of the kind. He had a wonderful freshness and spontaneity. 
One never could feel that his kindness was artificially 
produced or that his goodness was forced. His virtue, like 
his laugh, had the genuine ring in it. One of his most 
endearing characteristics throughout life was his sense of 
humour. " Don't take yourself too seriously," he once said 
to a rather lugubrious would-be-saint ; "a sense of humour 
is one of the greatest aids to sanctity." As a boy he was 
full of humour, even when he was doing good. He once 
brought to one of his poor people a carefully wrapped parcel 
which was joyfully acclaimed as a pound of butter ; but 
when extricated it proved to be a stone ! Next day, how 
ever, the real article, with much more besides, was brought 
to console the good woman. Sometimes Willie was able to 
combine kindness and fun. Thus, in order to shield the 
maids, he used to rake and settle the cinders on top of the 
ashes, and he would then wait for his grandmother — who 
had a little weakness for insisting that the cinders were 
sifted — and always enjoyed her remark, "Oh, how nicely 
cook has the cinders riddled ! " With his brother Charlie 
he loved to engage in fun and frolic. As schoolboys they 
used to amuse themselves by dressing up as " nigger 
minstrels," blackening their faces and hands. For this 
purpose Willie saved up and bought a banjo. All the 
household, including the maids, used to be assembled for 
these entertainments. Some of us who feel alas ! that we 
have too little in common with Fr. William Doyle, can thus 
at least claim human kinship with Willie Doyle ! 

Between Willie and his brother, Charlie, there was a close 
bond of attachment from early days of childhood. As they 
were only a few years apart in age, they were naturally more 
closely united with one another than with their elder brothers 
and sisters. Together they learnt their first letters, together 
they fished and bathed, and built themselves a wonderful 
house in the branches of a mighty elm, together they knelt 
and prayed. Their prayers and catechism and all things 
religious were lovingly superintended by the future nun of 



CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 7 

the family, whom her young brothers,, with boys' quick 
instinct for hitting off a character with a name, dubbed 
"' the missionary," thereby also recording a tribute to their 
sister's religious influence. Willie's devotion to his elder 
brother was remarkable even in a household where all the 
members of the family were so united and affectionate. 
Nothing was too good for Charlie, everything was shared 
with him — sweets, secrets, sorrows. Wherever he went, 
Willie followed, ready to run, to fetch and carry at a word 
from his brother ; and when bed-time came the last good 
night, conveyed in a mysterious formula, was always to 
Charlie. And these two who as boys played and studied 
together, fought their mimic battles together, and shared 
their little joys and sorrows, were destined not to be divided 
in life. For in ways mysterious they both joined the Society 
of Jesus. 

In September, 1884, at the age of eleven, Willie went to 
Ratcliffe College, Leicestershire, conducted by the Fathers 
of the Institute of Charity, where his elder brother had 
already spent a year. Here in the cloisters and classrooms 
of Pugin's beautiful college six pleasant and profitable years 
were passed. A good place was consistently secured at the 
various examinations, and every year saw one or more prizes 
brought back to delight the dear ones at home. Willie 
excelled at sports ; he was for several years a member of 
the cricket eleven and of the football team. This proficiency 
at games stood him in good stead years afterwards when 
he became one of the Prefects at Clongowes. He was a 
general favourite among his school-fellows, and his brother- 
in-law, at whose house in Sheffield he usually spent the 
Christmas vacation, declared in a letter that Willie was " the 
nicest schoolboy he had ever met." Each summer found 
the two brothers home in Ireland. Vacation time passed 
in boyish games and amusements ; yet, as the years went 
on, the more serious side began to show itself in Willie's 
character. It was then that he developed more and more 
his love for the poor and helpless. At times he would slip 
away from the cricket and tennis and seek out his poor on 
Dalkey Hill, where " Master Willie " was a welcome visitor. 
There was one family of his own name, with many 



8 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

ramifications on the Hill, which was the object of his special 
predilection. By a curious coincidence one of the first men 
he met on joining his regiment after his appointment as 
military chaplain was a William Doyle, a grandson of his 
old friend on Dalkey Hill. 

In the summer of 1890 Willie left Ratcliffe. During his 
last year at college his health had given cause for anxiety. 
It was therefore decided that he should remain quietly at 
home, in order to build up his strength and reflect on his 
future. What this future would be, those who knew him 
never doubted. It had long been an open secret in the 
family that Willie would be a priest. He himself had never 
any doubt or hesitation. Beneath all his boyish fun and 
lightheartedness there lay, discernible to a careful observer, 
a life of deep purposive faith. This was shown not only 
in his pure upright character, his generous unselfishness, and 
his love of Christ's poor, but also in his childlike piety. Long 
before the decree of Pope Pius X. which restored frequent 
and daily Communion, Willie was a weekly communicant. 
His devotion to our Blessed Lady was also noticeable ; he 
always went to her altar when he paid a visit to the church. 
The priesthood seemed but the logical development of a 
life thus begun. 

In July, 1890, Willie paid a few days' visit to St. Stanislaus' 
College, Tullamore, the Novitiate of the Irish Province of 
the Society of Jesus, where his brother, Charlie, had entered 
ten months previously. One day during the visit the subject 
of Willie's vocation came up for discussion. Charlie knew 
that Willie was going to be a priest. But was it a secular 
priest or a religious ? "I hope soon to enter Clonliffe," said 
Willie. " Did you ever think of the religious life ? " asked 
his brother. " Never ! " was the emphatic reply. " I have 
always wanted to fill the gap left by Fred's death, and to 
become a secular priest." " But do you know anything 
about the religious state ? " persisted the zealous novice. 
" No, nothing," said Willie ; " but in any case I would never 
come to this hole of a place ! " This led to an animated 
discussion concerning religious Orders in general and the 
Society of Jesus in particular. Willie was so far shaken as 
to accept a copy of St. Alphonsus Liguori's work on the 



CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 9 

Religious State, 1 with a promise to read it and to think 
over it. The sequel can be told in Willie's own words : 

" On Christmas Day I was alone in the drawing-room 
when Father came in and asked me if I had yet made up my 
mind as to my future career. I answered ' Yes ' — that I 
intended to become a Jesuit. I remember how I played 
my joy and happiness into the piano after thus giving myself 
openly to Jesus." 

On 3ist March, 1891, Willie entered the Jesuit Novitiate 
of Tullabeg, near Tullamore, King's Co. 



i. — Instructions and Considerations on the Religious State. Eng. trans, (no 
date) published by the Art and Book Co. See p. 81. 



io FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 



CHAPTER II. 

FROM NOVICESHIP TO PRIESTHOOD 

(1891 — 1907) 

(l.) TULLABEG, (1891 — 1893.) 

WHEN half way through his second year's novitiate 
Willie's health began to give anxiety to his superiors, 
and a complete nervous breakdown following a fire 
at the College led to his being sent to his home in Dalkey 
for some months. In fact there was question at this time of 
his having to leave the novitiate for good owing to his health. 
Several doctors declared he was quite unfit for the strain of 
religious life, while superiors were almost unanimous in their 
opinion that he should not be kept. But Willie clung to his 
vocation, which he felt was from God ; and the Provincial, Fr. 
Timothy Kenny, who from the first had formed a high idea 
of the young novice, declaring him to be " as good as gold," 
supported him warmly. A few months of his native air 
and among his beloved poor on the Hill, who joyfully 
welcomed back " Master Willie " and saw very much of 
him now, restored strength and steadiness of nerve, and 
after making good in the novitiate the time he had spent 
at home, Willie had the happiness of taking the three vows 
of religion on the I5th August, 1893. 

Only a few stray sheets survive to give us all too meagre 
information concerning the inner life of the novice. 
Fortunately one precious little document remains to attest 
his astonishing fervour. 

A.M.D.G. ac B.V.M. 
My Martyrdom for Mary's Sake. 

" Darling Mother Mary, in preparation for the glorious 
martyrdom which I feel assured thou art going to obtain 
for me, I, thy most unworthy child, oh this the first day 
of thy month, solemnly commence my life of slow martyrdom 



TULLABEG n 

by earnest hard work and constant self-denial. With my 
blood I promise thee to keep this resolution, do ihou, sweet 
Mother, assist me and obtain for me the one favour I wish 
and long for : To die a Jesuit Martyr. 

May ist, 1893. 

May God's will, not mine, be done ! Amen." 

The words here italicised are in the original written with 
the writer's own blood for ink ; and on each side of the 
word " martyr " is a smudge of blood, as if thus to seal his 
compact with our Lady. 1 One feels that it is a sacred 
privilege to gaze after the lapse of twenty-six years on this 
touching contract between the Jesuit novice and his heavenly 
Mother, chivalrously sealed with his blood. Think of the 
twenty-four years of life which remained to the novice ! 
Right well did he keep his compact ; his was a " life of slow 
martyrdom by earnest hard work and constant self-denial." 
And the compact was kept in heaven also. As on earth of 
yore, " Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her 
heart." Our Blessed Lady obtained for him the one favour 
he wished and longed for. William Doyle died a Jesuit 
Martyr. 2 

Some reflections and resolutions which he recorded during 
the triduum of preparation for his vows, have also happily 
survived and may here be set down. 

" It depends entirely on myself whether I become a saint 
or not. If I wish and will to be one, half the battle is over. 
Certainly God's help is secured. Every fresh effort to become 
holy gets fresh grace, and grace is what makes the soul holy 
and pleasing to God. 

" God has a work for each one to do ; the devil also. For 
each one can be an influence for good or evil to those around. 
No one goes to heaven or hell alone. Unless I am holy, I 
may do the devil's work. The closer I try to imitate the 
Sacred Heart, the holier shall I become. How can I get 
nearer that Divine Heart than by receiving Holy Communion 
often and fervently ? The Sacred Heart will then be next 

i. — Compare Bl. Margaret Mary's resolution written in her blood. — Life 
(Visitation Library, Roselands, Walmer, Kent, 1912), p. 42. 
2.— Even as a boy he longed to be a martyr. See pp. 53, 251. 



12 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

my own and will teach me quickest and best how to be a 
saint. 

" Can I refuse to become holy when God Himself entreats 
me to be holy ? ' Walk before Me and be perfect.' ' Be 
perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.' Another great 
motive for becoming a saint — the wish, the command of 
God ! I have been called by God to be a member of the 
Society of His Son. To be a true Jesuit I must be a close 
imitator of Jesus Christ, an ' alter Christus.' The Society 
was instituted to glorify the Name of Jesus by its learning, 
by its zeal, but above all by its holiness. I must, therefore, 
strain after three things : to become learned, an authority 
on all subjects, not for self or the glory of self, but for God 
and the glory of God ; to become a lover of souls ; to become 
holy, this first and foremost, because the Jesuit without 
sanctity is no true son of Ignatius. 

" O loving Saviour, forgive me the past, accept me 
repentant, help me, for I am going to become with Thy 
assistance — A Thorough Jesuit and a Great Saint." 



(2.) CLONGOWES, (1894 — 1898.) 



Soon after taking the vows of religion Willie's health 
again broke down. So once more he was sent to recuperate 
in his native air and as before with good results. By the 
following August he was able to take up his new duties in 
Clongowes Wood College to which he was now assigned. 
Willie was stationed in Clongowes during two periods, from 
1894 to 1898, and again from 1901 to 1903. His first year 
there was spent in teaching, the other five as prefect. He 
showed considerable ability as a teacher, but other qualities 
which he possessed decided his superiors to entrust him 
with the difficult work of prefecting. As prefect he won 
remarkable success and popularity. He was a good organiser, 
excelled in all outdoor sports, while he threw himself with 
characteristic energy into the interests and activities of the 



CLONGOWES 13 

little world around him. With the boys he was a favourite. 
He was very kind and very just, two qualities that appeal 
to boys and win their respect and esteem. Yet there was 
a certain awe mingled with their affection, for, as they used 
to say, they could never quite make him out. This was 
the result of his imperturbability and eveness of temper, 
joined to a strong will and virile character. He was never 
angry with the boys, yet he always had his way ; they simply 
had to do what he wanted them to do. 

One who was under him as a boy writes : "I first met 
Fr. Doyle when I was a small boy at Clongowes. He was 
then Third Line Prefect, and had under his care some seventy 
or eighty boys ranging from ten to fifteen years of age. This 
particular set were rowdy and quarrelsome, and during my 
first year in the Line there were two periods, at least, of 
acute disturbance. Not that the trouble circled round 
Fr. Doyle or was directed against him, nor was it caused 
by any act on his part, but arose out of feuds among the 
boys themselves. The manner in which Fr. Doyle dealt 
with this difficult situation impressed me even at the time, 
and I have been more deeply impressed again and again 
in retrospection. Hot tempered by nature, I believe, he 
never allowed himself to be carried into arbitrary action by 
the intemperate or unreasonable conduct of those in his 
charge. He was firm, but never unjust ; indeed, if he erred 
at all, it was on the side of leniency. But apart from his 
self-control, the quality that struck me most was his 
optimism, his breezy cheerfulness in the midst of difficulties. 
He never lost his good spirits ; he never seemed to be 
depressed ; he never appeared to consider for a moment 
how trouble in his department affected himself ; he was 
intent always on setting others on the right track. 

" I recall one memorable scene. It is a common occurrence 
in Clongowes for one cricket club to challenge another. The 
consequences for the loser are serious, since the beaten side 
is liable to confiscation of its bats, pads, in fact all its good 
gear, and to get in exchange the battered property of its 
rival. This is the material aspect of the result, but there 
is a more important element at stake, the loss or gain, namely, 
of prestige. In the instance to which I refer, the game 



14 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

was keenly contested and feeling ran high. The junior 
club won eventually by a narrow margin. Whereupon the 
beaten side declared that the victors had ' doctored ' the 
score. Immediately there was uproar, and quiet was restored 
only when someone proposed that Fr. Doyle should be called 
in to arbitrate. He gave the case against the defeated 
eleven. This verdict so exasperated one of the boys that 

he called Fr. Doyle a ' d cheat ! ' This outburst cleared 

the atmosphere and produced a sudden calm, as nobody 
knew what would follow this amazing piece of impudence. 
But Fr. Doyle did nothing. Two or three days passed, and 
the culprit, who was prepared to take a flogging and hate 
his Prefect to the end of his days, began to grow sorry for 
his conduct when he saw that no move was being made 
against him. At last he apologised, offering to accept 
punishment, but Fr. Doyle only laughed good humouredly, 
and gave him biscuits and lemonade and a few pieces of 
sound advice. Fr. Doyle won a fast friend and a most 
loyal supporter, but his self-control under the circumstances 
needed character. 

" Fr. Doyle's example worked good. His cheerfulness, his 
energy, his enthusiasm were infectious and inspiring. His 
whole conduct was marked by gentleness and a kindly 
thoughtfulness that gained him loyalty and affection. In 
the playing fields he was a tower of strength. I can still 
recall the admiration with which I watched him play full 
back, or stump a batsman who had his toe barely off the 
ground. But above all he gave the impression to us boys 
of one who lived much in the presence of God. I know one 
boy, at least, who entered the Society of Jesus, partly, at 
any rate, because Fr. Doyle was such a splendid man and 
splendid Jesuit." 

Another who lived and worked with Willie in his early 
days in the Society and at Clongowes writes : " Thinking 
of Fr. Willie Doyle, I recall especially his gay, light-hearted 
ways, the cheery laugh and snatch of song with which he 
enlivened recreation hours or holiday excursions. Into the 
latter he threw himself with zest and was an excellent com 
panion. He could not resist the temptation of indulging 
from time to time in a practical joke. Practical jokes are 



CLONGOWES 15 

not welcomed by everyone, but he carried them through 
with such good humour and playfulness that the victim 
was soon tempted to relax and join in the laugh. Indeed 
his love of a joke never wholly deserted him. He grew 
graver as he had more and more to do with the burdens 
and cares of life — and how many were the persons whose 
burdens he helped to carry ! — but even to the end he retained 
in a large measure his gaiety of heart and his cheery outlook. 
Nothing seemed able to depress him for any length of time. 

" One did not have to live long with him to see that his 
gaiety of disposition, an essential part of his nature though 
it was, was still only the sparkle on the surface, and that 
below it ran the current of a downright earnest religious 
life — a current that deepened and gained in strength as he 
advanced in life. Not. .that he made any ostentation of 
piety or asceticism — there was not the slightest sign of this 
about him. On the contrary, he was ever reserved about 
himself and guarded closely the secrets of his spiritual life. 
But many little acts of self-restraint, self-denial and self- 
sacrifice, made me feel that he was trying seriously and 
steadily to acquire the solid virtues which befit a man who 
would give himself wholly to God. 

" After the novitiate and juniorate Fr. Doyle and I were 
together for some years in Clongowes Wood College. In 
the life there, with its larger liberty of action, new phases 
in his character showed themselves. He began to display 
a more than common spirit of initiative and enterprise, an 
energy and resourcefulness in carrying out what he had 
undertaken, and a marked tenacity of purpose. His pro 
duction of The Mikado may be instanced. For some 
considerable time elaborate plays had not been attempted 
at Clongowes, owing to the heavy demands on time and 
attention made by the Intermediate examinations. When 
Mr. Doyle obtained permission to try his hand at producing 
this opera, he seemed to be attempting the impossible. Few 
good singers and actors were known to be among the boys. 
Everything was wanting, scenery, costumes, and the money 
to buy them ; and above all time to practise, for the studies 
could in no way be allowed to suffer. There appeared to 
be a sufficiency of one thing only — cold water ; and that 



16 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

was freely poured on the scheme. Mr. Doyle kept his own 
counsel and set to work quietly and determinedly. He 
unearthed talent, trained his actors and singers assiduously, 
enlisted help, and by his tact, energy and perseverance, he 
overcame every obstacle, and in the end The Mikado was 
a triumphant success and proved to be one of the most 
brilliant performances ever witnessed on the stage of 
Clongowes. 

"As another instance of his spirit of initiative I may 
mention the starting of the college magazine, The Clongownian, 
of which he was the Founder and the first Editor. Here 
again there were the usual difficulties and opposition to a 
new venture, but these were put aside with unfailing courage 
and perseverance, and the first number of The Clongownian 
appeared during the Christmas of 1895. 

" Though not a Clongownian Mr. Doyle had much to do 
with the founding of the Clongowes Union which was proposed 
and worked up in The Clongownian for a considerable time 
before it actually came into being. 

" Viewing his character as a whole, it seems to me that 
the fundamental quality in it was courage — courage of a 
fine and generous type. When confronted with difficulties, 
with danger or labour or pain, instead of hesitating or weakly 
compromising, he was rather braced to a new and more 
intense resolve to see the matter out. Give in, he would 
not. It was this courage, supported, no doubt, by a natural 
liveliness of disposition, that enabled him to preserve through 
life his gaiety of heart and to face his troubles as they came 
with a smiling countenance ; it was this courage, too, that 
steeled him to hold fast to his purpose no matter what 
difficulties or obstacles might arise." 

We have here the testimony of one who for many years 
lived and worked with Fr., or, as he was then, Mr. Doyle. 
It is the more valuable as the writer could only guess at 
the inner life of him whom he pictured as remarkably 
courageous and encouragingly cheerful. Unfortunately, no 
intimate jottings of this period could be found ; so we can 
only dimly conjecture the deep undercurrent of faith and 
grace which made Willie Doyle so wholehearted and efficient 
in carrying out the duties which obedience had assigned. 



CLONGOWES 17 

There seems to the outward glance an enormous difference 
between the claustral seclusion and silence of Tullabeg and 
the busy bustling life of Clongowes. We find it curious 
that the demure introspective novice should rather suddenly 
develop into a distracted college prefect immersed in games 
and plays. That is because we miss the inner key, the 
Ignatian ideal of God in everything. The point is worth 
emphasising if we would rightly understand the life of a 
Jesuit, such as this biography. In 1551 St. Ignatius wrote 
to the Rector of Coimbra that " he desired to see all the 
members of the Society animated with such a spirit that 
they do not find less devotion in works of charity and 
obedience than in prayer and meditation, since they ought 
to do everything for the love and service of God our 
Lord." 1 Ignatius consistently refused to increase the time 
allotted to scholastics' daily prayer beyond one hour. He 
once said to Fr. Nadal that " no one would ever make him 
change his opinion that one hour was sufficient for those 
engaged in study, provided they have mortification and 
self-denial ; for thus they will easily fit more prayer into a 
quarter of an hour than others who are unmodified into 
two hours " 2 " During their works and studies," he wrote, 3 
" they can lift their hearts to God ; and if they direct every 
thing to the divine service, everything becomes a prayer." 

It is this apostolic fusion of work and prayer which a 
Jesuit noviceship is designed to produce. The semi-monastic 
quietness and solitude is not an end in itself ; it is merely 
the stillness of the power-house where unseen, but energy- 
laden, currents are generated. When Brother Doyle resolved 
as a novice to begin a " life of slow martyrdom by earnest 
hard work and constant self-denial," he was not only a true 
child of St. Ignatius but he was making a resolution destined 
to be immediately realisable. He who erstwhile had his 
heart set on the priesthood had to turn aside and devote 
the fresh energy of his youth to minding thoughtless and 
unruly youngsters, settling their little squabbles, entering 

i.- — Epistolae iii. 502. ( Monumenta Historica S.J.) 

2.. — Scripta de S. Ignatio 5. 278. As a matter of fact a Jesuit Scholastic nowa 
days has at least two and a-half hours of daily prayer. 
3. — Epistolae vi. 91. 
B 



18 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

into their petty interests, mending cricket gear, and rehearsing 
theatricals. Earnest hard work was done in full measure, 
and has received its human tribute. God's angels alone 
can estimate the constant self-denial involved. How little 
can the world's coarse thumb and finger plumb the inner 
depths of what outwardly is serenity, pleasantness, and 
ready service ! In this period of Willie Doyle's life we can 
see only the outer expression, later on we shall be privileged 
to read the record of his soul. It is well to realise now that 
seemingly natural activities and humdrum duties are based 
on an inner struggle and a life of faith. It will be well to 
remember afterwards that an interior life of slow martyrdom 
does not imply an unnatural or morose exterior. 



(3.) PHILOSOPHY, (1898—1901.) 



In the ordinary course of events the young Jesuit 
Scholastic, 1 on emerging from the two years' noviceship, 
spends one or two years in the " juniorate " completing 
his college studies ; or, more usually nowadays, he studies 
for a university degree. After this he pursues a course of 
philosophy for three years, and only then is he sent to some 
college to act as master or prefect for some years before 
he begins his theological studies. In the case of Willie Doyle 
considerations of health led to a deviation from the usual 
course. His juniorate had to be interrupted by a long visit 
to his home in Dalkey, and when sufficiently recovered, he 
was sent to Clongowes. After he had worked four years 
there, it was decided that he was sufficiently strong to resume 
his studies. In 1898 he was sent to Belgium to study 
philosophy. He joined the exiled French Jesuits of the 
Champagne Province, who had a house of studies at Enghien, 
near Brussels. But continental life told severely on a 

J. — A Jesuit is a "scholastic" during the whole formative perioc? from his 
first to his final vows. 



PHILOSOPHY 19 

constitution that was still delicate, and he suffered much. 
Through it all, however, he was just the same cheerful, 
lighthearted comrade as before, repressing any sign of pain 
or discouragement he may have felt, and breaking out every 
now and then into some audacious prank that made him 
the wonder and despair of the good French fathers. After 
a year of ill-health he was transferred to Saint Mary's Hall, 
Stonyhurst, where he pursued his philosophical studies for 
two years more. Even here bad health continued and made 
work very hard, but he persevered unflinchingly. Though 
suffering very much from digestive trouble, he never com 
plained and was always bright and cheerful. His 
extraordinary good spirits were most remarkable, indeed 
quite infectious. It was difficult to be out of sorts in the 
company of one who was known to be suffering, but who 
nevertheless was full of fun and gaiety. Yet he could be 
very determined and earnest; and when he took anything 
in hand, he saw it through to the end, cost what it might. 

Among the philosophers at Stonyhurst, Willie was a 
universal favourite ; his simple, unassuming character, his 
high spirits, above all his readiness to sacrifice himself for 
others, endeared him to everybody. He was at Stonyhurst 
during the Boer War when feeling naturally ran high among 
the different nationalities which formed the community, but 
though he took a different view from the majority with 
whom he lived, he never lost the respect and esteem of any, 
even of those from whom he most differed. Thanks to his 
playful vivacity he could venture to joke and chaff about 
matters that touched differences of national sentiment, and 
by so doing he helped to prevent any sense of strain from 
creeping into the situation. His love of fun was inexhaustible 
and led to many amusing incidents. One of the winters he 
spent at Stonyhurst was very severe and there was much 
tobogganing. Willie was very anxious to possess a sledge 
that would be a credit to the Old Country — he was always 
thoroughly Irish. Accordingly he approached the Father 
Minister of the house for permission to get the carpenter to 
finish a toboggan for him. It turned out that the 
" finishing " meant the making it, Willie's part being to 
furnish the wood and the idea. When " finished," the 
" Irish Mail " was the envy of all ! 



eo FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

No records survive to tell us of Willie's inner life at this 
period. Just one letter has been found. It was written 
to his parents from Stonyhurst on 3ist March, 1901, and 
was evidently treasured up as a precious keepsake consoling 
to the heart of a Catholic father. 

" Ten years ago, to-day, I went to Tullabeg and entered 
on my career as a novice of the Society. Looking back on 
it all now, it seems hard to realize that ten long years have 
gpne by since that eventful day on which I took a step which 
has meant so much for me, and which, thank God, during 
all this time I have never for a moment regretted. Our 
Lord was very good to me at that time, smoothing away 
many difficulties and making that day, which, to human 
nature at least, was full of sorrow, one of the happiest of 
all my life. 

" I remember well my arrival at Tullabeg and the way 
I astonished the Father Socius (as he told me afterwards) 
by running up to the hall door three steps at a time. He 
was not accustomed, he said, to see novices coming in such 
a merry mood, evidently enjoying the whole thing; and, 
though I did not know it then, it was the best of signs of a 
real vocation. 

" Since then I have gone on from day to day and year 
to year, with the same cheerful spirits, making the best of 
difficulties and always trying to look at the bright side of 
things. True, from time to time, there have been trials 
and hard things to face — even a Jesuit's life is not all roses — 
but through it all I can honestly say, I have never lost that 
deep interior peace and contentment which sweetens the 
bitter things and makes rough paths smooth. 

" I think this will be a consolation to you, dearest Father 
and Mother, for I have often pictured you to myself as 
wondering if I were really happy and content. I could not 
be more so, and were I to look upon religious life from the 
sole aspect of what makes for the greatest happiness, I would 
not exchange it for all the pleasures the world could offer. 
Thank God for all His goodness, and after Him, many grateful 
thanks to you both, dearest Father and Mother, for that 
good example and loving care to which we all owe 
so much." 



CLONGOWES AND BELVEDERE 21 



(4.) CLONGOWES AND BELVEDERE, (1901 — 1904.) 

Having completed his course of philosophy, Willie returned 
to Clongowes in 1901 for another period of prefecting. Here 
he remained for two years, and he was then transferred 
to the teaching staff of Belvedere College, Dublin, where he 
spent a fruitful year of labour. For, as the immediate 
preparation for the priesthood drew near, zeal for souls that 
was afterwards to become so strong and ardent, began now 
to show itself more markedly in his life. He did much good 
work for the Apostleship of Prayer and for temperance 
among the boys in Belvedere, with whom he was even more 
popular than among those he had left behind in Clongowes. 
The stirring little talks he gave occasionally to his class 
made an impression which some of his pupils still recall. 
Especially was he insistent on the spirit of self-sacrifice and 
on Holy Communion. His attractive character and kind 
ness led many of the boys to give him their confidence and 
seek help and counsel in their difficulties and doubts ; and 
more than one vocation was discussed and decided at these 
interviews. 

A fellow religious who lived with him during his last years 
in the colleges, and who was in America at the time of his 
death, wrote : "I can safely say he was a perfect Jesuit 
and often reminded me of St. John Berchmans. His was 
a combination of real solid piety with a truly human 
character. Bright and joyous himself, he always made 
others happy and was evidently happy to be able to do so. 
To those who knew his self-sacrificing devotedness there 
could be no doubt as to the identity of the heroic Irish Padre 
the first despatches recording his death spoke of. So certain 
was I, that I told my friends here that the hero was Fr. Willie. 
Only three weeks later did I receive corroboration from the 
Irish papers." Yet later on Willie was to reproach himself 
for his want of zeal and general tepidity during his years 
as prefect and master. " I only wish you could see," he 
once wrote to a dear friend, " how heartily ashamed of 
myself God makes me by each fresh grace. Perhaps you 



22 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

will realize this better when I tell you that at one period 
of my religious life, before I was a priest, I led a very careless 
spiritual existence. It began by overwork — of my own 
making — so that often I was not in bed until three in the 
morning, with the usual results. I felt at last I was walking 
near the edge of the precipice, while all £he time, though it 
may sound incredible, God was tugging at my heart for a 
life of perfection, and I was writing down at each triduum 
and retreat my determination to become with His grace 
a saint ! Can you understand now why I am so eloquent 
on the tepid religious ? This could not go on. I was driven 
half mad by the thought of the abuse of grace and the gentle 
pleading day and night of Jesus. Then in the midst of all 
this tepidity, when I was praying little, when there was 
hardly a deliberate act of self-denial in the day, there came 
an extraordinary grace — one I felt I could not resist — to 
make the Holy Hour each week. I actually began to do 
so, though at the time it must have been torture to me, I 
think. I would not do what God wanted me to do, so He 
made me. I fought against Him like a tiger, but His mercy 
and patient gentleness won ; and I should be a strange 
ungrateful creature if I did not long now with all my soul 
to love Him passionately." 

We gather from this touching letter of self-revelation 
that, strenuously active and efficient as he was at his college 
duties, he felt that " God was tugging at his heart for a life 
of perfection " and grace was urging him to more than 
ordinary holiness. Now, too, he began a practice which for 
the remainder of his life he regarded as a fruitful source 
of grace and strength : the Holy Hour. Looking back 
indeed on these years in the light of his maturer experience 
and spiritual progress as a priest, he bewailed them as years 
of careless abuse of grace. God grant that many of us 
may reach even such " tepidity " ! 



THEOLOGY 23 



(5.) THEOLOGY, (1904 — 1907.) 

In September, 1904, Willie Doyle went to Milltown Park, 
Dublin, to begin the study of theology. He now felt the 
handicap of the deficient course of philosophy which his 
ill-health had necessitated. But he worked hard and 
courageously, not so much to become a brilliant theologian 
as to obtain a solid knowledge of all subjects useful to the 
sacred ministry. While he diligently studied Latin manuals 
which he must have often found dull and difficult, he was 
not unmindful of Father de la Colombiere's advice to a 
young theologian : " For myself, had I the opportunity of 
going through my theological studies again, I would, I can 
assure you, give to meditation double the time devoted to 
reading. It is only by meditation that one can gain any 
insight into things spiritual or form any stable opinion upon 
matters controversial." 1 The officially prescribed theological 
lectures and textbooks are, after all, only the skeleton ; it 
is left to the student himself, or rather with God's grace, to 
add substance and life. Willie Doyle strove not only to 
advance in personal holiness, but also carefully devoted 
himself to conscientiously preparing himself for his future 
work of retreats and missions. The numerous manuscript 
books which at this time he filled with extracts, spiritual 
considerations and sermon-plans, serve to show us that it 
was by diligent drudgery and faithful cooperation that he 
merited God's blessing on his fruitful subsequent ministry. 

He seems at this time to have kept a private spiritual 
diary, but of this only a few detached leaves remain. One 
of these is dated 25th November, 1906, and bears the title, 
" The Practice of Humility " : 

" I will strive to get a great contempt for myself, to think 
little of and despise myself, and to pray and desire that 
others may do the same. I have nothing which God has 
not given me ; I can do nothing without God's grace and 

i.— E. Sequin, Life 6f the Ven. Fr. Claude de la Colombitre, 1883, p. 33. The 
Cure of Ars, let us not forget, failed at his examination in theology. — Life by 
A. MoRiiin, Eng. trans. (Burns & Gates, n.d.), p 35. 



26 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



(6.) SOME NOTES WRITTEN DURING THEOLOGY. 

Among the notes which Fr. Doyle recorded during his 
theology, there are many which have a personal touch and 
embody his own ideals and aspirations. Some of them will 
be here quoted in order to help us to understand his ideas 
of holiness. He who was soon to be perhaps imprudent 
himself, at least made no mistake as to what constituted 
true sanctity. 

" How many deceive themselves," he wrote, " in thinking 
sanctity consists in the ' holy follies ' of the saints ! How 
many look upon holiness as something beyond their reach 
or capability, and think that it is to be found only in the 
performance of extraordinary actions. Satisfied that they 
have not the strength for great austerities, the time for much 
prayer, or the courage for painful humiliations, they silence 
their conscience with the thought that great sanctity is not 
for them, that they have not been called to be saints. With 
their eyes fixed on the heroic deeds of the few, they miss 
the daily little sacrifices God asks them to make ; and while 
waiting for something great to prove their love, they lose 
the countless little opportunities of sanctification each day 
bears with it in its bosom." (Sept... 1905.) 

Again he writes to the same effect. 

" What is it to be a saint ? Does it mean that we must 
macerate this flesh of ours with cruel austerities, such as 
we read of in the life-story of some of God's great heroes ? 
Does it mean the bloody scourge, the painful vigil and 
sleepless night, that crucifying of the flesh in even its most 
innocent enjoyment ? No, no, the hand of God does not 
lead us all by that stern path of awful heroism to our reward 
above. He does not ask from all of us the holy thirst for 
suffering, in its highest form, of a Teresa or a Catherine of 
Siena. But sweetly and gently would He lead us along the 
way of holiness by our constant unswerving faithfulness 
to our duty, duty accepted, duty done for His dear sake. 
How many alas ! who might be saints are now leading lives 
of indifferent virtue, because they have deluded themselves 



NOTES DURING THEOLOGY 27 

with the thought that they have no strength to bear the 
' holy follies ' of the saints. How many a fair flower of 
innocence, which God had destined to bloom in dazzling 
holiness, has faded and withered beneath the chill blast of 
a fear of suffering never asked from it." (April, 1905.) 

Word$ such as these, coming from the pen of one who 
was not unfamiliar with scourge and vigil and fast, are helpful 
and consoling. Not that they picture the path of holiness 
as other tlian the royal road of the cross. Fr. Doyle wished 
rather to remove the mirage of an unreal and impossible 
cross from the way of those of us whose true holiness is to 
be found in meeting the daily and hourly little crosses, 
humanly inglorious perhaps, but divinely destined for our 
sanctification. In the lives of canonised saints, and of him 
whose life we are recording, there are doubtless ' holy follies ' 
and grace-inspired imprudences. But these are not the 
essence of sanctity ; they are its bloom, whereas its stem 
is self-conquest. Without these there can be great holiness — 
no terrifying penances marked the life of St. John Berchmans 
or of that winsome fragile nun who is known as the Little 
Flower. But without the slow secret mortification of doing 
ordinary and mostly trivial duties well, there can be no 
spiritual advance. Heroism is not a sudden romantic 
achievement ; it is the fruit of years of humdrum faith 
fulness. This is not only the lesson of Fr. Doyle's heroic 
life and death, it is the idea which here at the outset of his 
apostolic career he clearly fixed for himself. His favourite 
motto was St. Ignatius's phrase, agere contra : Act against 
yourself. Into these two words there is condensed the essence 
of practical and delusion-proof holiness. Act, not merely 
think or feel ; not against outer or imaginary enemies but 
against our lower selves. " How much is comprised in the 
little words agere contra ! Therein is the real secret of 
sanctity, the hidden source from which the saints have drunk 
deep of the love of God and reached that height of glory they 
now enjoy." (Oct., 1905.) 

Again he records his view of heroism, which always had 
an attraction for his chivalrous, impulsive, generous nature. 

" Heroism," he says, " is a virtue which has an attraction 
for every heart. It seems to lift us out of our petty selves 



26 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



(6.) SOME NOTES WRITTEN DURING THEOLOGY. 

Among the notes which Fr. Doyle recorded during his 
theology, there are many which have a personal touch and 
embody his own ideals and aspirations. Some of them will 
be here quoted in order to help us to understand his ideas 
of holiness. He who was soon to be perhaps imprudent 
himself, at least made no mistake as to what constituted 
true sanctity. 

" How many deceive themselves," he wrote, " in thinking 
sanctity consists in the ' holy follies ' of the saints ! How 
many look upon holiness as something beyond their reach 
or capability, and think that it is to be found only in the 
performance of extraordinary actions. Satisfied that they 
have not the strength for great austerities, the time for much 
prayer, or the courage for painful humiliations, they silence 
their conscience with the thought that great sanctity is not 
for them, that they have not been called to be saints. With 
their eyes fixed on the heroic deeds of the few, they miss 
the daily little sacrifices God asks them to make ; and while 
waiting for something great to prove their love, they lose 
the countless little opportunities of sanctification each day 
bears with it in its bosom." (Sept., 1905.) 

Again he writes to the same effect. 

" What is it to be a saint ? Does it mean that we must 
macerate this flesh of ours with cruel austerities, such as 
we read of in the life-story of some of God's great heroes ? 
Does it mean the bloody scourge, the painful vigil and 
sleepless night, that crucifying of the flesh in even its most 
innocent enjoyment ? No, no, the hand of God does not 
lead us all by that stern path of awful heroism to our reward 
above. He does not ask from all of us the holy thirst for 
suffering, in its highest form, of a Teresa or a Catherine of 
Siena. But sweetly and gently would He lead us along the 
way of holiness by our constant unswerving faithfulness 
to our duty, duty accepted, duty done for His dear sake. 
How many alas ! who might be saints are now leading lives 
of indifferent virtue, because they have deluded themselves 



NOTES DURING THEOLOGY 27 

with the thought that they have no strength to bear the 
' holy follies ' of the saints. How many a fair flower of 
innocence, which God had destined to bloom in dazzling 
holiness, has faded and withered beneath the chill blast of 
a fear of suffering never asked from it." (April, 1905.) 

Word$ such as these, coming from the pen of one who 
was not unfamiliar with scourge and vigil and fast, are helpful 
and consoling. Not that they picture the path of holiness 
as other tlian the royal road of the cross. Fr. Doyle wished 
rather to remove the mirage of an unreal and impossible 
cross from the way of those of us whose true holiness is to 
be found in meeting the daily and hourly little crosses, 
humanly inglorious perhaps, but divinely destined for our 
sanctification. In the lives of canonised saints, and of him 
whose life we are recording, there are doubtless ' holy follies ' 
and grace-inspired imprudences. But these are not the 
essence of sanctity ; they are it's bloom, whereas its stem 
is self-conquest. Without these there can be great holiness — 
no terrifying penances marked the life of St. John Berchmans 
or of that winsome fragile nun who is known as the Little 
Flower. But without the slow secret mortification of doing 
ordinary and mostly trivial duties well, there can be no 
spiritual advance. Heroism is not a sudden romantic 
achievement ; it is the fruit of years of humdrum faith 
fulness. This is not only the lesson of Fr. Doyle's heroic 
life and death, it is the idea which here at the outset of his 
apostolic career he clearly fixed for himself. His favourite 
motto was St. Ignatius J s phrase, agere contra : Act against 
yourself. Into these two words there is condensed the essence 
of practical and delusion-proof holiness. Act, not merely 
think or feel ; not against outer or imaginary enemies but 
against our lower selves. " How much is comprised in the 
little words agere contra ! Therein is the real secret of 
sanctity, the hidden source from which the saints have drunk 
deep of the love of God and reached that height of glory they 
now enjoy." (Oct., 1905.) 

Again he records his view of heroism, which always had 
an attraction for his chivalrous, impulsive, generous nature. 

" Heroism," he says, " is a virtue which has an attraction 
for every heart. It seems to lift us out of our petty selves 



28 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

and make us for a moment forget our own selfish interests 
It appeals irresistibly to the noble-minded ; to the cowardly 
even, it is a powerful stimulus. Thus it is that in all times 
the saints have ever had such an attraction for men — they 
are heroes ! In their secret hidden lives of prayer and 
penance men saw a heroism which was not the one sharp 
pang of a fearless deed, leaving their names to history as 
a nation's pride, but a nobler heroism of a life of countless 
noble deeds, unknown perhaps to man ; by God alone were 
their secret victories seen." (Nov., 1905.) 

A few months later he wrote out a short sermon on Heroism, 
taking as his text 52. John x. n. : " The good shepherd 
giveth his life for his sheep." 

" And you, (he cries), wives and bread-winners, have you 
no task within the fold, no little flock to tend and guard ? 
Has not God committed to your care the innocent lambs, 
the little ones of your household ? Within the pasture of 
your own family are you the good shepherd, or the thief 
and the hireling ? . . . Jesus does not ask from His 
shepherds now the shedding of their life-blood But He 
does ask from them a death more hard, more lingering, a 
life-long death of sacrifice for His flock, . . . the daily 
crucifying of every evil passion, the stamping out of sloth, 
of anger, of drunkenness, the constant striving after the 
holiness of your state of life. . . . Look upon the great 
Christ, the Good Shepherd, hanging on the Cross. He is our 
model, our hero. Gaze well upon His bleeding wounds, His 
mangled limbs, that sad agony-stricken face. Look well, 
and pray with generous heart that he may make you in word 
and deed heroes in His service." (April, 1906.) 

The final phase of Fr. Doyle's life has been so often described 
as heroic by those who were well fitted to estimate heroic 
service in a human cause, that these few thoughts on heroism 
written many years before, must have for us not only a 
biographical interest, but an earnest impressiveness. They 
were not only written, they were lived. 

A similar personal interest attaches to this little sketch 
of St. Francis Xavier's death. 

" Xavier's hour has come, the hour of his eternal reward 
and never-ending bliss. In a little hut, open on all sides 



NOTES DURING THEOLOGY 29 

to the biting blast, the great Apostle lies dying. Far from 
home and all that makes this life pleasant, far from the 
quiet of his own religious house, alone upon this barren 
isle, our Saint will yield his soul to God. What joy fills 
his heart now at the thought of the sacrifices he has made, 
the honours he has despised, the pleasures left behind. Happy 
sufferings ! Happy penances ! He thinks of what his life 
might have been, the life of a gay worldling, and in gratitude 
he lifts his eyes to thank his God for the graces given him 
What matter now the hardships he has endured ? All, all, 
are past, for now the sweet reward of heaven is inviting 
him to his eternal rest." (3 Dec., 1905.) 

As we read of this death-scene of the great Jesuit apostle, 
unsheltered and unhelped, in his wind-swept hut on San- 
Cian, our thoughts inevitably pass to another Jesuit 
missioner's death-bed on the shell-swept ridge of Frezenberg 
Thus, too, he faced his eternal rest. 



30 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

CHAPTER III. 
TERTIANSHIP (1907—1908) 



TWO years in the novitiate, seven years in the colleges, 
three years at philosophy, three years at theology — it is 
a long professional course. But it is not yet completed. 
St. Ignatius did not consider the Jesuit fully formed until, in 
addition to the two years' noviceship, he has undergone a 
third year of probation, or a tertianship, as it is called. The 
long years of study and teaching have left their impress on 
the religious, especially if pursued with that thoroughness 
which the Founder inculcates. " Let them anxiously and 
constantly apply their minds to their studies ; let them in 
their prayers frequently ask for the grace to advance in 
learning." So speak the Rules for Scholastics. And 
assuming this programme to have been carried out, 
St. Ignatius considered that his men needed a year in " the 
school of the heart " before they were fit to work in Christ's 
vineyard. The tertianship is the noviceship over again ; 
once more the spiritual exercises are undertaken for an 
entire month. Yet there is a difference, for after years of 
study and discipline, the raw schoolboy has developed into 
a mature religious and has been ordained priest. The 
tertianship is the last training-period of a Jesuit, often it 
is his last chance of quiet leisure and spiritual reflection. 
Hence for many it is a turning-point in life ; it sheds a new 
light on the past hurried years seen now in critical retrospect, 
it creates energy and reawakens ideals which permanently 
influence the future. So, at least, it was for Willie Doyle. 

In October, 1907, he went to Tronchiennes, near Ghent, to 
make his tertianship. For business reasons his route to 
Belgium was through Pa? is. This gave him the opportunity 
of making several excursions of devotion, some details of 
which survive in an account which he sent home. A kind 
friend had provided him with his fare second class to Paray- 
le-Monial, the home of Saint Margaret Mary. By travelling 



TERTIANSHIP 31 

third class he was able to go to Lyons and thus visit Ars, to 
whose saintly Cure, Blessed John Vianney, he had a special 
devotion. At Paray the Jesuit Fathers were living scattered 
in twos or threes about the town. He found his way to a 
poor little house where he was welcomed by an old, almost 
blind, French Jesuit who was just sitting down to supper 
when he arrived. "A lay brother put before me," he wrote, 
" what I thought was a rather large bowl of soup for one ; 
but nothing daunted I was starting to demolish the lot 
when the brother whispered in alarm : Oh, mon pere, c'est 
pour tous ! " ] Here at Paray Fr. Doyle had the happiness 
of saying Mass at the very altar where our Lord appeared 
so often to Saint Margaret Mary. In spite of missing a 
train, and after an adventurous journey on a very primitive 
steam-tram, he found himself in the spot hallowed by the 
Cure of Ars. Fr. Doyle insisted on seeing everything — the 
room in which the saint died, the half-burnt curtains said 
to have been damaged by the devil, the little pan in which 
the holy man cooked the flour-lumps which he called cakes. 
He was allowed as a special privilege to sit in the Cure's 
confessional, and above all he was able to say Mass at his 
shrine, using the saint's chalice. Just above the altar 
reposed the Cure's body in a case of glass and gold. " It 
gave one a strange feeling," wrote Fr. Doyle, " to see the holy 
old man lying before one during Mass, calm and peaceful, 
with a heavenly smile on his face, just as he died fifty years 
ago." " I shall never forget my visit to Ars," he concluded ; 
" I knew all about the Blessed Cure's life, so that each spot 
had an interest and charm for me." 

After this Fr. Doyle spent two days in Lyons, saying Mass 
twice at the shrine of our Lady of Fourvieres. Then back 
to Paris where during an interval of business he paid a visit 
to what was once the Jesuit house in the Rue de Sevres. 
"All the Fathers are gone," he wrote, " and now in each room 
of the huge house a family is living, for it has been let by the 
Government as a tenement house, whilst the beautiful church 
has been turned into a cinema hall. In another street where 
we had a large college, a stage has been erected on the very 

i. — " Oh, Father, that's for all of you ! " 



32 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

altar ; and where people once heard Mass, they now listen 
to music-hall songs. A stirring contrast to this is the per 
petual adoration at Montmartre — bands of women pray all 
day and men watch at night." Fr. Doyle's little trip was 
soon over and he arrived in Tronchiennes a few days before 
the opening of the Long Retreat (the Spiritual Exercises 
for thirty days), which, with three " repose days " lasted 
from loth October till 13th November. Writing in December, 
Fr. Doyle thus refers to the retreat and the tertianship : 

" I shall not try to describe the Long Retreat, as we call 
our thirty days' retreat. It is a wonderful time and leaves 
an impression on me such as no number of eight days' retreats 
could do. There is no doubt that it is a trying time, though 
I found it much easier than I expected. But the thought 
that this is the Great Retreat, the harvest time of graces 
helps one wonderfully. The thirty days' retreat is indeed 
a great privilege, yet the year we are given here is even a 
greater favour. St. Ignatius intended that, after devoting 
fifteen or sixteen years to acquiring all the knowledge possible, 
this year of tertianship should be devoted wholly to the 
study of perfection ; hence practically the entire day is 
given to spiritual things. Are we not fortunate in having 
such an opportunity of doing something for our souls and 
acquiring a store of grace for the battle which is to come ? " 

Father Doyle was much helped by the Spiritual Father, 
Pere Adolphus Petit, (author of the well-known book, Sacerdos 
rite instructus), and he thus describes him in a letter : 

" There is a wonderful little old priest here, named 
Fr. Petit, small in name and small in size — he is about three 
feet high. He is eighty-five, but as active as a man of thirty, 
being constantly away giving retreats. I have tried several 
times to get down to the chapel at four o'clock in the morning 
before him, but he is always there when I come in. He is 
a dear saintly old man with wonderful faith and simplicity 
In the middle of an exhortation in the chapel, he will turn 
round to the Tabernacle and say : ' Is not that true, my 
Jesus ? ' He is giving a retreat here this moment to a 
hundred and ten gentlemen." 

It is from his tertianship to his death that Fr. Doyle's 
spiritual notes are most copious. He had evidently 



TERTIANSHIP 33 

destroyed all his earlier manuscripts. Even those which 
now survive were destined for the flames. The writei left 
strict instructions that all his personal notes should be des 
troyed. It is only by disobeying the author's pious wishes — 
an act which, now that he is beyond the temptations of 
earth, he will surely forgive — that these self-revelations have 
been reverently rifled, in the hope that thus his good work 
for souls may be prolonged, and that though dead he may 
yet speak to us. Only let us remember that these intimate 
outpourings were written solely for God and himself. We 
are not reading an autobiography or a journal intime written 
for publication. We are privileged to see the real inner 
development of a saint, a hero in the making. 

According to these notes the tertianship was a landmark 
in Fr Doyle's life. He went apart into a desert place to 
commune with his Master ; his sojourn was to him a rebirth ; 
he emerged reinvigorated and recreated ; henceforth to him 
to live was Christ and to die was gain. It was especially 
in the Long Retreat — his notes on which will be presently 
given — that the call to heroic perfection came to him clear 
and strong, concentrating into its intensity all the past 
yearnings of a lifetime. But indeed during the year (July 
1907 to July 1908) he had altogether fifty-two days of 
retreat — eight days before ordination, thirty days in the long 
retreat, two triduums, and eight days more at the close of 
the tertianship. In January, 1908, he also gave a retreat 
(his first) to some fifty girls in a convent at Hamont, near 
Antwerp ; and during the Lent of that year he gave missions 
in Aberdeen and Yarmouth. Altogether it was for him a 
wonderful year of grace and fervour. 

This is how he reviewed the year during his retreat in 
July, 1908 : 

' I have finished the tertianship. Looking back on the 
past year, I see now in how many ways I could have spent 
this time more profitably, been more faithful to order of 
time, more exact, etc. At the same time I thank God from 
my heart that this year has been fruitful in grace, and, I 
feel, has worked a wonderful change in me. I feel a greater 
desire to do all I can to please God and to become holy ; a 
greater attraction for prayer, more desire for mortification 



34 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

and increased facility in performing acts of self-denial. I 
know the work of my sanctification is only begun, the hard 
work and the real work remains to be done. 

" This closing retreat of the tertianship has confirmed 
the resolution made during the Long Retreat to refuse God 
nothing, to strive might and main to make up for the past 
wasted years of my religious life by all the fervour and 
earnestness I am capable of. 

" The desire to be a saint has been growing in my heart 
all during this year, especially the last couple of months. 
God has given me this desire ; He will not refuse the grace, 
if only I am faithful in the future. How good you have 
been to me, O my God, waiting so patiently for me to return 
to You ! Help me now generously to do all You want me 
to do. Amen." 

He then recorded a solemn resolution to shape the 
remainder of his life according to two great principles : (i) 
Vince teipsum — Age contra (Conquer thyself — Act against) 
(2) Communia non communiter (Common things uncommonly 
well.) These are indeed the leading ideas of that type of 
spirituality which we may call the Ignatian, so much has it 
been impressed on the Catholic world through the 
instrumentality of the Spiritual Exercises of the Spanish 
soldier-saint. He does not seek to prescribe with mechanical 
precision the free flight of the soul to God or the workings 
of the gratis-given graces of the Holy Spirit. Rather does 
he show how " to conquer oneself and regulate one's life 
and to avoid coming to a determination through any 
inordinate affection." His object is to remove obstacles 
and, so to speak, to give God a chance. This he does by 
leading men to perform spiritual exercises, to become soul- 
athletes and soldiers of Christ, to undergo a sort of drill 
and discipline. St. Ignatius is intensely earnest and 
practical, he applies conscious determination to every detail. 
In his meditations such phrases as id quod volo, (what I 
wish), and ut fructum aliquem capiam, (that I may reap 
some fruit), are typical of his practical view of prayer as a 
consciously designed means to self -conquest. " Vincc, 
teipsum," wrote Fr. Doyle in some notes of a retreat for 
priests. " This is the secret of the Exercises. ' I learnt no 






TERTIANSHIP 35 

other lesson from my master Ignatius,' said St. Francis 
Xavier, referring to his first retreat at Paris. Here we all 
fail — good men, zealous men, holy men. Prayer is easy, 
works of zeal attractive ; but going against self, till grace 
and perseverance give facility, is cruel work, a hard battle." 

St. Ignatius, with the true instinct of a general, wishes us 
not merely to defend ourselves against sensuality and 
deordination, but to take the offensive (agere contra), if we 
wish to be distinguished (insignes) in the service of Christ. 
And once more with soldier-like precision, Ignatius plans 
the campaign. He will have no vague enthusiasm, no 
emotional generalities ; he is always relentlessly methodical 
and detailed. Vince teipsum is not enough, he also adopts 
the policy of divide et imp era. 1 He did not invent the 
Particular Examen, 2 which attacks sins or faults one by 
one or essays the conquest of virtues in single file ; but 
he helped to make it a widespread practice of the spiritual 
life. St. Ignatius merely laid down the general rule of 
attempting one thing at a time and concentrating one's 
energy on an immedia e objective. It is for each, under 
proper guidance, to apply this maxim of spiritual tactics 
to his own character and circumstances. Intensified into a 
process of spiritual statistics — such as Fr, Doyle adopted 
for his aspirations 3 — the Particular Examen would certainly 
be unsuitable to many souls. In all such delicate matters 
of spiritual psychology there are no rigid general rules. 

Fr. Doyle's second maxim " common things not 
commonly " is adopted from St. John Berchmans, and is 
thoroughly characteristic of St. Ignatius's realism, and what 
may be called his idea of intensive culture rather than mere 
extension. " I will strive ever to perform each action as 
perfectly as possible," continues Fr. Doyle, " paying special 
attention to small duties, e.g., saying grace, odd Hail Marys 
etc. It seems to me that God is asking this particularly 

I. — Divide and conquer. 

2. — On this see also p. 112. Even the pagan Sextius practised a daily exam 
ination of conscience (Seneca, De ira iii. 36, i). Cassian (Collationes v. 14) 
advocated the Particular Examen. (The word 'examen' is hardly English, but 
it has become so customary in Catholic devotional literature that it would be 
pedantic to avoid it.) Benjamin Franklin (who presumably never read the 
Spiritual Exercises) practised this method and kept a graphical record of 
particular faults. — Autobiography ch. 6, ed. Hutchinson & Co., 1903, p. 97. 

3.— Seep. 113. 



36 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

from me, and by this means I am to find the chief road to 
sanctity." In appearance this resolution of minute fidelity 
is modest and easy ; but in reality it constitutes a slow 
heroism of self-conquest, a martyrdom, whose pain is drawn 
out into a life-long succession of pin-pricks. Thus^ testified 
P6re de la Colombi6re who made a similar resolution in his 
tertianship retreat : l 

" It seems as if it would be easy to spend any other kind 
of life holily ; and the more austere, solitary and obscure 
it might be and separated from all intercourse, the more 
pleasing it would appear to me to be. As to what usually 
terrifies nature, such as prisons, constant sickness and even 
death, all this seems easy compared with this everlasting 
war with self, this vigilance against the attacks of the world 
and of self-love, this living death in the midst of the world. 
When I think of this, I foresee that life will seem to be of 
prodigious length, and that death will never come soon 
enough." 

This grim earnestness of minute and painstaking perfection. 
Ihis concentration of enthusiasm into the narrow mould of 
daily duties and rules, is characteristic of the Jesuit type 
of holiness. Doubtless, in holiness, as in art or literature, 
there are types, and within those types there is scope for 
individuality. In our Father's house there are many 
mansions, and so too in the Church Militant there are diverse 
and even divergent, though not contradictory, types and 
schools of sanctity, coextensive with the myriad richness of 
the human mind. The catalogue of the saints includes 
King Louis, the Crusader, as well as Simeon Stylites, repeating 
litanies on his pillar, Joan of Arc, the warrior-maiden, 
the mystic Teresa of Jesus, the verminous beggar 
Benedict Joseph Labre. Is it not one of the marks of the 
Church that within the unity of the faith she not only 
tolerates but fosters variety and diversity ? There are many 
religious orders each with its own speciality and characteristic, 
many rites and ceremonies, a richness of liturgy, a mu titude 
of devotions ; there is room for everyone with tolerance 
and charity. It has, however, been sometimes said that the 

i. — Lights in Prayer (Quarterly Series), p. 140. 



TERTIANSHIP 37 

spirituality of St. Ignatius is a cast-iron system, repressive 
of emotions and cramping individuality. But this is merely 
a secondhand perversion, a criticism based on texts rather 
than on living men. The Spiritual Exercises, which have 
been aptly termed a soldier's pocket-book, cannot be under 
stood apart from the living voice of the master and the 
spiritual experience of the exercitant. In his preliminary 
annotations St. Ignatius instructs the director to "allow the 
Creator to act immediately with the creature and the creature 
with its Creator and Lord " ; and again, he insists that the 
exercises " ought to be suited to the disposition of those 
who wish to make them." Within the ambit of certain 
general principles, each soul must pursue its own 
individual path. 

There is a saying attributed to St. Ignatius which ought 
not to be forgotten : " It is very dangerous to try to force 
all to reach perfection by the same road ; such a one does 
not understand how manifold are the gifts of the Holy 
Spirit." l It is not due to St. Ignatius, but to some of his 
interpreters, that the flexibility of the Exercises, for instance 
in the modes of meditation and prayer, has not always been 
realised. Sometimes, too, those who write for the beginners 
in the art of prayer think it necessary to enter into a rather 
disconcerting apparatus of rules and details. In the last 
analysis these expedients are all means to the end, which is 
converse with God. The Directory ol the Exercises, com 
posed by order of Fr. Claudius Aquaviva, after explaining 
the methods proposed by St. Ignatius, adds : 2 

" It must not be thought that thereby are excluded other 
methods which the Holy Spirit teaches and which men, 
exercised in the spiritual life, adopt according to experience, 
reason and sound doctrine, or which each one discovers by 
practice to be useful for his spiritual progress. This also 
applies to Ours, always with the approval or consent of the 
superior or spiritual director, to whom each one should 
manifest his method of prayer, all the more so if in any way 
it departs from the ordinary." 

i. — Selectae S. Patris nostri Ignatii Sentential 8. So also St. Francis Borgia 
— P. Suau, Histoire de 6. F. de Borgia^ p. 393. 
2. — Directoriuin 37. 13. 



38 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Such reasonable liberty is perfectly compatible with the 
general utility of certain helps, expedients, and devices for 
helping weak human nature in the spiritual combat. We 
must neither slavishly imitate each practice or particularity 
of every or any saint ; nor yet must we be so deluded with 
a sense of our own self-sufficiency, as to reject 'summarily 
those methods and practices which have been adopted and 
recommended by many masters of the spiritual life. 

These considerations will not be irrelevant when we come 
to read Fr. Doyle's diary and retreat-notes. As we begin 
with his Long Retreat, it may be useful to add here by way 
of preface a few general ideas about the scope of the Exercises. 
According to St. Ignatius, " the name of spiritual exercises 
is applied to any method of preparing and disposing the 
soul to free itself from all inordinate affections, and after 
it has freed itself from them, to seek and find the will of 
God concerning the ordering of life for the salvation of one's 
soul." 1 Thus a retreat is designed for earnest souls — only 
in a very attenuated form can the Exercises be adapted to 
a mission for sinners ; and it has a definite object — to find 
God's will. At the beginning St. Ignatius lays down the 
" first principle and foundation " which must be admitted 
at the outset. It is the basis of all valuation of life : Man 
was made for God, all other things for man to bring him 
to God. Thus the exercitant accepts in advance and in 
general the practical consequences which logically follow 
from this acceptance of the Creator's sovereign rights. Then 
for a whole week he must seek to eliminate all sin and disorder 
and to examine his soul. In the second week the exercitant 
is brought face to face with Jesus Christ. Will he follow 
the invitation and enlist in the King's service ? He must 
count up the cost, he must study Christ's standard, he must 
at least aspire to the highest and noblest service. Then 
comes the great choice, which St. Ignatius calls " the 
election," and which is the culminating point of the Exercises. 



i. — Annotations, § i. Reference will in future be made to the convenient 
English translation of The Text of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, 
London, Burns & Gates, 1913 * . See also The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius 
Loyola^ Spanish and English -with a continuous Commentary, by Joseph 
Rickaby, S.J., 1915. 



TERTIANSHIP 39 

In ordinary retreats, of course, there is no great decisive 
choice to be made, 1 but there is always some " reformation 
of life," some re-ordering of one's life in the light of the 
great spiritual truths and scenes which have been marshalled 
before the soul. God's will is known and accepted. One 
more week is spent in meditating on the Passion, and a 
fourth and last is devoted to the contemplation of the Risen 
Master, in order to habituate the soul to pure love and to 
strengthen the resolutions taken. Such, in brief essentials, 
are the Exercises through which in their entirety each Jesuit 
passes twice in his life, once as a novice at the outset of his 
spiritual life, and finally as a priest at the outset of his 
ministry. The following chapter contains the diary which 
for his own guidance Fr. Doyle kept during his second and 
last Long Retreat. 



i. — In his Long- Retreat Fr. Doyle made his election to volunteer for the 
foreign mission. See p. 53. 



40 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

CHAPTER IV. 
DIARY OF LONG RETREAT 1 

Tronchiennes, loth October, 1907. 

I BEGIN the Long Retreat this evening with very varied 
feelings. I feel a great desire and determination to 
make this retreat as I have never made one before, 
for I know this is the turning point in my life — I can never 
be the same again. I want to be generous with God and 
to refuse Him nothing. I do not want to say, " I will go 
just so far and no farther ." Hence I feel my cowardly and 
weak nature dreading this retreat, for I feel our Lord is 
going to ask some big sacrifice from me, that He expects 
much from me. 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. My loving Jesus, 
I will, I will be generous with You now at last. But You 
must aid me, it must be Your work, I am so cowardly. Make 
me see clearly Your holy will. Domine, quid me vis facere ? 2 

[THE FOUNDATION 3 .] 

God had some special end in creating me, some particular 
part in His great plan. I was not created as it were one 
of a great number who came into the world on the same 
day ; but God had a particular object in giving me life. Why 
did He create me ? 

How miserable has been my service of God since I entered 

i. — The retreat-journal is reproduced just as it stands. A few heading^ (in 
square brackets] have been inserted and some explanatory footnotes added. 
Reference should, of course, be made throughout to the text of the Spiritual 
Exercises. 

2. — Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? — Ads, 9, 6. 

3. — St. Ignatius calls this preliminary consideration on the end of man "the 
principle and foundation" (principium et fundamentum j. 



LONG RETREAT 41 

religion ! A bit fervent one day, the next dissipated and 
careless, even since my ordination. I have fallen away 
from the fervent way in which I had resolved to live hence 
forth. I feel inclined to despond ; but with God's help 
I will go on, trying now at last to make some little progress 
in serving Him worthily. My true service of God consists 
in performing the ordinary actions of the day as perfectly 
and as fervently as I can, with a pure intention for love of 
my Jesus. It is a mistake to think that I can only serve 
Him by preaching, saving souls, etc. What would have 
become of me if I had treated an earthly master as I have 
served God ? 

To be indifferent does not mean to desire things which 
are hard to nature, but a readiness and determination to 
embrace them when once the will of God is known. In 
this sense I think I am indifferent about going to the Congo. 
But I must force myself to be willing to accept the way of 
life which God seems to be leading me to and wants me to 
adopt. My God, I dread it — but " not my will but Thine." 

God has a perfect right to ask from me what He wills ; 
I am His servant. How then can I be free to do or not 
whatever He may ask ? 

I close the Fundamentum with feelings of humility and 
sorrow at the thought of my past service of God. How 
little reverence ! Thank God, I have still time to make up 
for it. One thing alone can repair the lost years — a life 
of great fervour. 



FIRST WEEK. 

[SIN.] 

I can say with all truth that only for the great mercy 
of God I should now have been in hell. I deserved it for my 
years of tepidity in Clongowes. Never did the good God 
show His goodness to me more than in saving me from 
grievous sin. I have here a second motive of gratitude to 
urge me to do all He wants. 

The meditation on the barren fig-tree (5. Luke 13.) recalled 



42 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

to my mind this gospel which I read in the Mass at Paray- 
e-Monial. For sixteen years has Jesus been seeking fruit 
from my soul, and especially in these last three years of 
preparation for the priesthood. I have no excuse for He 
has told me how to produce that fruit, especially by the 
exact discharge of each little duty of the moment. " Spare 
it for this year," Never shall I have this opportunity again 
of becoming holy ; and if now I do not " dig round " this 
unfruitful tree so that it bear much fruit, Jesus will surely 
" cut it down " by withdrawing His graces and loving 
invitations. 

Truly I have ever been in the community " a running 
sore " of harm and evil example. My Jesus, can I ever 
make amends for all the harm I have done ? Help me 
from this instant to try and do so by my fervent earnest 
life. Help me to become thoroughly changed and to do 
all You want of me. 

This thought came to me. If Jesus wants me to go to 
the Congo, I shall do more for souls there than by remaining 
at home. Besides, my sacrifice will obtain grace for others 
to do more good than I ever could. 

" Because you have sinned, cursed be the earth in your 
work." (Genesis 3. 17.) I see here the reason why my work 
for souls must be unfruitful God will never bless it while 
I have an affection for sin or lead a careless life. 



[HELL.] 

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 ! If God treated me as I deserved, I should 
be in hell now. Shall I ever again have cause for grumbling 
or complaining, no matter what may happen ? My habit 
of constantly speaking uncharitably of others, and, in general, 
faults of the tongue, seem to me the chief reason why I 



LONG RETREAT 43 

derive so little fruit from my Mass and spiritual duties. 
Nothing dries up the fountains of grace so much as an 
affection for sin 

[DEATH.] 

Death is the end of all things here, the end of time, of 
merit, of pain and mortification, of a hard life. It is the 
commencement of an eternal life of happiness and joy. " God 
will wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Apoc. 21, 4.) In 
this light, life is short indeed and penance sweet. I thought 
if I knew I had only one year to live, how fervently I would 
spend it, how each moment would be utilised. Yet I know 
well I may not live a week more — do I really believe this ? 



[JUDGEMENT.] 

Oct. i6th. Meditating on the Particular Judgement, God 
gave me great light. I realised that I should have to give 
an exact account of every action of my life and for every 
instant of time. To take only my seventeen years of religious 
life, what account could I give of the 6,000 hours of 
meditation, 7,000 Masses, 12,000 examinations of conscience, 
etc. ? Then my time — how have I spent every moment ? 
I resolved not to let a day more pass without seriously trying 
to reform my life in the manner in which I perform my 
ordinary daily duties. For years I have been " going to 
begin," and from time to time made some slight efforts at 
improvement. But now, dear Jesus, let this change be the 
work of Thy right hand. 

To perform each action well I will try and do them : (a) 
with a pure intention often renewed, (b) attente — earnestly, 
punctually exactly, (c) devote — with great fervour. 

How little I think of committing venial sin, and how 
soon I forget I have done so ! Yet God hates nothing more 
than even the shadow of sin, nothing does more harm to 
my spiritual progress and hinders any real advance in 
holiness. My God, give me an intense hatred and dread 
and horror of the smallest sin. I want to please You and 



44 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

love You and serve You as I have never done before. Let 
me begin by stamping out all sin in my soul. 

We could not take pleasure in living in the company of 
one whose body is one running, festering sore ; neither can 
God draw us close to Himself, caress and love us, if our souls 
are covered with venial sin, more loathsome and horrible 
in His eyes than the most foul disease. To avoid mortal 
sin I must carefully guard against deliberate venial sin, so 
to avoid venial sin I must fly from the shadow of imperfection 
in my actions. How often in the past have I done things 
when I did not know if they were sins or only deliberate 
imperfections — and how little I cared, my God ! 



[THE PRODIGAL SON 1 .] 

One of the obstacles to my leading a fervent life is the 
thought of what others may think. I would often wish to 
do some act of mortification, but I am prevented because 
I know others will see it. Again, I desire to keep certain 
rules which I have often broken (e.g. Latin conversation), 
but a false shame, a fear of what others may say, stops me.- 
I know this is a foolish, mean and small spirit ; but it is 
alas ! too true in my case. I must pray to overcome it 
and make some generous acts against this false shame 
and pride. 

For fifteen years has Jesus been waiting for me to return 
to Him, to return to the fervour of my first year of religious 
life. During that time how many pressing and loving 
invitations has He not given me ? What lights and 
inspirations, remorse of conscience, and how many good 
resolves which were never carried into effect. O my God, 
I feel now as if I cannot resist You longer. Your infinite 
patience and desire to bring me to You has broken the ice 
of my cold heart " I will arise and go " to You, humbled 
and sorrowful, and for the rest of my life give You of my 
very best. Help me, sweet Jesus, by Your grace, for I am 
weak and cowardly. 

i. — A meditation on God's mercy is usually added at the end of the First 
Week of the Exercises. 

2. — " Let all . . . speak Latin." (Rules uf Scholastics, 10.) 



LONG RETREAT 45 



FRUIT OF FIRST WEEK. 

I realise in a way I never did before that God created 
me for His service, that He has a strict right that I should 
serve Him perfectly, and that every moment of my life is 
His and given to me for the one end of praising and serving 
Him. I recalled with horror how often I have wandered 
from this my end, what an appalling amount of time I have 
wasted, and how few of my actions were done for God, or 
worthy of being offered to Him. I see what I should have 
been and what I am. But the thought of Jesus waiting 
and eagerly looking out for me, the prodigal, during fifteen 
years, has filled me with hope and confidence and hew resolve 
to turn to my dearest Jesus and give Him all He asks. 

I have begun to try to perform each little action with 
great fervour and exactness, having as my aim to get back 
the fervour of my first year's novitiate. 

Domine, quid me vis facer e P 1 I am ready to do Your 
will, no matter how hard it may seem to me. 

17 October, 1907. Amen. 



SECOND WEEK. 

18 Oct., 1907. 

[ON THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.] 

I seemed at prayer to hear Jesus asking me if I were willing 
to do all He would ask of me. I feel much less fear than in 
the first week, of what this may be, and greater courage and 
desire even for sacrifices. 

This thought came to me : I am not to take the lives of 
others in the house as the standard of my own, what may 
be lawful for them is not for me ; their life is most pleasing 
to God, such a life for me would not be so ; God wants some 
thing higher, nobler, more generous from me, and for this 
will offer me special graces. 

i. — Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? — Acts 9, 6. 



46 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

Meditating on the Kingdom of Christ, the thought suddenly 
came to me to make this offering : aeterne Domine . . . 
dummodo sit maius servitium Tuum et laus Tua . . . et 
si Maiestas Tua sanctissima voluerit me eligere ac recipere ad 
talem vitam et statum, me Tibi offero pro Missione Congolensi. 
Fiat voluntas Tua. Amen x 

I feel that I could go through fire and water to serve such 
a man as Napoleon, that no sacrifice he could ask would be 
too hard. What would the army think of me if Napoleon 
said, " I want you to do so and so," and I replied, " But, 
your Majesty, I am very sensitive to cold, I want to have 
a sleep in the afternoon, to rest when I am tired, and I really 
could not do without plenty of good things to eat ! " — 
would I not deserve to have my uniform torn from me and 
be driven from the army, not even allowed to serve in the 
ranks ? How do I serve Jesus my King ? What kind of 
service ? generous or making conditions ? in easy things 
but not in hard ones ? What have I done for Jesus ? What 
am I doing for Jesus ? What shall I do for Jesus ? 



[THE NATIVITY.] 

What impressed me most in the meditiation on the Nativity 
was the thought that Jesus could have been born in wealth 
and luxury, or at least with the ordinary comforts of life, 
, but He chose all that was hard, unpleasant and uncomfortable. 
This He did for me, to show me the life I must lead 
jor Him. If I want to be with Christ, I must lead the life 
of Christ, and in that life there was little of what was pleasing 
to nature. I think I have been following Christ, yet how 
pleasant and comfortable my life has always been — ever 
avoiding cold, hunger, hard work, disagreeable things, 
humiliations, etc. My Jesus, You are speaking to my heart 
now. I cannot mistake Your voice or hide from myself 
what You want from me and what my future life should 
be. Help me for I am weak and cowardly. 

i. — "O eternal Lord . . . provided it be for Thy greater service and 
praise . . . and if Thy most Holy Majesty be pleased to choose and receive 
me for such a life and state," (these words are taken from St. Ignatius's 
meditation on the Kingdom of Christ), I offer myself to Thee for the Congo 
Mission. Thy will be done. Amen. 



LONG RETREAT 47 

By entering religion and taking my vows I have given 
myself over absolutely to God and His service. He, there 
fore, has a right to be served in the way He wishes. If then 
He asks me to enter on a hard, mortified life and spend 
myself working for Him, how can I resist His will and desire ? 
" Oh my God, make me a saint, and I consent to suffer all 
You ask for the rest of my life." What is God asking from 
me now ? Shall I go back on that offering ? 



[THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.] 

Great as was the poverty of Jesus in the cave at Bethlehem, 
it was nothing compared to His destitution during the Flight 
into Egypt. Again this was voluntary and chosen and 
borne propter me 1 . 

I contrast the obedience of St. Joseph with my obedience. 
His so prompt, unquestioning, uncomplaining, perfect ; mine 
given so grudgingly, perhaps exterior, but not interior con 
formity with the will of the Superior. I realise my faults 
in this matter, and for the future will try to practise the most 
perfect obedience, even and especially in little things. " The 
obedient man will speak of victory." (Proverbs 21, 28.) 



[THE HIDDEN LIFE.] 

During the reflection on the Hidden Life I got a light 
that here was something in which I could easily imitate 
our Lord and make my life resemble His. I felt a strong 
impulse to resolve to take up as one of the chief objects of 
my life the exact and thorough performance of each duty, 
trying to do it as Jesus would have done, with the same 
pure intention, exquisite exactness and fervour. To copy in 
all my actions — walking, eating, praying — Jesus, my model 
in the little house of Nazareth. This light was sudden, clear 
and strong. To do this perfectly will require constant, 
unflagging fervour. Will not this be part of my " hard 
life " ? ^___ 

i. — For my sake. 



48 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

I should examine all my actions, taking Jesus as my model 
and example. What a vast difference between my prayer 
and His ; between my use of time, my way of speaking, 
walking, dealing with others, etc., and that of the child 
Jesus ! If I could only keep Him before my eyes always, 
my life would be far different from what it has been. 

Each fresh meditation on the life of our Lord impresses 
on me more and more the necessity of conforming my life 
to His in every detail, if I wish to please Him and become 
holy. To do something great and heroic may never come, 
but I can make my life heroic by faithfully and daily putting 
my best effort into each duty as it comes round. 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. 

[THE TWO STANDARDS.] 

My victory over myself, my inclinations, is a victory won 
for the cause of Jesus. I have been a deserter to the camp 
of Satan, a traitor ; but now my King has pardoned me 
and received me back. How am I going to show my gratitude 
and make up for the past which I cannot recall — the time 
lost, duties omitted or done without love or fervour, little 
sacrifices refused, my many, many sins ? Shall I not be 
busy at every hour, fighting for my King, gaining victory 
after victory over the enemy, over myself ? My Jesus, help 
me now to work for You, to slave for You, to fight for You. 
and then to die for You ! 



[THE THREE CLASSES OF MEN.] 

It is easy for me to test my love for Jesus. Do I love 
what He loved and came down from heaven to find — suffering, 
humiliation, contempt, want of all things, inconveniences, 
hunger, weariness, cold ? The more I seek for and embrace 
these things, the nearer am I drawing to Jesus and the deeper 
is my love for Him. While praying for light to know what 



LONG RETREAT 49 

God wants from me in the matter of mortifying my appetite, 
a voice seemed to say : " There are other things besides 
food in which you can be generous with Me, other hard things 
which I want you to do." I thought of all the secret self 
denial contained in constant hard work, not giving up when 
a bit tired, not yielding to desire for sleep, not running off 
to bed if a bit unwell, bearing little sufferings without relief, 
cold and heat without complaint, and, above all, the constant 
never-ending mortification to do each action perfectly. This 
light has given me a good deal of consolation, for I see I 
can do much for Jesus that is hard without being singular' 
or departing from common life. 

It seems to me that Jesus is asking from me a life in which 
I am to make war upon " comfortableness " as far as possible, 
a life without comfort, even that which is allowed by 
the rule. 

The example of men of the Third Class in the world should 
shame me. What determination, what prolonged effort, 
what deadly earnestness, in the man who has determined 
to succeed in his profession ! No sacrifice is too great for 
him, he wants to succeed, he will succeed. My desire, so 
far, to be a saint is only the desire of the man of the First 
Class. It gratifies my pride, but I make no real progress 
in perfection — I do not really will it. 

The love of Jesus makes the impossible easy and sweet. 



[THE THREE DEGREES OF HUMILITY.] 

I have now reached the great meditation, the crucial point , 
of the retreat. God has been very good to me in enlightening 
my mind to see His will and in filling my heart with a most 
ardent desire to do it — cost what it may. Jesus, dear Jesus, 
I want to please You, to do exactly what You want of me, 
to give all generously this time without any reserve, and 
never to go back on my resolution. In this spirit I made 
the midnight meditation on October 25th, the Feast of 
B. Margaret Mary. I saw clearly what I knew years ago 
but would not admit : that God is asking from me the 



50 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

practice of the Third Degree 1 in all its perfection as far as 
I am capable. I cannot deny it or shut my eyes to this 
truth any longer. Should I not be grateful to the good 
God for choosing me for such a life, since it will be all the 
work of His grace and not my own doing ? God wants 
me to put perfection — sanctity — before me and to "go 
straight " for that, for holiness. He wants me not to be 
content with the ordinary good life of the average religious, 
but to aim at something higher, nobler, more worthy of 
Him. He wants me to make ceaseless war on myself, my 
passions, inclinations, habits ; to smash and break down 
my own will, to mortify it in all things so that it may be 
free for His grace to act upon ; in a word, to aim at the 
perfection of the Third Degree and all that that means, not 
for one day or month or a year, but for the rest of my life, 
faithfully, unceasingly, constantly, without rest or inter 
mission. To do this I must strive to cut away all comfort 
in my life, choose that which is " hard," go against my 
natural inclination, and give up the easy self-indulgent life 
I have hitherto led. The motive for this is the immense, 
deep, real love of the Heart of Jesus for me, His example 
which He wants me to follow, for He chose want of all things, 
suffering and a hard comfortless life, and by doing the same 
I imitate Him and become more and more like to Him. Can 
I do this for five, ten, twenty years — lead a crucified life 
so long ? Jesus does not ask that, but only that I do so 
for this day so quickly passed and with it the recollection 
of the little suffering and mortifications endured — once over, 
all is over, but the eternal reward remains. 

My Jesus, I feel that at last You have conquered, Your 
love has conquered ; and last night, kneeling before the 
image of Your Sacred Heart, I promised You to begin this 
new life, to begin at last to serve You as You urged me to 
do during the past sixteen years. I made my promise, 
knowing well my weakness, but trusting in Your all-powerful 
grace to do what seems almost impossible to my cowardly 



i. — " The third degree is the most perfect humility ; when. . . the better 
to imitate Christ our Lord and to become actually more like to Him, I desire 
and choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, contempt with Christ 
contemned rather than honours. . . . " — Spiritual Exercises, p. 53. 



LONG RETREAT 51 

nature. Ego dixi : nunc coepi. 1 I promise You, sweet 
Jesus, to serve You perfectly with all the fervour of my 
soul, aiming at the Third Degree in its perfection. I make 
this offering through the hands of B. Margaret Mary. 
Amen. 

Tronchiennes, Oct. 25th, 1907. 
Feast of B. Margaret Mary. 

What account shall I give of this resolution when I stand 
before my God for judgement ? 



PRACTICE OF THE THIRD DEGREE. 

I. Accepto. I will receive with joy all unpleasant things 
which I must bear : (a) pain, sickness, heat, cold, food ; 
(b) house, employment, rules, customs ; (c) trials of religious 
h'fe, companions ; (d) reprimands, humiliations ; (e) anything 
which is a cross. 

II. Volo et Desidero. I will wish and desire that these 
things may happen to me, that so I may resemble my Jesus 
more. 

III. Eligo. With all my might I will strive every day 
agerc contra in omnibus : 2 (a) against my faults ; (b) against 
my own will ; (c) against my ease and comfort ; (d) against 
the desires of the body ; (e) against my habit and inclination 
of performing my duties negligently and without fervour. 

Finis 

The reformation of one's life must be the work of every 
day, I should take each rule and duty, think how Jesus 
acted, or would have done, and contrast my conduct 
with His. 

I think it better not to make any definite resolutions about 
mortification, such as " I will never do so-and-so." I know 
how such resolutions have fared But I am determined to 
keep up a constant war against myself, now in one matter 

i. — I said : Now have I begun. — Psalm 76, n. 
2. — To act against (myself) in all things. 



52 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

and now in another, varying the kinds of mortification as 
much as possible, but trying to do ten little acts each day. 

We have a strict right to the love of God, because our 
vocation is to follow Him ; we cannot do this unless we 
love Him. Jesus will assuredly give me a sensible love of 
Him, if I only ask. I must ask, seek, and knock daily 
and hourly. 

Fr. Petit told me that the spirit of the Third Degree is 
not so much the practice of austerities as the denial of one's 
will and judgement and perfect abnegation of self and 
humility. This is the spirit of our rules which are simply 
the Third Degree. 

Have I a real hunger and thirst for the love and the service 
of Jesus ? Is it growing ? 

If I do not begin to serve God as I ought now, when shall 
I do so ? shall I ever ? This retreat is a time of special 
grace, and if my cooperation is wanting, Jesus may pass 
by and not return. The devil has made me put off my 
thorough conversion to God for seventeen years, making 
me content myself with the resolution of " later on really 
beginning in earnest and becoming a saint." What might 
not have been done in that time ! 

The reason, said Fr Petit, why we find our life so hard, 
mortification difficult, and why we are inclined to avoid 
all that we dislike, is because we have no real love for Jesus. 

The Gospel says, Erat autem diebus jlocens in Templo. 1 
How often, and for how long, am I in the chapel ? Is the 
chapel the place where people know I am to be found ? 
What a difference it would make in my visits, if only I 
realised the real corporal presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. 
This is a grace I must earnesly ask for. 

Erat pernoctans in oratione Dei. 2 I say I am anxious to 
imitate the life of Jesus, here is something in which I can 
do so. Would it not be possible (afterwards) to spend an 
hour at night in the chapel after examen ? 



i. — In the daytime He was teaching in the Temple. — S. Luke 21, 37. 
2. — He passed the whole night in the prayer of God. — S. Luke 6, 12. 



LONG RETREAT 53 



FRUIT OF THE SECOND WEEK. 

A great desire to know our Lord better, His attractive 
character, His personal love for me, the resolve to read 
the life of Christ and study the Gospels. 

I feel also a longing to love Jesus passionately, to try 
my very best to please Him, and to do all I think will please 
Him. I see nothing will be dearer to Him than my sancti- 
fication, chiefly attained by the perfection with which I 
perform even the smallest action. "All for love of Jesus." 

i Nov., 1907. 



THE ELECTION. 
REASONS AGAINST. 

(1) I am not certain of the will of God. 

(2) I should like to remain for some years in Ireland and 
work for souls. 

(3) Should I not do more good by remaining in Ireland 
instead of burying myself among a few blacks whose language 
I do not know ? 

(4) I may have a long useful life at home ; on the mission 
probably a very short one. 

REASONS FOR. 

(1) The almost certain conviction that I have a real 
vocation for the foreign mission. 

(2) This thought has been in my mind for over twenty 
years and the thought of it has given me great pleasure 
and consolation. 

(3) My desire, even as a boy, to be a martyr. 

(4) The letter I wrote as a novice. 1 

i. — Presumably he volunteered for the foreign mission. 



54 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

(5) The feeling that, if I do not offer myself, I certainly 
shall not please God. 

(6) The attraction I feel for a life of real privation and 
suffering. 

(7) This is much stronger since the retreat, in order to be 
more like Jesus. 

(8) In the spirit of the Third Degree I should make this 
sacrifice. 

(9) The hardship of the life, a great help to holiness. 

(10) The attraction the life of St. Peter Claver has always 
had for me, my desire to imitate him. 

(n) The souls I shall be able to save, and who otherwise 
would never see heaven. 

(12) As an English-speaking priest I may be of help to 
the missionaries. 

(13) I feel quite content that I was doing God's will when 
I resolved two years ago to offer myself for the foreign 
mission. 

A. M. D. o. 

MY ELECTION. 

To-day the First Friday of November, the Feast of All 
Saints, I made my election about offering myself for the 
Congo Mission. During the retreat I have been praying 
and thinking over this, asking for light to know God's holy 
will which alone I seek. The reasons for offering myself 
are overwhelming, but one thought troubled and upset me — 
I see in this that it came from the evil one. " By remaining 
in Ireland and working zealously for many years could I 
not do far more for God's glory than by going on the mission 
where almost certainly I shall not live long ? " 

(1) I got light to see that this was only a delusion of 
sell-love, seeking, under pretext of good, a life gratifying to 
human nature and my pride. 

(2) Would this life be pleasing to God, if He wanted me 
to work for Him among the negroes ? 

(3) God is able to open up a vast field for my zeal if He 
wishes it, no matter where I may be. 



LONG &ETREAT 55 

(4) What I lose by rejecting the glorious opportunity of 
the foreign mission to become like to Jesus, the help to 
sanctity, the possibility of martyrdom. 

(5) Lastly I simply felt I was powerless to refuse Jesus 
this sacrifice which He has been asking for over twenty 
years. I could not refuse and live and die in peace. How 
after such clear lights and inspirations could I face Jesus 
at my judgement, knowing I did not do what He wanted ? 

During Benediction I resolved to confirm the resolution 
already made at Milltown : to offer my life for the Congo 
mission. In doing so I choose nothing myself but place 
myself without reserve in the hands of my Superiors that 
they may declare God's holy will to me. An interior voice 
seemed to say, " You will never regret this resolution and 
offering." 

I offered my resolution to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
praying Him to accept me for this life. Since then my soul 
has been filled with joy and consolation. I am quite happy 
and content, for I feel God has given me grace to do what 
He wants. 

Feast of All Saints, 1907. 



THIRD WEEK. 

2 Nov., 1907. 

I was greatly struck and helped yesterday by these words 
of the " Imitation " : Fill, sine me tecum agere quod volo 
ego scio quid expediat tibi. 1 They gave me courage to place 
myself without reserve in God's hands. How happy I feel 
now that I have done so and made my sacrifice. 

[THE PASSION.] 

All my life my study has been to avoid suffering as much 
as possible, to make my life a comfortable one How unlike 
my Jesus I have been, who sought to suffer on every occasion 
for me, for me. I should be glad when pain comes and 
welcome it, because it makes me more like Jesus. 

i. — " My child, let Me do with you what I will; I know what is good for 
you." — Imitation of Christ iii. 17, i. A favourite quotation of Fr. Doyle's. 



56 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

' During His Passion our Lord was bound and dragged 
from place to place. I have hourly opportunities of imitating 
Him by going cheerfully to the duty of the moment — 
recreation when I want to be quiet, a walk when I would 
rather stay in my room, some unpleasant duty I did not 
expect, a call of charity which means great inconvenience 
for myself. 

My denial of Jesus has been baser than that of Peter, for 
I have refused to listen to His voice calling me back for 
fifteen years. But Jesus has won my heart in this retreat 
by His patient look of love. God grant my repentance may 
in some degree be like St. Peter's. I could indeed weep 
bitterly for the wasted sinful past in the Society, the time 
I have squandered, the little good done, and the awful amount 
of harm by my bad example in every house in which I have 
been. What might I not have done for Jesus ! What a 
saint I might have been now ! Dear Jesus, You forgave 
St. Peter, forgive me also for / will serve You now. 

At the community Mass this morning / again felt an over 
powering desire to become a saint. It came suddenly filling 
my soul with consolation. Surely God has an object in 
inspiring me so often with this desire and has great graces 
for me if I will only cooperate with Him. 

Reflecting on this inspiration afterwards, I saw more 
clearly that the chief thing God wants from me at present 
is an extraordinary and exquisite perfection in every little 
thing I do, even the odd Hail Marys of the day ; that each 
day there must be some improvement in the fervour, the 
purity of intention, the exactness with which I do things, 
that in this will chiefly lie my sanctification as it sanctified 
St. John Berchmans. I see here a vast field for work and an 
endless service of mortification. To keep faithfully to this 
resolve will require heroism, so that day after day I may not 
flag in the fervour of my service of the good God. 

The fruit of the Third Week, says Fr. Petit, is great 
compassion and increase of fortitude. To " suffer with " 
Jesus, to long for sufferings, must be my aim and prayer. 
Since my " Promise " I have been doing ten acts of 
self-denial — why not try to make it thirty a day ? I have 



LONG RETREAT 57 

so much to atone for, so much time wasted in the past, so 
little of life left. Ceaseless war on your comfort, no rest 
now, eternity is long enough. 

[THE SCOURGING.] 

During all these long years Jesus has been standing bound 
at the pillar, while I have cruelly scourged Him by my 
ingratitude and neglect of my vocation. Each action 
carelessly done, the hours spent in sleep, each moment 
wasted, have been so many stripes on my Saviour's bleeding 
body. He has been bearing all this to save me from His 
Father's just anger. And all the while I have heard His 
gentle voice, " My child, will you not love Me ? I want 
your heart. I want you to strive and become a saint, to 
be generous with Me and refuse Me nothing." Can I now 
turn away again as before and refuse to listen ? 

With Jesus naked and shivering with bitter cold at the 
pillar, I will try joyfully to bear the effects of cold. With 
Jesus covered with wounds, I, too, will try to endure little 
sufferings without relief. 

[CALVARY.] 

The greatest thirst of Jesus on the Cross was his thirst 
for souls. He saw then the graces and inspirations He would 
give me to save souls for Him. In what way shall I 
correspond and console my Saviour ? 

The thought has been very much in my mind during this 
week that Jesus asks from me the sacrifice of all the pleasures 
of the world — such as villa, 1 plays, concerts, football-matches, 
cinematograph, etc, ; that I am to seek my recreation and 
find my pleasure in Him alone. Life is indeed too short 
now for me to waste a moment in such things. May God 
give me a great disgust for all these things in which formerly 
I took such delight ! 

This morning I had a great struggle not to sleep. Then 
God rewarded me with much light and generous resolve. I 

i. — Summer \acation. 



58 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLEl S.J. 

was meditating on my desire to die a martyr's death for 
Jesus, and then asked myself if I was really in earnest, why 
did I not begin to die to myself, to die to my own will, the 
inclinations and desires of my lower nature. I wish to die 
a martyr's death — but am I willing to live a martyr's life ? 
To live a crucified life ' seeking in all things my constant 
mortification ' P 1 



A COMPACT WITH JESUS. 

" My God, I promise You, kneeling before the image of 
Your Sacred Heart, that I will do my best to lead a martyr's 
life by constantly denying my will and doing all that I think 
will please You, if You in return will grant me the grace 
of martyrdom." 

A life of martyrdom is to be the price of a martyr's crown 



FRUIT OF THE THIRD WEEK. 

The thought that Jesus has suffered so much for me to 
atone for my sins and past careless life in religion, has filled 
me with a great desire to love Him in return with all my 
heart, I feel, too, a growing hunger and thirst for suffering 
and mortification, because it makes me more like to my 
suffering Jesus, suffering all with joy for me 

Every day has deepened my shame, sorrow and hatred 
for my negligent tepid life since I entered the Society, and 
strengthened my resolve and desire to make amends by a 
life of great fervour. I feel my past sinful life will be a spur 
for me to aim at great holiness. 



i. — Summarium Constitutionum S.J., 12. 



LONG RETREAT 59 

FOURTH WEEK. 

10 Nov., 1907. 

The reason I find it so hard to love God, why I have so 
little affection for Him, is because of my attachment to venial 
sin and my constant deliberate imperfections. I have, as 
it were, been trying to run with an immense weight round 
my feet ; I have tried to reach the unitive way without 
passing through the purgative, to jump to the top of the 
ladder without climbing up the steps ; so that after all 
these years I am still as barren of real love of God as when 
first I entered religion. No, I must work earnestly now 
to remove the very shadow of sin from my life, then to imitate 
the humble suffering life of Jesus and thus win His love. 

I look upon it as a great grace that in spite of my tepid 
life Jesus has given me an ardent desire to love Him. I long 
eagerly to love my Jesus passionately, with an intense ardent 
love such as the saints had ; and yet I remain cold and 
indifferent with little zeal for His glory. 

[EMMAUS.] 

From the Tabernacle Jesus seems to say, " Stay with Me 
for it is towards evening and the day is now far spent " 
This should urge me to come to visit Him often. 

If my resurrection is a real one and is to produce fruit, 
it must be external, so that all may see I am not the same 
man, that my life is changed in Christ. 

[APPARITION BY THE LAKESIDE.] 

Lord, You know I love You less than any others, but 
I long and desire to love You more than all the rest. Take 
my heart, dear Lord, and hide it in Your own, that so I may 
only love what You love and desire what You desire. May 

i. — 5. Luke 24. 29. 



6o FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

I find no pleasure in the things of this world, its pleasures 
and amusement ; but may my one delight be in thinking 
of You, working for You, loving You* and staying in Your 
sweet presence before the Tabernacle. Why do You want 
my love, dear Jesus, and why have You left me no rest 
all these years till I gave You at last my poor heart to love 
You, and You alone ? This ceaseless pleading for my love 
fills me with hope and confidence that, sinful as my life has 
been in the past, You have forgiven and forgotten it all. 
Thanks a million times, dearest Jesus, for all Your 
goodness. I will love and serve You now till death. 

13 Nov., igoy. 1 Amen 



REFLECTIONS ON THE RETREAT. 

At the close of the retreat my soul is full of many 
emotions. God has been more than good to me, has given 
me great lights and wonderful graces. During the whole 
month my eyes have been opening more and more to the 
disorder of my past life. I have been simply amazed and 
astounded how I could possibly have lived the life I did, 
especially my years in college, such abuse of grace, such 
awful waste of time, neglect of opportunities of learning, of 
becoming holy, and above all the harm this careless tepid 
life has done others. I have realised how little I thought 
about committing sin and ; far less, of deliberate breaches 
of rule. Now, through God's great mercy, I feel an intense 
hatred of such a life, and as if it would be impossible ever 
again to live so. I feel that indeed the retreat has worked 
a marvellous change in me. I feel I am not the same in 
my views, sentiments, and way of looking at things, that I 
am a different man. I have never felt as I do now after 
any other retreat before God must indeed have poured His 
grace abundantly into my soul, for it seems to me that a 

i. — There is here inserted a table with two numbers (each about 500) 
corresponding- to the morning and evening of each day of retreat. This 
evidently records the number of aspirations made. 



. LONG RETREAT 6r 

deep lasting impression has been made, which I trust will 
ever remain. My soul is in great peace. I feel as if at last 
I have given God all He wanted from me during so many 
years by making the resolutions which I have made ; that 
.1 could now die content, for at last I have really begun to 
try and serve the good God with all my heart. I feel also 
a great longing to love Jesus very, very much, to draw very 
close to His Sacred Heart, and to be ever united to Him, 
always thinking of Him and praying. I long ardently to 
do something now to make up for my neglect in the past — 
to give myself heart and soul to the service of Cod, to toil 
for Him, to wear myself out for Him. I wish to be able 
never to seek rest or amusement outside of what obedience 
imposes, so that every moment may be spent for Jesus. I 
have not a moment to lose, I cannot afford to refuse Him a 
single sacrifice if I wish to do anything for Jesus and become 
a saint before I die. If I go to the Congo, I certainly shall 
not live long. In any case can I promise myself even one 
day more ? Finis venit. 1 I must try to look upon this 
day as my last on earth and do all I can and surfer all I can 
for these few hours. It is not a question of keeping up 
full steam for years, but only for to-day. 

If I am faithful to the resolution of " doing all things 
perfectly," I shall effectually cut away the numerous faults 
in all my actions. By working hard at the Third Degree 
I shall best correct those things to which my attention has 
been drawn. I know all this is going to cost me much, that 
I shall have a fierce battle to fight with the devil and myself. 
But I begin with great hope and confidence, for since Jesus 
has inspired me to make these resolutions and urged me on 
till I did so, His grace will not be wanting to aid me at 
every step. 

In the name of God, then, I enter upon the Narrow Path 
which leads to sanctity, walking bravely on in imitation 
of my Jesus Who is by my side carrying His cross. To 
imitate Him »and make my life resemble His in some small 
degree, will be my life's work, that so I may be worthy to 
die for Him. 

i. — The end is come. — Ezech. 7. 2. 



62 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE. S.J. 

Thank You, O my God, for all the graces of this retreat, 
above all for bringing me at last to Your sacred feet. Grant 
me grace to keep these resolutions and never to forget my 
determination to strive might and main to become a saint. 

13 Nov., 1907. 

Hoc unusquisque persuasion habeat : tantum se in studiis 
spiritualibus promoturum esse, quantum ab amore sui ipsius 
et proprii commodi affectione sese abstraxerit. — St. Ignatius. 1 



A. M. D. G. 

RESOLUTIONS OF LONG RETREAT, 1907. 

1. I must remember that I have offered myself for the 
Congo. I may be sent now at any moment, and then I 
shall have only a very short time to live. 

2. Is my life all that the life of a future missioner, and 
perhaps martyr, should be ? 

3. My ideal : the Third Degree of Humility in all its 
perfection. 

4. My great devotion : the Sacred Heart in the Blessed 
Eucharist. 

5. I will say as much of my Office as I can in the chapel, 

6. Each day, if possible, 1,000 ejaculations, but never 
less than 500. 

7. Each day 30 little acts of mortification, if I can, but 
always never less than 15. 

8. The object of my life to be close union with and intense 
love of God. To acquire this I will (a) fly from the shadow 
of sin, never deliberately break a rule, custom or regulation ; 
(b) do each little action purely for the love of Jesus, with 
exquisite exactness, fervour and devotedness ; (c) beg 
constantly and earnestly for a great increase of love. 

i. — " Let each be convinced that he will make progress in all spiritual 
matters in proportion as he has divested himself of his own self-love, his own 
will and self-interest." — Spiritual Exercises (end of second week) p. 60. 
Compare the Imitation of Christ (i. 25, 10) : Tantum fro/fries quantum tibi 
ipsi vim intuleris. 



LONG RETREAT 63 

9. I will try and bear little sufferings without seeking 
relief. 

10. Never to give way to sleep during the day. 

11. Great attention to the Rules of Modesty, especially 
custody of the eyes. 

12. To read these resolutions once a week. 

Motto : ''Agere contra " — all for the love of Jesus and 
to win His love. 

Feast of St. Stanislaus, 1907. 



64 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S J. 

CHAPTER V. 
APOSTOLATE 

(l.) MISSIONS AND RETREATS. 

AT the end of his tertianship Fr. Doyle was once more 
placed on the teaching staff of Belvedere College. Next 
year (1909) he was appointed Minister at Belvedere. 
In 1910 he was transferred to the mission staff of which he 
remained an active member until November, 1915. These 
were years of incessant work which resulted in an abundant 
harvest of souls. Altogether (from 1908 to 1915) Fr Doyle 
gave 152 missions and retreats. He had many of the natural 
gifts which go to make a successful missioner : an impressive 
appearance, a clear vibrant voice, considerable fluency, great 
earnestness, painstaking preparation and indomitable energy. 
Outside the pulpit he was even more successful. His breadth 
of view and his patient sympathy made him an ideal con 
fessor, and during missions his confessional was always 
besieged. As a " shimmer " and beater-up of hard cases 
he had few equals. None could withstand his winning and 
persuasive ways ; his childlike directness and self-sacrificing 
kindness were irresistible. Grace seemed to go out from 
him. He once wrote in a confidential letter : 

" I have not met a single refusal to come to the mission 
or to confession so far during my missionary career. Why 
should there be one because Jesus for some mysterious 
reason seems 'to delight in using perhaps the most wretched 
of all His priests as the channel of His grace ? When I go 
to see a hard hopeless case, I cannot describe what happens 
exactly, but I seem to be able to lift up my heart like a cup 
and pour grace and the love of God upon that poor soul. 
I can see the result instantly, almost like the melting of 
snow." 

It would almost seem as if the exerting of spiritual influence 
were a sensible phenomenon to the writer. He had plenty 



/ MISSIONS AND RETREATS 65 

of experience, for he loved to hunt out the most hardened 
and neglected sinners and to bring them back with him to 
the church for confession. In one city he used during his 
mission to go down to the quays at midnight to meet ships 
due to arrive, and to induce the crews to promise attendance 
or even to go to confession at once. And next morning he 
was out before six o'clock on the same apostolic errand, 
waylaying factory girls and mill-hands going to work. 

A consuming zeal for souls was the source of this untiring 
energy and the secret of his influence. " My intense desire 
and longing," he once wrote, "is to make others love Jesus 
and to draw them to His Sacred Heart. Recently at Mass 
I have found myself at the Dominus Vobiscum opening my 
arms wide with the intention of embracing every soul present 
and drawing them in spite of themselves into that Heart 
which longs for their love. ' Compel them to come in/ 
Jesus said. Yes, compel them to dive into that abyss of 
love. Sometimes, I might say nearly always, when speaking 
to people I am seized with an extraordinary desire to draw 
their hearts to God. I could go down on my knees before 
them and beg them to be pure and holy, so strong do I feel 
the longing of Jesus for sanctity in everyone, and since I 
may not do this, I try to do what I find hard to describe 
in words — to pour out of my heart any grace or love of God 
there may be in it, and then with all the force of my will 
to draw their hearts into that of Jesus." 

In his mission- work he relied greatly on prayers, for which 
he was constantly appealing to convents and schools. 
"Ammunition for the Missions " he called such spiritual 
help. " Pray for a hard case here," "A little prayer for 
a big fish of forty years whom I hope to land to-morrow," 
" Get all the prayers you can, even an aspiration may save 
a soul " —these and suchlike requests occur constantly in , 
his letters. " I am going to say a special Mass in future." 
he wrote (3Oth April, 1911), "on the first Sunday of each 
month for all those who pray for my missions and retreats^ 
I shall be grateful if you would kindly make this known." 1 

i. — During n mission in Cork he offered prizes in a school to the children 
who prayed most, and gave them to the little ones himself at the close of the 

mission. 



66 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

And again on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 1913 — he had been 
hearing confessions on the day before from half-past five 
in -the morning until eleven at night : "I wish nuns could 
know the miracles their prayers work during missions in the 
hearts of poor sinners years away from God ; it would make 
them do so much more." " I think," he once said, " there 
are too many workers in most religious houses, but not half 
enough toilers on their knees." 1 

He did not confine himself to asking the prayers of others, 
he also toiled on his own knees. During a mission or retreat 
he sought to increase and intensify his own prayer instead 
of curtailing it. ' The more I have to do," he once wrote, 
" the greater I feel the need of prayer, so that between the 
two the poor sleep has a bad time." After an arduous 
day's work in pulpit and confessional he would often spend 
a good part of the night before the Tabernacle, cutting his 
sleep down to three or four hours. Thus during a mission 
in Drogheda, the curate observed that Fr. Doyle on emerging 
from his confessional at eleven o'clock at night used to retire 
to the little oratory and remain on his knees before the 
Blessed Sacrament until the clock struck two ; yet he was 
always up and out of the house before any one else was 
astir. And in addition to all this, there was continuous 
and severe penance. Few have believed so literally that 
the devil is cast out only by prayer and fasting. Here is 
one precious revelation of his nocturnal rest ; it was after 
a hard day's work during a mission in Glasgow, and in 
addition he was suffering from a cold : 

" I made the Holy Hour prostrate on the marble flags, 
and by moving from time to time I continued to get the 
full benefit of the cold. Then for two hours I made the 
Stations of the Cross, standing, kneeling, and prostrate, 

i.— Compare the saying 1 of the Little Flower in her Autobiography: "O Mother, 
how beautiful is our vocation ! It is for us on Carmel to preserve the salt of the 
earth. We offer our prayers and our sacrifices for the Lord's apostles ; we 
must ourselves be their apostles, while by their words and their examples they 
are evangelising the souls of our brothers." — Sceur Therese . . . Histoire d' une 
fane> P- 955 Eng. trans. (The Little Flower} p. 96. Also Soeur Gertrude- 
Marie (Lsg'ueu, Une mystique de nos jours, 1910, p. 348 — a favourite book of 
Fr. Doyle's) : " Once more Jesus made me change my day's intentions : 
' To-day you will pray for all the souls who will go to confession and prepare 
for their Easter duty to-morrow [Palm Sunday, 1907]. You will also pray for 
the confessors.' " 



MISSIONS AND RETREATS 67 

taking fourteen strokes of the discipline at each Station. 
For the rest of the night I remained kneeling before the 
Tabernacle, at intervals with arms outstretched, till I could 
bear the agony of this no longer." 

The man who acted thus was no sickly or morbid 
solitary. He was a healthy, good-humoured, broad-minded, 

hard-working missioner, " with no d nonsense about him," 

as one penitent expressed it. But in his soul there were 
chords attuned to finer spiritual symphonies than our dull 
wits can discern. He knew, not by theoretic reasoning but 
by intuition and experience, that there is a mysterious law 
governing the movements of spiritual energy, a divine 
economy in the operations of grace. Souls are won by 
prayer and suffering ; God wishes the deficit of sin to be 
filled up with the overflow of chosen souls. Men sometimes 
reason about this and call it learned names. Fr. Doyle 
lived it. He gave to his missions not only lip-service, 
but the devotion of his whole being. Like his divine 
Master he could say, " For them do I sanctify myself." 
(S. John 17. 19.) He strove to help others out of the spon 
taneous redundancy of his own spiritual life. Whatever he 
said to others passed first through his own heart and therein 
it gained something deeper and more soul-stirring than any 
natural fluency or learning could impart. 

Testimonies to his success as a missioner are numerous, 
" The results of your mission," wrote a Parish Priest, " have 
exceeded my anticipations and all previous experiences. 
Indeed, the people speak of it with awe, as of a miraculous 
manifestation and veritable outpouring of grace " " Your 
retreat here has been a wonderful success," says another 
letter, " It has completely changed many. People are still 
talking about it, and better still, living up to its lessons." 
" I can't tell you," wrote a Parish Priest after his death, 

" how we all loved him in D . The people could never 

get enough of him, and asked to have him back again and 
again. I wanted him here when I came, but he was just 
starting for the Front " " Father," said a man at the end 
of a mission, " it was the holiest mission we ever had." From 
time to time Willie himself speaks in his letters of his mission 
work and how blessed it was by God. 



68 .FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

" My success here," he writes " has far surpassed anything 
I looked for. But it is, of course, the work of God's grace. 
I do not think I could possibly find food for vainglory in 
anything I have done no more than an organ-grinder prides 
himself on the beautiful music he produces by turning a 
handle. God knows I only wish and seek His greater glory, 
and to make others love Him, if I cannot love Him myself 
All along I felt it was all His doing, and that I was just a 
mere instrument in His hands, and a wretched one at that. 
All through I had the feeling that I was like an old bucket 
full of holes, which broke the poor Lord's Heart as He tried 
to carry His precious grace into the hearts of His children." 

" I think Jesus was pleased with our work here. He 
certainly showed it on Sunday when I asked Him to give 
me in honour of His Blessed Mother all the souls I intended 
to visit that day They all gave in to His grace, including 
several who had not been to the sacraments for very man}' 
years. People say it is hard to love God. I only wish they 
could realize how much He loves them and wishes their 
salvation and happiness." 

" I have come back from the missions with feelings of 
joy and gratitude, for these- last three missions have been 
blessed in a wonderful way. God seems to take a special 
delight in seconding my efforts, just because I have hurt 
Him so much in the past and have been so really ungrateful. 
It is one of the big humiliations of my life and makes me 
thoroughly ashamed of myself that our Blessed Lord for His 
own wise ends conceals my shortcomings from others and 
allows me to do a little good. But He does not hide the 
wretched state of my soul from myself. I am not speaking 
in a false humble strain, but serious truth. If you, or anyone 
else, could only see the way I have acted towards Jesus 
all my life, you would turn away from me in disgust." 

" I have had much consolation in my work recently. The 
last mission was the hardest I have given, yet it seems to 
have been singularly blessed. All this love and goodness 
on the part of Jesus only fills me with a deep sorrow that I 
can do so little for Him. I am getting afraid of Him, just 
because He is so generous to me and blesses all I do. I feel 
ashamed when people praise me for my work, the sort of 



MISSIONS AND RETREATS 69 

shame a piano might feel if someone complimented it on the 
beautiful melody that came from its keys. I am realizing 
more and more that all success is entirely God's work, and 
that self does not count at all. I have this strange feeling 
that when I get to heaven I shall have little merit for any 
thing I have done for God's glory, since all has been the 
work of His Hands." 

Though he accomplished so much on the general missions, 
he found more congenial work in giving retreats, especially 
to religious communities During his first two years on the 
mission staff he was chiefly engaged in giving retreats to 
sodalities and religious communities. Here was fruitful soil 
for the self-denial and penance, the love of God and of 
perfection, which were his constant themes, and for whose 
easy attainment he had many plans and holy devices. His 
zeal and enthusiasm for God and the things of God joined 
to attractive qualities of person and character made an 
impression wherever he went, and soon he was much sought 
after. During one summer he received more than forty 
invitations from religious communities to give them their 
annual retreat. From the very many testimonies to the 
good he effected a few typical sentences may be quoted. 

" No retreat ever made a deeper impression on the com 
munity, or raised the tone of the house to such a high level 
of spirituality, as that conducted by Fr. Doyle." 

"A saintly old laysister wept the whole retreat tears of 
joy, saying she had never in her whole forty-five years in 
religion felt and seen so visibly the effects of grace in herself 
and others." 

" Many said they never realized before what religious 
life meant, but that now they were going to give God 
everything." 

" Rev. Mother told the Bishop that no retreat for the 
past forty years had made such an impression. "- 

It is curiou^ to note that in spite of the signal success 
which crowned his ministry, he was at times subject to intense 
depression and discouragement. " Such fear, dread and 
hatred of the coming mission came over me," he writes to 
a friend, " that I was on the point of writing to ask not to 
be sent, and at the last moment I very nearly telegraphed 
to say I couldn't possibly travel " 



70 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

" I went to M in the lowest depths of fear and misery. 

For some time before I had been very ungenerous with God 
and must have pained Him much. On this account I felt 
I had no right to count on His help. But Jesus took His 
revenge by helping me more than ever. Such loving for 
giveness of injury makes me feel oh ! so ashamed of my 
meanness." 

" You would hardly believe the fierceness of the 
temptation — the old one — before beginning this mission, the 
temptation to ask to get off it, in fact to give up the mission 
life altogether as something almost unbearable. When the 
work starts the storm subsides somewhat, but honestly I 
am afraid of myself, that in my weakness I may some day 
ruin God's work in souls by giving in to what I see in calmer 
moments to be a temptation." 

" For three-quarters of an hour I preached in agony, with 
the perspiration rolling from every pore. I was not afraid 
of breaking down before the congregation — that would have 
been a relief — but the physical effort to utter each word 
was torture, and the longing, time after time more intense, 
to come down from the pulpit was almost irresistible. They 
told me I preached well that night, yet I was quite unnerved, 
and only God knows what I went through." 

Once he even wrote : "I am ending this retreat with the 
resolution of never giving another." Fortunately it was one 
of the few resolutions he never kept. Such attacks of 
dejection are quite intelligible in one of Fr. Doyle's emotional 
temperament. Even from the purely natural point of view, 
his exertion of personal influence on others was an exhausting 
experience ; in all such efforts something, as it were, seems 
to pass out of one and to enter into one's hearers. It was 
probably some subconscious perception of this which made 
him so often in anticipation shrink from the ordeal. But 
he never gave way to this discouragement and repugnance. 
He worked till the end as a valiant soldier of Christ, laying 
aside all thoughts of personal predilection and considerations 
of ease. He crowded his mission years with unremitting 
toil, as if in premonition of an early death. Consummatus 
in brevi, explevit tempora multa. 1 

i. — " Being- made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a long time." — 
Wisdom 4, 13. 



RETREATS FOR THE WORKERS 71 



(2.) RETREATS FOR THE WORKERS. 

It is a tribute to Fr. Doyle's broadminded character and 
manysided interests that he not only devoted himself to 
giving retreats to religious and priests, but was also a warm 
advocate — indeed, as far as Ireland is concerned, a pioneer 
propagandist — of retreats for working men and women. He 
had seen for himself the great good effected by such retreats 
in France and Belgium and also, since 1908, in England. 
He became convinced that in Ireland, too, such a work was 
of great social and religious urgency. Though in his lifetime 
he failed to overcome the forces of conservative inaction 
and apathy, the seed which he sowed will surely in the near 
future germinate into a fruitful apostolate. The question 
is by no means, as many at the time fancied, a mere fad or 
an unnecessary spiritual luxury. The provision of workers* 
retreats might conceivably have been a matter of argument 
a few years ago ; to-day it is clearly an immediately 
imperative step, if the Church is to acquire or to retain its 
influence over democracy, restive, newly awakened and 
determined. 1 There are already in Ireland several religious 
houses where middle-class lay men and women can make 
a retreat either singly or in groups. Will it be said that it 
is the purely material difficulty which is allowed to debar 
Irish workers from similar facilities ? If we admit that an 
annual retreat is necessary for priests and religious, and 
that occasional or periodical retreats are extremely 
advantageous to Catholic layfolk, why should any economic 
or social differentiation exist ? The mission or public retreat, 
during which people live their ordinary life and pursue their 
usual work while attending some extra sermons, is an 
altogether different matter. What is here in question is 
strictly and literally a retreat ; a withdrawal, however brief, 
from the scenes and cares and routine of daily life ; an 
opportunity, were it only for a week-end, of realising Christ's 
message and ideal in prayerful silence and with full leisure 

i. — On the social results of retreats see Fr. Plater's Retreats for the 
People (1912), ch. 13. 



72 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

of soul. The Spiritual Exrecises are a serious and a sacred 
task demanding wholehearted attention and devotion ; they 
are deprived of their efficacy and influence if they are reduced 
to mere interludes before and after a day filled with toil 
and trouble and talk St. Ignatius is insistent on the 
observance of the "Additions," some of which may seem 
rather minute to us — such as the exclusion of light during 
the serious sombre meditations of the First Week — but 
which altogether constitute a very necessary spiritual 
environment. It is indeed the lesson of our Lord Himself : 
the soil must be prepared for the seed. How often does the 
seed fall amid brambles ! Many is the one " that heareth 
the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness 
of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless." 
(S. Matthew 13, 22.) Preparation for seed-sowing is as 
necessary in soul-culture as it is in agriculture. 

There is ample evidence that a retreat, filling a man's 
whole life for a few days amid pleasant and spiritually 
refreshing surroundings, makes a far deeper and more lasting 
impression than a public mission during which a man lives 
and works as usual, perhaps in the midst of squalor, noise 
and misery. 

" Only those who have witnessed the retreats (says 
Fr. Plater 1 ) can have any idea of the wonderful miracles of 
grace which they normally effect The men — plain workmen 
for the most part — enter on the retreat with some bewilder 
ment and even apprehension. Some are merely awkward, 
others almost defiant. Ringleaders of infidelity have been 
known to come out of curiosity, the only condition required 
of them being that they should keep the rules of the house. 
But on the second day a change is seen on the faces of all. 
They are very much in earnest — hopeful and courageous, 
and for the most part as simple and docile as children It 
is touching to hear their expressions of gratitude for the 
benefits which they have received from their retreat, which 
all are sorry to quit at the end of three days." 

" There is a vast difference," remarks Fr. Doyle in his 



i. — In his pamphlet Retreats for Workers (C.T.S. London) p. 13. See also 
the vivid account of Gilbert Cloquet's retreat at Fayt-Manag-e in Rene Bazin's 
Rising Corn, ch. 13. 



RETREATS FOR THE WORKERS 73 

own little pamphlet, 1 " between the methods employed and 
the fruit resulting from a mission and a retreat. The one 
makes its influence felt only at certain hours in the evening, 
the other at every hour ; the first uses a few well-known 
means of moving the heart, the other employs every act 
of the day, all directed towards one definite end ; in the 
mission it is the preacher who does the work, in a retreat 
the exercitant himself. . . . The efficacy of a retreat 
consists in personal reflection, favoured by the absence of 
all distracting occupations and the logical sequence of subjects 
treated. Solitude, silence and serious reflection, united to 
fervent prayer, act powerfully upon the soul and cause it 
to experience sentiments hitherto unknown. . . It 

appeals not to the indifferent crowd, the careless liver, but 
to the elite, to those who by their intelligence or influence 
are capable of leading others by their example. It seeks 
first for the upright and virtuous, the men of character and 
zeal, and not content with making them better Christians, 
more solicitous about their own salvation, strives to mould 
them into lay apostles." 

Fr. Doyle did not profess to be an expert social reformer, 
he had no panacea to advocate for curing the ills of society. 
But he made a contribution which sprang from the depths 
of his own inner experience. He realized that the social 
problem cannot be stated as a duel between profits and 
wages, that democracy cannot be built merely on increased 
comfort and amusement. And so he uttered his plea, 
unfortunately premature, that the ideals of the workers 
should be raised and purified and strengthened by contact 
with Christ, the divine Workman of Nazareth. He knew 
that every toiler is a person, not a mere ' hand ' or chattel, 
an immortal soul for whom Christ died. Having himself 
tasted the Saviour's banquet, he proposed to " go out quickly 
into the streets and lanes of the city and bring hither the 
poor and the feeble and the blind and the lame." " When 
thou makest a dinner or a supper," said our Lord — and are 
not His words as applicable to a spiritual as to a material 

I. — Retreats for Workingmen : Why not in Ireland? (Dublin, Irish 
Messenger Office, July, 1909) pp. 8f. It is worth observing that this plea for 
retreats \\as penned by a successful mt'ssioner. 



74 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

feast ? — " call not thy friends nor thy brethren nor thy 
kinsmen nor thy neighbours who are rich. . . . But call 
the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind." It is these, 
after all, who have most need of spiritual experience and 
help, these who, even in Catholic Ireland, live with stunted 
souls and impoverished bodies in hovels and tenements and 
garrets. Surely, for Fr. Doyle's outspoken invitation, we 
may say that ' recompense shall be made him at the 
resurrection of the just.' 1 (S. Luke 14. 12-21.) 

His efforts, however, were destined to have no immediate 
success, in spite of the fact that he had a warm supporter 
in his Provincial (Fr. William Delany) who, in the autumn 
of 1912, sent him to the Continent to investigate. Fr. Doyle 
inspected many retreat-houses for workingmen in France, 
Belgium and Holland, and thus gained valuable information 
and experience. Besides the pamphlet already mentioned 
there survives one letter written at this time, which may be 
quoted more for its personal interest than for its relevancy 
to the question of retreats. 

" I have picked up an immense amount of useful infor 
mation about Workingmen's Retreats since I came here. 
Everybody has been kindness itself and helped me in every 
way. Indeed this trip has been, and will be, of great service 
to me and God's work. More than once the Hand of God 
was plainly visible in little incidents which may eventually 
lead to big things, the missing of a train bringing about the 
chance meeting of one who gave me great help, and so in 
other ways. When leaving Ireland I did not think my 
journey was to mean so much for myself spiritually. At 
Lourdes, at Tours, at Angers, and other places, our dearest 
Lord seemed to have had His message prepared and waiting 
for me. I had a feeling all along that my visit to Lisieux 
would do much for me, and I was not mistaken ; so that 
I am coming home like a bee laden with the honey of God, 
which I pray Him not to allow me to squander or misuse. 
I saw many interesting places and things during my weeks 

i. — We can gauge his intense interest in the project from this entry in his 

diary (20 Dec., 1914) : " During a visit to Church I felt urged to promise 

our Blessed Lady to try and give up meat on Saturdays in her honour, if 
she in return will bring about the starting of the Workmen's Retreats this 
summer (1915)." 



RETREATS FOR THE WORKERS 75 

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." 

In spite of the information thus acquired and the subsequent 
propaganda in which he engaged, funds remained inadequate 
and public opinion seemed unmoved. Once, indeed, he was 
very near success. He was sent for by the Provincial who 
told him that a suitable residence and grounds had been 
offered and that he was to take charge of the first Retreat 
House for Workers in Ireland. A few days later the house 
destined for retreats was burnt down by suffragettes ! And 
thus the project fell through. 

In spite of this failure Fr. Doyle had the happiness of 
putting his views to one practical test. After many delays 
and difficulties it was arranged that he should give a three 
days' retreat to the employees of the Providence Woollen 
Mills, Foxford, Co. Mayo. Holy Saturday (3rd April, 1915) 
was selected as the opening day, so that the triduum could 
include the Monday Bank Holiday, on which day alone the 
School would be closed and the schoolrooms available. The 
men did not at all appreciate the idea beforehand, they were 
nervous and uneasy at the novel proposal, and kept wondering 
' what they were in for/ The general tone was, ' Really 
this is too much of a good thing, hadn't we a (public) retreat 
in the parish a few months ago ? ' Only the mill-workers 
(and also a few outsiders, Pioneers) were invited ; and. of 
course, they were left perfectly free to come or not as they 
pleased. Naturally there was some anxiety about the 
attendance, but to the relief of the good Sisters of Charity, 
a large number turned up for the first lecture. 1 Each man 
got a typed copy of the order of time. The day was well 

i. — Of the 62 men then employed in the Mills 60 made the retreat ; these 
were joined by five others who petitioned the favour. 



76 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

filled, only small intervals being left free. Mass was at eight 
o'clock, there were four instructions, two or three visits to 
the Blessed Sacrament, the Stations of the Cross, a couple 
of rosaries, and some spiritual reading. The Senior School 
which is bright and spacious made a very devotional oratory, 
the lower rooms being free for reading or smoking. The 
convent garden was placed at the exercitants' disposal, and 
it was edifying to see them walking about singly or in silent 
groups. The rosary was said out of doors and was very 
impressive, the men walking in procession followed by 
Fr. Doyle, who recited the prayers aloud. The brass 
instruments of the Mill Band accompanied the Benediction 
Service and Hymns, in singing which the whole congregation 
joined. 

Almost from the very start the men gave evident signs 
that they had lost all their awkwardness or suspiciousness, 
they quickly entered into the peace and calm of this unwonted 
spiritual atmosphere. " No man ever made such an 
impression," writes one of the exercitants. " Fr. Doyle's 
saintly appearance and attractive manner at once captured 
our attention, and time passed so quickly while he spoke 
that each lecture, though invariably half an hour, seemed 
but a moment. His words were simple and clear, and 
delivered in so kindly and gentle a fashion that they were 
just what he liked to call them — ' little chats.' We had 
been accustomed to fiery threatening sermons at missions, 
where God's justice is painted with so much eloquence, 
making one tremble at the uncertainty of salvation. But 
here the words of the saintly preacher sent us away with the 
impression : ' How easy it is after all for me to save my 
soul ! God is good, He loves me, and what He asks is very 
small.' ' One lecture on Reparation to the Sacred Heart 
made an abiding impression on the hearers. The outrages 
and insults heaped on Christ throughout the world were 
vividly depicted by one who had seen them nigh, and were 
consolingly contrasted with the religious mission of Ireland, 
whereof every Irish Catholic worker ought to be the watchful 
custodian. 

At the close of the retreat, on Easter Tuesday morning, 
all the men went to Mass and Holy Communion, listened 
to a farewell lecture, assisted at Benediction and received 



RETREATS FOR THE WORKERS 77 

the Papal Blessing. Fr. Doyle then shook hands with each 
man as he left the room, and by this simple friendly act 
captured the last corner of every heart. The typical comment 
was, ' It was entirely too short ; if only we had another 
day ! ' Those best entitled to judge state that the retreat 
will never be forgotten, and are confident that the good 
then accomplished will not be undone. 1 

The success of this retreat shows clearly the deep spiritual 
influence which a House of Retreats in or near Dublin could 
exert on our Catholic workers, who at present often find 
anti-Catholic influences far more accessible. But from this 
Foxford experiment we may draw another, and perhaps 
even more practical, inference. That is, the possibility of 
having, throughout the country, retreats for working men 
and women, without the necessity of providing special retreat- 
houses at all. Just as the Sisters at Foxford provided 
facilities for their workers iri their school and convent, just 
as the clergy themselves make their annual retreat in some 
diocesan college or vacant seminary, so, we begin to realise,, 
could schools while idle in vacation time, or similar institutions. 
with available space, be utilised for providing occasional 
retreats for our less fortunate brothers and sisters who toil 
in fields and factories and live in hovels and slums. 2 We 
have provided for our friends, our brethren, our kinsmen, 
and our neighbours who are rich. "And the Lord said : Go 
out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come 
in that My house may be filled." (S. Luke 14. 23.) 

The following lines were written by Fr. Charles Plater, 
S.J., to whom more than anyone else the introduction of 
workers' retreats into England is due. 3 They constitute 

i. — Fr. Doyle had originally proposed that the Sisters should provide board 
and lodging for the exercitants, but on becoming acquainted with the local 
circumstances he agreed that this was unnecessary. The men live close by. 
with very little in their surroundings to distract them ; and they are accustomed 
to the bell summoning them to and irom their meals. The full work-time lost 
on the retreat was \% days (Monday and portion of Tuesday). The men were 
paid for this time, though they were not told this beforehand ; the loss of 
wages was also made up to the women who were necessarily idle while the 
Mill was closed. 

2. — During the summer vacation (Christmas) 1918, a successful retreat was 
made by 96 workers in Kew College, Melbourne. 

3. — In his Retreats for the People: A Sketch of a Great Revival, 1912, p. 134, 
Fr. Plater says : " Before regular retreat-houses were established in England 
it was by no means uncommon for Irishmen living in this country to go over to 
Ireland for the purpose of making a retreat in a Franciscan friary or some 
other religious establishment." 



78 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

at once a sincere tribute from an intimate fellow-worker 
and a straight appeal to Catholic Ireland. 

" I lived for some years with big-hearted Willie Doyle 
and loved him. We were seminarians together and I saw 
much of him. He was always bubbling over with mirth 
and generally at the bottom of any harmless mischief that 
might be afoot, but only the shallow-minded could have 
mistaken his gaiety for thoughtlessness. Underneath his 
mercurial behaviour were steadily glowing ideals and 
enthusiasm. He had a deep and simple piety and a burning 
love for Ireland. 

"After he left Stony hurst, and again still later when we 
were both priests, we corresponded much on the subject 
of workers' retreats. His quick imagination pictured the 
immense good which might be effected by their introduction 
into Ireland. With his whole soul he threw himself into 
the work of promoting them. His letters are just himself. — 
ardent, enthusiastic, full of piety and love of country. He 
would, I am convinced, gladly have given his life to see the 
retreats established in Ireland. He was acutely distressed 
.because others could not see what he saw so plainly: 

' I did not write because I had nothing but disappoint 
ment, opposition, cold shower-baths and crosses to chronicle, 
the last and biggest cross being the sudden death of my 
truest supporter, Fr. X— — . Your news about the success 
in England is glorious, and yet I am assured that mine will 
come in Dublin if ever a house is opened. ... I am 
confident the real difficulty will be to keep the men out 
I never realised till I got on the mission staff the immense 
amount of faith and love for holy things there is everywhere 
still in Ireland. ... It has been a four years' Calvary, 
but yesterday the Resurrection, I hope, began, for I heard 
that Rathfarnham Castle with 53 acres has been purchased 
at last, and I have the Provincial's promise (when that 
took place) to allow me to make a start in the stables. 
Ye Gods ! Fancy the mighty Doyle preaching in a stable ! 
Very like the Master is it not ?' (May 20th, 1913). 

" He found it hard to be patient with those who urged 
expense as an insuperable obstacle, for he knew that once 



RETREATS FOR THE WORKERS 79 

a start was made the money would come. The Island of 
Saints would not allow a School for Saints to suffer through 
lack of funds. Again, it was objected that Ireland had not 
a large class of well-paid artisans, who, it was supposed, 
must form the bulk of the retreatants ; and here, too, 
Willie Doyle saw that the objection was groundless as the 
history of popular retreats had shown. ' Why not in 
Ireland ? ' was the sub-title of his excellent pamphlet on 
Retreats for Workers, and his challenging question was 
really unanswerable. 

"There is only one possible memorial to Fr. William Doyle, 
and that is a house of retreats for workers in Ireland, That 
he would have asked for ; indeed, we may be sure that he 
does ask for it. Those to whom his life of smiles and tears 
and his glorious death have been an inspiration will surely 
help him to get it." 



(3.) THE HOLY CHILDHOOD. 

From the notes of his Long Retreat it is already clear 
that Fr. Doyle more than once volunteered for the foreign 
mission. 1 His wish was never gratified, unless perhaps we 
can regard as a foreign mission that last ministry fulfilled 
amid scenes of savagery mingled with heroism. But he 
remained to the end intensely interested in the field whither 
the Lord did not call him to harvest. Often in his retreats 2 
did he ask his hearers to think of the great army of pagans 
which would take thirty-one and a half years to pass, one 
per second, in single file. Often did he kindle his zeal and 
increase his reparation at the thought of the sins of so-called 
Christians and the ignorance of them that sit in darkness. 
Furthermore, his interest in the foreign missions took a 
very practical -shape, namely, that of helping the Association 
of the Holy Childhood. This Association, founded in 1843 
by Mgr. de Forbin Janson, Bishop of Nancy, has for its object 

i. — See p. 53. He was so confident that he would be sent to the Congo, 
that he procured a catechism in the native language and interleaved it with an 
English translation. This little souvenir still survives as a proof of his practical 
and resolute zeal. 

2. — See also p. 22 of his pamphlet Shall I be a Priest? 



So FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

the rescue of children in Africa and Asia, who have been 
abandoned and left to die by their parents. By its means 
more than eighteen million little babies have been saved 
and baptised ; most of these neglected mites did not long 
survive baptism. The members help the work of the 
Association by their prayers and offerings. Fr. Doyle was 
able to collect considerable sums by his zealous and ingenious 
methods. He had attractive cards printed each with a 
picture of a rescued babe and an invitation to buy a black 
baby for half-a-crown, the purchaser having the right to 
select the baptismal name ! " I do not know," he wrote 
from the Front on 3ist July, 1916, " if I told you that the 
Black Baby Crusade, though now partly suspended, proved 
a great success. I got well over a thousand half-crowns ; 
and as in some places a poor child can be bought for sixpence, 
there should be a goodly army of woolly black souls now 
before the throne of God. 1 In addition, two priests, one 
in Scotland, the other in Australia, have taken up my card- 
scheme and are working it well. The idea of buying a little 
godchild from the slavery of the devil and packing it off 
safe to heaven, appeals to many." Like every other available 
method of saving souls, it appealed to Fr. Doyle ; and he 
brought to it his characteristic humour and energy. 



(4.) VOCATIONS. 

Fr. Doyle was naturally interested in helping, encouraging 
and advising those who desired to work for Christ as priests 
or religious. This interest he showed by personal direction 
and correspondence and also by the publication of two simple 
little pamphlets which have had a phenomenal success. 
Vocations, issued in August 1913, is now in its tenth edition 
(looth thousand) ; Shall I be a Priest ?, first issued in March 
1915, has reached its seventh edition (4Oth thousand) ; both 
are published by the Irish Messenger Office, Dublin. In 

i. — According- to the Annals of the Holy Childhood (Irish Branch), Nov., 1917, 
p. 90, Fr. Doyle " collected in a comparatively short time, before leaving- 
Ireland as C F. at the Front, the large sum of nearly £200 'to buy black 
babies ' for God." 



VOCATIONS 8r 

the second last letter he ever wrote, sent to his father from 
the Front, on 25th July, 1917, he gives an interesting account 
of how he came to write the brochure on Vocations. The 
letter itself is headed " bits and scraps for an old man's 
breakfast," it was hastily written in the open air and expressed 
in good-humored homely language for a father whom he 
tenderly loved and who, he knew, was interested in every 
detail of what he did. 

" You will be glad to know, as I was, that the ninth edition 
(90,000 copies) of my little book Vocations is rapidly being 
exhausted. After my ordination, when I began to be con 
sulted on this important subject, I was struck by the fact 
that there was nothing one could put into the hands of boys 
and girls to help them to a decision, except ponderous 
volumes, which they would scarcely read. Even the little 
treatise by St. Liguori which Fr. Charles gave me during 
my first visit to Tullabeg, and which changed the whole 
current of my thoughts, was out of print. I realized the 
want for some time; but one evening as I walked back to 
the train after dining with you, the thought of the absolute 
necessity for such a book seized me so strongly, (I could 
almost point out the exact spot on the road), that there and 
then I made up my mind to persuade someone to write it, for 
I never dreamt of even attempting the task myself. 

" I soon found out that the shortest way to get a thing 
done is to do it yourself, or rather God in His goodness had 
determined to make use of me, because I was lacking in the 
necessary qualifications, to get His work done, for I am 
firmly convinced that both in Vocations and Shall I be a 
Priest ? my part consisted in the correction of the proof 
sheets and in the clawing in of the shower of ' bawbees.' 

" I remember well when the MSS. — which does not 
stand for ' Mrs ' as Brother Frank Hegarty read out once 
in Clongowes : 'St. Jerome went off to Palestine carrying 
his Missus ' — had passed the censors to my great surprise, 
the venerable manager of the Messenger Office began shaking 
his head over the prospect of its selling, for as he said with 
truth, ' It is a subject which appeals to a limited few.' He 
decided to print 5,000, and hinted I might buy them all 
myself ! 



82 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S J. 

" Then when the pamphlet began to sell and orders to come 
in fast, I began to entertain the wild hope that by the time 
I reached the stage of two crutches and a long white beard, 
I might possibly see the 100,000 mark reached. We are 
nearly at that now without any pushing or advertising, and 
I hope the crutches and flowing beard are still a long way 
off. God is good, is He not ? As the second edition came 
out only in the beginning of 1914 the sale has been extra 
ordinarily rapid 

" It is consoling from time to time to receive letters from 
convents or religious houses, saying that some novice had 
come to them chiefly through reading Vocations ; for 
undoubtedly there are many splendid soldiers lost to Christ's 
army for the want of a little help and encouragement. . . . 
A welcome gift from a benefactor, not a benefactress this 
time, has just reached me in the shape of a donation of £3 
to distribute a thousand free copies of Vocations. The donor 
believes that if one cannot oneself volunteer for the war, 
the next best thing is to try to get someone else to do so. 
One never can tell into what generous heart the good seed 
may fall, or the number of souls that possibly may be saved 
by this distribution. May God bless him and send along 
a thousand more imitators, for ' the harvest is great and the 
labourers few ' said our Blessed Lord, and He ought 
to know ! " 

The success of this unpretentious little pamphlet, written 
without any affectation of style or erudition, demonstrated 
very clearly the untold good that can be done by instructive 
and devotional literature, Fr. Doyle never intended to 
become an author, and modestly felt that he was not equipped 
for literary or theological expositions. But as abler men 
seemed unable to write for ordinary souls or preferred to 
criticise the ventures of others, he; felt it his duty to put 
down in clear simple language the thoughts and ideals for 
which he himself lived and worked. And he was more than 
justified by the spiritual harvest he reaped thereby. Besides 
the letter just quoted there are in his correspondence many 
other references to the results of his pamphlet. Thus he 
writes on one occasion : "I have just had a visit from a 
' rich young lady,' a perfect stranger to me, whose eyes have 






VOCATIONS 83 

been opened by reading Vocations. I have had two or three 
cases like this recently ; which is ample reward for the 
trouble the book cost me." " My little book on Vocations," 
he says in another letter, " has brought me a good deal of 

consolation lately. The Superior of X told me they 

had at least two novices whose thoughts had been first directed 
to religious life by reading the pamphlet and that another, 
whose vocation was due in great measure to the book, was 
expected in a few days from Australia. Yesterday I had 

a letter from the Fathers in London telling me several 

of their young men had been led to take the final step by the 
same means. Some time ago a Lutheran, recently received 
into the Church, wrote from New York saying that the 
pamphlet had appealed to him so much that he was now 
studying for the priesthood. This is encouraging and proves 
what I have always held, that there are vocations in 
abundance if only they were helped a little." 

The unexpected success of Vocations led Fr. Doyle to write 
another pamphlet to which he gave the title Shall I be a 
Priest ? It was written with simple direct fervour and would 
serve equally as a consideration for priests on the dignity 
of the sacerdotal office or as a help to a diffident aspirant. 
The frontispiece represents a little child knocking at the 
tabernacle-door and saying, ' Jesus, I want to be a holy 
priest.' The appropriateness of all this will be understood 
from the following letter. " It is not mine but Jesus' alone," 
he wrote, " for every word seemed to come from the 
Tabernacle before which I wrote it, the greater part on the 
altar itself. 1 Nominally it is written for boys, but in reality 
I have tried to give a message to my fellow-priests, and at 
the same time to stir up greater love and reverence in the 
hearts of all who may read it. Its defects are many, because 
such a subject would require the pen of an archangel. But 
I feel Jesus will bless the tiny book and make it do 
His work." 

While Fr. Doyle was working with superhuman energy 
as military chaplain, he kept planning some further 
pamphlets. Except the titles — Union with God, Letters to 

i.— Compare The Priest of the Eucharist [P£re Eymard], Eng. tr. 1881, p. 22. 



84 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

One who is Hesitating, Spiritual Communion, An Explanation 
of the Priest's Actions at Mass — he committed nothing to 
writing except the following few jottings, hastily scribbled 
while crouching in some dug-out. As they refer to the subject 
of vocations, they may be here inserted. 



" Vocation Letters." 

" i Escape from world. Christ said ' I pray not for the 
world.' Eagerness to get away from plague, infected places. 

2 Every action, step done for God. Three things in 
prayer : merit, satisfaction, and impetration. 

3 Fear of unhappiness. Bernadette : ' I do not promise 
to make you happy in this world.' ' Ought not Christ to 
have suffered ? ' 

4 Joy of sacrifice ; when made, great joy after fear. 

5 End. ' Well done, good servant.' Real life is to come. 

6 ' Could do more good in world.' Many Masses, fast, 
works of zeal, sacrifice of will greater than all. 

7 Cutting on Pagan Religious Orders ; no vocation, yet 
perseverance ; penitents to help. 

8 Don Bosco refused 300 foundations for want of subjects 
(nuns), also Angers, 

9 A good religious experiences more pleasure and con 
solation from a single pious exercise such as Mass, visit to 
the Blessed Sacrament, than people of the world take. . . 
(Ven. Fr. Champagnat.) " 

Fr. Doyle's interest in vocations was not confined merely 
to literary advocacy. He was always generously ready with 
personal advice and assistance. He helped a very large 
number of girls to enter religious houses and a not incon 
siderable number of boys to enter religion or to prepare for 
the priesthood. Many a visit did he pay to convents, many 
were the letters he wrote in his efforts to ' place ' vocations. 
When Ireland failed, he tried England, and even America, 
Australia, and South Africa. Once he was satisfied that a 
true vocation existed, he could not be disheartened by any 
temporal disabilities. 1 An interesting and ingenious scheme 

i. — He got one girl with a wooden leg and another 'with a paralysed left 
hand into American convents. Both are now professed and are doing- good 
work. 



VOCATION LETTERS 85 

which he started, while on leave from the Front, may be 
best indicated in his own words (in a letter to his father 
dated 25 July, 1917) : 

" I do not know if I have told you of a scheme which I 
have in my mind to help poor boys who are anxious to be 
priests. Before the war I came in contact with a number 
of very respectable lads and young men, whose one desire 
was to work for God and the salvation of souls, but who, 
for want of means, were not able to pursue their studies. 
I was able to help some of them and get them free places 
in America or England, with a couple at Mungret, but the 
number of applicants was far in excess of the resources. 

" One day having successfully negotiated or missed a 
couple of shells, I was struck instead by a happy idea. I was 
coming home on leave and made up my mind to make an 
experiment with my new idea, which was this. I gave a 
little talk to the Sodality of the Children of Mary in a certain 
convent in Dublin on the need for priests at the present 
time, and what a glorious work it was to help even a single 
lad to become one of the ' Lord's Anointed.' I told them 
how many were longing for this honour, and suggested that 
they should adopt some poor boy and pay for his education 
until lie was ordained. Two hundred girls subscribing 5/- 
a year would provide £50, more than enough for the purpose. 
I suggested that this money ought to be the result of some 
personal sacrifice, working overtime, making a hat or dress 
last longer, etc., but as a last resource they might collect 
the 5/- or some of it. 

" The idea was taken up most warmly : nearly all the 
money for this year is paid in, though the girls are nearly 
all factory hands, and the lucky boy will begin his college 
course in September. I am hoping ' when the cruel war 
is o'er ' to get the other convents to follow suit ; for the 
scheme is simple and no great burden on any one, and is 
a ready solution of the financial difficulty and should bring 
joy to many a boy's heart. Certain difficulties naturally 
suggest themselves, but I think we may safely count a little 
at least on our Blessed Lord's help, since the work is being 
done for Him, and go on with confidence." 

How dear this scheme was to Fr. Doyle may be gathered 



86 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

from this entry in his diary : " May 24th (1917). Feast of 
Notre Dame Auxiliatrice, who helped Don Bosco so much 
in his work for young priests. I formally to-day made 
Mary the Protectress of the work which I am beginning for 
her young priests." 

It will be convenient to mention here Fr. Doyle's translation 
of the Life of P£re Ginhac by A. Calvet, S.J. " Printer 
after printer refused to have anything to do with the book," 
he wrote, " though I staked Fr. Ginhac's reputation that it 
would prove a financial success." Finally Messrs. R. and T. 
Washbourne undertook to produce the work, and it appeared 
in 1914 as A Man after God's Own Heart : Life of Father 
Paul Ginhac, S.J. When Fr. Doyle heard that the price 
was fixed at 8/6 net, he thought that the sale was killed 
for " not many people would care to invest such a sum in 
the life of a man no one had ever heard of." But to his 
astonishment 900 copies went through in the first year, and 
up to December 1916 altogether 1,244 copies had been sold. 
" Pere Ginhac," he wrote to his father, " has certainly worked 
this miracle if he never did anything else ; and I am beginning 
to think he is not a bad sort of an old chap, even though 
he looked so desperately in need of a square meal ! " 
Fr. Ginhac's portrait certainly represents him as cadaverous 
and grim-visaged, a contrast with his admirer and translator, 
whose mortified life was never allowed to interfere with his 
buoyant naturalness and irrepressible spirit of fun. The 
book seems to have impressed and helped many readers, 
for Fr. Doyle continues : "I have had a pile of letters from 
all parts of the world — Alaska, Ceylon, South Africa, etc. — 
asking for relics and mentioning many favours received 
through the holy father's intercession ; so that the labour 
of getting out the volume (and it was not light) has brought 
its own reward." Thus wrote Fr. Doyle a month before 
his death. Little did he dream that his own life would be 
written, and that his influence would be mingled with that 
of his fellow-religious whom he helped to make known 
to others. 




Father Doyle at the Age of Fifteen. 



INNER LIFE: INTRODUCTION 87 

CHAPTER VI. 
INNER LIFE 

(i.) INTRODUCTION. 

IT is not as a successful missioner nor as a zealous director 
that Fr. Doyle chiefly merits our attention and study. 
The main interest of this biography is within, in the 
inner life of the soul. Exteriorly there was little remarkable 
in his career. Many another missionary has reaped a more 
abundant harvest, many other directors have been far more 
skilled in moral and mystical theology. Doubtless, too, 
there are in our midst many unrecognised saints whose hidden 
interior life is precious in the sight of God and would be 
deemed glorious by men if they but knew it. But it is our 
good fortune that we can in the case of Fr. Doyle read, at 
least partially, the record of his true life ; we can view his 
career not only as men saw it, but,also as it appeared to God 
and to himself. And to appreciate his life at its real value 
we must forget altogether that adventitious halo of earthly 
glory which lit up its last phase. It is most important for 
us to avoid placing his war-experience in false perspective 
or attributing to it an exaggerated importance. Whatever 
the world may think, his life would have been just as glorious 
and heroic had he never volunteered to do Christ's work 
on the battlefield. His life was a spiritual combat, an unseen 
war against all that is ignoble and evil ; it needs not the 
fame that is won on fields of carnage. His service as a 
military chaplain did but serve to bring out his latent heroism, 
it showed to men the virtue which had already been acquired 
in the quiet of a religious house. Thus Fr. Doyle's life at 
the Front may well serve to disarm the prejudice of those 
who otherwise might be tempted to despise the little ups 
and downs, the prayers and penances, the resolutions and 
aspirations, which in this case are seen to be the inner facet 
of what is outwardly admirable. His work for the soldiers 



SS FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

was, of course, wonderfully fruitful ; his zealous ministry 
ended as it began, in Belgium. And one can hardly help 
feeling that his death was God's answer to his lifelong prayer 
for martyrdom. Nevertheless, the centre of Fr. Doyle's 
life is within, and its significance for us is quite independent 
of its chance relation to human warfare. One great benefit 
indeed we owe to his military chaplaincy : the fact that he 
had not an opportunity of destroying his spiritual notes. It 
is from these precious relics and from a few very intimate 
letters that we can piece together some of the special 
characteristics and methods of his spiritual life. 

The predominant impression which is left after perusal of 
these papers is that Fr. Doyle is wonderfully true to type — 
he is of the race of Jesuit heroes. He has his own 
particularities, of course, even peculiarities ; but he is unmis 
takably similar to his spiritual forbears. For instance, the 
Jesuit pioneer missionaries of North America were men 
whose great achievements are written in the annals of 
civilisation, discovery, and ethnology. They were heroes, 
who for Christ left the fair land of France and buried them 
selves in the woods with savage Algonquins and Hurons, 
eating their coarse sagamite or oftener starving with them, 
shouldering the same burdens, living in the filth and vermin 
of their tepees, travelling over snow and ice, meeting not 
seldom with blasphemy and obscenity. Slow calculated 
heroism such as this is not a sudden inspiration or a wild 
access of emotion ; it is the outcome of deep purposive 
thought and painful methodic effort co-operating with grace. 
The End of Man, the Kingdom of Christ, the Two Standards, 
. . . . slowly step by step does Ignatius train Christ's 
captains ; and slowly, day by day, in humdrum routine 
and endless trivialities of self-mastery, do his sons develop 
the souls of heroes. John de Brebeuf, gloriously martyred 
on i6th March, 1649, used as a novice to declare : "I will be 
ground to powder rather than break a rule." Only to those 
who miss the inner -key will this seem a curious preparation 
for foreign mission and martyrdom. Pere Enemond Masse" 
(f 1646), another pioneer missionary, to prepare himself for 
his apostolate in Canada, " whose conversion can be under 
taken only by those who have on them the stigmata of the 



INNER LIFE: INTRODUCTION 89 

cross," made some reso utions which were found among his 
papers after death. As they help to reveal the spiritual 
affinities of Fr. Doyle, they will be here recorded : 

" i. Never to sleep except on bare ground, without sheets 
or mattress — which however must be kept in the room so 
that no one may know what is being done. 

2. Not to wear linen except round the neck. 

3. Never to say Mass without a hair-shirt, in order to 
make me think of the sufferings of my Master, of which the 
Holy Sacrifice is the great memorial. 

4. To take the discipline daily. 

5. Never to take dinner unless I have first made my 
examen, and if prevented to eat only a dessert. 

6. Never to gratify my taste. 

7. To fast three times a week, but so that no one will 
know it." 1 

Exactly similar detailed resolutions are to be found in 
nearly every page of Fr. Doyle's notes. His aspirations for 
holiness were never vague or unpractical. 2 During his 1909 
Retreat he wrote : 

" It seems to me the best and most practical resolution 
I can make in this retreat is to determine to perform each 
action with the greatest perfection. This will mean a 
constant ' going against self/ ever agenda contra, at every 
moment and every single day. I have a vast field to cover 
in my ordinary daily actions, e.g. to say the Angelus always 
with the utmost attention and fervour. I feel, too, that 
Jesus asks this from me, as without it there can be no real 
holiness." 

There follows, at the end of these retreat-notes, a huge 
sheaf of resolutions. Unfortunately, some of the pages having 
been torn out or lost, the first thirty resolutions cannot be 
ascertained. Those we know are formidable enough. 



i. — T. Campbell, S.J^ Pioneer Priests of North America, vol. ii. (Among the 
Hurons), p. 59. Fr. Campbell adds : " The eighth is to punish any uncharitable 
word that might escape his lips. Those lips were made to pay a penalty which 
•we prefer to omit." 

2.— See also pp. 35, 43, 49. 



90 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ, 

[RESOL UTIONS.J 

" 31. God wants the sacrifice of never going to plays, 
concerts, cinematographs, football matches, or any sight for 
pure gratification. 

32. With the boys absolute meekness, gentleness, and 
patience. 

33. Never speak about your worries, troubles, amount of 
work. 

34. Do not let an unkind, angry or uncharitable word 
pass your lips. 

35. Don't complain of others or of anything else. 

36. Always be most punctual. 

37. Great fidelity to your own order of time, doing every 
thing at the hour fixed. 

38. If possible say all the Office on your knees before the 
Blessed Sacrament. 

39. Never give yourself relief in small sufferings. 

40. When in pain or unwell, try and not let others know 
it. Hence never say you have a headache, etc. 

41. Wear hair-shirt for (erasure). 

42. You have promised never deliberately to waste a 
moment of time. 

43. Legs or feet not to be crossed. 

44. Do not read letters for some time after receiving them. 

45. Be very observant about the rule of silence. 

46. .The constant mortification of intense fervour at each 
little duty. 

In general : (a) never do anything you would like ; (6) 
deny yourself every gratification ; (c) deny yourself every 
pleasure ; (d) do the thing because it is hard ; (e) in all things 
agere contra. 

Vince Teipsum. 

February 2nd, 1909. 



INNER LIFE: INTRODUCTION 91 

Other Mortifications :— 

1. 1,000 ejaculations morning and night. 

2. Do not look at pictures, advertisements on hoardings. 

3. Do not look into shop windows." 

This is rather an elaborate programme. With increasing 
spiritual strategy, Fr. Doyle never again attempted fifty 
resolutions at once. Gradually he directed all his efforts to 
prayer and penance, and concentration on the passing act. 
Thus he records during his 1910 Retreat : 

' What is my special end, for which God made me ? More 
and more each retreat I see what this is, always the same 
thought, always the same desire and longing for holiness. 
God wants sanctity from me. This is to be acquired chiefly 
by three means : (i) constant little acts of mortification ; 
(2) constant aspirations ; (3) perfection of each action, even 
the odd Hail Marys." 

We have here in three lines the chief characteristics or 
methods of Fr. Doyle's spirituality for the remaining years 
of his life. There is henceforth perceptible a remarkable 
consistency in his inner life. Clearly he had, with God's 
help, found those particular devices or modes of spiritual 
activity which suited his mind and character. Prayer, 
mortification and concentration are more or less incumbent 
on all of us. It does not follow that the special forms in 
which these ideals took shape in Fr. Doyle's life are suitable 
to all. ' There are diversities of graces but the same 
Spirit . . . and there are diversities of operations but 
the same God worketh all in all." (/. Corinth. 12. 4.) Each of 
us has his own individuality, just as each has his own 
particular mission ; through the gates of life and death we 
all pass one by one. Even the members of the same family 
or community will differ considerably in aptitude for prayer, 
in visualising faculty, in spiritual gifts, in devotional 
attractions, in physical powers. God calls each of us 
individually, not as it were anonymously and in a crowd. 
" He calleth His own sheep by name." (S. John 10. 3.) 



92 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



(2.) INTERIOR UNION. 

Fr. Doyle had an extraordinarily vivid realisation of the 
spiritual world. In his life there is no trace of any doubts 
against faith. God was intensely real to him and prayer 
seemed to be an actual colloquy. Holiness appeared 
' natural ' to him, not in the sense that he found or made 
it easy, but inasmuch as it alone satisfied his yearnings and 
ideals. Thus he writes during his 1909 Retreat in preparation 
for his Final Vows : 

" I feel within me a constant desire or craving for holiness, 
a longing for prayer and a great attraction for mortification. 
Even walking along the streets I feel God tugging at my 
heart and, in a sweet loving way, urging, urging, urging 
me to give myself up absolutely to Him and His service. 
Over and over again I say, ' My God, I will become a saint 
since You ask it.' But there is no progress, no real effort. 
The truth is, I am afraid of the sacrifice, afraid of doing 
what God wants ; and I delude myself into thinking I am 
doing God's will and satisfying Him by an empty promise. 
What an abuse of grace ! This cannot go on. I feel there 
must be a change now in this retreat, an absolute surrender 
to all God wants." 

It was especially during his retreats that he found God's 
voice clear and insistent in his soul. " I am beginning my 
own retreat to-morrow," he wrote in 1914. " I long for this 
time all the year until it comes, and then dread it. I am 
afraid of Jesus ! It is a tremendous thing to be alone with 
Him for eight whole days, listening to His voice, drinking 
in His love — and then to think I may not go and do His 
bidding ! " Just after this retreat he wrote to an intimate 
correspondent : " My own retreat was a happy time. It is 
the one little oasis in my wandering life, when I can really 
be alone with Jesus. The chief feature of it was a feeling 
as if He were giving me great strength to face His work and 
an increase of courage and confidence. In former retreats 
I used to suffer from a strange fear of our dear Lord, a fear 
that He might really make me see what He wanted ; in my 



INTERIOR UNION 93 

cowardice I dreaded that. In this last retreat this dread 
was absent in great measure, and help has come from the 
thought that everything will be His doing, not mine." 

Even outside retreat-time he often records for his own use 
inspirations received in prayer, especially before the Blessed 
Sacrament. For instance, on i6th June, 1912, he writes : 
" I felt the presence of Jesus very near to me while praying 
in the chapel at Ramsgrange. He seemed to want me to 
write down what He said : ' I want you, my child, to abandon 
every gratification, generously, absolutely, for the love of 
Me. Each time you give in to yourself you suffer an enormous 
loss. Do ,not deceive yourself by thinking that certain 
relaxations are necessary or will help your work. My grace 
is sufficient for you. Give Me all at all times ; never come 
down from the cross to which I have nailed you. Be generous, 
go on blindly, accepting all, denying yourself all. Trust in 
Me, I will sustain you, but only if you are really generous. 
Begin this moment and mortify every look, action, 
desire. No gratification, no relaxation, no yielding to 
self. Surrender yourself to Me as My victim and let Me 
make you a saint.' ' Certainly not the kind of message 
one's imagination would take pleasure in conjuring up ! 

Of such messages from our Lord we have only the bare 
record, written for God's eye and the writer's. Whether 
they were vivid lights in prayer or whether they took the 
form of mystical locutions, we cannot tell. At any rate, 
they were a powerful incitement to holiness. In accordance 
with Fr. Doyle's impulsively generous nature, these 
inspirations came at times very suddenly. Thus the next 
entry in his diary (loth July, 1912) is as follows : " I awoke 
in the middle of the night with the feeling that Jesus 
wanted me. I resisted, but at last got out of bed. At 
the foot of the altar I was thinking of something else, 
when suddenly He seemed to remind me of my prayer, 
' Jesus come and dwell within my heart as in a tabernacle/ 
I felt Him urging me to this close union and He seemed 
to promise me that He would remain with me ' from Com 
munion to Communion '* if only I was recollected, but that 

i. — So also Sceur Gertrude-Marie — Legueu, Une mystique de nos jours, 1910, 
pp. 193, 196. 



94 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

I would easily drive Him away by unfaithfulness especially 
in want of guard over my eyes." 

Often, too, Fr. Doyle would write down, as he knelt before 
the Tabernacle, a detailed message which he felt Christ was 
speaking to his soul. 1 This entry in his diary, made on 
ist April, 1914, gives us an idea of the heroic urgings which 
he experienced in prayer : 

" I begin to-day my twenty-fourth year in the Society, 
with a heart full to overflowing with gratitude for my 
vocation. I write this before my Jesus in the Tabernacle 
and I have asked Him to make me note down what He wants 
from me 

" Jesus says : (i) I want you to trust Me more : you are 
too much afraid of injuring your health by doing what I 
ask of you e.g. rising at night, sleeping on boards, taking no 
butter, etc. I would not urge these things so much if I did 
not want them from you. Trust Me more, My child. Have 
I not helped you to do many things you thought impossible 
and have you suffered for it ? (2) I want you also to be 
My ' Suffering Love,' never content unless you are making 
some sacrifice. You have not given Me all yet, though you 
know I want it, and until you do so, I cannot give you the 
marvellous graces I have destined for your soul. Be brave, 
be generous, but do not delay. There is joy in crucifixion. 
(3) I want this year to be one of profound recollection 
and intense union with Me. I have promised to dwell 
physically in you as in a tabernacle, from Communion to 
Communion, if you do what I have asked you — guard your 
«yes. (4) Your faults of the tongue must cease from this 
day, they are working you much harm. (5) You must work 
for Me as you have never done before, especially by prayer 
and aspirations, boldly urging souls to heroic sanctity, not 
minding what people may say of you. Human respect is 
one of your faults still.' 

" Before leaving the chapel Jesus said : ' In future let your 
heart speak ; you are afraid of letting people know that you 
love Me tenderly.' ' 

i. — In this matter the remark of S. John of the Cross (Ascent of Mount 
Carmel ii. 29, 4) is worth remembering: "I am terrified by what passes us 
in these days. Any mere beginner at meditation, if he becomes conscious of 
locutions during his self-recollection, forthwith pronounces them to be the work 
of God, and hence says, God has spoken to me, or, I have had an answer from 
God. But it is not true ; he has simply been speaking- to himself." 



INTERIOR UNION 95 

Apparently without regarding them as directly super 
natural, Fr. Doyle felt convinced that in these experiences he 
was listening to the voice of his Master. This explains what 
would otherwise seem mere impulsiveness and impetuosity. 
He often waited for some interior inspiration before acting, 
and when it came, he obeyed instantly. 1 " The resolution 
I feel impelled to make to-day," he wrote on the eve of his 
Last Vows (1909) "is to consult the Holy Ghost about 
everything, and to do what He suggests, to listen to His 
inspirations and to refuse Him nothing. I believe this would 
sanctify me quickly." 

And again he writes on I2th Sept. 1913 : 

" I have felt strongly urged again to give myself entirely 
to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to follow His 
inspirations. For example, I sometimes feel urged to take 
the discipline during the day, and when I have been able 
to overcome the repugnance to the trouble of it, my soul 
has been filled with joy. Many other thoughts of this kind 
come into my mind — to rise when I wake, not to do this or 
that — I am certain they are from the Holy Spirit, but I 
resist His voice, and hence feel unhappy. In future I will 
say a little prayer for light and then do what I am impelled 
to. Just now I was sitting in an armchair fearfully tired. 
It cost me a big effort to undress and take the discipline, 
and put on chain round waist. But the result was a most 
marvellous increase of bodily vigour." 

It need scarcely be said that such a method, in the case 
of one untrained in theology or less mature in spirituality 
would be fraught with great danger. It was to St. Joseph, 
not to our Lady, that the angelic messages were given ; and 
the converted Paul was sent for direction to Ananias. God 
wishes to help us through the medium of those whom He 
has appointed for the guidance of souls. So also in 
Fr. Doyle's own case this promptness to carry out the 
inspirations of grace by no means implied that he dispensed 
himself from the general guidance of superior, director or 
confessor, or, in special cases, from detailed permission.- 

i. — Compare what was said of Pere Ginhac : "Generally the final decision 
is postponed until the last moment. He waits for a sign from divine providence 
or the least impulse of the Holy Spirit." — A Man after God's Own Heart, p. 88. 

2. — See pp. 146, 172. 



g6 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

This submission to external rule and guidance is the universal 
characteristic of Catholic holiness. " I was once thinking," 
says St. Teresa, 1 " of the great penance practised by 
Dona Catalina de Cardona, and how I might have done 
more, considering the desires which our Lord had always 
given me, if it had not been for my obedience to my con 
fessors. I asked myself whether it would not be well for the 
future to disobey them in this matter. ' No, my daughter, 1 
said our Lord to me. ' You are on the safe and certain 
road. Do you observe all her penance ? I think more of 
your obedience.' ' Similarly S. Margaret Mary 2 records 
that our Lord said to her : "I will adjust My graces to the 
spirit of thy rule, to the will of thy superioress and to thy 
weakness ; so that thou must regard as suspicious everything 
that might withdraw thee from the exact observance of thy 
rule, to which I will that thou shouldst give the preference." 

It is but natural, of course, that a fully formed Jesuit is 
not in need of the same minute detailed direction which is 
necessary for weaker untrained souls. S. Ignatius supposes 
that the finished member of his Society is expert in the 
discernment of spirits, quick to detect evil influences and 
self-deception, alert to recognise the promptings of grace. 
One so steeped in the spirit of the Exercises, one so watchful 
in continual self -conquest, as Fr. Doyle, was well fitted to 
guide himself and others in the imitation of Christ. He 
had the direction of many gifted souls and he accepted this 
task only with a serious sense of responsibility. He was 
by no means uncritical and he was always severely practical. 
He had no love for that theorising about mysticism which 
is so common. " I would strongly advise you," he once 
wrote, " not to read books treating of the mystical life unless 
you can get a good guide. You might be imagining yourself 
in a certain state when you are a thousand miles away from 
it. ... Go on quietly, loving God and seeking to please 
Him, without trying to find out in what exact state of 
perfection your soul is." Very sound advice for any beginner 
who is inclined to confuse the acquisition of a mystical 
vocabulary and an abnormal habit of self-dissection with 

i. — Relations iii. 12. Compare also Foundations 28. 18. 
2. — Life (Paray-le-Monial), Eng-. trans. 1912, p. 37. 



INTERIOR UNION 97 

the actual experiences and privileges of the saints. Fr. Doyle, 
of course, was not always merely negative and repressive. 
To several holy souls he gave help and guidance in regions 
ordinarily inaccessible. In one or two cases, perhaps three 
altogether, he ultimately gave his approval to the genuine 
ness of mystical phenomena such as locutions. Many times 
he records in his diary a message which one of these few 
spiritual children sent to him as coming from Christ. This 
is an instance : " Tell him I desire this union with My whole 
Heart ; I want to teach him how to deal with My disciples." 
But as these messages are by no means as clear and practical 
as his own lights, and as we have no means of examining 
their authenticity, nothing would be gained by reproducing 
them here. Besides, it is not at all clear that occasionally 
Fr. Doyle's trustful sincerity was not influenced to the 
detriment of a more severely critical judgement which a 
riper experience would have created. 

In Fr. Doyle's own case these celestial messages and 
inspirations merged by insensible gradations into more homely 
experiences. Like St. Ignatius tossing the reins on his mule's 
neck as he rode towards Montserrat, Fr. Doyle loved to see 
an intimation of God's will in what men usually call chance. 
He would ' cut ' a favourite book — say, the Life of Gemma 
Galgani, the Life of Pere Ginhac, or even the New Testament 
itself — in order to find some helpful text ; an act to which, 
by the way, we owe S. Augustine's conversion. Indeed, 
wherever he was and whatever he saw, he was always ready 
to see God's hand and to hear His voice. Thus he records 
in his diary on 2ist Dec., 1913 : "At the end of the per 
formance of Quo Vadis ? the words of our Lord seemed to 
go through my soul, ' I am going to Rome to be crucified 
for thee.' Jesus must have given me a big grace, for I walked 
home stunned, with these words ringing in my ears, ' crucified 
for thee.' Oh ! Jesus, Jesus, why cannot I be crucified for 
You ? I long for it with all my heart, and yet I remain 
a coward. Thank you at least for the dear light You have 
given me about the life You ask from me, namely, ' to give 
up every comfort and gratification, to embrace lovingly 
every possible pain and suffering.' ' A devout conclusion 
not always deducible from cinema shows ! 



98 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

Fr. Doyle's habit of interrogating everything for a spiritual 
message is shown in his visits to shrines. In Feb., 1911, 
when giving a retreat in Cork, he visited the grave of the 
little orphan child who is known as ' Little Nellie of Holy 
God.' " Kneeling there," he says, " I asked her what God 
wanted from me, when I heard an interior voice clearly 
repeating, ' Love Him, love Him.' The following day she 
seemed to rebuke me, when leaving the cemetery, for the 
careless way I performed most of my spiritual duties, and 
to say that God was displeased with this and wanted great 
fervour and perfection in them." In November, 1912, he 
was able to pay a visit to Lourdes. "Almost the first thing " 
he writes, " which caught my eye at the grotto was our 
Lady's words : Penitence, penitence, penitence \ On leaving, 
I asked Jesus had He any message to give me. The same 
flashed suddenly into my mind and made a deep impression 
on me." A week later he was in Lisieux. " Kneeling at 
the grave of the Little Flower," he says, " I gave myself 
into her hands to guide and to make me a saint. I promised 
her to make it the rule of my whole life, every day without 
exception, to seek in all things my greater mortification, to 
give all and to refuse nothing. I have made this resolution 
with great confidence because I realise how utterly it is 
beyond my strength ; but I feel the Little Flower will get 
me grace to keep it perfectly." While he was military 
chaplain in France, he was able to pay two visits to Amettes 
in the diocese of Boulogne, the birthplace of St. Benedict 
Joseph Labre. This is how he records his second visit on 
ist May, 1917 : 

" Second pilgrimage to Amettes from Locre. During the 
journey I felt our Lord wanted to give me some message 
through St. Benedict Joseph Labre. No light came while 
praying in the Church or in the house ; but when I went 
up to his little room and knelt down a voice seemed to whisper 
' Read what is written on the wall.' I saw these words : Dieu 
m ' appelle d la vie austere ; il faut que je me prfyare pour 
suivre les voies de Dieu. 1 With these words came a sudden 
light to see how much one gains by every act of sacrifice, 

i. — " God calls me to an austere life; I must prepare myself to follow the 
ways of God." 



INTERIOR UNION 99 

that what we give is not lost ; but the enjoyment (increased 
a thousand fold) is only postponed. This filled me with 
extraordinary consolation which lasted all day." 

It will thus be seen that holiness was Fr. Doyle's constant 
preoccupation. Though he was human and social as well 
as many-sided in his interests, the central realities of his 
life were God and his own soul. God was to him no distant 
Creator or far-off Judge, He was an ever-present Companion 
whose voice he could not mistake, to whom he always turned. 
Angels were to him no subtle speculation, nor were the 
saints merely historical examples. With childlike simplicity 
he spoke to them and strove to learn from them. One looks 
in vain among his papers for a doubt or a hint of modern 
scepticism. He saw things from within, and he was satisfied ; 
he did not just read about religion, he lived it. And so he 
lived in our cities of to-day, those great wildernesses of 
stone and steel, just as if he had been dwelling in the uplands 
of Galilee twenty centuries ago. He passed through life 
with the faith of a little child, and thus out into the great 
Beyond, still a child, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. 



(3.) PERSONAL ATTACHMENT TO CHRIST. 

" Is it possible," asks a Protestant clergyman, no less a 
personage than the late Master of Balliol, 1 "is it possible 
to feel a personal attachment to Christ such as is prescribed 
by Thomas a Kempis ? " "I think," he replies," that it 
is impossible and contrary to human nature that we should 
be able to concentrate our thoughts on a person scarcely 
known to us, who lived eighteen hundred years ago." What 
a complacently uttered verdict from one who, with all his 
scholarship, never comprehended the inner meaning and 
motive-power of priest and nun, aye, and of millions of 
suffering toilers who in Christ alone find rest for their souls ! 
It is precisely this intense personal attachment to Jesus 

i. — Abbott and Campbell, Life and Letters of B. fotvett, \\. 151. Contrast 
S. Peter (i. i. 8): "Jesus Christ whom having not seen, you love; in whom 
.also now, though you see Him not, you believe ; and believing shall rejoice 
with joy unspeakable and glorified." 



loo FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

that is the key to the life of a man like Fr. Doyle. It was 
the driving-force of that chivalrous Spanish hidalgo who, 
after winning earthly glory at the siege of Pamplona, hung 
up his sword at the shrine of our Lady of Montserrat and 
enlisted in the service of the King whose proclamation rang 
in his ears : " My will is to conquer the whole world and all 
enemies and thus to enter into My Father's glory. Therefore 
whoever desires to come with Me must labour with Me, in 
order that following Me in pain, he may likewise follow Me 
in glory." 1 Mecum (with Me) — does not this little word 
carry in it the heart of Christianity ? The sacrifices of 
religious life are possible because it is life with Christ. The 
heroism of Christian charity lives on because it is done for 
Christ, with Christ, to Christ. What a measureless volume 
of human service has been created by the presence and the 
ideal of Christ ! What a burden of human suffering has 
been borne with Christ, laid beside the Passion of the Son 
of Man, ever since the days when Peter and the apostles 
went " rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer 
reproach for the name of Jesus." (Acts .5. 41.) To-day, 
after twenty centuries, the name of Jesus is still as potent, 
and the friendship of Christ is alone able to inspire what is 
most sublime and heroic in humanity. Unless we grasp the 
ever-living reality of this companionship of Christ, we shall 
fail completely to understand the struggles, the ecstasies, 
the so-called follies of the saints and of those hidden souls 
innumerable of whom the world is not worthy. ' The 
consciousness of this friendship of Jesus Christ," writes Mgr. 
Benson, 2 " is the very secret of the saints. Ordinary men 
can live ordinary lives, with little or no open defiance of 
God, from a hundred second-rate motives. We keep the 
commandments that we may enter into life ; we avoid sin 
that we may escape hell ; we fight against worldliness 
that we may keep the respect of the world. But no man 
can advance three paces on the road of perfection unless 
Jesus Christ walks beside him. It is this, then, that gives 
distinction to the way of the saint, and that gives him his 
apparent grotesqueness too — for what is more grotesque in 

i. — Spiritual Exercises, (The Kingdom of Christ), p. 34. 
2. — The Friendship of Christ, 1912, p. 10. 



PERSONAL ATTACHMENT TO CHRIST joi 

the eyes of the unimaginative world than the ecstasy of the 
lover ? Commonsense never yet drove a man mad ; it is 
commonsense that is thought to characterise sanity ; and 
commonsense therefore has never scaled mountains, much 
less has it cast them into the sea. But it is the maddening 
joy of the conscious companionship of Jesus Christ that has 
produced the lovers, and therefore the giants, of history. It is 
the developing friendship of Jesus Christ and the Passion that 
has inspired those lives, which the world in its dull moods calls 
unnatural and the Church in all her moods supernatural. 
' This priest/ cried S, Teresa in one of her more confidential 
moments with her Lord, ' this priest is a very proper person 
to be made a friend of ours.' ' 

In this respect Fr. Doyle was a true member of the 
Company of Jesus. It scarcely needs to be proved that 
his whole life was pivoted on love for Christ. Without 
some such cardinal passion or absorbing motive, a man will 
not devote his life to sacrificing his natural inclinations, 
seeking and enduring pain, toiling in gratuitous and often 
unrequited service, laying down his life amid nauseating 
scenes of carnage. 1 Such a life can only be led with Christ, 
always mentally and often sacramentally present. At times 
Fr. Doyle felt overpowered by the intensity of this love. 
" Even as a child," he writes, " I longed and prayed to be 
a saint. But somehow it always seemed to me as if that 
longing could never be realised, for I felt there was some 
kind of a barrier like a high Wall between myself and God. 
What it was, I cannot say even now. But recently this 
obstacle appears to me to have been removed, the way is 
open, and I feel I love Jesus now as I never did before, or 
even hoped to. With this comes the conviction, so strong 
and consoling with so much peace and happiness, that Jesus 
will grant my heart's desire before I die. I dare not put 
on paper what I feel, even if I could ; but at times Jesus 
seems to pour all the grace of His Sacred Heart upon me 
until I am intoxicated almost with His love and could cry 
out with the pain of that sweet wounding." 

i. — Here is a note jotted down on 22nd April, 1905 : " Work for Jesus ! Yes, 
though the weary head may ache and the tired brain refuse to act. Work on, 
work on ; the years slip by and soon the hour of toil will cease for ever. 
Work for Jesus ! How sweet these words ! Not one effort escapes His watchful 
eye and He will reward you with a joy unknown for what you suffer now." 



102 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

" I cannot deny," he said on another occasion, " that 1 
love Jesus, love Him passionately, love Him with every 
fibre of my heart. He knows it, too, since He has asked 
me to do many things for Him, which have cost me more 
than I should like to say, yet which with His grace were 
sweet and easy in a sense. He knows that my longing, at 
least, even if the strength and courage are wanting, is to do 
and suffer much more for Him, and that were He to-morrow 
to ask for the sacrifice of every living friend, I would not 
refuse Him. Yet with all that, with the intense longing 
to make Him known and loved, I have never yet been able 
to speak of Him to others as I want to." 

And here is a precious letter in which, forgetting his usual 
reserve, he gives an intimate correspondent a glimpse into 
the inner fires of his soul. It is dated from the Presentation 
Convent, B , 3oth July. 1914. 

" What you say is indeed true. Jesus has been ' hunting ' 
me during these past days, trying to wound my heart with 
His arrows of love. He has been so gentle, so patient, tender, 
loving, I do not know at times where to turn, and yet I 
somehow feel that much of this grace is given me for others, 
I know it has helped souls and lifted them close to Jesus. 

" I long to get back to my little room at night, to calm 
and quiet, and yet I dread it, for He is often so loving there. 
I feel He is near because I cannot go to Him in the 
Tabernacle. It is such a helpless feeling to be tossed about 
as it were on the waves of love, to feel the ardent, burning 
love of His Heart, to know He asks for love, and then to 
realise one human heart is so tiny. 

' Your letter and little meditation have helped me. At 
times I have smiled at the folly of what you say since I 
realize how little you know of my real character, and then 
like a big wave the truth seems to burst on me, that as a 
fierce fire sweeps away and consumes all obstacles, so the 
love of God blots out the many faults and failings of my 
poor life and leaves me free to go to Him. 

' The bands are playing in the town below, but the music 
in my soul is a thousand times sweeter. ' The Love of 
God.' I have one more lecture, some confessions and then — 
no you may not come — He wants to be alone with me for 



PERSONAL ATTACHMENT TO CHRIST 103 

a few brief moments at least that I may pour out on Him 
all my love and affection and put my arms around His neck — 
my Jesus and my All. Forgive me, child, I am foolish." 

Another intimate note tells us how at times his love found 
vent in reverently yet affectionately embracing the image 

of his crucified Master. 1 "I went on to and once 

more had an opportunity of a quiet prayer before the life-size 
crucifix in the church which I love so much. I could not 
remain at His feet but climbed up until both my arms were 
around His neck. The Figure seemed almost to live, and 
I think I loved Him then, for it was borne in upon me how 
abandoned and suffering and broken-hearted He was. It 
seemed to console Him when I kissed His eyes and pallid 
cheeks and swollen lips, and as I clung to Him, I knew He 
had won the victory, and I gave Him all He asked." 2 

Fr. Doyle's love for Christ was thus not confined to the 
cold upper regions of the soul, whither many who walk in 
the darkness of faith must relegate it. It was something 
which filled his whole being and at times overflowed sensibly. 
" Was not our heart burning within us whilst He spoke in 
the way ? " exclaimed the two disciples. (S. Luke 24. 32.) 
Fr. Doyle was often on the Emmaus road ; Jesus seemed 
to speak in the way, and his heart was burning within him. 
His emotion then found utterance in loving transports, one 
of which was happily put on paper. " I know not why I 
am writing this," he says, " except it be to ease my straining 
heart, for at times I feel half mad with the love of God." 

' Jesus is the most loving of lovable friends — there never 
was a friend like Him before, there never can be one to equal 
Him, because there is only one Jesus in the whole wide 
world and the vast expanse of Heaven, and that sweet and 
loving friend, that true lover of the holiest and purest love 

i. — This little quotation from a letter of Fr. Doyle's will help to explain his 
attitude still further : " The wretched spirit of Jansenism has driven our dear 
Lord from His rightful place in our hearts. He longs for love, and familiar 

love, so give him both 1 need scarcely say, when others do not see you. . . . 

I know a holy soul who never leaves the chapel without kissing the tabernacle 
door and walking backward, kissing her hand to the Prisoner of Love." 

2. — Compare this from the life of S. Margaret Mary (Paray-le-Monial Life, 
Eng. trans., Visitation Library, Walmer, Kent, 1912, pp. 62, 94): " He made 
me repose for a long time upon His Sacred Bosom, where He discovered to me 
the marvels of His love." " He held me for the space of two or three hours 
with my lips pressed to the wound of his Sacred Heart." 



104 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

is my Jesus, mine alone and all mine. Every fibre of 
His divine nature is thrilling with love for me, every beat 
of His gentle Heart is a throb of intense affection for me, 
His sacred arms are round me, He draws me to His breast, 
He bends down with infinite tenderness over me, His child, 
for He knows I am all His, and He is all mine. In His eyes 
the vast world, the myriads of other souls have all vanished, 
He has forgotten them all, — for that brief moment they do 
not exist — for even the infinite love of God Himself is not 
enough to pour out on the soul who is clinging so lovingly 
to Him. 

" O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus ! who would not love You, who 
would not give their heart's blood for You, if only once 
they realised the depth and the breadth and the realness 
of Your burning love ? Why not then make every human 
heart a burning furnace of love for You, so that sin would 
become an impossibility, sacrifice a pleasure and a joy, virtue 
the longing of every soul, so that we should live for love, 
dream of love, breathe Your love, and at last die of a broken 
heart of love, pierced through and through with the shaft 
of love, the sweetest gift of God to man." 

Doubtless there are stolid souls who will not appreciate 
these emotional outpourings, who regard such fervent 
language as mere sentimentalism. It is true, of course, 
that such utterances were never meant to be dragged from 
their sacred privacy into the cold light of print. But that 
is just the beauty of them. They well up spontaneously 
from the heart of a strong man, they express the pent up 
enthusiasm of this brave soldier of Christ, seeking an uncon 
ventional outlet. Fr. Doyle was no sickly sentimentalist or 
hysterical weakling. He lived what he felt, and he meant 
what he said. Why should we fancy that strength must be 
shorn of tenderness ? Why should we think that only 
earthly love is privileged to have its delights ? Paul, the 
man of action, was accused by some Corinthian converts of 
being ' beside himself.' " If we have been beside ourselves," 
he answers, " it was for God ; if we are now in our right 
senses, it is for you. For the love of Christ overmasters 
us — reflecting that as One died for all, then all were dead ; 
and that He died for all, so that the living may no longer 



PERSONAL ATTACHMENT TO CHRIST 105 

live to themselves but to Him who died for them and rose 
again. . . . Hence if any one is in Christ, he is a new 
being, his old life has passed away, a new life has begun ! " 
{// Cor. 5. 13-17.) Charitas Christi urget nos. Thus wrote 
the great Apostle of the Gentiles in a public letter. And 
John, " the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one who at the 
Supper leant back on His breast " (S. John 21. 20), tells 
us that " we know what love is through Christ's having laid 
down His life for us " (I John 3. 16.) Has not Jesus Himself 
set His seal on the humanness, so to speak, of our relations 
with Him ? He will not call us servants but friends. 
(S, John 15. 15.) " You are the men who have stood by 
Me in My trials " (S. Luke 22. 28), said our Lord to His 
Apostles. And He had sorrowfully to add, " Even you will 
all be scandalized in Me to-night " (S. Matthew 26. 31.) 
Yet as a last appeal He took with Him to His agony His 
three favoured friends, whose slumber He then lovingly 
excused And as they slept, stretched there beneath the 
moonlit olive-trees, was He not comforted, not only by the 
angelic messenger, but by the countless faithful ones who 
would watch and pray during their ' holy hour/ who, 
separated in sequence of time but nigh to His eternal gaze, 1 
would kneel beside Him and drink His chalice ? And as 
His pain-racked form was raised aloft on the Hill of Golgotha, 
as His blood-clotted eyes looked down on a sea of mocking 
hardened faces, did He not feel the stream of adoring love 
which down the centuries was to converge on the Crucified ? 
4 'And I. if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things 
to Myself." (S. John 12. 32.) Peter crucified head down 
wards, following his Master at last ; Ignatius of Antioch 
crying " My Love is crucified " ; the innumerable souls 
whose last earthly gaze is fixed on the crucifix ; and every 
one of us who has knelt before the image of Christ Crucified, 
or made the Stations of the Cross or stood in spirit on Calvary 
with Mary, His Mother ; all are joining in reparation to the 
Heart of Jesus. Seen in this eternal perspective, is there 
not a wondrous and touching reality in Fr, Doyle's climbing 

i. — " Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom Thou hast given Me. . . . 
And not for them only do 1 pray, but for them also who through their word 
shall believe in Me." — S.John 17. 11, 20. 



106 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

up to the life-size crucifix and kissing the pallid face of the 
Crucified ? It is just such simple, artless love which discerns 
the ever-present significance of the Life of Christ. 1 

As a pledge of his devotion to Christ and to bind his life 
to that of his Master, Fr. Doyle made a vow of consecration 
to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, signing his name thereto in 
his blood, and thus attesting his dedication of himself to 
the service of Him " who hath loved us and washed us from 
our sins in His own blood." (Apoc. i. 5.) It was made 
during one of those quiet midnight vigils which Fr. Doyle 
loved so well and was written by the red glimmer of the 
sanctuary lamp. 

" Most loving Jesus, kneeling before You in the Blessed 
Sacrament, I solemnly consecrate myself to Your Sacred 
Heart by vow. I vow always to be Your faithful lover 
and to strive every day to grow in Your love. In imitation 
of the oblation which B. Margaret Mary made of herself, I 
now wish to give myself up absolutely and entirely, without 
any reserve whatever, to Your most Sacred Heart, that 
You may be free to do with me, to treat me, as You wish, 
to send me whatever suffering or humiliation You wish. I 
desire to put no obstacle to the action of grace upon my soul, 
to be a perfect instrument in Your divine hands, to be Your 
victim should You so desire. I want to make this oblation 
and immolation of myself to Your Sacred Heart as completely 
as possible, and in the manner which You wish me to make 
it, O my Jesus. Therefore, again, by this vow, I make a 
complete surrender of myself and all I have to You. Do 
with me as You will, for from this hour I am wholly Yours 

Amen. 

Feast of St. Michael, Friday, Sept. 29th, 1910. 

Made at Midnight. Signed W. J. DOYLE, S J." 

i.— Compare the second contemplation of the Second Week of the Spiritual 
Exercises (p. 39) : " The first point is to see the persons ; that is to say, to see 
our Lady and St. Joseph and the serving-maid, also the Infant Jesus after His 
birth, accounting- myself a poor and unworthy servant, looking at and con 
templating them and tending them in their necessities as though I were present 
there, with a!! possible homage and reverence." So S. Gertrude : "The day 
ot Thine adorable Nativity, I took Thee from the crib, wrapped in swathing- 
clothes, like a little infant newly born, and placed Thee in my heart." —Life 
and Revelations, London, 1865, p. 100. " Kissing the wounds of Christ " she 
used frequently in the day to " pour forth all her griefs into the wounds of her 
Lord and find therein all her consolation and all her joy" (p. 231). 



PRAYER 107 

(4.) PRAYER. 

One of Fr. Doyle's favourite devotions was that of the 
Holy Hour. 1 Long before he became a priest he had made 
it faithfully week after week and found it a fruitful source 
of grace. Afterwards as a hard-working priest, he contrived 
to increase the number of nocturnal visits. " Two years 
ago when at Tours," he writes on 22nd Nov., 1914, " I felt 
strongly urged to rise and make the Holy Hour every night. 
In the past twelve months I have gone down to the chapel 
about fifty times, though often only for a few moments ; 
this does not include the weekly Holy Hour on Thursday. 
Now I feel impelled to rise each night, when at home, at 
least for a quarter of an hour." And in April, 1915, he resolved 
" to make the Holy Hour each night from ten to eleven 
when at home." How he made it may be best gathered 
from an entry in his diary under the date ist Sept., 1911. 
" Last night," he writes, " while making the Holy Hour in 
my room, Jesus seemed to ask me to promise to make it 
every Thursday, even when away giving retreats, and when 
I cannot go to the chapel, He wants the greater part of the 
time to be spent prostrate on the ground, which I find very 
painful. I think He wants me to share in His agony during 
this hour, feeling a little of the sadness, desolation, and 
abandonment He experienced, the shame of sin, the 
uselessness of His sufferings to save souls. I begged Him 
to plunge my soul into the sea of bitterness which surrounded 
Him. It was an hour of pain, but I hope for more." 

Fr. Doyle devoted himself to the propagation of this 
practice. It was long uphill work, not so much among 
holy souls living in the world, very many ot whom adopted 
it enthusiastically, as among religious communities, where 
innovations progress slowly, even apart from the difficulty 
of finding room for a new devotion in an already overcrowded 

i. — See above p. 22. A brief", useful and practical account of this devotion, 
initiated by S. Margaret Mary Alacoque, will be found in The Holy Jfour, by 
J. McDonnell, S.J. (Dublin, Irish Messenger Office). See also the quotation 
from S. M. Mary on p. 137. In one of his letters Mgr. d'Hulst defines 
devotion to the Sacred Heart as "the holy hour endlessly prolonged." — The 
Way of the ffeart(E.ng, trans., 1913), p. 65. The thirteenth century S. Gertrude 
often "kept vigil and was occupied with the remembrance of the Lord's 
Passion "and was "much fatigued." — Life and Revelations, Eng. tr. 1865, p. 227. 



io8 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

time-table. But the efforts were in many cases crowned 
with success. " Our Blessed Lord is at last blessing my 
efforts to establish the Holy Hour," wrote Fr. Doyle in 1914. 
" Up to this attempts have been more or less of a failure, 
but now they have taken it up warmly in all the W. convents. 
The Mother Provincial of the X. nuns will push it during 
her visitation. Moreover the devotion has been established 
with full sanction of the authorities in Y., and will now 
spread to the other ten convents there. A letter from Z 
yesterday told me that they, too, after three years' wait 
had fallen into line." It is scarcely necessary to add that 
this propaganda did not always meet with approval or favour. 
But it deserves to be recorded that Fr. Doyle was by no means 
a blind enthusiast. He quite appreciated local or individual 
difficulties. Thus he wrote to a nun in 1911 : "As regards 
the Holy Hour I would urge you personally not to make 
a practice of staying up every Thursday night. The privation 
of sleep tells in the end, and you are not too strong ; and 
if you get knocked up, people will say that was the cause 
and may even get the Hour forbidden. God likes generosity, 
but we must be prudent and not expect Him to work 
miracles." 

This practice was but one expression of his love for the 
Blessed Sacrament. 1 Again and again he gives vent to his 
eucharistic devotion. " The mad longing for His presence," 
he writes, "is at times overpowering. It would be hard 
to describe how He chains me to Him, the magnetic attraction, 
the more than physical force that drags me to the Tabernacle, 
and then the pain with which I realize at His feet how small 
and feeble the human heart is to give Him a love worthy 
of His." He spent every spare moment in church or chapel ; 
and since spare moments grew scarcer as the years went 
on, he laid the hours of sleep under contribution On some 
feast days, such as that of Corpus Christi, he contrived to 
spend, at intervals, as much as seven hours before the Blessed 
Sacrament. But besides his want of leisure in the daytime, 
he had a special love for vigil before the Tabernacle. Prayer 
was easier in the quiet stillness of the night, he was free 

i. — He became a Knight of the Blessed S;tcrament on ist January, 19:7, at 
Locre in Belgium, where he was military chaplain. 



PRAYER 109 

to express outwardly the longings of his heart, and last 
but not least, he liked nocturnal prayer because it was hard. 
To rise when one awakes, or to set one's alarum for midnight, 
and creep down to the chapel, even were it only for a few 
minutes, is no slight act of mortification. Still more heroic 
is the cheating oneself of the sleep earned after a hard day's 
work. Fr. Doyle did not ever find this easy. In his Retreat 
of September 1915, he records : "A greater urging to spend 
every available moment with Him and to try to practise 
nocturnal adoration oftener ; ' every night ' Jesus says, but 
I am too cowardly and too fearful of my health. Would 
He not help me if I tried ? " l 

It was while he was on the mission that he most keenly 
felt his inability to visit our Lord at night, it was then that 
he realised how much a domestic chapel means. " I never 
knew/' runs a letter of his, " how much Jesus in the Taber 
nacle enters our lives as religious, till I had to live for weeks 
in houses where He was absent. I manage to make the Holy 
Hour each week, though I have to wait till all are asleep 
before I can steal out to the chapel, sometimes a couple of 
miles away." 

Later on when stationed in England as military chaplain 
he wrote 2 : ' There is one thing I cannot, (I almost wrote 
' will not '), bear, the loss of our dearest Lord. It is bitterly 
hard to have to live day after day without His presence 
except for a few moments each morning during Mass, which 
only makes things harder still, for I am left hungering for 
Him for twenty-four hours. I have found a tiny chapel 
some miles from here, but I can seldom get there. The 
thought of Jesus in that lonely Tabernacle haunts me always, 
and at night I seem to hear Him calling gently and sadly. 
Oh ! how I wish I could go to Him through the mud and 
rain." A month later (January 1916) he writes : ' We 
came here (Bordon Camp) in awful rain and wind, but on 

i.- — Obviously, such nocturnal prayer requires discretion and guidance. 
" It is incredible," says S. Francis de Sales, " how dangerous long night vigils 
are and how much they weaken the brain. It is not felt during youth ; but it 
comes to be felt so much the more afterwards, and many persons have rendered 
themselves useless in this way." — Letters to Persons in Religion, Eng. trans. 
(Mackay), 1901,8 p. 68 (cf. p. 43). See also the loth Addition to the First 
Week of the Exercises. 

2. — See also p. 217. 



no FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

reaching the barracks, the first thing I saw were the words : 
' R. C. Hut.' Thinking it was just the empty hut for Sunday 
Mass, and yet half-hoping, I opened the door to find a 
beautifully furnished little chapel with the red lamp that 
told me all. I think I now know what Mary felt when she 
found her Son in the temple. How I thanked Him for this 
gift, for His goodness in sending my regiment to camp about 
His dwelling ! His goodness did not stop there, for without 
asking him, the priest in charge gave me the key, so that 
I can come to Jesus at any time. I am very happy now, 
for I have Him, Deus meus et omnia 1 — all else cannot supply 
His place — and life seems quite changed." 

Even when serving at the Front, his thoughts turned to 
nocturnal prayer and adoration. Here is an entry dated 
25th October, 1916 : " Jesus has long urged me to give Him 
a whole night of prayer and reparation. Last night I prayed 
in my dug-out at Kemmel from 9 till 5 (eight hours), most 
of the time on my knees. I bound myself beforehand to 
do so by vow in order not to let myself off. Though I had 
only two hours' sleep, I am not very tired or weary to-day. 
Jesus wants more of these nights of prayer, adoration and 
atonement." 

Thus this true follower of the Prince of Peace pursued 
his calm inner life amid the scenes and sounds of human 
strife, kneeling in his dug-out and adoring his eucharistic 
Lord in the pyx as quietly and devotedly as if he were in the 
domestic chapel of Rathfarnham Castle. Two months before 
his death he notes (2ist June, 1917) : " Jesus told me to-day 
that the work of regeneration and sanctification is to be 
done by leading souls to Him in the Blessed Sacrament." 
And on 2nd July he records : ' The conviction has been 
growing that nocturnal adoration will be established only 
if I spend much time myself before the Blessed Sacrament 
at night. I know well that Jesus not only wants me to 
sacrifice much of my sleep, but also to rise sometimes during 
the night to adore and console Him in the Tabernacle. The 
repugnance (and yet attraction) to this is extraordinary." 

It will be clear from such an admission that Fr. Doyle's 



i. — " My God and All " aspiration of S. Francis of Assisi. (Fioreiti 2 } 



PRAYER in 

devotion to the Real Presence was quite compatible with 
dryness, drowsiness and discomfort. In advice once sent 
to another he gives us the secret of his own devotion to 
his sacramental Lord. " Real devotion to the Blessed 
Sacrament," he writes, " is only to be gained by hard, grinding 
work of dry adoration before the Hidden God. But such a 
treasure cannot be purchased at too great a cost, for once 
obtained, it makes of this life as near an approach to heaven 
as we can ever hope for." 

Although grace worked very effectively and appreciably 
in his soul, it never dispensed him from ' hard, grinding 
work.' Even in the case of that interior union which seemed 
to be so spontaneously natural in Fr. Doyle, we can from 
his diary perceive how slow, painful and methodic were the 
means which he took to acquire and perfect such union. 
During his retreat of January 1913 he wrote : " I feel drawn 
still more to the life of interior union. To acquire this I 
must practise the following : — 

(1) Constant and profound recollection. 

(2) To keep my thoughts always if possible centred on 

Jesus in my heart. 

(3) To avoid worry and anxiety about future things. 

(4) To avoid useless conversation. 

(5) Great guard over my eyes, not reading or looking 

at useless things." 

So, even in regions generally called mystic, he proceeded 
in that clear, systematic, one might say businesslike, way 
so characteristic of St. Ignatius. 1 No vague yearnings 
after sublimities or ecstasies, no anxiety for the abnormal 
or singular, just a quiet persevering fidelity in small things 
and an unflinching determination to avail of those countless 
opportunities with which each day is strewn. To use an 
expressive phrase, St. Ignatius wishes us in our spiritual 
life to come to the point ; he will have no pious generalities ; 
no beating about the bush. In my meditation I am " to 
reflect in order to derive some fruit " ; in my prayer I am 
" to ask of God our Lord that which I wish and desire." 
Above all, I must, according to St. Ignatius, specialise, I 
must concentrate on some special defects, needs, or devotions. 

i. — See above p. 34. 



H2 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

And this concentration necessarily implies an increase in 
self-conscious purpose, a growth in deliberate mental self- 
control. Thus to eradicate some special sin or fault, St. 
Ignatius suggests " that each time a person falls into that 
particular sin or defect he lays his hand on his breast, 
repenting that he has fallen ; and he can do this even in the 
presence of many people without their perceiving it." More 
over he wants us to write down twice a day the number of 
times we have fallen ; he will not have us merely enter the 
total number, the faults must be represented graphically by 
parallel rows of points, so that we can at a glance compare 
day with day and week with week. Such is the spiritual 
accountancy of the writer of the Spiritual Exercises? who 
wishes us to apply to our souls the minute care with which 
business men keep their ledgers. Not everyone, of course, 
could or should literally follow all these details on every 
point ; but there is in them an elemental method of the 
human mind, which we altogether neglect only at the peril 
of lapsing into unpractical dreaming, vague sentimentalism, 
and perhaps serious self-delusion. 2 

This incisive, one might say militant, method of spirituality 
appealed very much to the fervent heart and chivalrous 
courage of Fr. Doyle. He believed in marshalling all his 
forces for the immediate present, in concentrating his energies 
on the holiness attainable here and now. In this strain he 
writes on the Feast of the Blessed Cure of Ars, 4th August, 
1913 : " Making my meditation before the picture of the 
Blessed, he seemed to say to me with an interior voice : The 
secret of my life was that / lived for the moment. I did not 
say, ' I must pray here for the next hour,' but only ' for 
this moment.' I did not say, ' I have a hundred confessions 
to hear/ but looked upon this one as the first and last. I did 
not say, ' I must deny myself everything and always,' but 
only ' just this once.' By this means I was able always to 
do everything perfectly, quietly and in great peace. Try 

i. — Particular Exanien (pp. i3f. ) Subsequently this same method was 
extended to recording positive acts of virtue, instead of merely marking 
defects. 

2. — Pere Ginhac once surprised his superior, who was confessing 1 to him, by 
the unexpected query: "And what about your particular examen? Do you 
make it properly? What is the subject of it?" — A Man After God's Own Heart, 
p. 282. 



PRAYER 113 

and live this life of the present moment. Pray as if you 
had nothing else whatever to do ; say your Office slowly 
as if for the last time ; do not look forward and think you 
must often repeat this act of self-denial. This will make 
all things much easier." Two years later we find a similar 
entry : " No sacrifice would be great if looked at in this 
way. I do not feel now the pain which has past, I have 
not yet to bear what is coming ; hence I have only to endure 
the suffering of this one moment, which is quickly over and 
cannot return." 

It was especially by momentary recollection and ejaculatory 
prayer that Fr. Doyle sought to sanctify the passing moment 
and to condense perfection into the immediate present. When 
he was tempted to break a resolution, or when he shrank 
from some sacrifice, he used to say five times to himself, 
" Will you refuse to do this for the love of Jesus ? " By 
means of aspirations he sharpened his will into instant action 
and brought into play all the accumulated motive-power 
of the past. " This morning," he writes in his diary (Sept. 
1915), " I lay awake powerless to overcome myself and to 
make my promised visit to the chapel. Then I felt prompted 
to pray ; I said five aspirations and rose without difficulty. 
How many victories I could win by this easy and powerful 
weapon ! " Indeed he had a wonderful idea of the value 
of aspirations as a source of grace and merit. " Great light 
at meditation," he writes, " on the value of one aspiration. 
If I knew I should receive £i for each one I made, I would 
not waste a spare moment. And yet I get infinitely more 
than this, though I often fail to realise it." During the last 
few years of his life Fr. Doyle's conviction of the value of 
aspirations steadily grew ; and with him to believe was to 
act. 1 The number of aspirations which he contrived to 
fit into one day advanced from 10,000 to over 100,000. This 
latter astounding figure was reached while he was actually 
engaged in the arduous duties of military chaplain at the 

i . — The following aspirations, jotted down in one of Fr. Doyle's notebooks, 
seem to have been favourites of his : (i) My Crucified Jesus, help me to crucify 
myself. (2) Lord, teach me how to pray and pray always. (3) Jesus, Thou 
Saint of saints, make me a saint. (4) Blessed be God for all things. (5) My 
loving Jesus within my heart, unite my heart to Thee. (6) Heart of Jesus, give 
me Your zeal for souls. (7) My God, Thou art omnipotent, make me a saint. 



U4 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Front. As he never revealed this to anyone and as the 
achievement seems rather incredible/ it will be well to extract 
from his diaries and to give here the references and resolutions 
concerning aspirations. These, it should be remembered, 
were written solely for his own use. 1 

" I felt urged to-day to make an effort to reach 10,000 
aspirations each day ; if I fall short, to make up the number 
at another time. This would mean three and a half million 
acts in the year. How much grace and holiness that would 
mean ! I have so much lost time to make up." (2ist 
Sept., 1911.) 

" During a visit to D I made a strong resolution, 

cost what it may, every day to make 10,000 ejaculations 
(since increased to 12,000). I have never realised before 
so clearly how much I was losing by not doing so." (22nd 
April, 1912.) 

" Novena to Blessed Cure* d' Ars. Resolved to bear small 
pains and make 20,000 aspirations." (26th July, 1913.) 

" Constant urging of Jesus to make every effort to reach 
20,000 aspirations daily." (i8th July, 1914.) 

" 25,000 aspirations ; if possible, 10,000 before lunch." 
(Resolution on New Year's Day, 1915.) 

" I made a vow, in honour of Soeur Therese, for the rest 
of my life to make every day 10,000 aspirations, unless 
sick." (3rd March, 1915.) 

" Jesus said to me : ' You must make your life a martyrdom 
of prayer.' This means that I must give every spare moment 
to aspirations etc. — generously banishing idle thoughts in 
which I indulge so much — trying to make 50,000 daily 
I must also increase very much the time I spend in the 
chapel." (ist May, 1916.) 

" Feast of the Seven Dolours. Said Mass in St. Colette's 
home at Corbie. While visiting the chapel where she was a 

i. — The following typical figures, giving the number of recorded daily 
aspirations at different periods, are taken from the booklets wherein Fr. Doyle 
made such entries: 1,300, Jan. 1909; 2,000, May 1909; 3,000, Oct. 1909; 
4,000, Nov. 1910; 5,000, Jan. 1911; 6,000, July 1911; 10,000, Sept. 1911; 
15,000, May 1912 ; 20,000, Aug. 1913; 60,000, Oct. 1914; 90,000, Nov. 1914. 
These figures give aome of the actual numbers recorded at his daily exam 
ination. That the task was not easy is shown by his many relapses and the 
constant resolutions he made. See his first extant resolution, made during' 
the Long Retreat, p. 62. See reference to aspirations in letter, p. 267. 



PRAYER 115 

recluse for four years, again I felt most strongly urged to 
make the 50,000 aspirations the penance of my life, and to 
force myself, no matter at what cost, to get through them 
daily. I have made this resolve : that if this is impossible, 
I will make up the number later on." (i5th Sept., 1916.) 

" It seemed to me that it would please our Lord to try 
and make up for all the aspirations I might have made during 
the early years of my religious life. At the rate of 10,000 
a day for 15 years this would amount to fifty-four million. 
I have promised Him to pay this back, counting anything 
over the usual 50,000 aspirations each day. It is a huge 
amount to face, but with His grace I shall accomplish my 
task, more especially as I have proved it is possible to do 
100,000 daily with a little energy and courage. If He 
preserves my life during this war, I must work with might 
and main for Him in gratitude. This grace I owe to my 
darling Mother Mary, who has put this thought into my 
mind to-day, Saturday." (2nd Nov., 1916.) 

"Again a clear interior light that God wants me to aim 
at the 100,000 aspirations daily. I feel a longing to take 
up this life of unceasing prayer and at the same time a dread 
and a loathing of this burden, for I must watch every spare 
minute of the day to perform my penance. I feel Jesus 
asks this in reparation for His priests. With the help of 
our Blessed Lady I have this day begun the big fight." (i3th 
Dec., 1916.) 

" The conviction is steadily growing stronger that I am 
doing what God wants specially from me by making the 
100,000 aspirations. I have not experienced much trouble 
in doing so for the past twelve days." (ist January, 1917.) 

" I find I am falling off in the 100,000 aspirations. Have 
bound myself for a week by vow to make the full number, 
(ist Feb., 1917.) 

" I have made a bargain with our Lord to give me a soul 
for every 1,000 aspirations made over the daily 100,000." 
(i3th Feb... 1917.) 

Thus we learn from these intimate confessions that 
Fr. Doyle regarded this practice as the penance of his life, 
that he had to watch every spare minute of the day to 
perform this penance, that it was a burden for which he 



Ii6 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

felt dread and loathing, and that nevertheless he was 
ultimately able " with a little energy and courage " to make 
a hundred thousand aspirations in the day. How he accom 
plished this marvellous feat must remain something of a 
psychological mystery, for we have no further evidence or 
details. It is clear that he thus utilised every spare moment ; 
whenever he was waiting for someone, whenever he was 
travelling alone or even passing along the house, he occupied 
himself in saying his beads or in ejaculatory prayer. But 
even at the rate of fifty aspirations a minute it would take 
over thirty-three hours to make a hundred thousand 
ejaculations. It would seem then that by aspiration 
Fr. Doyle meant not so much a form of words (e.g. an 
indulgenced prayer), as a turning of the mind to God, a heart 
beat of love, a lightning-flash of the soul. In this way, 
perhaps, he was able to turn his every movement and activity 
into a deliberate expression of love for Christ. 1 In a retreat 
to priests he pointed out that the ordinary Office contained 
about 12,000 words ; and it is very probable that he himself 
regarded -each word devoutly said as an aspiration. Only 
in this way can we explain the possibility of what he did. 
We must also be content with guessing at his method of 
counting. Probably certain duties such as Mass, Office and 
Rosary were reckoned at some numerical value corresponding 
to the average words contained. And the remaining 
aspirations were perhaps counted with the help of a 
' watch ' — a little instrument sometimes used by missioners 
for numbering confessions. The significance of this definite 
recording of the number of aspirations etc., does not lie so 
much in the heroic extreme to which he ultimately carried 
it, for this is a personal development largely inapplicable 
to others of a different type of mind. Its importance consists 
rather in the fact, which we must not leave unnoticed, that 
it was by this simple Ignatian device that he succeeded in 
initially acquiring the habit. In September 1910, during 
his retreat, he chronicles a failure which will be an encouraging 



i. — Compare the advice of S. Francis de Sales: "Do all things for God, 
making or continuing- your union by simple turning of your eyes or outflowing 
of your heart towards Him." — Letters to Persons infjteligion, Eng. trans. 1901, 
P- 355- 



PRAYER 117 

lesson to us. ' The great defect in my character," he says, 
" and chief reason why I make so little progress is my want 
of fidelity. Thus in the past eighteen months I have not 
marked the ejaculations and acts of self-denial over three 
hundred times, which means that on these days I did none." 
A conclusion which is surely too severe, but which at least 
shows us the efficacy of ' marking ' our incipient efforts. 

Fr. Doyle was naturally a zealous advocate of this practice 
for others. " There is nothing," he said in a letter, " there 
is nothing better than the practice of aspirations, steadily 
growing in number. Keep a little book and enter them once 
a day. ... I would like you to keep count of these 
little acts like the aspirations, but don't go too fast ; build 
up and do not pull down." He realised, of course, — though 
perhaps not sufficiently clearly in one or two cases — that the 
systematic piling up of aspirations to reach an arithmetically 
defined goal might be extremely unsuitable to many minds. 
His views were, in fact, very prudent and tolerant. This 
is advice which he gave in February 1912 : "As to any 
practice of piety there is a double danger : recommending 
it as infallible, or condemning it as useless. I always make 
a point of saying that all things are not for all people. 
Characters differ so much. . . . My own experience, and 
that of many others, is that the beads for marking aspirations 
are an invaluable help ; for if there is not a definite number 
of acts marked or counted somehow, you will very soon 
find that very few are done. I think you have found the 
benefit of counting twenty acts of self-denial ; so if you 
like, do the same for aspirations, increasing slowly, not too 
many at first — and no straining." "As regards counting 
the aspirations," he similarly wrote to another penitent in 
July 1914, " if you really find that it is a strain on your tired 
head, give up the practice." 

It is indeed perfectly obvious that beyond a certain total — 
say forty or fifty a day — this arithmetical application of the 
Ignatian method to aspirations, or other acts of virtue, 
will in normal cases produce very injurious results. Any 
unnatural strain or tension will ruin that cheerful spontaneity 
and elastic freshness which is so essential to religious life. 
Moreover, an undue stress on the merely numerical aspect 



1X8 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

of prayer may lead to a serious depreciation of more important 
qualities. How we pray is a far more vital problem than 
how much we pray ; intensity is preferable to extension. 
" When you are praying, speak not much as the heathens ; 
for they think that in their much speaking they may be 
heard." (5. Matthew 6. 7.) There is a spiritual lesson for 
us, too, in that exquisite little scene of Jesus sitting down 
and watching the people putting their offerings into the 
temple-chests. He made no comment on the many generous 
donors who came ; but when a poor widow came with her 
two farthings— surely the Master was waiting for her — He 
called His disciples to teach them a new principle of valuation, 
as applicable to the spiritual as to the material life. The 
widow's contribution was the highest in God's sight, because 
" she of her want cast in all she had, even her whole living." 
(S. Mark 12. 44.) Jesus is still sitting nigh and watching 
as we make our offerings. We may not be able to pray or 
do much, but if we in our want cast in all we have, even our 
whole living, if what little we give is given wholeheartedly, 
we need not fear the judgement of Him who cherishes the 
mites of the weak. 

It is well to realise this qualitative aspect of prayer, because, 
as in the case of Fr. Doyle, the counting is purely secondary. 
As has already been remarked, what he meant by an 
aspiration was not necessarily a form of words, it was a 
movement of the soul. And in enumerating his aspirations 
he did not mean to fill his life with a series of discontinuous 
and separate acts, but rather to make this succession of 
little impulses melt into one continuous note of heaven's 
music. His ideal was not so much formal prayer as an 
uninterrupted pray erf ulness. No doubt, Fr. Doyle, partly 
out of a desire for mortification, hammered out his enormous 
burden of aspirations with a degree of strenuous endurance 
which would have left most people limp and prostrate. Here 
precisely is the personal element which we must carefully 
avoid unthinkingly transferring into our own lives. And 
perhaps — for we know but little — perhaps we are really 
exaggerating the violence or the numerical precision of his 
efforts ? At any rate he himself often advised his spiritual 
children to cultivate rather a habitual conviction of God's 



PRAYER 119 

nearness, an effortless restful sense of companionship. These 
are two typical extracts from such letters : 

" I think our Lord wants your whole day to be one 
continued act of love and union with Him in your heart, 
which has no need of words to express it. Your attitude 
ought to be that of the mother beside the cot of her babe, 
lost in love and tenderness, but saying nothing, just letting 
the heart speak, though the wee one cannot know it as Jesus 
does. There is nothing more sanctifying than this life, 
which few, I fear, reach to, since it means a constant effort 
to bring back our wandering imagination." 

" By all means follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit 
and do not bind yourself to anything which you find a 
hindrance. Just let yourself ' sink into God ' when in His 
presence. Don't try to pray in words, but love Him — which, 
of course, is the highest prayer — and then abandon yourself 
to His pleasure, whether that be consolation or darkness. 
In the matter of prayer always try to follow the 
attraction of the Holy Spirit. . . . Try to keep our 
divine Lord company in your heart all day long, thinking 
of Him within you — a union which will bring you many 
graces and make His presence much more real." 

This advice about prayer, this emphasis on the end in 
view, rather than on the precise mode, will serve further to 
show us that Fr. Doyle's detailed calculations and daily 
records were simply means to the end, psychological devices 
suitable to his own mind and justifying themselves by their 
success. He kept a special series of little books, his soul's 
account books one might call them, wherein he noted not 
only aspirations but mortifications in minute detail, column 
after column of figures. How literally and carefully he 
observed the Master's precept : " Trade till I come "" ! 
(S. Luke 19. 13.) How ready he must have been when the 
great Auditor came and the account was closed ! One 
cannot but. handle with reverence these booklets with their 
eloquent figures summing up years of faithful service and 
hidden struggle. Are they not transcribed in the Book of 
Life wherein our lives are written ? Has not every tiny 
act or inspiration been adjudicated upon and perpetuated 
into an eternal worth ? 



120 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.'j. 

But as this spiritual book-keeping is suited to very few, it 
has seemed wise even to risk being irritatingly insistent in 
directing the reader's attention to what is permanent and 
universal in this method, apart from special developments 
adapted to individual cases. What is essential in this 
Jgnatian method is to pin oneself down to a definite, 
enumerable or verifiable, achievement ; to aim not at good- 
,ness in general but this much goodness here and now ; and 
not only to resolve but to examine, to look back as well as 
forward ; to record objectively the results of these 
experiments in the laboratory of one's own soul. These 
are broad principles, not so much of spirituality as of 
psychology ; and within their amplitude there is plenty of 
room for individuality and initiative. 

One or two further examples from Fr. Doyle's diary will 
help to bring out the intensely practical and definite way 
in which spiritual emotions and resolutions can be sharpened 
and applied. His Long Retreat resolutions have already 
been given. This is how he comments on them at a later 
stage (January, 1909) : " Reading over my reflections and 
resolutions on the Third Degree during the Long Retreat, I 
see now they are little more than empty promises ; they have 
produced no real change in my life. I put before myself 
• always to choose the hard thing, to go against self in all 
things.' But have I really done so since ? Has my life 
been more mortified from the time I made this resolution ? 
Now, however, I am fully resolved no longer to ' beat the 
air,' but have drawn up a list of definite acts of self-denial 
by which I can test myself. If only I am faithful to these, 
I shall indeed have begun to lead a new and better life 
than formerly." And again in September 1911 he writes : 
" The proposed vow has been in my mind constantly as 
if our Lord was determined that I should not escape even 
if I wished to do so. I see the need of it, in order to brace 
my weak yielding nature. In previous retreats I have made 
many generous resolutions, e.g. to seek my constant morti 
fication in all things. But these have never really been 
kept for any length of time. I must henceforth leave no 
loophole for escape." There speaks the true Ignatian spirit 
of determination to bring high ideals down to concrete definite 



PRAYER 121 

and feasible applications, to condense generalities into 
accessible facts. 

This refusal to take refuge in vague emotions, this 
persistence in reducing oneself to the test of daily and hourly 
achievement, is also illustrated by " the book of little 
victories " which Fr. Doyle began in 1915. In this he entered 
one by one the acts of self-conquest and virtue which he 
performed, making sure that no day would be blank. Here, 
for instance, are a few of the entries for April : " Morning 
discipline. Paper not read. Rose at night. Finished Office, 
very tired and sick. Slept on floor. Hour's visit to B S. 
Hair-shirt. No fire. Made Holy Hour. Did not take 
sugar. Denied eyes several times. Wore waist chain." 
And so on, day after day. To those who indulge in pious 
velleities and general resolutions, this stream of precise 
applications may seem like a cold douche ; but it is 
exceedingly healthy. On I3th June he pasted in his book 
a little picture of our Lady of Victories, and once more began 
the succession of daily victories, a veritable stream of bullets 
with himself as target. " Slept on the floor. No relief in 
small sufferings. Put on chain in bad humour. Violent 
temptation to eat cake and resisted several times. Two 
hours' prayer when weary. Rose for visit at two. Unkind 
story kept back. Overcame desire to lie in bed." Enough 
has now been quoted to illustrate the severely practical and 
methodical way in which Fr. Doyle aimed at holiness. There 
is here no question of impossible arithmetic, no head-splitting 
efforts at enumeration. Just a grim pertinacity of daily 
effort at reducing to practice some of the high ideals which 
a less systematic person would allow to evaporate. This, 
whether applied to prayer or to self-denial, is characteristic 
of Jesuit spirituality. 1 As a matter of fact, many of the 
entries just cited refer more to self-denial than to prayer. 
In the next chapter we shall review in detail this aspect of 
Fr. Doyle's inner life. 



/. — Compare St. Ignatius's saying : " Love ought to be found in deeds rather 
than words." — Contemplation for obtaining- Love, Spiritual Exercises, p. 74. 



122 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

CHAPTER VII. 
MORTIFICATION AND SUFFERING 

(i.) SELF-CONQUEST. 

WHEN long years ago," once wrote Fr. Doyle, " I asked 
our Blessed Lord to make me a saint, cost what 
it might, I did not realise what even a small 
part of that cost would be. I have never regretted my 
compact, nor do I now, though I am half afraid God has 
forgotten His part of the bargain, the process of sanctification 
has been so slow. As time goes on, I see more clearly that 
God wants from me a life that consists mainly of two things, 
prayer and penance. Never-ceasing prayer, in spite of the 
natural weariness and disgust which often come, kneeling 
rather than in any other posture ; but above all, prayer at 
night in imitation of His all-night prayer, and when possible, 
nocturnal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Joined to 
prayer must be a life of penance, interior first of all, otherwise 
such a life would be a delusion. But I must by no means 
stop short at interior penance. Jesus seems to stretch out 
His bleeding Hands to me, imploring for more than that, 
for penance almost merciless in its severity." 

We have already glimpsed some of the secrets of his 
prayer, we must now illustrate his spirit of penance. In his 
Spiritual Exercises 1 St. Ignatius tells us that " exterior 
penances are used chiefly for three purposes : first, as a 
satisfaction for past sins ; secondly, in order to overcome 
oneself, that is to say, in order that sensuality may be obedient 
to reason and all that is inferior be more subjected to the 
superior ; thirdly, in order to seek and find some grace or 
gift which a person wishes for and desires." For ordinary 
cases this is an adequate explanation of exterior mortification, 
under which term must be included not only the voluntary 

i. — Notes to the Additions of the First Week, (p. 31). This is taken from 
S. Thomas, Summa, 2, 2, q 147, a i. 



SELF-CONQUEST 123 

infliction of pain and fasting or abstinence, but also every 
deliberate exterior act of self-denial, were it only the restraint 
of curiosity, the conquering of lassitude or perserverance in 
an uncongenial duty. There are many good and holy souls 
who have never dreamt of taking a discipline or wearing a 
hair-shirt ; yet asceticism is not wanting to their lives. 
Indeed, there is always a danger lest unusual penances may 
be undertaken in a spirit of self-will and vanity, to the 
detriment of that safest and most hidden of all morti 
fications — the persevering perfection of common life. St. 
Teresa, evidently writing from personal knowledge, describes 
with gentle irony those religious who delight in self-imposed 
penance and neglect the divinely imposed penance of rules 
and daily duties. "It is amusing (she says 1 ) to see the 
mortifications with which some of their own accord afflict 
themselves. Sometimes there seizes them a fit of immoderate 
and indiscreet penance, which lasts for about two days. 
The devil then suggests to their imagination that such morti 
fications injure them. So they never again do penance — 
not even what the rules of the order enjoin — as they have 
found that mortification does them harm ; and they do 
not observe even the least injunctions of the rule, such as 
silence, which cannot do us any harm. And as soon as we 
fancy that we have a headache, we refrain from going to 
choir — though this will hardly kill us. One day we omit 
going because our head aches, the next because it did ache, 
and three more days we keep away lest it should ache ! We 
love to invent penances of our own." 

These practical remarks remind us of what homely stuff 
the garment of holiness is spun. Often when we read the 
lives of the saints we are apt to lose the real perspective. 
Unconsciously singling out the special graces and extra 
ordinary sufferings, we pay insufficient attention to the 
continuous background of minor physical ills, commonplace 
disappointments and petty annoyances, which loom so large 
in our seemingly ordinary lives, but which so often escape 
the chronicler and reader of the lives of the saints. Yet 
God never exempts even chosen souls therefrom, for it is 
precisely in this subjection to these general laws of providence 

i. — Way of Perfection, ch. 10. 



124 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

that human goodness is to be attained. "Alas, my sovereign 
Lord," complained Saint Margaret Mary, 1 " why dost 
Thou not leave me in the common way of the daughters of 
Holy Mary ? Hast Thou brought me into Thy holy house 
to destroy me ? Give Thy extraordinary graces to those 
chosen souls who will correspond with them better than 
I do, for I only resist Thee. All I wish for is Thy love and 
Thy cross ; that suffices for me to become a good religious 
and that is all I desire." Thus^ these gratuitous favours 
are not only not sought for, but in no wise dispense the 
recipient from those general conditions and limitations 
which are so wondrously exemplified even in the life of 
Christ. Most of His earthly existence He spent as a village 
artisan ; often He was footsore, weary and hungry ; He 
was misunderstood even by those nearest to Him, He felt 
disappointment and, humanly speaking, failure. So too in 
the case of even His most faithful followers the rapturous 
glory of Thabor is but a transitory illumination of lives 
spent in obscure Nazareth-like drudgery or in a toilsome 
thankless mission. Saint Margaret Mary, for all her 
graces, had as a novice to mind the monastery donkeys ; 
nor did God's providence prevent a windlass from hitting 
her in the jaw and smashing her teeth. 2 What was probably 
still harder, she had to suffer from the misunderstanding of 
holy people ; her directors regarded her as a visionary, her 
sisters opposed what they considered a new-fangled 
devotion. 3 

It has ever been thus in the lives of those who have striven 
to follow Christ. " Whosoever does not carry his own cross 
and walk in My steps, can be no disciple of Mine." (5. Luke 
14. 27.) This cross-carrying, however, is not a public 
procession, drawing tears from the onlooking daughters of 

\.~Life of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, published in French by the 
Monastery of the Visitation of Paray-le-Monial, Eng. trans. 1912 (Visitation 
Library, Roselands, Walmer, Kent), p. 60. 

2. — Ibid. pp. 387, 127. Compare also the "tiny little things" which So2ur 
Therese offered to our Lord : the annoyance of a bead-rattling sister, the 
.splashing' of an awkward neighbour in the laundry. — Sceur The'rese . . . 
Histoire d'une dmt>, pp. 195!'; Eng. trans. ( The Little Flower ), pp. 206-208. 

3. — Ibid. pp. 77, 152 f. Compare Mgr. d'Hulst's remarks (Vie de la 7'/«. 
Marie-Te"ri>se du Caeur dej&us, 1917,16 p. 161) : "At all times saints have caused 
suffering to saints." So the Cure of Ars was even preached against by his 
fellow-priests. — Monnin, Life of the B. Cnn ! d' Ars, (Burns & Gates, n.d.) p. 136. 



SELF-CONQUEST 125 

Jerusalem ; it is a silent drama enacted in the private theatre 
of the human heart. And, as a rule, the cross is not a huge 
visible structure, plainly recognisable and easily reminiscent 
of Christ ; rather is it doled out to us piecemeal, in mere 
matches and sawdust as it were, in tiny fragments wherein 
only the eye of loving faith can discern the lineaments of 
Calvary. 

This truth must not be forgotten while reading this 
chapter. For it is easy to chronicle what is out of the 
ordinary, and it is only the abnormal and artificial that is 
usually committed to writing ; whereas the real annals of 
self-conquest and sufferings are garnered only by the recording 
angels. We shall meet, in the case of Fr. Doyle, many 
proofs of persevering and deliberately sought mortification, 
and even of heroic self-immolation. But this must not blind 
us to the fact that, beneath this self-imposed apparatus of 
suffering, there was in his life, as in ours, a continuous layer 
of petty troubles, pains, discomforts, annoyances, disappoint 
ments, mistakes, misunderstandings. These are God-given 
and have first claim on us ; to shirk these and to seek out 
artificially constructed suffering, like those nuns gently 
satirised by S. Teresa, is to build the house of holiness on 
sand. So while we are picturing the spiritual edifice raised 
by Fr. Doyle, let us not forget the foundation whereon it 
was based. " We love to invent penances of our own," 
says the great Carmelite, alluding to those fervent souls 
whose vain ambition it is to erect castles in the air. That 
Fr. Doyle was not one of such, is obvious to those who knew 
him intimately. It would indeed be true to say that his 
greatest suffering in life did not consist at all in what is set 
down in this chapter, but rather in those limitations and 
disabilities, mistakes and misinterpretations, individually 
perhaps petty but collectively severe. This is probably 
true for every life as lived, though not as written ; it is 
just as true of the saints as of ordinary folk, though not 
every saint has expressed the truth with the blunt precision 
of S. John Berchmans : " My greatest mortification is 
common life." 

At any rate, whether we invent penances or whether we 
confine ourselves to the acceptance of those for which God 



126 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

provides endless opportunities, penance we must do, if we 
wish to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow 
Christ. The spirit of our time is delicate and squeamish 
and hypersensitive ; the avoidance of pain and discomfort 
has become a veritable science as well as an industry. Perhaps 
there is even a tendency to seek anaesthetics in the spiritual 
life or to look for easy modes of conveyance along the royal 
road of the cross ! But the words of Christ still ring true : 
""Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling 
into the ground die, itself remaineth alone ; but if it die, 
it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall 
lose it ; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth 
it unto life eternal." (5. John 12. 24.) These words not 
only convey a mysterious law of the spiritual world, but 
enunciate a truth perceptible by natural reason. Indeed, 
has not a great American psychologist, regarding the matter 
from the purely natural standpoint, written what is practically 
a panegyric of the Ignatian agere contra ? Thus writes 
William James : " As a final practical maxim, relative to 
these habits of the will, we may, then, offer something like 
this : Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous 
exercise every day. That is, be systematically ascetic or 
heroic in little unnecessary points ; do every day or two 
something for no other reason than that you would rather 
not do it : so that, when the hour of dire need draws nigh, 
it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the 
test. Asceticism of this sort is like the insurance which a 
man pays on his house and goods. The tax does him no 
good at the time, and possibly may never bring him a return. 
But, if the fire does come,, his having paid it will be his 
salvation from ruin. So with the man who has daily inured 
himself to habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, 
and self-denial in unnecessary things. He will stand like 
a tower when everything rocks round him, and when his 
softer fellow-mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast." 1 

As we read over these words, we realise their perfect 
aptness to Fr. Doyle. He was systematically ascetic or 
heroic in little unnecessary points ; every day he did many 
things for no other reason than that he would rather not 

i. — James, Principles of Psychology i. 126. 



SELF-CONQUEST 127 

do them ; so that, when the hour of need and big-scale 
heroism drew nigh, it did not find him unnerved and untrained 
to stand the test. 1 For most assuredly he was a man who 
daily inured himself to habits of concentrated attention, 
energetic volition, "and self-denial in unnecessary things. 
" Other souls may travel by other roads," he once wrote, 
" the road of pain is mine." He developed a positive 
ingenuity in discovering possibilities of denying himself. 
Thus he was always striving to bear little sufferings and 
physical discomforts — were it only the irritation of a gnat — 
without seeking relief ; he tried to imagine that his hands 
were nailed to the cross with Jesus. He gave up having a 
fire in his room and even avoided warming himself at one. 
Every day he wore a hair-shirt and one or two chains for 
some time ; and he inflicted severe disciplines on himself 
Moreover, between sugarless tea, butterless bread and saltless 
meat, he converted his meals into a continuous series of 
mortifications. 

Naturally he had, in fact, a very hearty appetite and a 
keen appreciation of sweets and delicacies ; all of which 
he converted into an arena for self-denial. He began even 
as a young boy. When he and his brother were getting 
from their 'big sister an exhortation on kindness and 
unselfishness, Willie, not needing much effort to discover 
what he was very fond of, suddenly exclaimed : ' ' Yes, May, 
wouldn't this be very selfish, if I got a pot of jam and ate 
it all myself without giving any of it to Charlie ? " A horrible 
deed of gluttony of which he was never guilty ! No doubt 
his sister's reassuring answer confirmed his good will ! We 
can realise the wonderful continuity of his life when over 
thirty years later we find him pencilling this resolution on 
the first page of the little private notebook he kept with 
him at the Front : " No blackberries. Give away all 
chocolates. Give away box of biscuits. No jam, breakfast, 
lunch, dinner." Some excerpts from his diary will enable 
us to realise how much this struggle against taste and appetite 
meant to him. On ist September, 1911, he writes : "I feel 
a growing thirst for self-denial ; it is a pleasure not to taste 
the delicacies provided for me. I wish I could give up the' 

i. — Compare his remarks on heroism, pp. 27 f. 



128 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

use of meat entirely. I long even to live on bread and water. •" 
My Jesus, what marvellous graces You are giving me, 
who always have been so fond of eating and used to feel a 
small act of denial of my appetite a torture." A month 
later, just after giving a retreat in a Carmelite convent, he 
records : "I felt urged in honour of St. Teresa to give myself 
absolutely no comfort at meals which I could possibly avoid. 
I found no difficulty in doing this for the nine days. I have 
begged very earnestly for the grace to continue this all my 
life and am determined to try to do so. For example, to 
take no butter, no sugar in coffee, no salt, etc. The 
wonderful mortified lives of these holy nuns have made me 
ashamed of my gratification of my appetite." That he by 
no means found this mortification easy we have many 
indications. Thus on 5th Jan., 1912, he writes : " During 
Exposition Jesus asked me if I would give up taking second 
course at dinner. This would be a very great sacrifice ; 
but I promised Him at least to try to do so and begged for 
grace and generosity." And again on I4th Sept., 1912 : 
" Having again indulged my appetite, I made this resolution, 
that whenever I do so, no matter for what reason (health, 
feasts, etc.), I will enter it in the other book. I think this 
will be a check and a help to me to do what Jesus has asked 
so long — no indulgence whatever in food." "A fierce 
temptation during Mass and thanksgiving," he records a 
year later (i8th Sept., 1913), " to break my resolution and 
indulge my appetite at breakfast. The thought of a break 
fast of dry bread and tea without sugar in future seemed 
intolerable. Jesus urged me to pray for strength though I 
could scarcely bring myself to do so. But the temptation 
left me in the refectory, and joy filled my heart with the 
victory. I see now that I need never yield if only I pray 
for strength." 

On the subject of butter there are many resolutions in 
the diary. Materially the subject may seem trivial, but 
psychologically it represents a great struggle and victory. 1 
Any habit such as that of smoking may presumably be 



i. — Compare S. Margaret Mary's eight years of struggle against her 
repugnance to cheese. — Life, p. 33. 



SELF-CONQUEST 129 

explained in purely material terms : the formation of anti 
bodies in the system and the consequent periodical need 
of toxins to restore the balance. But no such type of medical 
explanation can alter the fundamental human fact that such 
a habit can be controlled or abolished by a sufficient exercise 
of will-power, which ordinarily cannot be accomplished 
without religious motives. Let us hope that old-fashioned 
Catholic practices — for example, giving up smoking or doing 
without butter during Lent — will not be lightly laid aside. 
It is in such little acts that man rises above the beast and 
fosters his human heritage of a rational will. So Fr. Doyle's 
butter-resolutions are not at all so unimportant or whimsical 
as they who have ever thoughtlessly eaten and drunk may 
be inclined to fancy. " God has been urging me strongly 
all during this retreat," he writes in September 1913, " to 
give up butter entirely. I have done so at many meals 
without any serious inconvenience ; but I am partly held 
back through human respect, fearing others may notice 
it. If they do, what harm ? I have noticed that X takes 
none for lunch ; that has helped me. Would not I help 
others if I did the same ? " " One thing," he continues, 
" I feel Jesus asks, which I have not the courage to give 
Him — the promise to give up butter entirely." On 2gth 
July, 1914, we find this resolution : " For the present I will 
take butter on two mouthfuls of bread at breakfast but none 
at other meals." To this decision he seems to have 
adhered. 

Not only did Fr. Doyle mortify himself in the quality of 
the food he took but he also refused to allow his appetite 
to be satisfied in quantity. " Towards the end of the 
retreat," he wrote on 3rd December, 1914, " a light came 
to me that, now that I have given Jesus all the sacrifices 
I possibly can in the matter of food, He is now going to ask 
retrenchment in the quantity. So far I have not felt that 
He asked this, but grace now seems to urge me to it. I dread 
what this means, but Jesus will give me strength to do what 
He wants." 

This relentless concentration of will on matters of food 
must not lead us to suppose that Fr. Doyle was in any way 
morbidly absorbed or morosely affected thereby. For one 



130 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

less trained in will or less sure in spiritual perspective there 
might easily be danger of entanglement in minutiae and 
over-attention to what is secondary. All this apparatus of 
mortification is but a means to an end, it should not be made 
an end in itself. We must not be so ' busy about much 
serving,' we should not so burden or worry ourselves about 
what we eat and drink, that we are ' careful and troubled 
about many things ' and lose sight of the ' one thing 
necessary ' — the best part chosen by Mary. (5. Luke 
10. 40-42.) This persistent and systematic thwarting of 
appetite helped Fr. Doyle to strengthen his will and to fix 
it on God. He never lost himself in a maze of petty 
resolutions, he never became anxious or distracted. But 
the armour of Goliath would hamper David. There are 
those whom elaborate prescriptions and detailed regulations 
would only strain and worry. And these best find the peace 
of God in a childlike thankful acceptance of His gifts, without 
either careless indulgence or self-conscious artificiality. " In 
everything God reveals His love to me," writes Soeur 
Gertrude-Marie. 1 " I was given a strawberry at lunch. 
While eating it, I said to myself : God was thinking of me 
when He caused this fruit to ripen. He said : It will be 
for My child. And I said : It will be for refreshing in me 
the sacred Humanity of my Saviour. Our love must be 
reciprocal. God gives me His good things, I wish to give 
them back to Him by the holy use I make of them." 

As with food, so with sleep. We have already seen how 
Fr. Doyle often robbed himself of sleep in order to pray. 
Sometimes, too, he slept on the floor or put boards in his 

bed. " During the last three nights of the retreat," 

he writes (20th Dec., 1914), " I slept on the floor without 
feeling any inconvenience after, though I woke very often 
on account of the pain. This is the first time I have slept 
this way on more than one (successive) night." On i2th 
July, 1915, he writes thus in his diary : " Not feeling well, I 
gave up the intention of sleeping on boards, but overcame 
self and did so. I rose this morning quite fresh and none 
the worse for it, proving once more how our Lord would 

i. — Une mystique de nos jours, p. 454. Of this work Fr. Doyle once wrote : 
" I almost grudge lending you this book, I have found it so helpful." Compare 
Life and Revelations ofS. Gertrude, 1865, pp. 380, 412. 



SELF-CONQUEST 131 

help me if I were generous." And in September, 1915, he 
made the resolution to ' put boards in his bed every night 
when at home.' 

It is scarcely necessary to remark that all these 
mortifications were extremely difficult to flesh and blood. 
There was no such thing in Fr. Doyle as a natural pleasure 
or pride in, or, at least, indifference to, physical discomfort 
and suffering. He really loathed and detested the life which 
he voluntarily imposed on himself. " My God," he once 
wrote (22nd October, 1915), " this morning I was in despair. 
After some days of relaxation owing partly to sickness, I 
resolved to begin my life of crucifixion once more, but found 
I could not. I seemed to have lost all strength and courage, 
and simply hated the thought of the life. Then I ran to You 
in the Tabernacle, threw myself before You and begged 
You to do all since I could do nothing. In a moment all 
was sweet and easy. What help and grace You gave me, 
making me see clearly that I must never again give up this 
life or omit to mark my book." 1 This extract not only 
shows us his natural repugnance but also reveals the source 
of his strength. His indomitable determination to overcome 
himself is especially manifested in an expedient which he 
adopted latterly, namely, binding himself by a temporary 
vow to do that which he felt tempted to avoid. " Jesus 
taught me a simple way to-day of conquering the temptation 
to break resolutions. When, for example, I want to take 
sugar in my tea, etc., I will make a vow not to do so for that 
one occasion, which will compel me to do it, no matter what 
it may cost. I know often I shall have to force myself to 
take this little vow ; but I realize that if only I can bring 
myself to say ' I vow,' then all the conflict raging in my 
soul about that particular thing will cease at once. This 
will be invaluable to me in the future." (22nd Feb., 1914.) 
We have several records of his using this heroic device. 

' Three times to-day by making a vow I was able to force 
myself to do what I did not want to do. Once I had almost 

i. — This he called " the book of little victories." It is consoling and human 
to read the very next entry (sth Nov.) : " Again for the past few days I have 
broken my resolutions and indulged myself. I see two causes of this : idleness, 
not. overcoming my natural dislike for certain kinds of work, e.g., preparation 
of sermons ; and above all, yielding to depression." 



132 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

to shout out the vow, and then I had no trouble at all in 
doing what I promised — to remain up till night prayers. 
Once the vow was followed by a fierce temptation to break 
it, and a great regret I had bound myself. But again I had 
no difficulty in doing without sugar, and much peace and 
strength followed the victory." (22nd Nov., 1914.) 

" It came home to me to-day as it never did before, the 
immense help little vows would be. By this means I can 
force myself to do almost anything ; and (such little vows) 
being taken for one occasion only, e.g. I will not read a paper 
to-day, are quite easy to keep. I have gained several victories 
by this means. I have noticed that there is often great 
difficulty in forcing myself to make the vow, but very little 
in carrying it out." 

It does not appear that this rather drastic procedure ever 
led to anxiety or scrupulosity. Fr. Doyle had thought 
things out clearly ; he knew exactly what he wanted and 
what he could do. He retained the militant enthusiasm of 
his boyhood. Whenever he met an obstacle in his spiritual 
life and found himself shying at it, he — to use an expressive 
phrase — took himself by the back of the neck and threw 
himself over. And, wonderful to relate, he did it all with 
the zest of a youth in a cross-country race. 1 His acts 
of self-conquest were not a cold calculated succession of 
deliberate inhibitions, nor was his ideal mere apathy or 
dehumanised perfection. In real Christian asceticism and 
mysticism there is always a joyous note, a paradoxical 
combination of gaiety and pain. " What are God's servants," 
asked S. Francis of Assisi, 2 "but His troubadours who seek 
to uplift men's hearts and to move them to spiritual joy? " 



i. — Compare this entry in his diary (i7th January, 1912) : "Our Lord wants 
me 

sacrifice 
but 

2. — Speculum Perjcctionis, c. 100. 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 133 

(2.) LIFE OF IMMOLATION. 
A . Introduction. 



We have hitherto regarded Fr. Doyle's penance somewhat 
after the plain matter-of-fact way in which St. Ignatius 
deliberately treats it in his Spiritual Exercises. Penance is 
designed to overcome passion and to assert the supremacy 
of the right will. Of course, this must not be understood 
in the sense of a merely naturalistic stoicism ; for the super 
natural motive and the action of grace have been apparent 
all through. No one is likely to adopt systematic self-denial 
just because he wants to improve the relations of soul and 
body. It is only religion which can inspire, vitalise, and 
ennoble the conquest of self. But even this admission 
leaves our analysis of penance exceedingly incomplete. What 
we have quoted from St. Ignatius would not suffice, for 
instance, to explain his own practice. Neither will it throw 
much light on Fr. Doyle's life. Beyond all these terms of 
will and passion, of reason and sensuality, there is something 
ineffably deeper and more mysterious in the economy of 
penance and suffering. The Christian view of sin presupposes 
the reality of the moral order of which sin is a violation, it 
implies the necessity of atonement by an inscrutable law 
of holiness which is of the essence of God's nature. The 
pagan lightly says : " Why should I be afraid of any of my 
errors, when I can say, See that you do it no more, now I 
forgive you." 1 Far different is the language of the 
Christian. Christ came " to give His life as a ransom for 
all " (S. Matthew 20. 28) ; He " died for our sins " (I Cor. 
15. 3) ; '" His ownself bore our sins in His body upon the 
tree, that we being dead to Sins should live to justice." 
(/ Peter 2. 24.) " Unto you," says St. Paul (Phil. i. 29), 
"it is given for Christ, not only to believe in Him but also 
to suffer for Him." "I fill up," he says, " those things 
that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, 

i. — Seneca, De ira, iii. 36. 3. 



134 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

for His Body which is the Church." (Col i. 24.) We 
cannot adequately explain in words nor can we by general 
reasoning reach the profound and mysterious process of 
reconciliation with God. But the Atonement of Christ, 
viewed in the light of faith, enables us to perceive the inner 
nature of sin and redemption. " Mere repentance," says 
St. Athanasius, 1 " would not maintain what is reasonable 
with respect to God .... nor does it recover man from 
his (corrupt) nature ; it simply means cessation from acts 
of sin. If sin were merely a wrongdoing and involved no 
consequent corruption, repentance might well suffice. But 
this is not the case. When once transgression had begun, 
man fell into the power of a corrupt nature and lost the grace 
of being in God's image." Our redemption was effected 
only when Christ " taking from our bodies one of like nature, 
gave it over to death in the stead of all and offered it to the 
Father. And this He did out of love for man. His purpose 
therein was twofold, (i) As we all died in Him, His death 
was to annul the law due to man's corruption, since its 
authority was fully vindicated in the Lord's body and no 
longer held against men of like nature. (2) As men had 
orignally turned to corruption, He might now turn them to 
incorruption and quicken them from death to life, by His 
appropriation of a human body and by the grace of His 
resurrection." Thus we see from the glorious dogma of our 
Redemption that Christ's assumption of our humanity 
implies a wondrous solidarity and mystic union between us 
and Him. 2 As we can see in the life of Saint Margaret 
Mary Alacoque, it is of the very essence of the devotion to 
the Sacred Heart that chosen souls are specially privileged 
to share in this redemptive work and to fill up those things 
that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ. And indeed 
not only privileged souls but all Christians are invited by 
the Church to add their prayers and penances to the sufferings 
of our Redeemer for the conversion of sinners, to unite in 
loving adoration and thus atone for outrage and sin. The 
devotion of the Forty Hours, instituted by Clement VIII 

i. — De incamatione, vii. 3 ; viii. 4. 

2. — Compare St. Thomas's teaching that there is a real physical efficiency in 
Christ's passion and resurrection. — Summa, p. 3, 948, a 6, ad 2; 956, a i, ad 3, 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 135 

in 1592, the cult of the Sacred Heart, the founding of special 
religious congregations 1 and sodalities, the lives of the more 
recent saints and servants of God, all bear witness to the 
prominence of the idea of reparation in the Church to-day. 
If this cooperation were regarded as injuring the mediation 
of Christ, Luther would have been right against the Council 
of Trent and works would not count for justification. If 
the expiation of the just, quickened by our Saviour's merits, 
cannot be offered for the sinner, the Communion of Saints 
is not a reality. And it is only by thus entering into this 
mystic communion and as it were ' pooling ' our sufferings 
and prayers, that we can escape from narrow individualism 
and depressing isolation. " For them do I sanctify myself, 
that they also may be sanctified in truth. And not for them 
only do I pray, but for them also who through their word 
shall believe in Me, that they all may be one ; that as Thou, 
Father, art in Me and I in Thee, so they also may be 
in Us . . . ; I in them and Thou in Me, that they be made 
perfect in one." (S. John 17. 19-23.) 

This ideal of reparation and suffering, this implied mystic 
oneness with Christ, is, of course, intuitively felt and lived, 
rather than theorised and reasoned about by pious souls. 
Expressed in terms of our personal relation to our Lord, it 
at once appeals to those with living faith. " If any man 
will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his 
cross daily and follow Me. For whosoever will save his 
life, shall lose it ; and whosoever for My sake shall lose his 
life, shall save it." (S. Luke 9. 23.) This following of Christ 
was even incorporated by St. Ignatius into his Constitutions : 2 
" Those who are advancing in spirit and seriously following 

i. — The Congregations of the Adoration Rdparatrice and of Marie Rdparatrice, 
the Society of the Filles du Cceur dejdsus. 

2. — Summarium Constitutionum S.J., 1 1-12. This ideal of Christlike imitation 
and atonement is really distinct from the ordinary idea of asceticism or morti 
fication. "There is in Catholic sanctity a sacrifice of the body which could 
not be called mortification though it resembles mortification. It is not intended 
as a protection to purity, as an exercise of courage, but as a holocaust to God, 
as an atonement for personal sin or for the sin of mankind. Such are the most 
adorable of all suffering's, the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Sufferings of 
that kind do not come under the heading- of mortification. Their explanation 
is more theological than psychological. There have been sufferings of that 
kind in the lives of the saints, whose desire it was to resemble Christ crucified, 
to renew in their bodies the sufferings of Christ." — Abbot A. Vonier, The 
Human Soul, 1913, p. 129. 



136 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Christ our Lord love and ardently desire what is altogether 
contrary to the things of the world, namely, to be clothed 
with the same garment and insignia as their Master, for His 
love and reverence. . . . The better to attain to this 
precious degree of perfection in the spiritual life, let it be 
the great and earnest endeavour of each one to seek in the 
Lord his greater abnegation and, as far as he can, his continual 
mortification in all things." 

In the Spiritual Exercises, too, once the First Week is 
passed, we find an ideal rising far above the ascetic aim of 
penance. S. Ignatius will have his exercitant aspire to the 
mystic chivalrous following of the great Leader, " in the 
highest degree of poverty of spirit, and not less in actual 
poverty if it please His divine Majesty," aye, even " in 
bearing reproaches and insults, the better to imitate Him 
in these." 1 This message, to-day so uniquely characteristic 
of Catholicism, is a triumphant vindication of our continuity 
with the early Church and of the ever-living reality of the 
Redemption. " Unto this you are called," says S. Peter, 
he who like his Master was to stretch forth his hands for 
another to gird him (5. John 21. 18), " because Christ also 
suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should 
follow His steps." (/ Peter 2. 21.) ' We suffer," says the 
other S. Ignatius, martyred at Rome under Trajan, 2 " we 
suffer that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our 
only Teacher." 

In the order of time, indeed, Christ suffers no more. In 
His personal humanity He can no longer endure pain and 
humiliation. But we, His mystical Body, can. ' The 
Church is His Body and the completing of Him who fills 
all in all." (Ephes. i. 23.) Hence it is that S. Paul could 
say, as already cited : " I fill up those things that are wanting 
of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body which 
is the Church. (Col. i. 24.) And this function, this 
association in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, is not 
an ideal applicable merely to great saints and mystics ; it 
is a function to be filled by all true Christians, each in his 
measure filling up the lacunae, every good life linking itself 

I. — The Two Standards— Spiritual Exercises, p. 47. 
2. — Ep, to Magnesians, 9. i. 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 137 

up into the wondrous unity of the moral order. Though 
we may not always advert to it, when we speak of the 
imitation of Christ and of reparation to the Sacred Heart, 
we are presupposing this prolongation and extension of the 
Saviour's life into ours. 

The first great revelation of the Heart of Jesus is contained 
in the seventh chapter of S. Luke's Gospel. " Dost thou 
see this woman? " said Christ to Simon. " I entered into 
thy house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet — but she 
with tears hath washed My feet and with her hair hath 
wiped them. Thou gavest Me no kiss — but she, since she 
came in, hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with 
oil thou didst not anoint — but she with ointment hath anointed 
My feet. . . . She hath loved much." This detailed 
antithesis, this careful balancing of neglect with service, 
this sensitive juxtaposition of Simon and Magdalen in the 
Heart of Christ, contains the essence of the idea of reparation. 
That is, if our Lord's life and mission is more than a simple 
historical event and is still accessible to us who live in these 
latter days. 1 Many a Simon nowadays treats Christ with 
studied slight and scorn, and we — is the role of Magdalen 
closed to us ? Cannot Christ still address the sinner, 
' Thou .... but she . . . ? " Cannot our loving 
much prevail and repair ? And to the solitary adorer does 
there not still from the Tabernacle come the whisper, " The 
nine — where are they ? " (5. Luke 17. 17.) 

The Gethsemane agony has passed nigh two thousand 
years ago. Yet here is the message to S. Margaret Mary : 
" Every night between Thursday and Friday I will make 
thee share in the mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel 
in the Garden of Olives. ... In order to bear Me 
company, . . . thou shalt rise between eleven o'clock and 
midnight and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not 
only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, 
but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt 
at that time on finding Myself abandoned by My apostles, 
which obliged Me to reproach them for not being able to 
watch one hour with Me."' 2 

i. — See also pp. IO5/. 

2.— Life of Bl. Margaret Mary Alacogiie(P'Ara,y-\e-Non\i\\}, Eng. trans. [1912], 
p. 68. On the Holy Hour see above p. 107. 



138 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

Since the day on which " they laid the cross " on Simon 
of Cyrene " to carry after Jesus " (5. Luke 23. 26), many 
a faithful one has sprung forward to carry the Master's 
cross. And shall we say, Too late ? Is the Cyrenaean alone 
to be Christ's cross-bearer ? Surely, that were to deny the 
eternal significance and ever-present reality of Christ's 
Sacrifice. 1 Does not Paul himself declare " I have been 
crucified with Christ " (Gal. 2. 20) ? And he added signi 
ficantly : " So it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ 
who lives in me." 

It is only in the light of these considerations that we can 
properly appreciate the lives of the saints. These few 
remarks will also help us to understand that thirst for suffering 
and desire of reparation which are so prominent on every 
.page of Fr. Doyle's inner life. As S. Catherine of Siena 
remarks, 2 " one virtue belongs especially to one man and 
another to another, and yet they all remain in charity." 
Though Fr. Doyle's character was manysided and eclectic, 
the ideal which more and more attracted him in the later 
years of his life was that of sacrificial self-immolation. Men 
have characteristic virtues just as they have predominant 
faults ; in good as in evil we are all more or less specialists. 
In a very real sense every soul is unique, no two of us are 
exactly alike ; hence there can be no question of mechanically 
reproducing another's life in our own. This diversity in 
unity is apparent even within the same religious Order. 3 
Thus while many of Fr. Doyle's fellow-religious would doubt 
less envisage life from a different angle, to him the great 
message which inspired and explained his life-vocation 
was our Lord's saying to S. Margaret Mary : "I seek a 
victim to My Heart which will immolate itself as a holocaust 



i.— So it is said of sinners that they " are fallen away ... crucifying again 
to themselves the Son of God and making Him a mockery." — Heb. 6. 6. 

2.— Thorold, The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin Catherine of Siena, 19072, 
p. 297 ; cf. p. 46. S. Teresa was emphatic that " our Lord leads souls on by 
different roads." — Foundations, 18. 6. 

3. — Compare, for instance, with the better known Jesuit Saints, such members 
of the Society as Fathers Alvarez and Surin, the V'en. Emmanuel Padial(t 172.5) 
who fell into a rapture at the mention of crib or stable, the Ven. Bernard de 
Hoyos(t 1735), a wondrous mystic and the first apostle of the Sacred Heart in 
Spain. See the remarks made above, p. 36. 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 139 

to the accomplishment of My designs." 1 This ideal of 
reparation, and in particular this special offering as a victim 
of immolation, is thoroughly in accord with the mind of the 
Church. Pope Leo XIII, for example, says in one of his 
encyclicals : 2 

" It is most fitting that Catholics should by a great spirit 
of faith and holiness make reparation for the depravity 
of views and actions and show publicly that nothing is 
dearer to them than the glory of God and the religion of 
their fathers. Let those especially who are more strictly 
bound to God, those who live in religion, rouse themselves 
more generously to charity and strive to propitiate the divine 
Majesty by their humble prayers, their voluntary sacrifices 
and the offering of themselves." 

Moreover, this ideal of a victim of reparation has in the 
case of several religious institutes been specially approved 
by Rome. 3 Indeed it is but the perfect and logical develop 
ment of the devotion to the Sacred Heart which seems almost 
to have been reserved for this age of dwindling faith and 
cooling charity. 4 



i. — Life p. 35. It is significant to note that S. Francis de Sales had already- 
declared that "the daughters of the Visitation . . . are victims of sacrifice 
and living holocausts." — Letters to Persons in Religion, Eng. trans. 1901 3 , 
p. 105. Compare also Sister Gertrude Mary (Eng. trans, of abridged French 
edition, p. 24) : "I appoint you My victim of reparation — the victim of My 
choice." 

2. — Nobilissima Gallorum Gens, 8 Feb., 1884. — Lettres apostoliques i. 238. 
See also the special Brief (6 March, 1883) given in Mgr. d'Hulst's pamphlet 
L adoration re"paratrice et nationale, Lille. 1884. 

3. — Thus the specially approved Constitutions of the Benedictines of Perpetual 
Adoration, " I vow and promise .... zealously to preserve the perpetual 
adoration and worship of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, as a victim 
immolated to Its glory." (58, 23). On 3rd Feb. 1908, the Institute of the 
"Daughters or Victims of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" received formal 
approval. 

4.— Cf. the work of P&re Calage, S J., at Marseilles (1846-66) as director of 
" ames victimes " and his stimulus to the foundation of the Societe des filles 
du Cosur de Jesus. — Laplace, La Mere Marie de Jfeus, new ed. 1906, pp. 121 ff. 
See also Fr. Doyle's letters of direction pp. 193^ 



140 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 



B. Father Doyle's Notes. 

It is only when we see this ideal of reparation carried out 
to a degree of heroic intensity in the life of one who has 
lived in our midst, that we realise its surpassing strength 
and beauty. And perhaps by thus witnessing this ennoble 
ment of suffering, we shall be aided to purge our own lives 
of sordid repining and fretful grumbling and to see in every 
form of pain an ally instead of an enemy, to enlarge our 
souls by the sane and social mysticism of reparation. " It 
is quite true," writes Mgr. d'Hulst, 1 " that reparation under 
lies all real interior life. But you know the difference between 
acknowledging a truth with the intelligence and discovering 
it within one's heart. This discovery — delayed no doubt by 
many infidelities, by a too external life, a life too busied 
with outward things — I am beginning to make on my own 
account, after having made it more than once for other 
people." 

It was during his 1909 retreat that the ideal of a life of 
absolute self-sacrifice and reparatory suffering came home 
to Fr. Doyle with full conviction and clearness. " I am 
more and more convinced," he writes, " that Jesus is asking 
from me the complete and absolute sacrifice of every 
gratification, pleasure, self-indulgence and comfort, which 
within the Rule and without injuring my health or work 
I can give Him. I have never before felt such a strong 
desire or such supernatural help to make and keep this 
resolution. Looked at in the bulk it appals me, but taken 
moment by moment, there is nothing which I cannot do. 
By the grace of God I can do all things." " I can honestly 
say," the journal continues, " I do not think of any sacrifice 
possible for me to make, which I have not written down 
at the end of this book,- so that now for the first time in my 
life I have given my Jesus absolutely everything I think 
He asks from me. Already I taste the reward in the deep 

i. — The Way of the Heart: Letters of Direction, Eng. trans. 1913, p- 56. 
2. — Apparently the resolutions (only partly extant) quoted on p. 90. 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 141 

peace and happiness I experience and in the growing desire 
to be more and more generous in giving. This time of 
consolation I know will not last always, but I am ready 
for the storm, trusting in God's grace, for all this is His 
work and He will never fail me. . . . There must be 
no going back now even in little things, no truce, no yielding 
to nature, till death." This retreat before his last vows 
(Feb. 1909) Fr. Doyle always called his " conversion." In 
his next retreat (Sept. 1910) he was able to record a distinct 
advance : " The past eighteen months have shown me that 
with the help of God's grace, sacrifices, which formerly I 
thought utterly impossible, were easy enough. This fills me 
with confidence to face others which I have been afraid of 
up to this." " I must, therefore," he concluded, " eagerly 
welcome every little pain, suffering, small sickness, trouble, 
cross of any kind, as coming straight to me from the Sacred 
Heart. Am I not Your loving victim, my Jesus ? I must 
remember also my compact — anything to become a saint." 

At Limerick, on the Feast of the Holy Family (22nd Jan.) 
1911, Fr. Doyle wrote down (or rather typed) in the form 
of an intimate spontaneous prayer a further elaboration of 
his ideal of self-immolation. It is at once pathetically 
human, magnificently heroic, and intensely practical : 

" My dear loving Jesus what do You want from me ? 
You never seem to leave me alone — thank You ever so much 
for that — but keep on asking, asking, asking. I have tried 
to do a good deal lately for You and have made many little 
sacrifices which have cost me a good deal, but You do not 
seem to be satisfied with me yet and want more. 

" The same thought is ever haunting me, coming back 
again and again ; fight as I will, I cannot get away from it 
or conceal from myself what it is You really want. I realise 
it more and more every day. But, my sweet Jesus, I am 
so afraid, I am so cowardly, so fond of myself and my own 
comfort, that I keep hesitating and refusing to give in to 
You and to do what You want. 

" Let me tell You what I think this is. You want me to 
immolate myself to Your pleasure ; to become Your victim 
by self-inflicted suffering ; to crucify myself in every way 
I can think of ; never if possible to be without some pain 



142 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

or discomfort ; to die to myself and to my love of ease and 
comfort ; to give myself the necessaries of life but no more 
(and I think these could be largely reduced without injury 
to my health) ; to crucify my body in every way I can think 
of, bearing heat, cold, little sufferings, without relief, 
constantly, if possible always, wearing some instrument of 
penance ; to crucify my appetite by trying to take as little 
delicacies as possible ; to crucify my eyes by a vigilant 
guard over them ; to crucify my will by submitting it to 
others ; to give up all comfort, all self-indulgence ; to sacrifice 
iny love of ease, love for sleep at unusual times ; to work, 
to toil for souls, to suffer, to pray always. My Jesus, am I 
not right, is not this what You want from me and have 
asked so long ? 

" I feel it is. For the thought of such a life, so naturally 
terrifying, fills me with joy, for I know I could not do one 
bit of it myself but that it will all be the work of Your grace 
and love. I have found, too, that the more I give, the more 
I do, the more I suffer, the greater becomes this longing. 

" Jesus, you know my longing to become a saint. You 
know how much I thirst to die a martyr. Help me to prove 
that I am really in earnest by living this life of martyrdom. 

loving Jesus, help me now not to fight any longer against 
You. I really long to do what You want, but I know my 
weakness so well and my inconstancy. I have made so 
many generous resolutions which I have never kept that 

1 feel it is almost a mockery to promise more. This record 
of my feelings and desire at this moment will be a spur to 
my generosity ; and if I cannot live up to the perfection of 
what You want, at least I am now determined to do more 
than I have ever done before. Help me, Jesus ! 

" This light has come to me now : 

(1) Try to live this life for one day, at least now and 
again ; this will show you it is not impossible. 

(2) Do what the Holy Ghost suggests, at once — ' Make 
this little sacrifice,' ' Do this,' ' Don't do that/ etc." 

A fortnight later (5th February, 1911), he thus records " a 
great grace " : " To-day while praying in the Chapel, 
suddenly it seemed to me as if I were standing before a 
narrow path all choked with briars and sharp thorns. Jesus 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 143 

was beside me with a large cross and I heard Him ask me 
would I strip myself of all things, and naked as He was on 
Calvary, take that cross on my bare shoulders and bravely 
fight my way to the end of the road. I realised clearly 
that this would mean much suffering and that very soon 
my flesh would be torn and bleeding from the thorns. All 
the same, humbly I promised Him, that, relying on His 
grace, I would not shrink from what He asked, and even 
begged Him to drag me through these briars since I am so 
cowardly. This inspiration, coming so soon after the ardent 
desire really to crucify myself, shows me clearly what kind 
of life Jesus is asking from me. I felt impelled to resolve 
as far as possible never to be without some slight bodily 
suffering, e.g. chain on arm, etc. I have also made a vow 
twice (binding for one day) to refuse on that day no sacrifice 
which I really feel my Jesus asks from me. All this has 
given me great interior peace and happiness, with fresh 
courage and determination to become a saint." He 
characteristically adds, " Life is too short for a truce." 

Once more (loth March, 1911), he felt an impetuous urging 
towards this life which, humanly speaking, was so motiveless 
and repellent. 

" This morning (he writes) during meditation I again 
felt that mysterious appeal from our Blessed Lord for a life 
of absolute, complete sacrifice of every comfort. I see and feel 
now, without a shadow of a doubt, as certainly as if Jesus 
Himself appeared and spoke to me, that He wants me to 
give up now and for ever all self-indulgence, to look on myself 
as not being free in the matter. That being so how can 
I continue my present manner of life, of a certain amount 
of generosity, fervent one day and then the next day giving 
in to self in everything ? 

" When a little unwell, or when I have a slight headache. 
I lie down, give up work, indulge myself in the refectory. 
I see that I lose immensely by this, for that is the time of 
great merit, and Jesus sends me that pain to bear for Him. 

" One thing keeps me back from a life of generosity — a 
cowardly fear of injuring my health, persuading myself I 
may interfere with my work. Why not leave all this in 
God's hands and trust in Him ? If the saints had listened 



144 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

to human prudence, they would never have been saints." 1 

We have already seen that Fr. Doyle had once or twice 
made a vow binding him for that day to refuse Jesus no 
sacrifice. Clearly it is only one with very explicit inspirations 
and promptings who could make such a vow without 
ambiguities or scruples. Fr. Doyle proceeded cautiously 
step by step ; and while anxious to strengthen his will, he 
was careful to avoid burdening himself with doubts and 
worries. We gather this from what he writes on the Feast 
of St. Mary Magdalen, 1911 : 

" This morning I made a vow for three days (then renewed 
it for two more) to refuse Jesus no sacrifice or act of self- 
denial which I honestly think He asks from me. If at all 
doubtful, I am to consider myself not bound by the vow. 
For a long time I have felt impelled to do something of the 
kind, but only to-day got light to see how to avoid 
scrupulosity, by leaving myself free, unless I feel quite con 
vinced I should make the sacrifice. I did not experience 
the difficulty I expected in carrying this out, but realised 
what an immense help it would be in bracing my weak will 
to generosity." 

It was during his annual retreat, September, 1911, that 
Fr. Doyle, after these tentative experiments, resolved to 
make this vow daily. This he did very calmly and 
deliberately and after much prayer, without any sensible 
fervour, but rather in spite of desolation and repugnance. 
The following extracts contain the considerations which he 
jotted down as well as the terms of the vow itself : 

" Every meditation of this retreat seems to turn upon the 
vow Jesus wishes me to make. Each day more light and 

I. — Compare the saying of Soeur Gertrude-Marie (Une mystique de nos jours ^ 
p. 593) quoted later on in Fr. Doyle's diary : " I am sure that God wishes me 
to go to the end without giving any attention to what costs me, to what tires 
me, to what injures my health. I must no longer follow any rule of human 
prudence in what concerns my health ; God has charge of it. It is strange, at 
the moment when I am most tired, most suffering, most exhausted, God asks 
me for yet more. He asks me such and such a thing : I must do it at once, 
without considering if it injures my health, without listening to the protests of 
nature. I must be crucified with Jesus. I must go as far as the extinction or 
self." Also the Foundress of the Society of Marie Reparatrice : " My whole 
being has turned into suffering ; everything fatigues me, everything costs me 
an effort, so broken down is my nature. And nevertheless God does not wish 
either solace or rest for me as long as the possibility of suffering remains. "- 
Life of Mother Mary of Jesus, (Eng. trans, by Fr. Gallery), 1913, p. 191. 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 145 

great graces make it clear to me that this is to be the great 
fruit I am to draw from these days. 

(1) Meditating on St. Mary Magdalen I felt heart-broken, 
thinking of my sinful life in the Society. ' My Jesus, I can 
only offer my life in reparation — take it all.' A voice seemed 
to reply ' I accept your offering : spend that life for Me 
in sacrifice and self-denial.' 

(2) If I were put in a dungeon, like the martyrs, with 
nothing to lie on but the bare stone floor, with no protection 
from intense cold, bread and water once a day for food, 
with no home comfort whatever, I could endure all that 
for years and gladly for the love of Jesus, yet I am unwilling 
to suffer a little inconvenience now, I must have every 
comfort, warm clothes, fire, food as agreeable as I possibly 
can, etc. 

(3) The devil has been exaggerating the difficulties of my 
proposed vow, saying human nature could not bear it. I 
have thought of the man in the workhouse forty years in 
bed, of blind Brigid suffering for years constantly. How 
much we can do when we must ! 

(4) Sanctity is so precious, it is worth paying any price 
for it. I feel I shall never be a saint if I refuse to do this. 
God sanctifies souls in many ways, the path of daily and 
hourly sacrifices in everything and always is mine. 

(5) Can a Jesuit, who deliberately refuses his Lord any 
act of self-denial, which he knows is asked from him, ever 
be really insignis ? Will Jesus be content with only half- 
measures from me ? I feel He will not ; He asks for all. 
My Jesus, with Your help I will give You all. 

(6) I was greatly struck with the thought that at His 
birth, our Lord began a voluntary life of suffering which 
would never end till He died in agony on the cross. All 
this for me \ I have little zeal for souls simply because I 
do not ask for it. 'Ask and you shall receive : hitherto 
you have not asked.' (S. John 16. 24.) 

" I have gone through a great deal of desolation, discourage 
ment, fear and dread of my proposed vow. When I make 
it — I am quite determined now to do so — it will be the result 



146 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

of calm conviction that I must do so, that God wants it 
from me, and not a burst of fervour. I shrink from this 
living death, but am quite happy in the thought that, since 
God has inspired me to do so, He will do all the work if once 
I submit my will. ... I was consoled by seeing 
Fr. de la Colombi£re's repugnance to making his heroic 
vow. 1 He spoke of the sadness which this constant fight 
against nature sometimes gave him. He overcame that 
temptation by remembering that it is sweet and easy to do 
what we know will please one we really love. 



A. M. D. G. et B. v. M. 

MY VOW. 

I deliberately vow, and bind myself, under pain of mortal 
sin, to refuse Jesus no sacrifice, which I clearly see He is 
asking from me. Amen. 

CONDITIONS. 

(1) Until I get permission 2 to make it permanently, this 
will only bind from day to day, to be renewed each morning 
at Mass. 

(2) To avoid scrupulosity, I am quite Iree unless I honestly 
believe the sacrifice is asked. 

(3) Any confessor may dispense me from the vow at 
any time. 

Feast of St. Michael, 
Tullabeg. September 29th, 1911. 

Though not coming under the matter of the vow, my 
aim will be : — 

(a) Never to avoid suffering e.g. heat or cold, unpleasant 
people etc. 

i. — See the quotation on p. 36. 

2. — This reference shows clearly that Fr. Doyle consulted his confessor and 
sought permission for these private vows. 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 147 

(b) Of two alternatives, to choose the harder e.g. ordinary 
or arm chair. 

(c) To try and let absolutely no occasion of self-denial 
pass : they are too precious. 

(d) As far as possible, not to omit my ordinary penances 
when a little unwell. 

(e) My constant question to be : ' What other sacrifice 
can I make ? What more can I give up for Jesus ? How 
can I do this action more perfectly ? ' 



REASONS FOR MAKING VOW. 

(1) The immense help it will be to become fervent. 

(2) Additional great merit from doing the acts under vow. 

(3) I see now what was the strange ' want ' which I have 
felt so often in my life. I have been urged by grace for years 
to take some such step, but only recently clearly saw what 
I should do. 

(4) My sanctification depends on doing this. 

(5) I wish to do my utmost to please my dear Jesus. 

(6) I feel simply I must make this vow — as if I had no 
power to refuse, which shows me that all this is the work 
of grace, and not my doing in the least. 

(7) Since Jesus, out of pure love for me, has always lived 
this life, and since I have promised to imitate Him, how 
can I now refuse to do so ? 

(8) I shall gain immensely by this vow, my work for 
others will be blessed, more souls will be saved and greater 
glory given to God. 

(9) What shall I lose ? A little gratification which brings 
no real pleasure but always leaves me unhappy, for I feel I 
am resisting grace. 

I make this vow with immense distrust of myself and my 
power to keep it, but place all my confidence and trust in 
Thee, O most loving Heart of Jesus." 



148 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

At the end of his retreat he wrote down what he considered 
to have been its three great fruits : 
" (l) The making of my vow. 

(2) Resolution to get back my old love and devotion 

to Mary. 

(3) Trying to acquire under her guidance the ' interior 

union.' ' 

Fifteen months later (January, 1913,) there occurs an entry 
in his diary, which is a consoling proof that Fr. Doyle's 
heroic ideal was grafted on a humanity shared by us all. 
" During this retreat," he writes, " my eyes have been opened 
to this unceasing appeal of Jesus and to see how I have 
never really kept my resolutions. Even my vow after a 
short time I gave up renewing, and lately I forgot I ever 
made it. With God's grace I purpose to keep it every 
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and to mark each day 
in the other book. On these days I will endeavour to give 
myself no gratification and not to avoid any little incon 
venience or suffering." He was not discouraged, he started 
once more. And after another three months he renewed 
his vow, this time until the end of the year. 



A. M. D. G. 

SOLEMN VOW. 

" After much thought and prayer, feeling myself urged 
strongly by grace and the ceaseless pleading of Jesus, I have 
resolved to lead the life of absolute crucifixion which I know 
He wants and which alone will please Him. 

I now promise and bind myself by vow (under mortal 
sin) ' to give Him everything ' until next Christmas Day, 
with the power of dispensing myself in case of necessity 
on any day. 

Dear Jesus, I vow, with the help of Your grace, to give 
You all You ask for the future. 

Good Friday, March 2ist, 1913. 
Three o'clock." 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 149 

Fr. Doyle seems to have come to the conclusion that these 
two vows were too vague. So he made a third vow, con 
cerning which there is the following entry in his diary under 
the date 2ist September, 1913 : 

" This morning, the Feast of the Seven Dolours, I rose 
and made the Holy Hour from one to two. I then knelt 
before the Tabernacle and bound myself according to the 
conditions in the other book. I also made a promise to use 
every effort never to dispense myself from this vow, and to 
strive ever and always to give Jesus every sacrifice I possibly 
can, trying not to make any account of my health, but leaving 
its care to Him. I see clearly now what I must do, and my 
obligation under pain of mortal sin, and since I must mark 
each act daily I shall not forget it. This vow cancels the 
other two which were too vague and not realisable." 

In this vow Fr. Doyle specified in detail the ' everything ' 
which he had promised to give our Lord. The vow included 
certain mortifications in food (no sugar or salt, etc.) and bound 
him to mark daily acts on the watch and to make 15,000 
aspirations during the mission. At the same time he took 
ample precautions to avoid scrupulosity or ambiguity. 1 The 
vow was to be taken during Sunday Mass and to hold for 
only one week ; he was " free to dispense in part or in whole 
for any reason " ; and it was " not binding when at home 
and if too singular on certain occasions." Concerning the 
renewals of .this vow or any subsequent modifications in its 
terms we have little information. At any rate Fr. Doyle 
continued daily marking " the other book " with minute 
precision, twenty different headings being marked each 
day. The mind which could stand this perpetual strain 
was of no ordinary type. It is a marvel that his joyous 
spirit never felt crushed by the sheer weight of spiritual 
book-keeping involved. On the contrary it would seem that 
any relaxation only oppressed and saddened him. " During 
the past few days," he notes on 20th Nov., 1914, " I did not 
renew my vow, gave up aspirations and all penances, and 
indulged myself in every way. The result was great misery 

i. — S. Teresa, finding her vow (to do always what was most perfect) a 
source of scruples, got it commuted ; she renewed it in a safer form under 
the guidance of her confessor. See preface to Lewis's translation of the 
Foundations, 1871, p. vi. 



150 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

and unhappiness with the feeling that Jesus was very much 
pained, though I did not seem to care. I felt powerless to 
rise out of this state. This morning He came back to me 
during my Mass with such love and grace that I could not 
resist Him, and took up my former life again. Great peace 
and happiness since." 

Is not this after all the final test ? It was by means of 
these elaborately devised strivings and these slowly improved 
vows that Fr. Doyle found ' great peace and happiness.' 
" Everyone hath his proper gift from God," says S. Paul 
(/ Cor. 7. 7), " one after this manner and another after 
that." 

It will be convenient to collect here some of Fr. Doyle's 
thoughts and resolutions concerning this life of self-sacrifice 
and reparation. We shall thereby be enabled to realise the 
growing intensity with which this wonderful ideal dominated 
him. More and more the absorbing ambition of his life was 
to make himself a living holocaust, ' the victim of the Sacred 
Heart.' As time went on, all other motives became fused 
in this glowing zeal, culminating finally and appropriately 
in the sacrifice of life itself. " Greater love than this no 
man hath." (S. John 15. 13.) 

" To-day, the Feast of all the Saints of the Society, while 
praying in the Chapel at Donnybrook (Poor Clares), our 
Lord seemed to ask me these questions :— 

(1) When are you going to do what I have so often urged 
you and begged from you — a life of absolute sacrifice ? 

(2) You have promised Me to begin this life earnestly, — 
why not do so at once ? 

(3) You have vowed to give Me any sacrifice I want. 
I ask this from you : 

(a) the most absolute surrender of all gratification, 

(b) to embrace every possible suffering, 

(c) this, every day and always.' 

My Jesus, I shrink from such a life, but will bravely begin 
this moment since You wish it." (5th November, 1911.) 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 151 

" For a long time past the conviction has been growing 
that God wants me to be His victim to be immolated on 
the altar of perfect sacrifice. Every act of self-indulgence, 
even when there was some excuse if I was not very well, 
has left me unhappy, for I see clearly He wants all. The 
thought of a life in which there would be absolutely no 
yielding to self, stripped of every possible comfort, has an 
immense attraction for me lately, even though I have not 
the courage or generosity to embrace it. This morning at 
Kilmacud 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." (ist January, 1912.) 

" Last night I rose at two o'clock, very much against 
my will, and went down to the domestic chapel (Limerick). 
Jesus seemed to want me to come before Him as a victim 
of His divine anger on behalf of sinners. I knelt down in 
fear and dread. Acting on a strong impulse I uncovered 
my shoulders, bowed my head and asked Jesus to scourge 
me without mercy and not to spare me, cowardly as I was. 
Then He spoke in my soul clearly and forcibly : ' You must 
be your own executioner. I want you to sacrifice all, which 
you have never done yet though you often promised. From 
this hour you must never give yourself one grain of human 
comfort or self-indulgence even at the times you have been 
accustomed to do so, e.g. when very tired, not well, travelling, 
etc. I want from you a suffering love always, always, 
always. The feasts and relaxations of others are not for 
you. Give Me this courageously and I will grant the desires 
of your heart.' 

" Jesus seemed to ask the following : (i) perfect denial of 
the eyes, (2) the bearing of little pains, (3) much prayer for 
strength, (4) a review of each half day at examen to see if 
this resolution has been kept. 

" My whole soul shrank from this life — ' no human comfort 



152 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

ever.' But with His grace, for I know my own weakness 
too well, I promised to do all He asked, and lying on the 
ground, I asked Him to nail me to my cross and never again 
permit me to come down from it. Fiat." (loth July, 1913.) 

" Last night I rose at one a.m. and went down to the 
Church, renewing before the Crucifix my desire and promise 
absolutely ' to surrender all human comfort and embrace 
instead every possible pain and discomfort.' With my arms 
round the cross, I begged Jesus to give me His courage and 
strength to do what He asks from me. I realised that if 
I prayed when tempted to give in, grace would come to my 
help." (27th January, 1914.) 

' My way is sure.' I think I can say now without a 
shade of doubt or hesitation that the path by which Jesus 
wants me to walk is that of absolute abandonment of all human 
comfort and pleasure and the embracing as far as I can of 
every discomfort and pain. Every time I see a picture of 
the crucifixion or a cross, I feel strangely affected and drawn 
to the life of immolation in a strange way. The heroism 
of Jesus appeals to me ; His ' naked crucifixion ' calls to 
me and it gives me great consolation and peace to offer 
myself to Him on the cross for this perpetual living 
crucifixion. How often does He not seem to say to me 
in prayer, ' I would have you strip yourself of all things — 
every tiny particle of self-indulgence, and this ever and 
always ? Give Me all and I will make you a great saint.' 
This then is the price of my life-long yearning for 
sanctification. O Jesus, I am so weak, help me to give 
You all and to do it now." (8th May, 1914.) 

" During meditation Jesus made known to me a new 
life which He wants me to aim at in future, a life in which 
I am to seek only suffering, weariness and pain. 

(1) He will send me many little bodily pains which I am 
to bear with joy, not to seek to get rid of them or to make 
them known to others. 

(2) I am to inflict as much pain on myself as I can, hence 
I must increase corporal penance. 

(3) I am to try and continue this especially when 
I am sick. 

(4) When fatigued and weary, not to indulge myself or 



LIFE OF IMMOLATION 153 

rest as I always do ; this will be very hard, but Jesus 
wants it. 

(5) Since constant work is so painful, I must try never 
to be idle one moment. 

(6) In a word, because every moment of the life of Jesus 
was ' full of pain and suffering/ I must strive ever and always 
to make my life resemble His." (Retreat, September, 1915.) 

" Meditating on the words of our Lord to Blessed 
Margaret Mary : ' I seek for My Heart a victim willing to 
sacrifice itself for the accomplishment of My desires,' I begged 
Jesus to tell me the meaning of these words. This seemed 
to be His answer, written as I knelt before the Tabernacle : 

(1) ' The victim whom I seek for must place himself in 
My hands that I may do absolutely what I will with him. 
Only in this way can My secret plans and designs be carried 
out. If the victim deliberately refuses to do what I want, 
all My plans may be spoiled. 

(2) ' The victim must surrender his body for any suffering 
or disease I may please to send, (but not asked for). There 
must be no holding back in this surrender through fear of 
any sickness whatever. This includes the joyful acceptance 
of all little bodily pains and the not seeking remedies for 
them, except when absolutely necessary. 

(3) ' The victim must give Me his soul that I may try it 
by temptation, plunge it in sadness, purify it by interior 
trials. In this state its prayer must be, ' Fiat, Thy will 
be done/ 

(4) ' Perfect abandonment to My will in every detail must 
be the very life of My victim, the most absolute humble 
submission to My pleasure his constant aim. Every little 
thing that happens must be recognized and welcomed as 
coming straight from My hand. The victim will wait till 
the voice of obedience speaks and then do exactly what I 
have made known, this promptly, earnestly, gladly because 
it is My will. There must be no likes or dislikes ; no wishing 
for this thing to end or the other to begin, to be sent here 
or there, not to have this work to do, etc. My victim must 
have only one wish, one aim, one desire, — to do what I 
want in all things ; this I shall make known from moment 
to moment. 



154 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

(5) ' The victim should strive to carry out what I seem 
to ask, fearless of the pain involved, regardless of the possible 
consequences, only trusting in My all-powerful help and 
protection. 

In this way, using My victim as an instrument, I shall 
secretly accomplish my desires in souls. My child, do you 
accept this office with its conditions ? ' 

Jesus, most humbly I offer myself as Thy victim. Amen." 
September, 1915.) 



This last was written just six weeks before he received 
his appointment as military chaplain and two years before 
God accepted the final holocaust. 



(3.) PRIESTLY SANCTITY AND REPARATION. 

Fr. Doyle had a very high ideal of the sacerdotal vocation. 
This he showed not only by his efforts to procure labourers 
for the great harvest, but especially in his own life. His 
daily Mass, for instance, was celebrated with a fervour which 
was apparent even to strangers. Phrases, such as Kyrie 
Eleison, Sursum Corda, Dominus Vobiscum, which by their 
very iteration tend to become mechanical utterances, seemed 
on his lips to be always full of freshness and meaning. 1 
Similarly he always strove to prevent the recitation of the 
Office from becoming mere routine ; he regarded it as a 
minting of merit, every word a precious coin. He so valued 
the Sacrament of Penance that he resolved to go daily to 
Confession. This lofty priestly ideal is made abundantly 
evident by his growing preoccupation with the work of 
promoting priestly sanctity and his increasing realisation 
that, like the great High Priest, he should be " a propitiation 
for the sins of the people." (Hebr. 2. 17.) We see this 

I. — It was a similar zeal which led him to publish his little Synopsis of the 
Rubrics and Ceremonies of Holy Mass, Washbourne, 1914. One of the booklets 
he had projected was "An Explanation of the Priesl's Actions at Mass." 
" How many of us," he asks, "could tell why, for example, the priest blesses 
the water and not the wine at the Offertory ? " Cf. the Cur£ of Ars : " To say 

Mass one ought to be a seraph If we really knew what the Mass is, 

we should die !" — Life by Abbe Monnin, Eng. tr. pp. 146 f. 



PRIESTLY SANCTITY AND REPARATION 155 

idea in the following note : " Sacerdos et victima. 1 After 
the words, Accipe protestatem off ere sacrificium Dei, the 
ordaining bishop adds, Imitamini quod tractatis? Jesus is 
a Victim, the priest must be one also. Christ has charged 
His priest to renew daily the sacrifice of the Cross ; the 
altar is a perpetual Calvary ; the matter of the sacrifice, 
the victim, is Himself, His own Body, and He is the sacrificer. 
' Receive, O Eternal Father, this unspotted Victim.' Can a 
priest worthy of the name stand by and watch this 
tremendous act, this heroic sacrifice, without desiring to 
suffer and to be immolated also ? ' With Christ I am nailed 
to the Cross.' (Gal. 2. 20.) . . . Would that I could 
say ' a pure holy spotless victim.' Let Jesus take me in 
His hands, as I take Him in mine, to do as He wills with 
. me." This idea is quite scriptural. " I beseech you," 
writes S. Paul, 3 " that you present your bodies a living 
sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God." " Be you also," says 
S. Peter (i. 2, 5), "as living stones built up, a spiritual house, 
a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable 
to God by Jesus Christ." This association of priesthood 
and sacrifice applies also to those who are not priests, to all 
the faithful, who constitute " a chosen generation, a kingly 
priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people." (/ Peter 
2. 9.) " Pray, Brothers," says the priest at Mass, " that 
the sacrifice which is mine and yours may be acceptable to 
God the Father Almighty." And all through the Canon of 
the Mass the words emphasise the intimate union between 
celebrant and people in the great mystery which is being 
enacted. The assistants join not only in offering up the 
Divine Victim but also, as a water-drop in wine, in offering 
themselves as ' a living sacrifice/ 4 

I. — Priest and Victim. 

2. — -Receive power to offer the sacrifice of God. Imitate what you handle 
(i.e. the instruments of sacrifice). 

3. — Rom. 12. i. Cf. Prat, Thdologie de saint Paul, i. 308 ff. 

4. — As the ideas of Soeur Gertrude Marie were so appreciated and propagated 
by Fr. Doyle, we may refer here to her method of hearing 1 Mass. — Sister 
Gertrude Mary (Eng. trans. 1915 of abridged French edition) pp. 107-111. 
" I ask of Jesus to place my soul, and all those whom I am recommending »o 
Him at the Holy Sacrifice, upon the paten, and in the chalice, so that this dear 
Saviour may deign to offer us all to His Father. The matter of the Sacrifice is 
prepared. I must offer myself also to be wholly immolated . . . ." Compare 
what S. Francis de Sales says to a correspondent : " Every day I offer you on 
the altar with the Son of God." — Letters to Persons in Religion, Eng. trans. 
(Mackay) 19018 p. 26. Also Imitation of Christ (iv. 8, i) : " You also ought to 
offer yourself freely to Me every day in the Mass as a pure and holy offering." 



156 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Thus the Sacrifice of the Mass is the living source from 
which our reparation derives its efficacy and inspiration. 
Co-operation in the great mystery of the Redemption, says 
the foundress of the Congregation de 1' Adoration Reparatrice, 
is " the act of the Sacrifice of the Mass continued by the 
members of the Saviour at every moment of the day and 
night." 1 And this ideal of co-sacrifice with Christ leads 
naturally from an appreciation of the sublime function of 
the priesthood to the idea of a spiritual crusade, extending 
and supplementing the sacerdotal work and atoning for the 
inevitable negligences and even scandals which occur in its 
performance. This is the devotion which, during the last 
three years of his life, strongly took hold of Fr. Doyle, namely, 
prayer for priests to aid them in their ministry and reparation 
in atonement for the negligences and infidelities of those 
whose calling is so high. We have already seen how earnestly 
he besought prayers for his own work. 2 S. Teresa exhorts 
her nuns to this apostolate of prayer. ' Try to be such," 
she says, 3 " that we may be worthy to obtain these two 
favours from God : (i) that among the numerous learned 
and religious (priests) whom we have, there may be many 
who possess the requisite abilities . . . and that our Lord 
would improve those that are not so well prepared, since 
one perfect man can do more than many imperfect ones ; 
(2) that our Lord may protect them in their great warfare, 
so that they may escape the many dangers of the world." 
She considered that her Carmelites, enjoying the seclusion 
and immunity of the cloister, owed this duty to the Church 
Militant. This ideal is still more conspicuously enshrined in 
some recent religious institutes, particularly in the Society 
of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus. These sisters are 
" to ask by fervent prayers, by sufferings and even by their 
lives, if necessary, for the outpouring of grace on the Church, 
on the Catholic priesthood and on religious orders." In 
his Brief to Mgr. van den Berghe, I4th March, 1872, Pius IX 

i. — Mgr. d'Hulst, Vie de la V<fn. Marie-Tercse, 1917 <*, p. 268; Eng. trans, by 
Lady Herbert (Life of Mother Mary Teresa, 1899), p. 168. 

2. — See p. 65. 

3. — Way of Perfection, ch. 3. 

4.— Abbe L. Laplace, La Mere Marie de Jt/sus (Marie Deluil-Martiny), 1894 ; 
new ed. 1906, p. 283. 



PRIESTLY SANCTITY AND REPARATION 157 

welcomed the new foundation. " It is not without con 
solation of heart," said the Pope, 1 " that we have heard 
of your plan to arouse and spread in your country that 
admirable spirit of sacrifice which God apparently wishes 
to oppose to the ever increasing impiety of our time. We 
see with pleasure that a great number of persons are every 
where devoting themselves entirely to God, offering Him 
even their life in ardent prayer, to obtain the deliverance 
and happy preservation of His Vicar and the triumph of 
the Church, to make reparation for the outrages committed 
against the divine Majesty, and especially to atone for the 
profanations of those who, though the salt of the earth, lead 
a life which is not in conformity with their dignity." 

The seal of the Church has therefore been set on this 
apostolate of prayer and reparation. There is, needless to 
say, no question of pride or presumption, no attempting to 
judge others. 2 It is merely the just principle that those 
who are specially shielded and privileged should aid those 
active religious — priests, brothers and sisters — who have 
great responsibilities and a difficult mission, and should by 
their faithfulness atone for the shortcomings of those who 
are exposed to greater temptations. " More than ever," says 
Cardinal Mermillod, 3 " is it necessary to console the wounded 
Heart of Jesus, to pray for the priesthood, and by immolation 
and adoration, without measure or truce to give our Saviour 
testimony of affection and fidelity." ' There is much which 
needs reparation," writes Mgr. d' Hulst, 4 " even in the 
sanctuary and the cloisters, and indeed especially there. 
Our Lord expects compensation from souls who have 
not abused special graces." " How grievous are these 
scandals ! " he exclaims in another letter. " Only the 

I. — Ibid., pp. 2l8f. 

2. — "You should love them [priests] therefore by reason of the virtue and 
dignity of the Sacrament, and by reason of that very virtue and dignity you 
should hate the defects of those who live miserably in sin, but not on that 
account appoint yourselves their judges, which I forbid, because they are My 
Christs and you ought to love and reverence the authority which I have given 

them Their sins indeed should displease you and you should hate them, 

and strive with love and holy prayer to reclothe them, washing away their 
foulness with your tears." — S. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue, Eng. trans. 
Thorold, 1907 - , pp. 256 f. 

3. — Laplace, La Mere Marie de Jdsus, 1906, p. 288. 

4. — Baudrillart, Vie de Mgr. d' Hulst, ii. 523; The Way of the Heart: Letters 
of Direction by Mgr. d' Hulst, Eng. trans. 1913, p. 96, (see also p. 25). 



158 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

thought of reparation can soften the bitterness of them. To 
take expiation on oneself is to be like Him of whom it is 
said : Vere languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores nostros ipse 
portavit. 1 If this thought had thoroughly entered into us, 
without running after great penances, should we not give 
quite another reception than we usually do to sufferings, 
vexations, and the dulness and bitterness of our poor lives ? 
And then the thought of reparation is so beneficial to poor 
souls like ours ! It is a great mistake to think it is the 
privilege of the perfect. On the contrary, it pleases our 
Lord to open up these horizons to the weak, to give them 
courage by turning their attention away from their own 
wretchedness. If I am incapable of satisfying God in myself, 
I will try to make up to Him for others. If I cannot lament 
my own ingratitude sufficiently, I will learn to do so by 
lamenting for others." These consoling words will help to 
convince those whose ideal of holiness is unconsciously 
individualistic and self-centred, that the ideal of reparation 
by no means implies the possession or the delusion of 
perfection. Of course in all this there may creep in some 
spirit of censorious self-sufficiency, though indeed there is 
not much danger of it in the hidden humble lives of those 
' victim-souls ' who are devoted to the secret apostolate of 
prayer for God's ministers and reparation for those scandals 
and infidelities which occur from time to time in the Church. 
It has, therefore, seemed right to show briefly here, by way 
of preface to Fr. Doyle's private notes, how explicitly this 
work of priestly sanctification and reparation has been 
recognised by the Church and adopted by saints and 
mystics. 2 

i. — "Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows."— 
Jsaias 53. 4. 

2. — Compare the message to Gemma Galgani : "I have need of a great 
expiation specially for the sins and sacrileges by which ministers of the 
sanctuary are offending Me."— Life by Fr. Germanus, Eng. trans. 1913, p. 325. 
Also Soeur Gertrude Marie : " I wish to pray and suffer for priests. I wish 
that all holy souls, especially religious, had this attraction for the sanctification 
of priests. My God, choose souls who love and understand the importance of 
this apostolate ! Bless and make fruitful this apostolate so dear to Your 
Heart ! " — Legueu, Une mystique de nos jours, Angers, 1910, p. 331. And Mere 
Marie de Je'sus : "I think that I would willingly give my life that our Lord 
might find in His priests what He expects from them ; I would give it that 
only one of them might fully realise the divine plan. Of course there are those 
who do, but I mean, that one more should do so my life would willingly be 
given." — Laplace, p. 223. 



PRIESTLY SANCTITY AND REPARATION 159 

This ideal appealed greatly to Fr. Doyle. On 28th July, 
1914, the anniversary of his Ordination, he wrote : "At 
Exposition Jesus spoke clearly in my soul, ' Do the hard 
thing for My sake because it is hard.' I also felt urged to 
perform all my priestly duties with great fervour to obtain 
grace for other priests to do the same, e.g. the Office, that 
priests may say theirs well." On the Feast of St. Teresa, 
October, 1914, there is this simple but eloquent record : 
" Last night I rose at one a m. and walked two miles bare 
footed in reparation for the sins of priests to the chapel at 
Murrough (Co. Clare), 1 where I made the Holy Hour. God 
made me realise the merit of each step, and I understood 
better how much I gain by not reading the paper ; each 
picture, each sentence sacrificed means additional merit. 
I felt a greater longing for self-inflicted suffering and a deter 
mination to do more ' little things.' ' During his 1914 
retreat this ideal came home to him as a special mission. 
' The great light of this retreat, clear and persistent," he 
writes on ist December, " has been that God has chosen 
me, in His great love and through compassion for my 
weakness and misery, to be a victim of reparation for the 
sins of priests especially ; that hence my life must be different 
in the matter of penance, self-denial and prayer, from the 
lives of others not given this special grace — they may 
meritoriously do what I cannot ; that unless I constantly 
live up to the life of a willing victim, I shall not please our 
Lord nor ever become a saint — it is the price of my 
sanctification ; that Jesus asks this from me always and in 
every lawful thing, so that I can sum up my life ' sacrifice 
always in all things.' ' 

On the following Christmas Day (1914) Fr. Doyle records 
a further step. " During midnight Mass at Dalkey Convent 
I made the oblation of myself as a member of the League 
of Priestly Sanctity. During my preparation beforehand a 
sudden strong conviction took possession of me that by 

doing so, I was about to begin the ' work ' which had 

spoken of. Our Lord gave me great graces during the Mass 
and urged me more strongly than ever to throw myself into 
the work of my sanctification, that so I may draw many 

j. — He was giving a Mission here. 



160 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

other priests to Him. He wants the greatest possible fervour 
and exactness in all priestly duties." 

The League of Priestly Sanctity, to which reference is 
here made, was founded in the North of France in the year 
1901, under the direction of Pere Feyerstein, S.J. (f 1911). 
Fr. Doyle became Director-General for Ireland and strove 
to spread the League among Irish priests. In an explanatory 
leaflet which he issued, it is described as " an association of 
priests, both secular and regular, who, in response to the 
desire of the Sacred Heart, strive to help each other to become 
holy and thus render themselves worthy of their sublime 
calling and raise the standard of sacerdotal sanctity." Two 
special objects are enumerated : " (i) The assistance of 
priests, and especially those of the League, in living a life 
worthy of their high calling. (2) The atonement for outrages 
to the Sacred Heart in the Sacrament of His love. This 
Sacrament, needless to say, is committed to priests in a 
special manner ; and there ought to be a priestly expiation 
for irreverence, negligence, and particularly sacrilegious 
Masses, which the Divine Heart has to endure from the 
very ministers of His altar." 1 

Fr. Doyle had this League very much at heart and had 
prepared several schemes for its spread and improvement 
when his appointment as military chaplain interrupted the 
work. But while engaged in this novel sphere of activity, 
the ideal of a life of reparation remained uppermost in his 
mind and once more the special form which it took was 
expiation for the negligences and sins of God's anointed. He 
recorded this resolution on 26th July, 1916 : ''During a visit 
our Lord seemed to urge me not to wait till the end of the 
war, but to begin my life of reparation at once, in some 
things at least. I have begun to keep a book of acts done 
with this intention. He asked me for these sacrifices, (i) 
To rise at night in reparation for priests who lie in bed 
instead of saying Mass. (2) At all costs to make the 50,000 
aspirations. (3) To give up illustrated papers. (4) To kiss 
floor of churches (5) Breviary always kneeling. (6) Mass 

i. — Pius X. (Rescript of l6th Dec. 1908, and Brief of gth July, 1909) granted 
a plenary indulgence once a month to priests who undertook this oblation of 
priestly reparation. 



PRIESTLY SANCTITY AND REPARATION 161 

with intense devotion. The Blessed Cure d' Ars used to 
kneel without support while saying the Office. Could 
not I ? " 

" This is my vocation," he notes on 8th February, 1917, 
" reparation and penance for the sins of priests ; hence the 
constant urging of our Lord to generosity." Appropriately 
enough the last entry in his diary was made on 28th July, 
1917, the tenth anniversary of his ordination. Fr. Doyle's 
last recorded thought was about his sacrificial ideal of priestly 
immolation. 

" The reading of La vie rfyaratrice 1 has made me long 
more to take up this life in earnest. I have again offered 
myself to Jesus as His Victim to do with me absolutely as 
He pleases. I will try to take all that happens, no matter 
from whom it comes, as sent to me by Jesus and will bear 
suffering, heat, cold, etc., with joy as part of my immolation, 
in reparation for the sins of priests. From this day I shall 
try bravely to bear all ' little pains ' in this spirit. A strong 
urging to this." 



(4.) HOLY FOLLIES. 

Neither human nor divine love expresses itself with 
mechanical precision and calculated nicety. The outpouring 
of the heart cannot be regulated as it were with a tap ; the 
very fervour of devotion scorns all attempts at impersonal 
measurement. Every absorbing emotion seems tinged with 
foolishness or foolhardiness to one who is outside it and 
untouched by it. " He saved others," said the wise men 
on Calvary, " but Himself He cannot save." (S. Matthew 
27. 42.) And did not Peter himself take his Master aside 
and rebuke Him ? (5. Matthew 16. 22.) Only when the 
suffering Christ turned and looked at him, did Peter, weeping 
bitterly, understand the foolishness of the cross. (5. Luke 
22. 61.) We, too, with our averaged precepts of prudence, 
shall often feel tempted to take God's saints aside and rebuke 
them. That is because we cannot catch that look divine 

i. — By Canon Leroux de Bretagne (Descl^e, 1909). 
L 



162 . FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

which flashed on them ; we attend more to the exterior 
expressions of holiness than to its interior intensity. The 
significance of the lives of the saints does not lie in the fact 
that they did foolish or even whimsical things, which they 
themselves (like Ignatius after Manresa) often regretted ; it 
lies rather in the inner love and heroism of which these are 
the manifestations. Such acts performed under over 
whelming inspiration serve, like the stigmata and trances of 
some ecstatica, to show forth, by their striking singularity, 
how high our nature can be raised and how deeply the human 
heart can be stirred by the reality of God's presence. It 
would be hard to justify by general principles many incidents 
in the lives of the saints ; we are not called upon to do so. 
Such things cannot be generalised and sometimes they are 
certainly unwise and exaggerated. 1 In altitudes whither 
most of us never penetrate, even the saints are but novices 
and pioneers ; what wonder if at times their steps are clumsy 
and unsure ? Just as ordinary men need a confessor who 
will spur and stimulate them, so the saints need a director 
to check and restrain their impetuous ardour. 

These few remarks will help to place in their proper 
setting some incidents in the life of Fr. Doyle, most of 
which, were it not for a chance-written document penned 
under what he believed to be God's inspiration, we should 
hardly suspect. It was with a firm faith in God's special 
providence and mission that he strove to ignore physical 
exhaustion and illness. 2 During his 1915 retreat he wrote : 
" I think our Lord is allowing my present state of lassitude 
and suffering and at the same time urging me to heroic 
generosity, in order to make me rely more on His strength. 
Humanly speaking, I ought to rest and indulge myself, I 
feel so run down ; but Jesus does not want this. I must 
cast prudence to the winds, go ahead blindly, following the 
inspirations of grace and not counting the cost. I am 
convinced that my health will not suffer, as past experience 

I. — " I make so bold as to say that a certain amount of Christian language 
in that matter of mortification is both metaphorical and hyperbolical. I go 
even further and say that, besides exaggerated language, there has been 
occasionally, or even frequently, exaggerated acting in individual cases. The 
Church is not responsible for the over-fervid behaviour of some of her best 
children." — Abbot A. Vonier, The Human Soul, 1913, p. 126. 

2. — See also p. 143. 



HOLY FOLLIES 163 

has shown me that I am always better when giving Him 
all. Besides would it not be far better to die than to go on 
fighting against Him as I have done for years ? " In this 
intimate colloquy written to reassure himself, we have his 
own best defence. He alone felt ' the inspirations of grace ' 
and had the evidence of what ' Jesus wanted ' ; he who 
saved others, refused to save himself. A month later (20th 
October, 1915), we find him struggling hard against all 
prudential concessions to illness : " Feeling very unwell for 
the past few days, I gave way to self-indulgence in food and 
sleep. Jesus has made it very clear to me that this has not 
pleased Him : ' I have sent you this suffering that you may 
suffer more, not that you should try to avoid it.' He made 
me put on the chain again and promise Him, as long as I 
can hold out, not to take extra sleep etc. Great peace and 
contentment is the result." And, after all, was not the result 
his justification ? God wants us to serve Him in peace 
and contentment ; we do not all attain thereto in the 
same way. 1 

It was especially the night-time that Fr. Doyle chose for 
self-inflicted suffering. Two quotations, in addition to those 
already given, will show us how he thus combined prayer 
and penance. 

" Last night I rose at twelve and knelt in the cellar for 
an hour to suffer from the cold. It was a hard fight to do 
so, but Jesus helped me. I said my rosary with arms 
extended. At the third mystery the pain was so great that 
I felt I could not possibly continue ; but at each ave I prayed 

i. — Compare the general principles advocated by the saints. "The poor 
soul must not be stifled. Let those who thus suffer realise that they are ill ... 
Take care of the body for the love of God, because at many other times the 
body must serve the soul. Let recourse be had to some holy recreations such 
as conversation, walking in the fields, as the confessor may advise. — S. Teresa, 
Life, xi. 23-24. "If the work that you are doing is necessary to you or very 
useful for God's glory, I prefer you to suffer the burden of work than that of 
fasting. This is the view ot the Church which dispenses even from the 
prescribed fasting those who are doing work useful for the service of God and 
the neighbour." — S. Francis de Sales, Introduction to Devout Life, iii. 23. 
"The works of penance and of other corporal exercises should be observed 
merely as a means and not as the fundamental affection of the soul. . . . No 
one should judge that he has greater perfection, because he performs great 
penances and gives himself in excess to the slaying of his body, than he who 
does less ; inasmuch as neither virtue nor merit consists therein. For other 
wise he would be in an evil case who from some legitimate reason was unable 
to do actual penance." — S. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue, trans. Thorold, 19072, 
pp. 56, 58. For S. Ignatius see pp. 165, 169, 171 ; S. Thomas, p. 169. 



164 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

for strength and was able to finish it. This has given me 
great consolation by showing the many hard things I could 
do with the help of prayer." (22nd January, 1915.) 

" Last night I rose at twelve, tied my arms in the form 
of a cross and remained in the chapel till three a.m. I was 
fiercely tempted not to do so, the devil suggesting that, as 
I had a cough, it was madness and would unfit me for the 
coming mission. Though I shivered with cold, I am none 
the worse this morning, in fact, the cough is better, proving 
that Jesus is pleased with these ' holy imprudences.' At the 
end of an hour I was cold and weary, I felt I could not possibly 
continue ; but I prayed and got wonderful strength to 
persevere till the end of the three hours. This has shown 
me what I might do and how, with a little determined effort, 
I could overcome the greatest repugnances and seeming 
impossibilities. (27th September, 1915.) 

It seems almost a desecration to lift the veil and to disclose 
aught that happened at these nocturnal interviews between 
Master and disciple. A citation from a very precious and 
intimate paper will suffice. 1 " He seems pleased when I am 
alone in the chapel if I kneel close to Him, uncover my breast 
and ask Him again to pour His grace and love into my heart . 
I often press my throbbing heart to the door of the 
Tabernacle to let Him hear its beats of love ; and once, to 
ease the pain of love, I tried with a penknife to cut the sweet 
name of Jesus on my breast. It was not a success, for I 
suppose my courage failed; I did try a heated iron, but 
it caused an ugly sore." 

i.— This little incident from the life of the Venerable Marie-TeVese, foundress 
of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, may be quoted as showing how closely 
similar are the spontaneous outbursts of souls afire with love." " I was speaking 
aloud to our Saviour, in a transport of love more burning than fever. And as 
I was lovingly reproaching Him for having deceived me in my expectation in 
not showing me His Crown [the relic of Notre-Dame], I thought I heard these 
words in my heart : ' My blood flows in your heart every morning ; take the 
blood of your heart, it is Mine, and saturate therewith this little crown '—my 
crucifix had a very small crown of thorns. I could not have resisted, I think ; 
I took my penknife made an incision and I marked with my blood not only the 

crown but all the wounds of Christ " — F«?by Mgr. d'Hulst, 19176, p. 84 ; 

Life of Mother Mary Teresa (tr. by Lady Herbert, 1899). p. 56. It were surely 
dull-witted and materialistic to apply mechanical meticulous criticism to such 
dramatically heroic intensity of devotion. It is not the mere physical pain but 
the exteriorising of intensely realistic faith which merits attention ; just as 
when S. Gertrude "snatched the iron nails from a crucifix which she always 
kept near her and replaced them by nails of sweet-smelling cloves." — Life and 
Revelations, 1865, p. 225. 



HOLY FOLLIES 165 

Some other heroic acts may be instanced. 1 During one 
freezing winter, having previously bound himself by vow, he 
set his alarum for three o'clock and slipped out of the house 
in his nightshirt. He then stood up to his neck in a pond, 
praying for sinners. 2 Sometimes he turned the ordinary 
discipline into a horrifying scourging by using a heavy chain 
or even branches with long strong thorns. 3 He constantly 
wore the ordinary chain, and at least once he heated it, not 
red hot of course, and put it round his body so that the 
points raised blisters. Several times he undressed and rolled 
in furze bushes ; " the pain of the thousands of little pricks," 
he confesses, " is intense for days afterwards." On one or 
two occasions he forced his way through a thorn hedge and 
was in consequence terribly torn and wounded. Walking 
barefoot on stones and nettles was a comparatively frequent 
achievement. Once during a retreat at Delgany in 1911, 
he had a severe " accident," 4 being badly stung by nettles, 
so much so that the doctor took a very serious view of the 
case. Fortunately we have the real explanation which may 
be best given in his own words : 

" It really was not an accident. That day the love of 
Jesus Crucified was burning in my heart with the old longing 
to suffer much for Him and even give Him my life by 
martyrdom. This thought was in my mind when, crossing 
a lonely field late that evening, I came across a forest of old 



i. — While on the continent where no one knew him Fr. Doyle subjected him 
self to a big humiliation in church: "I used to go into the church, kiss the 
floor before the congregation, and pray with my arms outstretched. I felt 
people thought I was mad, and I nearly died of shame." Cf. p. 160. 

2. — Apparently he did this on more than one occasion. Here is an entry 
under the date nth April, 1915 : " Got into pond at two." St. Ignatius once 
did the same to convert a sinner. 

3. — One such act seems quite indefensible as Fr. Doyle himself admitted : 
" Once I made a discipline with some safety razor blades. I admit this was 
foolish and might have been rather serious, as some blows cut to the very bone. 
The blood ran down my body till a small pond had formed* on the floor and 
through prudence I ceased, but the blood flowed a long time and I suffered 
much from the pain of the cuts." St. Ignatius says in the Additions to the 
First Week {Spiritual Exercises, p. 31) : "What seems to be most convenient 
and safe in the matter of penance is that the pain should be sensible to the flesh 
and not penetrate to the bone, so that pain and not sickness should be the 
result. For which purpose it seems to be more convenient to discipline oneself 
with small cords which cause pain exteriorly, than to do so in any other way 
from which may result any notable injury to the health." 

4. — The nuns to whom he was giving the retreat were under the impression 
that he had taken internally some medicine meant for external application. 



166 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

nettles. Here was a chance ! Had not the saints suffered 
in this way for Him with joy and gladness of heart ? I 
undressed and walked up and down until my whole body 
was one big blister, smarting and stinging. Words could 
never describe the sweet but horrible agony from that moment 
till far into the next day. Not for a moment did I close 
my eyes, for as the poison worked into the blood the fever 
mounted and the pain increased. Then began what I can 
only call a flogging from head to foot with red-hot needles. 
It started at the feet and crept up to my face and back again 
so regularly that I almost thought that some unseen hand 
was at work. More than once I knelt by my bed and offered 
Him my life, as I felt I could not live, and then in my weak 
ness begged Him to have pity on me, and yet the moment 
after He gave me strength to murmur, ' Still more, dear 
Lord, a thousand times more for Your dear love.' 

" Then suddenly when the pain was greatest, an extra 
ordinary peace, happiness and joy filled my soul ; and though 
I saw nothing with the eyes of either soul or body, I had the 
conviction that Jesus was standing by me — the sure feeling 
one has when a person is in a darkened room though one 
cannot see him. What took place I cannot say, but it seemed 
to me as if He was thanking me for trying to bear the agony 
for Him, and then He seemed to ask me what I would have 
from Him in return. ' Fill my heart with Your love, dearest 
Lord/ I remember saying. And then I lay motionless, all 
suffering seemed to have ceased while Jesus — I can only 
express it in this way — took His own Heart and poured 
Jts love into mine till It almost seemed to be empty. 

" One thing more I remember saying, ' Lord, if it is really 
You, give me a proof of Your goodness by curing me in 
the morning.' When I tried to rise, my legs felt paralyzed, 
I staggered like a drunken man to the convent, I could only 
mumble the words of Mass. But the moment His Sacred 
Body touched my lips, I felt a change come over me, and I 
was actually able to give the morning lecture as usual. I 
suffered a good deal from the after-effects, but I believe 
that Jesus worked a miracle." 

Such an account seems to disarm all criticism. " Here 
was a chance ! " His love for suffering was as irrepressible 



HOLY FOLLIES 167 

as a boy's instinct for a prank. 1 To frame regulations for 
one so afire with the love of Christ is like reducing heroism 
to rule-of -thumb. A war-charger is not to be trained like 
a dray-horse, nor can a tiger be set mouse-catching with 
his weaker brother the cat. Fr. Doyle knew quite as much 
about the virtue of prudence as the reader of these lines. 2 
It was quite calmly and deliberately that, like many of the 
saints, he ' cast it to the winds.' He held that God was 
inspiring him to a certain course of action and helping him 
therein. And where is the evidence with which we can 
gainsay him ? 3 

In order to appreciate in their true perspective these 
exploits of Fr. Doyle, it will be helpful to glance at some 
similar incidents in the life of another Jesuit. Fr. Paul 
Segneri (f 1694) used to walk barefooted to his missions, 
often traversing over eight hundred miles a year in this way. 
His invariable custom was to discipline himself twice or 
three times a day ; for over thirty years he slept on bare 
boards, his sleep never exceeding six hours. Several times 
he rolled himself naked in the snow and at least once he 
threw himself naked among thorns ; as a final refinement of 
cruelty, he used to cause boiling wax to drop all over his 
body. 4 During his missions he was not content with 
scourging himself publicly — as was then the custom — with 

i. — Similarly we read in Lady Lovat's Clare Vaughan (new ed., New York, 
1896, p. 26) : " We happened to be passing through a stubble field, and breaking 
off suddenly from what she had been talking about, she cried : ' I have a 
splendid idea ! Supposing we take off our shoes and stockings and walk bare 
foot through the stubble field?" It was no sooner said than done ; and I can 
see now the calm enjoyment with which Clare walked up and down those cruel 
many-bristling thorns, . . . till at last she was obliged to succumb and allow 
the poor bleeding feet to be tied up. Another day we came across a flourishing 
family of nettles, and she instantly seized hold of a large bunch in order to 
discipline herself with them at leisure on her return home." 

2. — See for example his views and advice to others, pp. 108, 211 ff. 

3. — It is a curious fact that often in the case of favoured souls this holy 
indiscretion does not seem to produce the deleterious effects which might be 
expected. " In a greater degree even than the heart," remarks Pere Suau, S. J., 
"the soul that is guided by God has reasons which human intellect is ignorant 
of ; and when grace inspires anyone to suffer by way of reparation, that which 
tends to kill gives life and that which tends to heal brings on death." — Life of 
Mother Mary of Jesus (Eng. trans, by Fr. Gallery), 1913, p. 207. 

4. — The Lives of Fr. P. Segneri, Fr. P. Pinamontt, and the Ven. John de Britto, 
London 1851, pp. 19, 143, 146, 149. He always entertained "a burning desire 
to shed his blood and give up his life in honour of Christ " and with this hope 
volunteered for the East Indies, (p. 16). "With regard to his mortifications, he 
asked and obtained general permission from his confessor to use them as far as 
he thought he could without considerable prejudice to his health." (p. 15). 



168 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

an iron discipline," he invented another instrument yet 
more barbarous, which was a circular piece of cork armed 
with about fifty sharp points. With this he used to strike 
violently his naked breast during the last penitential 
procession, and on other occasions when he was anxious to 
conquer the obstinacy of such as persisted in refusing to 
make peace with their enemies. So much blood was by 
this means drawn from his veins, that in course of time the 
physicians, to obviate the danger of his life, found it necessary 
to oblige him to lay aside the practice." 1 

Exaggerated and imprudent ? Perhaps. But let us not 
be more impatiently ready to condemn the few rare instances 
of indiscreet fervour than we are to denounce the widespread 
worship of ease and comfort. " Let not him that eateth," 
says S. Paul (Rom. 14. 3), " despise him that eateth not ; 
and he that eateth not, let him not judge him that eateth." 
There is need for large-hearted tolerance even among those 
who, each in his own way, are following Christ. There are 
indeed dangers in all extremes ; an orgy of blood-letting 
may be morbid and self-willed, 2 just as what is called 
common-sense goodness may be merely an excuse for slothful 
mediocrity. In one that is filled with a great ideal there is 
always something extreme, an impetuous enthusiasm whose 
expression may at times be gauche or reckless. "He that 
loves truly," says A Kempis, 3 " flies, runs and is always 
full of joy ; he is free and will not be held back. He gives 
all for all and has all in all, because he rests in One 



i. — Ibid., p. 27. 

2. — So Fr. Doyle discouraged ' frenzy.' — See p. 213. 

3. — Imitation of Christ iii. 5, 4. Compare these reflections of Fr. Paul 
Segneri (on I. Cor., 4. 10) : " There is a great difference between being- wise 
in Christ and being a fool for Christ. Both are good ; but the apostle was not 
satisfied with the former and preferred the latter. There is a worldly wisdom 
which makes a man wicked ; there is a wisdom in Christ which does not 
prevent a man from being just ; there is a foolishness for Christ which makes a 
man holy. . . . Now for my conclusion. 1 shall never accomplish much if I 
measure everything by the rules of singular prudence and exact circumspection. 
I shall be good ; but I shall never be a saint. . . . What shall we decide to 
do ? Why so much examination ? Why so much consideration ? If we do not 
succeed, what shall we have done ? Folly, yes ; hut folly committed for Christ. 

That is enough for us We should therefore become foolish for Christ, 

which means : Let us work simply for Christ, look only at Christ, have Him 
for the sole end of our works, then we shall commit foolishness and we shall be 
saints."— " Thoughts during Prayer" in Lights in Prayer (Quarterly Series) 
PP- 305-309- 



HOLY FOLLIES 169 

alone. . . . Love knows no bounds but burns with 
boundless fervour. Love feels no burden, counts no cost, 
longs to do even more than it is able for and never pleads 
impossibility, because everything then seems lawful and 
possible. Hence a lover of God is strong enough for every 
thing and carries out many things where he that has no love 
fails and falls to the ground." 

The instances of Fr. Segneri and Fr. Doyle show us the 
wise latitude with which S. Ignatius provides for different 
types of holiness in his Company. Not that each one may 
seek out his own path according to his freak or fancy, not 
that one's own subjective impulses and experiences are to 
decide the will of the Holy Spirit. S. Ignatius lays down 
a wise rule which may be given here by way of fitting 
conclusion : 

'The way of living, as to exterior things, .... is 
common ; nor are there customary penances or afflictions 
of the body to be undergone by way of obligation. But 
each one may choose those which, with the superior's 
approval, will seem to be suitable for his greater spiritual 
progress, and which for the same end superiors may impose 
on them." 1 



i. — Summariuni Constitulioiium S.J., n. 4. S. Francis de Sales says 
similarly : " Abstinence which is practised against obedience takes away the 
sin from the body to put it in the heart. Let her give her attention to cutting 
off her own will and she will soon quit these phantoms of sanctity in which she 
reposes so superstitiously. She has consecrated her corporal strength to God ; 
it is not for her to break it down unless God so order it ; and she will never 
learn what God orders save by obedience to the creatures whom the Creator 
has given her for her guidance." — Letters to Persons in Religion, Eng. trans. 
(Mackay), 19018, p. 183. "It is advisable never to adopt bodily mortifications 
without the direction of our spiritual guide." — Introduction to Devout Life, iii. 23. 
Also S. Thomas: "The chastisement of the body, for example by vigils and 
lasts, is not acceptable to God except in so far as it is a work of virtue ; i.e., in 
so far as it is done with due discretion, so that passion is restrained and nature 
not overburdened." — Summa, 2. 2, q 88, a 2, ad 3. 



170 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

SPIRITUAL DIRECTION 

(i.) His OWN SOUL. 

FR. Doyle had himself so much direct spiritual experience 
and such great reliance on the inspirations of the 
Holy Spirit, that any direction might seem in his 
case superfluous. Yet this would be a misinterpretation. It 
is obvious, of course, that a fully formed Jesuit, after years 
of prayer, instruction and reading, and a complete course 
of theology, .is not in need of that minute guidance and 
detailed help which are usually necessary for beginners in 
the spiritual life and for timorous scrupulous souls. But it 
is a distinctive mark of Catholic spirituality, as opposed to 
all systems of private judgement or self -guided mysticism, 
that inner experience must be brought to the test of objective 
dogma, and also should be moulded by that comprehensive 
tradition of practical religion which is embodied in the 
wonderful structure of Catholic discipline and direction. 
There is nothing repressive or mechanically imposed in all 
this ; it is only misguided individualism which is eliminated ; 
when freakishness is obviated, liberty is increased. Within 
the great corporate life of Catholicism there is ample room 
for every individuality. 1 How marvellously diverse and 
manifold are the saints, and yet they have an unmistakable 
family likeness. They thought and spoke of God just as 
we do ; their outward religious life was practically the same 
as ours ; they shared the same Faith and partook of the 
same Sacraments. Thus we see that, apart altogether from 

i. — The sense of spiritual freedom is the first feeling of converts from 
Protestantism. " When my conversion to the Catholic Church was accomplished, 
I was filled with the happy consciousness, Now at last I am free. Protestants 
will very probably have supposed the contrary." — Albert von Ruville, Back to 
Holy Church (1910), p. 127. " I can register one impression at once, curiously 

inconsistent with my preconceived notions on the subject I have been 

overwhelmed with the feeling ot liberty, the glorious liberty of the sons of 
God."— R. A. Knox, A Spiritual Aeneid, 1918, p. 247. So also Fr. Maturin, 
Price of Unity, 1912, p. 241 ; and Mgr. Benson, Confessions of a Convert, p. 160. 




Fr. William Doyle, S.J., Aberdeen, 1908. 



HIS OWN SOUL 171 

any question of individual direction, there is in the Church 
an immense amount of objective guidance and help. Every 
one of us has to kneel at the feet of God's minister for 
absolution ; we all gather round the same altar of sacrifice 
and kneel in the glad presence of our eucharistic Lord. And 
we thence draw not only supernatural aid, but also, by the 
loving economy of the Incarnation, natural help and 
encouragement. Without frequent confession and absolution, 
how could we keep our consciences pure and healthy and 
our souls refreshed with God's forgiveness P 1 How could 
religious life, naturally so irksome, bring such peace and 
happiness, were it not for the closeness of the Real 
Presence ? How wonderfully are our Lord's words ful 
filled : " Come to Me all you that labour and are burdened, 
and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you . . . and 
you shall find rest to your souls." (5. Matthew n. 28.) 

Fr. Doyle, therefore, had the sacramental helps and 
disciplinary guidance common to all faithful Catholics. 
Moreover, he had studied theology and was well read in 
ascetical and devotional literature. But all this did not 
dispense him from seeking the approval of his confessor or 
director. St. Ignatius says distinctly to his subjects : 2 

' They must not conceal any temptation, which they do 
not disclose to the spiritual father or confessor or superior ; 
indeed it ought to be most agreeable to them that their 
whole soul should be entirely manifest to them. They must 
disclose not only their defects, but also their penances or 
mortifications and all their devotions and virtues, with a pure 
will desiring to be directed by them, if perchance they deviate 
from what is right ; not wishing to be led by their own 



i. — " If there were nothing else known to me of the Catholic Church," writes 
Dom J. Chapman (Bishop Gore and the Catholic Claims, 1905, p. 120), "but her 
system of confession as I know it by experience, it would be enough alone to 
prove to me her divine origin." And even William James acknowledges that 
by confession " a man's accounts with evil are periodically squared and audited, 
so that he may start the clean page with no old debts inscribed ; any Catholic 
will tell us how clean and fresh and free he feels after the purging operation. "— 
Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902, p. 128. See also the testimonies of Irish 
Catholic soldiers later on in this book. 

2. — Summarium Constitutionum, n. 41. Cf. n. 48 : " The chastisement of the 

body ought not to be immoderate Hence each one should disclose to 

his confessor whatever he does in this matter." A similar injunction occurs in 
the rule of S. Benedict (ch. 49). 



172 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

opinion unless it agrees with the judgement of those whom 
they have in the place of Christ our Lord." 

In the intimate writings, which formed the basis of our 
account of Fr. Doyle's inner life, there are naturally few 
references to external direction. But those that do occur 
indicate clearly that he always submitted his plans and 
penances to a confessor. 1 We also know that for several 
years he used to go to confession to Fr. Matthew Russell, 
whose holiness he esteemed and with whom he liked to have 
spiritual talks. Once after confession Fr. Russell turned to 
Fr. Doyle and said, " You will go far, my child." When 
asked what he meant, he merely repeated, " You will go 
far." We may certainly conclude that Fr. Russell knew 
many of the secrets of his penitent. Later on, Fr. Doyle 
was instructed by the Provincial to submit his penances 
and mortifications to a certain Father. Much to Fr. Doyle's 
surprise, for he was expecting a drastic curtailment, this 
Father approved of his practices with some slight 
modifications and told him to follow the inspirations of the 
Holy Spirit who was leading him. These indications will 
serve to show that, while directing and guiding the souls 
of others, Fr. Doyle himself submitted to that divine yet 
human scheme whereby men are made their brothers' keepers 
and each can find an alter Christus. Not only did he seek 
the approval and advice of superiors and confessors, but on 
more than one occasion he consulted expert directors and 
masters of the spiritual lite. 2 'He thus secured that his inner 
life was in perfect unison with that unceasing harmony of 
holiness which through the ages has been one of the marks 
of the true Church 3 



i. — See for example p. 146 concerning his proposed vow. Also we find the 
following entry in his diary : " Penances allowed, 2nd July, 1914. (i) Discipline 
fifteen strokes once a day ; (2) arm-chain till dinner ; (3) waist-chain or hair 
cloth an hour daily ; (4) rise for moment at night ; (5) sleep on boards 
occasionally ; (6) little butter at breakfast ; (7) none at lunch ; (8) no sweets, etc., 
at meals ; (q) Holy Hour weekly. Revoked in November, 1914." 

2. — During- his visit to the Continent in 1912 (see p. 74), Fr. Doyle took the 
opportunity of consulting Pere Petit, S.J., and the Abb£ S. Legueu, the director 
of Sceur Gertrude-Marie and editor of her autobiography (Une mystique de 
nos jours, 1910). 

3.— "The real and secure teaching on the subject [of locutions and inspirations] 
is, not to give heed to them however plausible they may be, but to be governed 
in all by reason and by what the Church has taught and teaches us every 
day." — S. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel ii. 30, 5. 



DIRECTOR OF OTHERS 173 



(2.) DIRECTOR OF OTHERS. 

Although Fr. Doyle laboured energetically and fruitfully 
as a missioner, his real gift and taste lay rather in his work 
as director of souls. He preferred dealing directly and 
personally with the individual to appealing to crowds, 
intensive culture of a few chosen souls rather than slight 
impersonal influence on many. He shrank, too, from the 
pain of probing into the ulcers of humanity. ' The con 
solation of absolving sinners," he says in one of his letters 
(1913), " does not lessen the pain of hearing all day a litany 
of awful sins and outrages against the good and patient 
God. . . . You have guessed rightly the longing of my 
heart, namely, to help others to realise the words of Scripture, 
' He that is holy, let him be sanctified still.' ' (Apoc. 
22. n.) On the other hand, his preference for work among 
chosen souls was absolutely removed from anything remotely 
approaching snobbery ; his valuation was purely spiritual. 
He once referred to a ladies' retreat which he had to give, 
as " a job I do not relish — it is too much of a social affair 
and not earnest work." He always insisted on " the real 
thing " in holiness, the genuine article branded with the 
cross ; he had no patience with amateurish piety or devotional 
flippancy. Even by natural character he detested doing 
things by halves ; as he said himself, he was " a whole- 
hogger." At the outset of his ministry 1 he perhaps expected 
too much from weak human nature, but he soon acquired 
the art of gentle leading and gradual guidance. Not that 
he avoided all mistakes — only the negative critic does that. 
But he went on his way, every day drawing souls closer to 

i. — Compare Pere Ginhac : " In the beg-irming- he did not make sufficient 
allowance for the frailty of human nature in his desire to advance souls to the 

very highest perfection Later on he became as large-hearted and 

indulgent in his direction as he was formerly inclined to be rigid. . . . Towards 
the end of his life [he lived to over 70], gentleness became his chief 
characteristic. " — A Man After God's Own Heart, p. 63. " Fr. Ginhac at this 
period of his life was not quite enough on his guard against the impulses 

inspired in generous souls by their first fervour Later on, taught by 

experience, he restrained these immoderate desires for corporal mortification." 
— Ibid., p. i Oi. 



174 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

Christ, advocating without compromise what he knew to be 
Christ's ideal, modifying what he believed to be merely its 
outer or temporary expression, accepting as inevitable the 
criticism of those who prefer things as they are and deprecate 
the better on the plea of letting well alone. 

That he was wonderfully successful as a director was shown 
by the void which his death created, to which many dozens 
of letters bear touching testimony. To this success many 
qualities contributed. In the first place he was unaffectedly 
and unobtrusively polite ; a quality which, just because it 
is not necessarily associated with holiness, must not be 
undervalued. " Fr. Doyle," a nun declared with emphasis, 
" always treats one as a lady." Grace of manner, 
allied with thoughtfulness, always creates a favourable 
prepossession. Furthermore, Fr. Doyle was obviously pains 
taking and unselfish, he never shrank from trouble when the 
issue was the good of even a single soul, he never grumbled 
or complained of inroads made on his time and temper. 1 
In addition to all this, he had ' a way with him,' a natural 
attractiveness and spontaneity, an infectious gaiety. He 
had nothing of prudery or stiffness about him, no depressingly 
impersonal smile or manner, no angularities or excrescences. 2 
His emotions did not seem to move on merely celestial hinges, 
nor did his movements appear to be regulated by spiritual 
clockwork. Those whom he helped felt that he had a real 
personal interest in them, he did not regard them as so much 
undifferentiated soul-stuff. Moreover, in his retreat-talks or 
private conversations he did not use stilted language or 

i. — There are in his diary two entries bearing on this. " I felt greatly 
annoyed to-day because I was kept hearing confessions for nearly five hours 
without lunch, and also on arriving at X because asked to hear more confessions. 
.... I see now that it was Jesus did it all and that in future I must let nothing 
ruffle me since these things come straight from His hand." (26th July, 1914.) 
" I was very much annoyed at Y about extra work and confessions during the 
retreat. Our Lord reproached me for this, making me see more clearly that all 
this came from His hand and not from ' the thoughtlessness of others' as I told 
myself. I told several people about what I suffered and my pains, etc., which 
Jesus wanted me to keep to myself." (ist September, 1915.) Even holy people 
can at times be thoughtless and provoking ; on such occasions Fr. Doyle was 
clearly not helped by any natural obtusity or placidity. 

2. — Pere Ginhac was thus criticised by one of his novices : " Every one of his 
movements is studied. If he speaks affectionately, if he smiles or is amiable, 
one can see that it is all regulated by the will and that he acts thus because 
God wishes it so. One would prefer something a little more spontaneous, 
something a little more from the heart." — A Man After God's O-wn Heart, p. 96. 



DIRECTOR OF OTHERS 175 

conventional phraseology, he spoke with homely directness. 
Thus he would say : " There are three D's which you ought 
to avoid — the Doctor, the Devil, and the Dumps. You 
can cheat the doctor and run from the devil, but the dumps 
are the divil ! " He did not think that holiness lost by 
being conjoined with a sense of humour. Nor did he neglect 
any available helps to imagination, memory or sentiment. 
In giving a retreat to children and even adults he sometimes 
gave one of the daily instructions with the aid of lantern- 
slides, a method of vivid presentation which always made 
a deep impression. 1 He also had recourse to what may be 
termed little dodges or stratagems. For example, one of 
his favourite aspirations was ' Omnipotent God make me a 
saint.' This he had printed on small pink leaflets which, 
parodying a well-known advertisement, he called (Father 
William's) " pink pills for pale saints " or, as he once put 
it, " intended to make pale souls ruddy with the love of 
God." He once sent a box of these to a convent with the 
following " directions for use " : " To be taken frequently 
during the day, and occasionally at night, as directed by the 
physician ; when the disease is deeply rooted and of long 
standing, increase the dose to every quarter of an hour ; 
result infallible, will either cure or kill ! " This may seem 
a rather elaborate joke, especially when put in cold print. 
But there are many to whom the presentation of a ' pink 
pill ' was the first not easily forgotten introduction to the 
use of aspirations. Besides, this kindly humour was simply 
natural to the man and brought an element of humanness 
into relations too often regarded as formal or dismal. 

Beyond and behind all these qualities and activities there 
was something which can only be called personal influence. 
It was not any gifts of mind and heart, nor was it just facility 
of expression, nor yet quick intuitive sympathy ; it was all 
this and more. There was about Fr. Doyle as director that 
intangible indefinable thing which we term personality. It 
was not so much the words that moved people as the man 
behind the words, not so much what he said as what he 

i. — He had projected a meditation book, the chief innovation in which was to 
be that each meditation was accompanied by a picture representing- the scene 
or " composition of place." 



176 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

was. Not that he ever spoke of himself or his own spiritual 
life. 1 One might perhaps guess at details of prayer and 
mortification. But that was not uppermost in one's mind 
when one came into real contact with him ; one thought, 
not of details, but of the whole man. One seemed to feel 
the radiance of the love with which he was afire as distinctly 
as if it were a physical rise of temperature. He was so 
transparently earnest, the words came, as it were, charged 
with something more than meaning. To those who knew 
Fr. Doyle by casual acquaintanceship, all this may sound 
exaggerated. But it is a faithful description of the impression 
which he made on those who sought from him guidance 
and help. And it enables us to realise that in such spiritual 
relationship there is something more than moral or ascetic 
theology, more than eloquence or elocution. Does not the 
secret lie in our Lord's own criterion of fruitfulness ? "Amen, 
amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into 
the ground die, itself remaineth alone ; but if it die, it bringeth 
forth much fruit." (S. John 12. 24.) Or, to change the 
simile but not the reality : "As the branch cannot bear 
fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you 
unless you abide in Me." (S. John 15. 4.)'-' 

Fr. Doyle did not confine himself to personal interviews, 
he kept up a heavy correspondence. How he managed it, 
in spite of his other multitudinous activities, is something 
of a mystery. It was to the end a heavy strain, absorbing 
much time and energy. Often he found it a wearisome 
burden and felt inclined to abandon what after reflection 
he always came again to consider a real apostolate. " When 
a man takes the pledge for life," he once wrote, " he generally 
asks for just one more drink. I have made a resolution 
this year not to grumble about letters, so I am entitled to 
have one last growl. The growl is only an apology for not 
answering your welcome letter sooner. But it reached me 

i. — Compare this, written to a nun : "I fear you have let fall from time to 
time little hints about God's graces to you, which people have taken in joke. 
You must be careful to hide the King's secret from all." 

2. — Here is a quotation from a letter to Fr. Doyle (1916) to which many 
similar testimonies could be added : " Everyone I met seemed to hold me back 
instead of helping- me forward, but you brought new hope [of being- a saint] into 
my life. I have done more acts of self-conquest in the past eight months than 
in all the rest of the twenty years I have been in religion." 






DIRECTOR OF OTHERS 177 

with twenty-four others, and ten came by the next post ! 
No matter, since He wills it ; but you will understand why 
at times I neglect you." 1 "Ask Jesus," he says to another 
correspondent, " to help me with all the letters I have to 
write. A big temptation came to me some time back that this 
letter-writing was a huge waste of time and no good was 
done. I could not help feeling that the answer came from 
our Blessed Lord Himself in the following extract : ' It may 
console you to know that your letter has been the means 
of saving me from at least one hundred mortal sins since. 
When these fierce temptations come upon me, I take it out 
and read it over, and somehow it helps me to fight the devil 
and say, ' No, I will not offend God again.' That has given 
me fresh courage." Hence Fr. Doyle threw himself into a 
task which was far from congenial to him and which candid 
critics did not hesitate to describe as a wasteful delusion. 
He never shirked any toil or trouble once he became con 
vinced that it was helping the interests of his Master. " Don't 
be afraid of writing if I can help you," he said to a diffident 
religious. " But if you want to make me angry, apologise 
for ' giving me trouble ' ! How could that be called trouble 
which helps you to love our dearest Lord even one tiny 
scrap more ? " To his zealous heart the question seemed 
unanswerable. 

His voluminous correspondence was concerned exclusively 
with spiritual matters. For mere chat or gossip he had 
neither time nor inclination. " Now for a scolding ! " he 
wrote to a well-meaning news-sender. "A good deal of your 
last letter consisted of ' news.' I know you meant kindly, 
but I only want to hear about your soul and your progress 
in perfection, or at least such things as bear directly on the 
interests of God." His letters consist, therefore, practically 
altogether of personal advice and spiritual direction. All 
this was, it is hardly necessary to say, written for particular 
individuals in known circumstances, and was not intended 
to form a general treatise on the spiritual life. One cannot 

i. — One letter ends thus : " God love you ! there are rows of people waiting 
for confession, and I shall be eaten." (April, 1912). Compare what Mgr. 
Baudrillart says of Mgr. d'Hulst : " Correspondence certainly added greatly to 
the overloading of his life ; he dreaded the postman's knock." — The Way of the 
Heart: Letters of Direction, Eng. trans. 1913, p. viii. 
M 



178 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

always generalise individual spiritual guidance, any more than 
one can indiscriminately apply a doctor's prescription. But 
in so far as general principles are advocated, it seems useful 
to collect some typical passages from letters written by Fr. 
Doyle, especially to nuns. Some such excerpts have been 
already given, particularly in the account of his own inner 
life. A further selection, roughly classified under convenient 
heads, will enable us to appreciate more accurately the main 
outlines of his spiritual direction. This arrangement has the 
advantage of letting Fr. Doyle speak for himself. It is, of 
course, obvious that a succession of extracts from letters 
to different correspondents will necessarily include some 
repetitions, and cannot in any sense be regarded as a compact 
or unified treatment. At least they will form a little 
anthology of counsels and thoughts, among which the reader 
can pick and choose whatever seems appropriate or true. 1 



(3.) DISCOURAGEMENT. 



Judging by the frequency with which Fr. Doyle's letters 
deal with it, discouragement must be the besetting sin of 
those who are striving towards holiness. Doubtless some 
times it shows a secret pride and over-reliance on our own 
unaided efforts ; we are quite surprised and hurt that we 
did not do better ; we are irritated by the discovery of our 
faults, especially if others share that discovery. Discourage 
ment such as this is not dissipated by harsh sincerity nor 
excised by drastic spiritual surgery ; it must be converted 
into humble childlike trustfulness in Christ who knows our 
weakness and our difficulties, who sees them from our side 
and not as human critics do. Another form of discourage 
ment lies in that natural human shrinking from struggle 
and suffering, such as our Lord Himself felt in Gethsemane. 



i. — As far as possible the date is affixed to each. The few extracts dated 
1905 are from the Notes referred to on p. 26. 



DISCOURAGEMENT 179 

He, who chose three companions to be near Him and prayed 
for the passing of the bitter chalice, knows well what it is 
to be sorrowful, sad and fearful Surely He does not begrudge 
human counsel and companionship to those who begin to 
fear and to be heavy. ' The spirit indeed is willing but the 
flesh is weak." (S. Mark 14. 38.) Hence it is that a 
discerning and sympathetic director can do so much for one 
who is faithful, but discouraged, acting as "an angel from 
heaven strengthening him." (S. Luke 22. 43.) The pith 
of Fr. Doyle's advice can be put in these two short sentences 
of his : " When you commit a fault which humbles you 
and for which you are really sorry, it is a gain instead of 
a loss." " Recognize 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." Here are some further excerpts 
from his letters. 



(A). " There is one fault in religious which should not 
be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come, 
and that is discouragement ; for it means we are playing 
the devil's game for him — his pet walking stick, someone 
has called it. Thank God, we have not to judge ourselves, 
for, as St. Ignatius wisely remarks, no one is a judge in his 
own case. Let me judge you, my child, as I honestly think 
God judges you. My verdict must be that you have grown 
immensely in holiness during the past few years. To begin 
with, every particle of merit — and there must be millions 
of them since you first entered religion — is waiting for you 
in heaven, for no amount of infidelity or venial sin can ever 
diminish that by one iota. Then, in spite of your sufferings 
and weak health, you have worked on and struggled on from 
day to day — a life which must have pleased God immensely. 
Don't lose heart, my dear child, the darkness you feel is 
not a sign of God's displeasure, for every saint has gone 
through it. You are ' minting money ' every instant you 
live, you are helping to save soul after soul each hour you 
suffer. So you should say with St. Paul, (2 Cor. 7. 4) : 
' I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.' " 
(July, 1913.) 



i8o FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

(B). " You seem to have been going through a harder 
time than usual lately, and this evidently has come as a 
surprise to you. But is it not the best of signs that all is 
well, that God has accepted your generous offer to bear all 
He wishes to send you, and that the devil is furious and 
alarmed at the progress you have made in perfection and 
mad at the harm you have done to his evil cause ? The 
storm has come upon you, and you, foolish child as you 
always were, have thought all is lost because you have bent 
a little like the reed before the wind. No, the want of 
courage, firmness and generosity will only serve to tumble 
and throw you the more confidently into the strengthening 
arms of our dear Lord, since it makes you see that without 
Him you can do nothing. 

" God always seems to permit this to happen even to His 
saints. I read recently in the life of a holy soul who had 
promised to give our Lord all : ' Three times to-day 
I deliberately avoided a humiliation and a little act of self- 
denial." Hurrah, boys ! I say ; if the saints act like that, 
there is some hope for you and me. If there has been any 
falling off in your generous resolution, go back humbly to 
the feet of Jesus now and take up bravely the cross which 
means so much for His glory and your happiness." 
(December, 1912.) 

(C). " In spite of all our efforts, we fall into faults from 
time to time. God permits this for two reasons : (i) to keep 
the soul humble and to make it realise its utter powerlessness 
when left alone without His fostering hand, and (2) because 
the act of sorrow after the fault not only washes it com 
pletely away, but immensely increases our merit, and being 
an act of humility bringing us really heartbroken to His 
feet, delights Him beyond measure." (April, 1913.) 

(D). " Our Lord is displeased only when He sees no attempt 
made to get rid of imperfections which, when deliberate, 
clog the soul and chain it to the earth. But He often pur 
posely does not give the victory over them in order to increase 
our opportunities of meriting. Make an act of humility and 
sorrow after failure, and then never a thought more 
about it. 






DISCOURAGEMENT 181 

" He sees what a ' tiny little child ' you are, and how 
useless even your greatest efforts are to accomplish the 
gigantic work of making a saint. But this longing, this 
stretching out of baby hands for His love, pleases Him beyond 
measure ; and one day He will stoop down and catch you 
up with infinite tenderness in His divine arms and raise 
you to heights of sanctity you little dream of now." 
(May, 1913.) 

(E). " You need not be uneasy to see in your soul apparent 
contradictions : an ardent desire to love God and to suffer 
for Him, and then when the opportunity comes, a shrinking 
from pain, and even a refusal to bear it. Fortunately we 
are dealing with our Lord who can read the heart and who 
knows our protestations of love are sincere and genuine, 
with One, too, who knows the weakness of our human nature 
and who does not expect much from us. He does not forget 
His own human weakness on earth. ' With desire have I 
desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer,' He said 
showing His longing for His Passion. And then an hour 
after He seems to take His offering back : ' Father, if it 
be possible, let this chalice pass from Me.' The very longing 
to love Him and bear much for His sake is dear to our Lord, 
even if our courage fails when tested." (June, 1913.) 

(F). " Our dear Lord is certainly testing the extent of 
your love for Him before He takes you to Himself. But 
should not that make you rejoice, my dear child, since the 
harder and sharper the fight, the closer will be your union 
with Him in heaven ? I have just one fault to blame you 
for : you have always kept your eyes fixed on your faults — 
I do not deny there are plenty ! — and have never helped 
yourself by thinking on what you have done and suffered 
for His dear sake. If you have forgotten all this, He has 
not ; and when you meet Him, the gratitude of His loving 
Heart will hide the imperfections and faults of former years. 
Be brave and generous to the end, my dear child, and do 
not take back what He asks you to give, though He knew 
well what it would cost you." (August, 1912.) 

(G). " I think there is no harder trial in the spiritual life 
than the one you speak of. One feels so weary of it all, 



182 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

fighting and struggling against things which seem so small 
and mean, and where there is apparently so little merit to 
be gained, and then comes the longing to throw it all up 
and be content with just doing the bare necessary to save 
one's soul. You must have great patience with yourself, my 
dear child, and not expect to get into a region of perfect 
peace where there would be no trials or worries or fighting 
against self — even the saints did not enjoy that calm. 
Remember, God sees the intention, which in your case is 
generous and unreserved. He is quite pleased with that, 
and only smiles when He sees us failing in our resolve and 
determination to be perfect. To console you, here is the 
confession of the great S. Teresa (Life 30. 15) : ' The devil sends 
me so offensive a spirit of bad temper that at times I think I 
could eat people up.' She was canonised, so there is some 
hope of salvation for us yet." (March, 1912.) 

(H). " Are you not foolish in wishing to be free from 
these attacks of impatience, etc. ? I know how violent 
they can be, since they sweep down on me at all hours without 
any provocation. You forget the many victories they furnish 
you with, the hours perhaps of hard fighting, and only fix 
your eyes on the little tiny word of anger, or the small fault, 
which is gone with one ' Jesus forgive me.' ' (April, 1912.) 

(I). "I fear you are allowing the devil to score off you 
by getting so much upset over these bothersome, but harm 
less, temptations. You must let our Lord sanctify you in 
His own way. Were we to pick our own trials and modes 
of sanctification, we should soon make a mess of things. 
The net result of your temptations is a deeper humility, a 
sense of your own weakness and wretchedness, and is not 
this all gain ? ' My brethren, count it all joy, when you 
shall fall into divers temptations,' says St. James (i. 2). 
All I ask you to do is to try to crush down the first movements 
of temptation, which perhaps can best be done by praying 
that others may be more favoured or esteemed than you 
There is a danger you may not suspect in thinking and 
grieving too much over temptation and faults. First of all 
there is oftentimes a secret pride hidden in our grief and 
anger with ourselves for not being as perfect as we thought 



DISCOURAGEMENT 183 

or as others thought. Then this worrying over what 
cannot well be avoided distracts the soul from God. After 
all what God wants from you, my child, is love, and nothing 
should distract you from the grand work of love-giving. 
Hence when you fail, treat our Blessed Lord like a loving 
little child, tell Him you are sorry, kiss His feet as a token 
of your regret, and then forget all about your naughtiness." 

(J). "I hope by the time you receive this you will have 
realised how foolish it is of you to bother about anything — 
no matter what it may be — in your past confessions. 
Generously make the sacrifice of never thinking or speaking 
of them again. You may do so with an easy conscience 
when you act under obedience. God wants to have your 
soul in a state of perfect peace and calm, for only then will 
He be able to fill it with His love and dwell there 
undisturbed." (May, 1912.) 

(K). "Desolation is not a punishment for past infidelity, 
but a special grace reserved for the few. The only danger 
comes from the temptation of the devil, that God has 
abandoned you and that it would be better to chuck it all 
up. He will beat you in the fight at times, making you 
weary of this never-ending war against self and forcing you 
to yield to nature. But no harm is done provided you 
start again." 

(L). " St. Vincent de Paul used to say : ' One of the most 
certain marks that God has great designs upon a soul is 
when He sends desolation upon desolation, suffering upon 
suffering.' Do you doubt for a moment that God has not 
great designs upon your soul ? The clear and consoling 
proof is in the terrible trial you are going through. Do not 
let the assaults of the enemy disturb you. He is showing 
his hand by this last storm and his fierce fury that you did 
not yield in the direction that he wanted. Treat his 
suggestions with silent contempt, simply lifting your heart 
to God now and again, but above all not trying to drive 
these thoughts away, nor being fearful of giving any consent 
even though you may seem to do so under the violence of 
the attack. Keep your will firm, and do not trouble about 
feelings and desires. 



184 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

" I do not think your ' false humility ' is pleasing to God, 
though I do not suggest for a moment that you are putting 
it on. Drop self and all thought of reparation out of your 
life, and work now only for Him and the salvation of souls. 
If an aspiration, on the authority of the B. Cure d' Ars, 
often saved a soul, what must you not do each day you 
suffer so bravely ! This thought certainly will help you and 
make the pain almost nothing, and will add to its merit, 
since the motive for bearing it will be all the higher." (1913.) 

(M). " I noticed a tone of despondency in your letter, a 
yielding to that commonest of all the evil suggestions of 
the tempter, Cui bono ? What is the use of all this struggling 
without any result, and so much prayer followed by no 
apparent improvement ? It is a clever temptation, and a 
successful one with most souls, resulting in the giving up 
of the very things which are slowly but surely making them 
saints. If only one could grasp this fact : Every tiny thing 
(aspiration, self-denial, etc.,) makes us holier than we were. 
Just think of the thousand of tiny things done each day 
for God, e.g. each step we take ; all is done for Him, every one 
of them has added to our merit, making us more pleasing 
in His sight, and each moment holier. No one can see this 
gradual spiritual growth, though sometimes when we have 
gained a big victory, such as the secret one you won recently 
over yourself, we wonder where the strength came from to 
do it. I have watched your steady progress in perfection 
with the greatest joy and gratitude for your generosity, 
and so I want to warn you not to listen to such a suggestion 
that your efforts have been in vain. Your biggest fault at 
present, my child, is that you have not yet completely bent 
your will to God's designs. I think it would please Him 
immensely to have no wishes of our own, apart from holy 
ones, so that He could bend and twist and fashion us just 
as He pleases, knowing well that we will not even murmur. 
Remember this does not mean that our feelings will die 
also." (January, 1916.) 

(N). " Surely, my child, you are not surprised to find 
that you have broken your resolution, or rather, that the 
devil has gained a victory over you. I am convinced from 



DISCOURAGEMENT 185 

a pretty big experience that perfection, that is sanctity, is 
only to be won by repeated failures. If you rise again after 
a fall, sorry for the pain given our Lord, humbled by it, 
since you see better your real weakness, and determined to 
make another start, far more is gained than if you had gone 
on without a stumble. Besides, to expect to keep any 
resolution, till repeated acts have made it solid in the soul, 
is like one expecting to learn skating, for example, without 
ever falling. The more falls, the better (that is if you do 
not mind bumps), for every fall means that we have begun 
again, have made another effort and so have made progress. 
I mention this because I know that you — like myself 1 — are 
given to discouragement and tempted to give up all when 
failure comes." (July, 1915.) 

(O). " You seem to be suffering, my dear child, from a 
very common religious malady — discouragement and want 
of patience with yourself, looking for and expecting to see 
great results from your efforts to become holier. You forget 
what a clog the body is on the soul, and how in spite of the 
most generous intentions and determination, it prevents us, 
time after time, from carrying out our plans. You remember 
St. Paul's bitter complaint that the good he wished to do 
he did not : ' I am delighted with the law of God, but I 
see another law in my members, fighting against the law 
of my mind and captivating me in the law of sin.' This is 
the experience of all who are striving to serve God well. 
They cannot always do what they would like and what 
they know He asks of them, but in the end the grace of 
God — S. Paul's remedy — will bring the victory, if only we 
persevere. Another consolation is that our Lord is often 
as much pleased (more, S. Teresa says) by our good intentions 
and desires than by their execution. The good desire, the 

i. — Compare this entry in his diary (ayth June, 1915) made just a month 
previously : " I am writing in great desolation and sadness, tempted even to 
abandon my vocation and plunge headlong into sin. All this is the result of 
having given in to myself, broken my resolutions and indulged myself in every 
way. Oh, my God, what am I to do? I made a fresh start with great generosity 
and determination, and in three days was worse than ever. I see my deadly 
enemy is my weak character and inconstant will, which I have made worse by 
years of yielding to it. My Jesus, I am humbled and crushed. Is there any 
use trying more ? Every effort means a new failure and disappointment to You ; 
and still I feel You urging me on to nobler things, to begin again." The very 
exaggeration of the language is a measure of the despondency. 



i86 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

longing and wish to be perfect, is strong in you, and as long 
as that remains you need never fear displeasing God. 
Besides you have a tremendous lever of sanctification in the 
power of love that enables us to do things, especially what 
costs us an effort, for our Lord's dear sake. Mind, this 
does not mean feeling, sensible affection, but simply a dry 
act of the will, intending to make the sacrifice or action an 
act of pure love. ' My God, I do this for the love of You, 
and for no one else in the world would I do it.' Try this 
in easy things, and occasionally make a dive at a really big 
sacrifice which costs, for love means sacrifice, and sacrifice 
leads infallibly to love." (October, 1913.) 

(P). " Will it be any help to you to learn that I know 
many who suffer as you do ? Hence I can perfectly under 
stand what you are going through ; the disgust for everything 
spiritual, the almost hatred of God, and the mad longing 
almost to leave it all behind and run away. However we 
know that such a step would not end the trouble or bring 
relief in any form, on the contrary, that would simply mean 
playing into the devil's hands and could only lead to one 
thing in the end. We know also that these trials come from 
God and that if one is only patient, they will pass. Hence, 
my dear child, you must set your teeth and hold on ; spiritual 
life, remember, is a warfare and you will surely not run away 
when the real attack comes, but rather boldly face the 
enemy." (August, 1915.) 

(Q). " Surely you are not right in trying to keep our 
Lord away from you, or in thinking that He looks upon you 
with dispeasure. When sin in the past is repented for, the 
poor soul who once strayed from Him has a strange attraction 
for His gentle Heart. You pain Him intensely if you think 
He does not love you now, nor wish for your affection. Give 
Him all you can, warmly and naturally, like a little child, 
and rest assured that the one longing of His Heart is to see 
you advance rapidly in holiness and perfection. You must 
try and cultivate great confidence and trust in our dear 
Lord's love and mercy, driving far from you sadness and 
regret of all kinds. Give it no quarter, it is all from the 
devil and so most harmful." (August, 1913.) 



UNION AND ABANDONMENT 187 



(4.) UNION AND ABANDONMENT. 

i. 

With equal soundness of spirituality and accuracy of 
insight, Fr. Doyle counselled the elimination of anxieties, 
distractions and worries, not so much by direct counter 
attack and detailed defence as by the energizing power of 
a great ideal. Just as a magnet attracts and orientates a 
confused mass of iron filings, marshalling and linking them 
harmoniously, so an all-embracing ideal will influence and 
direct all our powers and activities. See God everywhere, 
he said in effect ; He is behind every event, even what men 
miscall accidents ; desolation is but the shade of His hand 
outstretched caressingly ; gladness is the sunshine of His 
presence. Above all, He is within our souls, often 
sacramentally, always by His immanent indwelling ; He 
thinks with us, He shares our very consciousness as no other 
being can. With the growing realization of this union with 
God within us and abandonment to God's acting on us from 
without, life will become easier and happier ; all our piece 
meal striving and individual troubles will gradually coalesce 
into one lifelong continuous act of conformity to God's 
will. " Abandon yourself completely into the hands of God 
and take directly from Him every event of life, agreeable 
or disagreeable ; only then can God make you really holy." 
" Holiness," he wrote elsewhere, " is really nothing more 
than perfect conformity to God's will." " This worrying 
over what cannot well be avoided," he said in a letter already 
cited, " distracts the soul from God ; after all, what God 
wants from you is love, and nothing should distract you 
from the grand work of love-giving." Distractions are to 
be conquered by one overmastering attraction ; a strong 
man will be conquered and dispossessed only if a stronger 
than he come upon him. Thus, as Fr. Doyle advocated it, 
this ideal of conformity consisted in no mere negative 
quiescence or patient resignation 1 ; it was a positive active 

I. — "This is not to be a kind of resigned, or perhaps rebellious, conformity, 
but a generous cheerful (though not felt) embracing of what He wills."- 
(October, 1916.) 



i88 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

amalgamation of the human will with God's, culminating 
logically in that perfect act of immolation which was the 
keynote of his own holiness. All this, be it noted, was no 
mere scheme of destructive will-crushing or punitive 
repression, it was designed as a constructive expansion of 
the will, a joyous chivalrous uplifting of the soul. 1 The 
heart was not to be left swept and garnished, ready for seven 
other spirits more wicked than the unclean spirit already 
driven out. True abandonment was to be consummated 
only by union. 2 " He that loveth Me shall be loved of My 
Father ; and I will love him and will manifest Myself to 
him. . . . And We will come to him and will make 
Our abode with him." (5. John 14. 21.) 

(A). " 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." (March, 1915.) 

(B). " Try to draw closer each day the bonds of union 
with Him, thinking often of His dwelling within your soul, 
and so making your heart beat in union with His ; that is, 
seeking and wishing for only His adorable will in all things, 
even the smallest. This will conquer all worries, for nothing 
which comes from the loving hand of God can ever be a 
worry to us." (March, 1913.) 

(C). Your difficulty is merely God's plan for your 
sanctification. ' My child, let Me do with you what I will.' 

i. — Fr. Doyle advocated as an important part of this conformity that docility 
to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, which was so conspicuous in his own life. — 
See p. 95. 

2. — "The state of divine union consists in the total transformation of the will 
into the will of God, so that every movement of the will shall be always the 
movement of the will of God only." — S. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount 
Carmel \. 11,3. So Teresa, Foundations v. 10. 



UNION AND ABANDONMENT 189 

This is hard to submit to, especially when our Lord hides 
Himself in the background and uses other instruments to 
do His work on us. Never mind, my dear child, you are 
making undoubted progress. Jesus may hide it from your 
eyes, but He does not hide it from mine. I do not trouble 
in the least about your little faults and failings which will 
vanish as you become more perfect and grow more in the 
love of what is hard to nature. For your consolation 
remember that everyone I have ever met found the struggle 
for perfection hard because most of the work is done in the 
dark. It is a question of faith and courage, going along 
bravely day after day, gathering up a sacrifice here and there, 
and although many are let slip, every one we lay at the feet 
of our Lord means so much solid progress." 

(D). " May our dear Lord help you to bear the cross His 
love has sent you. Try to keep this one thought before 
you all through your trial : This is God's doing. Hence 
do not indulge in useless regrets about want of care, etc. 
Even if there was negligence, God permitted it to give you 
this golden chance of being brave and generous under the 
cross. What has happened will bring you much grace and 
even happiness, if you take it in the right way. ' Let Him 
act/ must be your motto. Jesus will bring all things right 
in the end. The more I get to know God, the more inclined 
I feel to let Him work out things in His own way and time, 
and to go on peacefully not troubling about anything. This 
cross is a sign of God's love for you, and the surest way of 
increasing your love for Him. Though you indeed try to 
take courageously the crosses God sends you, still there 
seems to be a want of that complete submission to God's 
wishes that He looks for and longs for in every detail of 
your life. Endeavour still more to give Him the desire of 
His Heart." 

(E). "I have been praying earnestly to know what our 
Lord wants from you during this year, and if I mistake not, 
this is His message to you. He wants a very close union 
with Him which you will try to effect in this way. Each 
morning at Holy Communion invite Jesus, with all the love 
and fervour you can, to enter into your heart and dwell 



190 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

there during the day as in a tabernacle, making of your 
heart a living tabernacle which will be very dear to 
Him. . . . This union will be impossible without com 
plete abandonment to God's pleasure in all the little worries 
of your life. Do whatever you think is most for His glory 
. . . and then calmly watch Him upset all and apparently 
bless your efforts with failure, and even sins on the part 
of others. I have long had the feeling that your over-anxiety 
to keep things right or prevent uncharitableness which has 
caused you a good deal of worry, is not pleasing to God 
and prevents Him from drawing you closer in His love. 
Non in commotione Dominus} Labour, then, with might 
and main to keep your soul in peace, put an unbounded 
trust in His loving goodness. If you live in Jesus and Jesus 
in you, striving to make each little action, each morsel of 
food, every word of the Office, etc., an act of love to be laid 
at His feet as dwelling in your heart, you will certainly please 
Him immensely and fly to perfection." (January, 1912.) 

(F). " This morning during Mass I felt strongly that 
Jesus was pained that you do not trust Him absolutely, 
that is trust Him in every detail of your life. You are 
wanting in that childlike confidence He desires so much 
from you, the taking lovingly and trustfully from His hands 
all that He sends you, not even wishing things to have 
happened otherwise. He wants you to possess your soul in 
peace in the midst of the many troubles, cares and difficulties 
of your work, looking upon everything as arranged by Him, 
and hence something to welcome joyfully. Jesus will not 
dwell in your soul as He wishes unless you are at peace. 
This is the first step towards that union which you desire 
so much — but not so much as He does. Don't keep Him 
waiting, my child, but by earnest and constant efforts empty 
your heart of every care that He may abide with you for 
ever." (May, 1913.) 

(G). " We do not mind what God does with us so long as 
it more or less fits in with our own wishes, but when His 
will clashes with ours, we begin to see the difficulty of the 
prayer, ' Not my will, but Thine be done.' All the same 

i. — "The Lord is not in the earthquake." — III. Kings 19, 11. 



UNION AND ABANDONMENT 191 

I think we can never expect really to please God till we 
become like wax in His hands, so that He will never have 
to hesitate before sending a cross or trial no matter how 
hard." (April, 1913.) 

(H). "As regards this union with our Lord, it is really 
nothing more than a blending of our will with His, in such 
a way that we wish only what He wishes, and as far as 
possible only think of and interest ourselves in those things 
that are His. 

" I would urge you to avoid worry and anxiety which 
always show that self is still strong and that the human 
will is not completely dead. 

" In the matter of suffering I think you are inclined to 
confound the act of the will with feeling. You do not really 
' draw back ' when suffering comes, since you have the will 
to bear all things for the love of Jesus ; but nature shrinks 
from pain and at times makes our ' will to suffer ' give way. 

" To-day at Exposition I asked our Lord to let me know 
what He wished you to correct especially during your retreat. 
It seems to me, my child, that most of your faults come 
from a want of perfect abandonment to the will of God. 
For example, when you get annoyed with people and speak 
sharply, you lose sight of God's directing hand, which 
prompted or allowed people to act in this way. God's will 
is constantly clashing with ours, and unless a soul is perfectly 
submissive, interior peace is disturbed or lost. True 
abandonment means crushing out self and welcoming with 
sweetness and joy all God sends." 

(I). " Try to grasp the fact — -a very hard thing to do — 
that in the spiritual life ' feelings ' count for nothing, that 
they are no indication of our real state ; generally speaking 
they are just the opposite. , . . You are perfectly right 
when you say that the first thing to do is ' to give up your 
own will.' Why not aim at making God's will alone yours 
in every detail of life, so that you would never desire or wish 
for anything except what He willed, and look on every 
detail as coming from His hand, as it does ? Such a one is 
never ' put out ' by anything — bad weather, unpleasant 
work, annoying incidents, they are all His doing and His 



I 9 2 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

sweet will. Try it, though it means high perfection." 
(October, 1916.) 

(J). " Do nothing without consulting Him in the Taber 
nacle. But then act fearlessly, if you see it is for His honour 
and glory, never minding what others may think or say. 
Above all, " cast your care upon the Lord and He shall 
sustain you." (Psalm 54. 23.) Peace and calm in your 
soul, prayer ever on your lips, and a big love in your heart 
for Him and His interests, will carry you very far." 

(K). " You know well that even the smallest cross and 
happening of your life is part of our Blessed Lord's plan 
for your sanctification. It is not easy, I know, to look at 
things in this light. But one can train the will to look upon 
the acts of others, even their sinful acts in as much as they 
concern ourselves, as coming from the hand of God. There 
is so much real holiness and so very much solid happiness 
and peace and contentment in this little principle, that I 
am very anxious you should try and acquire it, so that 
nothing may really ruffle the peace of your soul. Don't 
think this is easy, it is not ; and you will fail time after 
time in your efforts, but with perseverance, steady progress 
will be. made." (November, 1914.) 

(L). "A quiet hidden life is not possible for you in one 
way, and yet perfectly so in another — by building a solitude 
in your heart where you can ever live alone with Jesus, letting 
the noise and worry of life, cares and anxieties of the world, 
pass over your head like a storm, which will never ruffle 
the peace of your soul. You will enjoy perfect calm and 
peace of soul, the requisite condition for a life of union, by 
keeping Jesus ever with you as a Friend, and remembering 
that everything happens by His permission and is in fact 
His work. Let this principle soak in and it will make you 
a saint. Apply it to every detail of your life, and you will 
not be far from what you seek ; in fact humiliations, slights, 
annoyances, worries will all disappear, since it is not X, but 
Jesus, who is trying you in this way." (June, 1916.) 

(M). " Make this Act of Immolation to-morrow, Good 
Friday, at three o'clock. If you mean it and try henceforth 



UNION AND ABANDONMENT 193 

to live up to its spirit, it will be 'a holocaust in the odour 
of sweetness/ a perpetual sacrifice of your own will, ever 
ascending before the throne of God, and will draw down 
upon you, I am convinced, many great and wonderful 
graces. 

" The practice of this act is simply that you give yourself 
into the hands of Jesus in the most absolute manner possible, 
abandoning especially your own will, that He may do with 
you, at every moment and in every way, as He pleases ; 
you give yourself to Him as His willing victim to be immolated 
to His good pleasure, and should He so please, to be sacrificed 
and to suffer without complaint or murmur whatsoever He 
may wish. 

" Trials, disappointments, failure, humiliations, suffering 
of body and soul may crowd upon you, at least from time 
to time, but if you welcome them all as coming direct from 
His hand in answer to your generous offering, and as part 
of the immolation of His willing victim, you will find a 
sweetness and a delight in these things you never tasted 
before. 

' This is the life I promised to point out to you which, 
I said, would make you a greater saint than if you were 
buried in a cloister. For your present life is daily full of 
opportunities of proving that you wish and are willing to 
suffer, to be immolated and sacrificed for the love of Jesus, 
' the Victim of Love ' who is ever offered still on our altars. 
Make the act in a spirit of deep humility but with immense 
trust and confidence in the grace of God which will not 
fail you. May our crucified Jesus take you now, my dear 
child, and nail you to the cross with Himself " (Holy 
Thursday, 1913.) 

The following is the Act which is here referred to. 1 
Act of Immolation. 

O most sweet Jesus, with all my heart, united to the 
dispositions of Your holy Mother upon Calvary, through her 
and with her, I offer myself to You and to the adorable 
Trinity, upon all the altars of the world, as a most pure 

i. — Some of the sentences in this Act of Immolation are taken from Sceur 
Gertrude-Marie — Une mystique de nos jours, p. 145 (abridged Engf. trans., p. 25). 

N 



194 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

oblation, uniting in myself every sacrifice and act of 
homage. 

I offer Your Sacred Wounds and all the Blood You have 
shed, particularly the sweet Wound of Your Sacred Heart 
with the blood and water which flowed from It, and the 
precious tears of Your Mother. 

I offer this most holy sacrifice in union with all the souls 
who love You in Heaven and on earth for all the intentions 
of Your Divine Heart, and especially as a victim of expiation 
and impetration on behalf of Your priests and of the souls 
whom You have consecrated to Yourself. 

I offer myself to You to be Your Victim in the fullest 
sense of the word. I deliver to You my body, my soul, 
my heart, all that I have, that You may dispose of and 
immolate them according to Your good pleasure. Do with 
me as You please, without consulting my desires, my repug 
nances, my wishes. 

I offer myself to Your Justice, to Your Sanctity, to Your 
Love. To Your Justice, to make reparation for my sins 
and those of all poor sinners. To Your Holiness, for my 
own sanctification and that of all souls consecrated to You, 
especially Your priests. To Your Love, in order that You 
may make of my heart a perpetual holocaust of pure love. 

O Jesus ! receive me now from the hands of Your most 
holy Mother, offer me with Yourself and immolate me along 
with You. I offer myself to You by her hands in order 
that You may unite me to Your ceaseless Immolation, and 
that through me and by me You may satisfy the burning 
desire which You have to suffer for the glory of Your Father, 
the salvation of souls and especially the perfection and 
sanctification of Your priests and Your chosen souls. 

Receive and accept me, I beg of You, in spite of my great 
unworthiness and wretchedness. From henceforth I shall 
look upon all the crosses, all the sufferings, all the trials, 
which Your Providence has destined for me and will send 
me, as so many signs which will prove to me that You have 
accepted my humble offering Amenj 

(N). "As regards the Act of Immolation I give you full 
permission to make it. But do not complain to our dear 
Lord if He takes you at your word and makes you His victim. 



UNION AND ABANDONMENT 195 

You need not fear whatever He may send you to bear, since 
His grace will come with it ; but you should always try to 
keep in mind your offering, living up to the spirit of it. Hence 
endeavour to see the hand of God in everything that happens 
to you now ; e.g. if you rise in the morning with a headache, 
thank Him for sending it, since a victim is one who must 
be immolated and crucified. Again, look upon all 
humiliations and crosses, failure and disappointment in 
your work, in a word, everything that is hard, as His seal 
upon your offering, and rouse yourself to bear all cheerfully 
and lovingly, remembering that you are to be His ' suffering 
love.' " (September, 1914.) 



(5.) THE CROSS. 

Thus Fr. Doyle's ideal of conformity to God's will meant 
a gradual development of passive patient resignation into a 
joyful spontaneous acceptance of everything from God's 
hands and a watchful promptness, not only to obey the 
inspirations of grace, but also to embrace what he loved 
to call " the hard things." "As a rule you will find." he 
said, " that when you do the hard thing just because it is 
hard, great consolation and love always follow " While he 
utilised every psychological expedient to help spiritual 
progress, he never attempted to substitute an easy short 
cut for the royal road of the cross ; there is no detour round 
the hill of Calvary. When a religious asked him for a spiritual 
motto, he wrote, " Lord, make me a saint and do not spare 
me in the making." And when the latter half was objected 
to, he rejoined, " If you desire the accomplishment of the 
first part, you must be ready to accept generously and 
wholeheartedly the latter part — no compromise ! " In this 
stern teaching, however, he was careful to emphasise three 
points and to guard against errors, (i) It is not a question 
of feelings, but of will. Naturally we hate suffering and 
dread pain ; were it otherwise, we should be either coarsely 
or morbidly insensitive. The ideal is not to suppress or 



196 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

eliminate emotion and feeling, that would be an inhuman 
aim ; nor is it even to attain an unnatural state of indifference 
and quiescence. The Christian ideal is rather to strengthen 
and elevate the will, the higher self ; the struggle is one 
of soul, not of body. (2) Nor is it necessary to conjure up 
possibilities of suffering and humiliation ; we need only live 
from day to day amid the circumstances which God's 
providence has woven round us. The imagination should 
not be allowed to terrify the soul by picturing future trials 
which may never come. There is no need for discouragement 
because one feels unable to pray for suffering. " To ask 
for suffering," says Fr. Doyle, " is often secret pride or 
presumption ; but you may offer yourself to our Lord to 
bear whatever He may wish to send you." (3) This attitude 
towards suffering will never be attained merely by con 
centrating on details, by immersing oneself in the actual 
trials to be borne. Our gaze should be fixed not on the Cross 
but on the Crucifix, not on self-crucifixion but on " Jesus 
Christ and Him crucified " (/ Cor. 2. 2.) The mistake is 
often made by holy souls of allowing their attention to be 
engrossed in the petty details of their actual sufferings or 
premeditated penances, occupying themselves, as it were, in 
pin-pricking. It is bad psychology and bad spirituality. The 
apostles went forth " rejoicing that they were accounted 
worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus " (Acts 
5. 41) ; their joy was not in counting the stripes but in the 
thought of Jesus. And so it has ever been ; the men and 
women who have dared and done hard things have always 
been led by some great ideal or overmastering passion. We 
shall face the Cross only if we are filled with the love of 
the Crucified. 

(A). " I have long had the feeling that, since the world 
is growing so rapidly worse and worse and God has lost His 
hold, as it were, upon the hearts of men, He is looking all 
the more earnestly and anxiously for big things from those 
who are faithful to Him still. He cannot, perhaps, gather 
a large army round His standard, but He wants every one 
in it to be a Hero, absolutely and lovingly devoted to Him ; 
if only we could get inside that magic circle of generous 
souls, I believe there is no grace He would not give us to help 






THE CROSS 197 

on the work He has so much at heart, our personal sancti- 
fication Every day you live means an infallible growth in 
holiness which may be multiplied a thousand times by a 
little generosity. When you get the chance hammer into 
the ' Little Flowers ' around you that holiness means three 
things : — Love, Prayer, Sacrifice " 

(B). "A want of will is the chief obstacle to our becoming 
saints. We are not holy because we do not really wish to 
become so. We would indeed gladly possess the virtues 
of the saints — their humility and patience, their love o! 
suffering, their penance and zeal. But we are unwilling to 
embrace all that goes to make a saint and to enter on the 
narrow path which leads to sanctity. A strong will, a resolute 
will, is needed ; a will which is not to be broken by difficulties 
or turned aside by trifling obstacles ; a determination to 
be a saint and not to faint and falter because the way seems 
long and hard and narrow. A big heart, a courageous heart, 
is needed for sanctification, to fight our worst enemy — our 
own self-love " (aoth November, 1905.) 

(C). ' ' One thing is wanting to thee.' (S. Luke 18. 22.) 
How many souls there are upon whom Jesus looks with love, 
souls who are very dear to His Sacred Heart, for they have 
done much and sacrificed much for Him. Yet He asks 
for more, He wants that last sacrifice, the surrender of that 
secret clinging to some trifling attachment, that their lives 
may be a perfect holocaust How many souls hear this 
little voice, ' One thing is wanting to you that you may be 
perfect,' one generous effort to break away from the almost 
severed ties of self-love, and yet they heed it not. Liberty, 
home and family they have given up, the joys and pleasures 
of this world they have despised, for a life of easy comfort 
they have embraced the poverty of Christ ; but still they 
cling to some trifling gratification, and heed not the pleadings 
of the Sacred Heart." (3rd November, 1905.) 

(D). " Over and over again I asked myself, when reading 
that book, 1 was it not strange that I should come across 

I. — Probably the Life of Mere Marie de J^sus (Marie Deluil-Martiny). 
See p. 156. 



198 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

the very ideas which had been in my mind so long : namely, 
the longing of our Lord for more souls who would be absolutely 
at His mercy, His pleasure and disposal ; souls in whom He 
could work at will, knowing that they would never resist 
Him, even by praying to Him to lessen the trials He was 
sending ; souls who were willing and longing to be sacrificed 
and immolated in spite of all the shrinking of weak human 
nature. 

" Now I have long thought He wants that from you. And 
everything that is happening seems to point that way. If 
you make such a surrender of yourself absolutely into His 
hands, I know not what humiliations, trials and even 
sufferings may come upon you, though you must not ask 
for them. But He will send you grace in abundance to 
bear them, He will draw immense glory out of your loving 
crucifixion, and in spite of yourself He will make you a 
saint. . . This must be chiefly an act of the will, for 
it would be unnatural not to feel trials or humiliations ; but 
even when the tears of pain are falling, the higher nature 
can rejoice. You can see this is high perfection, but it will 
bring great peace to your soul. Our Lord will take the work 
of your sanctification into His own hands, if you keep the 
words of the Imitation (iii. 17. i) ever before you : ' Child, 
suffer Me to do with thee whatever I will.' Do not be afraid 
for He would not ask this if He did not intend to find you 
the grace." (February, 1912.) 

(E) " You must bear in mind that, if God has marked 
you out for very great graces and possibly a holiness of which 
you do not even dream, you must be ready to suffer ; and the 
more of this comes to you, especially sufferings of soul, the 
happier it ought to make you. St. Francis de Sales says 
that ' One of the most certain marks that God has great 
designs upon a person is when He sends desolation upon 
desolation, suffering upon suifering.' Love of God is 
holiness, but the price of love is pain. Round the treasure- 
house of His love, God has set a thorny hedge ; those who 
would force their way through must not shrink when they 
feel the sharpness of the thorns piercing their very soul. 
But alas ! how many after a step or two turn sadly back 
in fear, and so never reach the side of Jesus. 



THE CROSS 199 

" You will see, therefore, that your present state is quite 
a natural one to expect, and instead of depressing you, should 
rather console and rejoice your heart. Do not be surprised 
if you find the life of sacrifice, constant sacrifice, a hard 
one. Crucifixion is ever so to human nature, even the big 
saints found that, and shrank from it with all their might. 
Poor weak human nature is ever crying, ' Come down from 
the Cross/ and the devils, of course, will pull us down if 
they can ; the easier life of others, too, is a temptation to 
us and is naturally more attractive ; all of which often 
plunges one into a feeling of sadness and that feeling of 
' being crushed,' about which you speak." 

(F). " 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 ? It is the 
test of St Francis de Sales : ' Willingness to suffer is a certain 
proof of love.' This question I will answer for you. Though 
naturally you dread and shrink from pain and humiliation, 
I am certain there is no humiliation or suffering which you 
would refuse to accept if God asked you to bear it. That 
being so, you can say to our Lord with all the confidence 
of Peter who seemed to doubt his own heart : Lord, Thou 
knowest that I love Thee with all my heart and soul and 
strength, for I would gladly lay down my life for Thee." 
(March, 1913.) 

(G). " You seem to be troubled that you cannot love God 
when trials come and all is darkness. But that is just the 
moment when you love Him most and prove your love the 
best. If only, when you are in desolation and dryness, you 
force yourself to utter an act of love or an oblation of yourself 
without a particle of feeling, you make an offering which is 
of surpassing value in His eyes and most pleasing to His 
Sacred Heart. A dry act of love is a real act of love, since 
it is all for Jesus and nothing for self. Therefore 
welcome the hard black days as real harvest time '• 
(December, 1912.) 



coo FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ, 

(H). " Don't lose sight of this principle, that true holiness 
is based on humility which can never be attained except 
by humiliations and plenty of them Pray daily that ' the 
hard knocks of humiliation ' may increase, for holiness will 
grow in proportion. Do not forget, with reference to what 
you have to suffer from others, that it is all part of God's 
plan for your sanctification. If you want to be a saint, 
you must suffer and in the way that pleases God, not 
yourself. Till you come to recognize that you are a 
' football ' and really deserve to be kicked by everyone, 
the grace of God will not produce its effect in your soul. 
' He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid.' " (5. Luke 
i. 48.) (March, 1916.) 

(I). "I can quite understand your difficult position and 
the suffering caused — I can quite believe unintentionally — 
by the Sister you speak of. ... Once get hold of the 
principle that all that happens comes straight from the hand 
of God, and you have found the secret of deep peace which 
nothing can disturb. You must look upon this Sister as 
the ' chisel ' in the Almighty Worker's hand. He knows 
the best tool to use, and all we have to do is to let Him use 
it as He pleases. Don't expect that poor weak human 
nature will submit to the blows without a murmur. But 
with an effort of the will we can crush this down, until in 
the end what once caused us pain and tears becomes the 
source of great interior joy, since we have realised how these 
things help on our spiritual progress. Hence I would advise 
you without any hesitation, not to try to get a change unless 
it be to a house where you will have two disagreeable Sisters 
instead of one ! This may sound a bit heroic, but . . . 
there is no happiness like seeking and embracing the ' hard 
things ' for the love of Jesus." (July, 1914.) 

(J). " Remember the devil is a bad spiritual director, and 
you may always recognise his apparently good suggestions 
by the disturbances they cause in the soul. Our Lord would 
never urge you to turn away from a path which is leading 
you nearer to Himself, nor frighten you with the prospect 
of future unbearable trials. If they do come, grace will 
come also and make you abound with joy in all your 
tribulations ." (July, 1913.) 



THE CROSS 201 

(K). 'You may make the most complete and absolute 
offering of yourself to God to bear every pain He may wish 
to send. Renew this frequently and place yourself in His 
hands as His willing victim to be immolated on the altar 
of sacrifice. But it is better not to ask directly for great 
sufferings ; few of the saints did so." 1 (April. 1912.) 

(L). "I read through your diary of little victories with 
intense joy, until I came to the entry, ' actually felt glad 
at receiving a snub to-day,' when I felt my cup of happiness 
was full. . . . This is what I have been longing for. 
. . . To yearn for, to seek and delight in the hard thing, 
is not only the road to heroic sanctity, but means a life of 
wonderful interior joy." (February, 1916.) 

(M) " God wants you to suffer willingly. Many rebel and 
fight against what God gives them ; many more take their 
cross in a resigned ' can't be helped ' spirit ; but very few 
look upon these things as real blessings and kiss the Hand 
that strikes them." (1912.) 



(6.) LITTLE THINGS. 

Idealism, however fervent and absorbing, must never be 
an excuse for vague and unpractical emotion. As already 
pointed out, 2 the genius of S. Ignatius consisted in his careful 
and methodic exploitation of religious energy Steam is of 
no use, rather a nuisance, until we have a cylinder and piston 
for it. How much spiritual fervour goes to waste, without 
a particular examen and definite applications ! A gallon of 
petrol might be misused to blow a car sky-high ; with care 
and inventiveness it can be employed to propel it to the 
top of a hill. These comparisons will show us that Ignatius, 
though a soldier, might be even more aptly described as a 
spiritual engineer. There is always this touch in Jesuit 

i. — Compare Mgr. d'Hulst : "After offering the Holy Sacrifice for you and 
praying-, I tell you there is a slight change to be made in the terms of your 
offering. Instead of wishing for suffering, you must wish for the surrender of 
your whole self to all He may desire of you." — The Way of the Heart : Letters 
oj Direction, Eng. trans. 1913, p. 306. 

2. — See pp. Hi, 121. 



202 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

spirituality. Not too much of the spectator's aesthetic 
appreciation of a mighty spiritual cataract, rather a tendency 
to calculate its horse-power and to get it harnessed and 
guided. In the case of a naturally impulsive, emotional 
and perhaps wayward character like that of Fr. Doyle, the 
effects and advantages of this applied science of the soul 
are particularly obvious. Not only in his own case, but 
especially in directing others, he sought not to deaden energy, 
not to paralyse will-power, not to kill emotion, but to convert 
them all into driving forces for the mills of God. And God's 
mills grind exceeding slow ! The just awakened energy of 
the novice usually seeks to expend itself in weird ventures, 
in sudden outbursts, in anarchic violence, in impossible 
outlets. Ordinary life, with its dull tasks and sluggish 
routine, seems unworthy of the high ideals and chivalrous 
emprise of one who has caught the accents of Christ. So 
too thought the erstwhile Don Ifiigo, now Christ's pilgrim, 
clad in the picturesque aristocracy of sheer beggary. Far 
otherwise did he begin to think as he toiled at Latin grammar 
in Barcelona, learnt logic at Alcala and studied theology at 
Paris. And finally this great stream of spiritual energy 
which started with wild turbulence in Loyola and Manresa, 
is conveyed — sluiced and piped, as it were, — to a dingy room 
in Rome where Ignatius dealt with administration and 
correspondence 

It is the lesson which Fr. Doyle loved to teach. He 
showed his spiritual children how to focus their idealism on 
the seemingly little things of life and the day's drab details. 
Little things — why do we call them little at all ? We must 
not measure spirituality in cubic feet, nor should we judge 
holiness by the acreage of our activities. " Nothing is too 
small to offer to God," Fr. Doyle used to say ; for what is 
small to men may be great in the Master's eyes. It is in 
little acts that heroism is acquired, it is by patient per 
severance and methodic effort that sanctity is won. 1 Such 
is the message straight from his own life, a life whose real 
greatness was within. 

•• — Fr. Doyle was very insistent on businesslike and systematic efforts. Thus 
he would make his penitent note down certain failing's or act* of self-denial and 
on his next visit he would carefully inspect the little book. See extract L, p. 201. 



LITTLE THINGS 203 

A). " What more insignificant than the ordinary daily 
duties of religious life ! Each succeeding hour brings with 
it some allotted task, yet in the faithful performance of these 
trifling acts of our everyday life lies the secret of true sanctity. 
Too often the constant repetition of the same acts, though 
in themselves they be of the holiest nature, makes us go- 
through them in a mechanical way We meditate, we assist 
at holy Mass, more from a sense of duty than from any 
affection to prayer. Our domestic duties, our hours of 
labour, of teaching, are faithfully discharged — but what 
motive has animated us in their performance ? Have we 
not worked because we must, or unconsciously because the 
bell has rung, rather than from the motive of pleasing God 
and doing His will ? " (i5th April, 1905.) 

(B) " One thing I ask of you, dear child : Don't be a 
saint by halves, but give Him all He asks and always." 

(C). " Life is only a day quickly passed and gone, but 
the merit of it, the glory given to God, will remain for ever. 
Give Him all you can generously and lovingly, do not let 
one little sacrifice escape you, they are dear to Him because 
He finds so few really generous souls who think only of Him 
and never of themselves." 

(D). " Live for the day, as you say — but let it be a generous 
day. Have you ever tried giving God one day in which you 
refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity ? " 

(E) . " Try to take your days one by one as they come 
to you. The hard things of yesterday are past, and you 
are not asked to bear what to-morrow may have in store ; 
so that the cross is really light when you take it bit by bit." 
(November, 1914.) 

(F). "I am glad you have found profit from the particular 
examen You must push on with this, for remember you 
are no beginner in the spiritual life. From time to time 
increase the number of acts when you find facility coming. 
However it is better to keep to a fixed number steadily 
than to go jumping up and down, better, for example, to 
make twenty-five acts every day than fifty one day and 
ten the next The rule to keep before you is : Look upon 



204 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

nothing as too small to offer to God. Big sacrifices ' do not 
come very often, and generally we are too cowardly to make 
them when they do. But little ones are as plentiful as 
blackberries in September, and stiffen the moral courage, 
by the constant repetition of them, to do, in the end, even 
heroic things. Expect, too, that at times this steady keeping 
up the fixed number will pall upon you ; possibly you will 
even pitch up the examen for a day or two, but pick it up 
again and no harm will be done ; these failures will become 
fewer by degrees. Again, nothing is too small ; in fact the 
smaller it is the better, so long as it is some denial 
of your will, some act you would just as soon not do." 
(February 1912.) 

(G). " Possibly you have been a little too generous in 
the time of fervour and have attempted more than you 
were able for, which would account in part, at least, for the 
feeling of ' being crushed.' However you should have 
been prepared to find that the generous spirit which carried 
you along from sacrifice to sacrifice was not intended to 
last, it was only meant to strengthen you for the time of 
trial. To serve God generously when the music of con 
solation is sounding in our cars is no doubt pleasing to Him, 
but to be equally faithful when all is black and dark is not 
only a thousand times more sanctifying, but is heroic virtue. 
Hence God in His eagerness for our perfection takes away, 
at times, all sensible consolation, yet is really nearer to us 
than before. 

' The great danger to be faced is that one feels inclined 
to lose heart, to be discouraged — ' the devil's pet walking 
stick ' — and in the end to give up all striving for perfection, 
aiming only at being content with that curse of every religious 
house — Mediocrity. 

"As I said before, my dear child, I fancy you tried to do 
too much, to be too generous. Do not try to run till you 
can walk well. Draw up a list of certain little sacrifices 
which you feel God is asking from you and which you know 
you will be able to give Him without very much difficulty — 
better be cowardly than too generous. Then, come what 
may, be faithful to your list and shake it in the face of the 
tempter when he suggests that you should give it up. After 



LITTLE THINGS 205 

some time, when greater facility has come by practice, you 
might add a little to what you did at first, and so on till, 
please God, one day you will be able to say, ' I know only 
Jesus Christ, and Him crucified ; with Christ I am nailed 
to the Cross.' ' (7 Cor. 2. 2 ; Galat. 2. 19.) 

(H). " I think He would like you to pay more attention 
to little things, looking on nothing as small, if connected 
with His service and worship. Also try to remember that 
nothing is too small to offer to Him — that is, the tiniest act 
of self-conquest is of immense value in His eyes, and even 
lifting one's eyes as an act of love brings great grace " 

(I). "I want you to stick to two things : the aspirations 
and the tiny acts of self-conquest Count them and mark 
them daily. You need nothing else to make you a saint. 
The weekly total, growing bigger as you persevere, will show 
you how fast you are growing in perfection." 

(J). " It is indeed easy to condemn oneself to death, tc 
make a generous offering of self-immolation ; but to carry 
out the execution daily is more than most can do. . . 
Go on bravely, don't expect too much from yourself, for 
God often leaves dne powerless in acts of self-conquest in 
order to make one humble and to have more recourse to 
Him. Remember above all that even one small victory 
makes up for a hundred defects." 

(K). " The notebook was most helpful to me as showing 
the way by which Jesus is leading you to perfection if only 
you have the courage to face it. All these trials, snubs, 
unpleasantnesses, etc., do not come to you by chance. They 
are precious jewels from the hand of God ; and, if you could 
only bring yourself to look upon them in the right light, 
they would make you a really great saint." 



206 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 



(7.) PRAYER. 

The extracts given above from Fr. Doyle's letters make 
it evident that the ideals which he sought to impress on 
others were partial transcripts from his own inner life. It 
will therefore be clear that his strenuous advocacy of prayer 
was also born in his personal experience. This indeed has 
already been made manifest in dealing with his belief in the 
apostolate of prayer and in the efficacy of aspirations. 1 
Hence it will be sufficient to collect here a few further 
quotations. Brief as these are, they illustrate his conviction 
•of the importance of prayer, his idea that it ought, so to 
speak, be spread out thinly over one's day or one's life as 
well as heaped up in the early morning or during a retreat, 
his wonderful faith in prayer as the unseen motive-power 
of missionary effort. " Get more prayer into your life if 
you can," " Give the full time to spiritual duties," are 
typical pieces of advice. He never held out delusive 
prospects of easy contemplation. " Don't forget," he wrote 
once, " that prayer is the hardest corporal penance." " It 
is an unnatural thing," he said another time, " that is, a 
supernatural thing, and hence must be hard always ; for 
prayer takes us out of our natural element. But pray on 
all the same." There is only one way of learning, he used 
to say, and that is to pray often, to fill up all the little chinks 
and interstices of our day with aspirations and prayers. 
" Keep in God's presence going through the house and try 
to grasp then any lights you may have got in prayer." On 
the other hand, he tried to make prayer as easy, unstrained 
and familiar as he could. He prescribed no rigid method, 
he made no attempt to move all along the same groove. 
" Follow the attraction of the Holy Spirit, for all souls are 
not led by the same path." was his tolerant counsel. 2 He 
would have agreed with St. Teresa's saying 3 : " Mental 

i.— See pp. 65, 113. 

2. — See p. ii'jf. Once when a religious, a penitent of his, asked him how he 
himself prayed, he knelt down and with childlike simplicity and directness 
repeated some of the thoughts and prayers of his morning meditation. 

ir—Life viii. 7. 



PRAYER 207 

prayer is, in my opinion, nothing else but being on terms 
of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with 
Him who, we know, loves us." 

(A). " You seem to have fallen into the common snare of 
Satan, namely, mistaking your work for prayer and pouring 
yourself out over it. Thus the soul gets dried up and the 
body so fatigued that a proper service of God is impossible. 
Give the full time to spiritual duties. Try to get a minute 
to yourself, and a half hour on Sundays, and walk about 
quietly and examine your state. Note where you have 
fallen off, etc., and begin again, instead of waiting for the 
next retreat to pull you up." 

(B). " You seem lately to have had a bad attack of want 
of confidence in God and a feeling of despair of ever becoming 
a saint. Yet, my dear child, it is neither impossible or 
hopeless as long as God leaves it in our power to pray. You 
know these words of Fr. de Ravignan (leaflet enclosed). 1 
I never realized how true they were until I began to go about 
the country and get into close touch with souls. I assert 
fearlessly that if only we all prayed enough, and I mean 
by that a constant, steady, unflagging stream of aspirations, 
petitions, etc., from the heart, there is not one, no matter 
how imperfect, careless or even sinful, who would not become 
a saint and a big one. I am perfectly and painfully conscious 
that, for my own part, I do not pray a hundredth part of 
what I should or what God wants." 

(C). " Without constant union with our Lord there is not 
and cannot be any real holiness, one reason being that without 
recollection the inspirations of the Holy Spirit are missed 
and with them a host of opportunities of little sacrifices 
and a shower of graces. As a means of gaining greater 
recollection, each morning at Holy Communion invite Jesus 
to dwell in your heart during the day as in a tabernacle. 
Try all day to imagine even His bodily presence within you 

i. — This leaflet contained the words : " Believe me, my dear friends, believe 
.an experience ripened by thirty years in the sacred ministry. I do here affirm 
that all deceptions, all spiritual deficiencies, all miseries, all falls, all faults, 
and even the most serious wanderings out of the right path, all proceed from 
this single source — a want of constancy in prayer. Live the life of prayer, 
learn to bring everything, to change everything into prayer — pains and trials 
and temptations of all kinds." 



208 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

and often turn your thoughts inwards and adore Him as 
He nestles next your heart in a very real manner, quite 
different from His presence in all creation. This habit is 
not easily acquired, especially in a busy life like yours, but 
much may be done by constant effort. At times you will 
have to leave Him alone entirely, but as soon as you can, 
get back to His presence again." (February, 1912.) 

(D). "As regards prayer, you should try to follow the 
attraction of the Holy Spirit, for all souls are not led by the 
same path. It would not be well to spend all the time in 
vocal prayer, there should be some meditation, thought or 
contemplation. Try ' basking in the sun of God's love,' 
that is, quietly kneeling before the Tabernacle, as you would 
sit enjoying the warm sunshine, not trying to do anything, 
except love Him, but realizing that, during all the time 
you arc at His feet, more especially when dry and cold, 
grace is dropping down upon your soul and you are growing 
fast in holiness." (May, 1913.) 

(E). "You ask how to pray well — the answer is, Pray 
often, in season and out of season, against yourself, in spite 
of yourself — there is no other way What a man of prayer 
St. James, the Apostle, (his feast is to-day) must have been 
since his knees became like those of a camel ! When shall 
we religious realize the power for good that prayer, constant, 
unflagging prayer, puts into our hands ? Were you con 
vinced of this, you would not ' envy me my spiritual work.' 
Because if you liked, you could do more than any priest 
who is not a man of prayer, though you might not have 
the satisfaction of seeing the result in this world. Did it 
ever strike you that when our Lord pointed out the ' fields 
white for the harvest,' He did not urge His Apostle to go 
and reap it, but to pray ? " l (May, 1912.) 

(F). " ' I have called upon Thee in the day of my trouble.' 
(Psalm -85. 7) Jesus is our comforter. What burden is 
there which He cannot lighten ? What cross, He cannot 
make sweet ? Be our troubles what they may, if only we 
will call on Jesus and implore His aid, we shall find our 

I. — S. John 4. 35 ; S. Matthew 9. 38. 



PRAYER 209 

sufferings lessen and the rough ways smoothed for our 
bleeding feet." (8th February, 1905.) 

(G). " 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 realize 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." (24th February, 1905.) 

(H). "You are bound to throw yourself heart and soul 
into the work God has given you to do. The devil's object 
is to get you so absorbed in your work, so anxious and worried 
about its success, that you will become, as you say, a religious 
only in name. However, to see his snares, as St. Ignatius 
calls them, is half the battle. You must go directly against 
what he wants. But how ? First try to stir up your faith 
and see in everything, big and little, that happens the hand 
of God, remembering that He is often more glorified by our 
failure than by success. This will prevent irritability, and 
having done your best, will lessen worry, though for most 
of us it is impossible quite to free ourselves from that weak 
ness. Next, a big effort, and it needs a big one at first, 
resolutely to give every moment to the spiritual duties and 
to shut out every other thought. Prayer calms the soul as 
nothing else can, more especially if during the day you help 
the grace of God by trying to keep your heart united with 
God, who is dwelling within your very soul. At all costs 
you must conquer and keep your peace of mind (after all 
in a few years what will it matter to any of us whether we 
have gained success or not ?), otherwise good-bye to 

holiness Though little acts of penance and 

aspirations may seem to be done mechanically, on no account 
should you omit them, they are far more meritorious in 
your present state." (October, 1911.) 

(I). " You seem to be a little troubled at finding yourself 
cold at prayer and as if our Lord had abandoned you. Were 
it otherwise I should feel uneasy ; for this is one of the best 



210 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

signs that you are really pleasing to God, since He puts 
your fidelity to the test by sending desolation. There is 
no happiness to be compared to the sweets one tastes at 
times in prayer ; but this, the greatest of all sacrifices, He 
will ask from you at times. Hence in darkness and dryness, 
when weariness and disgust come on you, when the thousand 
petty worries of every day crowd upon you, sursum corda, 
raise your eyes with a glad smile to the face of Jesus, for all 
is well and He is sanctifying you." (October, 1912.) 

(J). " Work away at the life of union, but union remember 
with God within you, not outside ; so many go wrong on this 
point. Do not give up prayer on any account, no matter 
how dry or ' rotten ' you feel ; every moment, especially 
before Him in the Tabernacle, is a certain, positive gain ; 
the effect will be there though you may not feel it. If you 
feel drawn ' to rest in God,' to let yourself sink down as it 
were into Him, do so without bothering to say anything. 
I think the best of all prayers is just to kneel quietly and 
let Jesus pour Himself into your soul." (July, 1917.) 

(K)« "A deadly pitfall lies hidden in the desire of some 
to pour themselves out in works of zeal for God's glory, to 
which the evil spirit not uncommonly urges those whom he 
sees full of zeal. It is evident even to one little versed in 
the way of the spiritual life that a multiplicity of external 
occupations, even though good and meritorious in themselves, 
must by their very nature hinder that calm peace of soul 
which is essential for interior union with God. 

" For one who has advanced in the way of interior union, 
no life, no matter how occupied or full of distracting work, 
will prove much of a hindrance ; such a one has learned 
how to ride on the waves of worldly care and not to be engulfed, 
by them, he refuses to put himself out or be totally absorbed 
in things which have only a fleeting interest ; but it is not 
so with the beginner in the spiritual life. Overwork has 
broken down not a few weakly bodies but has ruined far 
more souls, drying up if not destroying all love for prayer 
and the things of God, leaving the wreck of many a ' spoiled 
saint ' strewn on the road of life. 

"A heavy responsibility rests on the shoulders of those 



PRAYER 211 

who heap an impossible burden on the shoulders of the 
' willing horse/ more anxious for the material success 
of their particular charitable undertaking than for the 
spiritual progress of those whom God has entrusted to 
their care." (1916.) 



(8.) MORTIFICATION. 

It will be useful to record here some sentences conveying 
Fr. Doyle's advice to many different correspondents on the 
subject of penance In this matter he always laid stress on 
mortification of the will, especially concerning habitual 
faults. At times he could put this very bluntly. Thus a 
religious who was rather addicted to criticism and comment 
asked him to recommend her some special acts of self-denial 
to be practised at table. " I recommend you, my dear 
Sister," he replied, " to put a little mustard on your tongue ! " 
So while he firmly inculcated asceticism, he was by no means 
a fanatic for bodily penance. The following quotations will 
clearly prove his gentleness, thoughtfulness, and prudence. 
" He saved others, himself he cannot save." (5. Matthew 
27. 42.) Is there not a sense in which this is true, not only 
of Christ, but of His saints ? 

(A). " I am glad you wrote to me for I, at least, can under 
stand exactly what you are suffering ; it is really a question 
of nerves, not of soul. You arc run down like an old fiddle 
string, hence you can get no sweet music out of yourself, 
try as you may. Now, my child, don't be troubled or uneasy, 
imagining God is displeased with you or that you are abusing 
grace. For a little while give yourself all the rest., relaxation 
and indulgence you can ; there is to be no penance, few 
spiritual duties, except Mass and Communion, and you are 
just to do like a little child whatever your superiors tell 
you, read story books, etc. ; rest and riot is to be your pro 
gramme just now. When the old nerves get a bit settled, 
you will run ahead like a giant to sanctity. I am afraid 
you must make up your mind for fits of depression from time 
to time, but that, too, will pass when you become more 



212 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

your old self I shall pray for you and I know you will do 
the same when you get good again, but not before ! " 
(May, 1912.) 

(B). " It ought to encourage you to feel the desire for 
penance growing in your soul. After all is it not a mockery 
to call ourselves the spouses of a crucified Love if our lives 
are not to some extent crucified also ? You need to be 
careful in the matter of privation of sleep more than in other 
things, but let there be no limit to interior mortification." 

(C). " Every little victory in the matter of food is a real 
triumph, for this is a real test of generosity. You will find 
many persons given to prayer, works of zeal, penance, but 
most seem to fly from the denial of their appetite. ' My 
health, Father ; the greater glory of God, etc.' St Francis 
de Sales used to say, ' Unless you deny your appetite, you 
will never be a saint ' — a mighty saying ! " 

(D). " To stay on your feet when you have a bad headache 
may be even heroic and is not likely to injure you in any 
way. What a love the saints all had for suffering ! There 
must be something in it." 

(E). "I want you to give up all corporal penance and 
to take for your particular examen ' self-denial in little 
things ' Make ten acts for each examen, and the more 
trivial they are the better, so you will do twenty a day." 
(January, 1912.) 

(F). " 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 need not, and must not, put any limit." 1 
(February, 1912.) 

(G). " If you are not yet strong enough to seek 
humiliations, just accept the little reverses that come. When 
you say or do awkward things, give them to our Lord and 

I. — " We have nothing- of our own but our will," says the Cur£ of Ars. "It 
is the only thing- which God has so placed in our own power that we can make 
an offering of it to Him. Thus we may be assured that a single act of 
renunciation of the will is more pleasing to God than a fast of thirty days."- 
A. Monnin, Life of the B. Curt d'Ars, p. 251. "Oh how I love those little 
mortifications which are seen by no one, such as to rise a quarter of an hour 
earlier or to rise a few moments in the night for prayer ! " (ibid. p. 97). 



MORTIFICATION 213 

tell Him you are glad of them. Say : 'All these are 
humiliations, so they must be good for me.' ' 

(H). " The big penance must be the joyful embracing, 
for the love of suffering Jesus, the many little hard and 
painful things which come to you hourly. Take them 
all from His hand sweetly, trying to seek the unpleasant 
things and the hard disagreeable things ; and keep hammering 
away at the tiny acts of self-denial. This is the goal to aim 
at : I am never to do a thing I like. Don't try to do that 
at present — it might easily dishearten and crush you — but 
keep it always in view." 

(I). " I do not want, in fact I forbid you, to be imprudent 
in the matter of corporal penances. But, my dear child, if 
you let a whole fortnight go by without any self-inflicted 
pain, can you honestly look Jesus in the face and say, ' I 
am like to Him ? ' 

(J). "I must warn you against the danger of wishing to 
go too fast or to do too much at first. You must begin 
humbly and build up — that is, increase your penances by 
degrees, otherwise you might be very generous for a short 
time, then get tired and give up all. As a rule do not make 
any penance a great burden — it is better to discontinue it 
if it becomes such — nor do anything excessive or continued 
very long." 

(K) ' Your desire for penance is an excellent sign, and 
this in spite of what X said. But have a fixed amount to 
be done each day and do not be doing it in fits and starts. 
Anything like what you call ' frenzy ' ought to be suspected 
and resisted." 

(L). " In urging you to be generous, I wish you at the 
same time to be sensible. Keep in mind these two rules, 
(i) If after honest trial you find anything is really injurious 
or hampers your work, it must be abandoned. (2) Be on 
your guard lest the body be too much oppressed and the 
spirit take harm, as says wise Ignatius. 1 Everything is not 
for everyone, nor must you undertake too much in the 
beginning." (1912.) 

I — " It is not good that anyone should be so loaded with bodily work 
that the spirit is oppressed and the body suffers harm." — Summarium Con- 
stitutionum t 47. 



214 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 



CHAPTER IX. 

MILITARY CHAPLAIN 

(1916) 

has hitherto been nothing outwardly remarkable 
I in Fr. Doyle's life. Hence his biography has largely 
consisted in a study of his spiritual ideals and of those 
interior strivings and hidden virtues which were mostly 
unknown even to those with whom he lived. But now 
there comes a phase in his life which can be esteemed, not 
only by those who know the inner springs of action, but 
also by such as measure worth by external achievement. It 
is only when the life which was hidden in religious houses 
and expressed in the ordinary activities of a missioner, is 
transferred to dug-out and trench and is seen amid the reek 
and din of battle, that most people will appreciate greatness 
of soul. There is herein a further advantage. Many who 
read the chapters on Fr. Doyle's interior life and morti 
fications will be inclined to picture him as a dour austere 
individual in whom the sources of human feelings and genuine 
affection had been dried up. And, on the other hand, they 
who knew him only as a military chaplain, saw indeed his 
wonderful geniality and helpfulness, but could hardly suspect 
the inner drama of his soul, his mystic immolation and 
unceasing recollection. Now it is precisely the juxtaposition 
of these two aspects which is necessary in order to judge 
Fr. Doyle's character as a whole and to see whence heroism 
comes and whither holiness leads. The events of the last 
year and a half of his life will, therefore, be recounted more 
in detail. This is fortunately possible with the aid of the 
long letters which he regularly sent to his Father, supple 
mented by a few more intimate notes and jottings. This 
correspondence was, of course, never intended for publication ; 
it is therefore the more interesting biographically. Its direct 
and homely language is far more eloquent than any attempt 
at studied composition. For we have not only a vivid 
picture of what warfare really means but also the accurate 
transcript of one man's actual thoughts and deeds. 



THE GREAT ADVENTURE 215 



(i.) THE GREAT ADVENTURE. 

" I used to discuss with my brother," says S. Teresa, 1 
" how we could become martyrs. We made up our minds 
to start together, begging our way for the love of God, to 
the country of the Moors, so that we might be beheaded 
there." The youthful crusaders were, however, ignominiously 
brought back to Avila by their uncle ; but the spirit of this 
great adventure remained. Rodrigo died as a captain in 
the conquest of La Plata ; Teresa learnt that pati was harder 
than won'. He whose life we are here chronicling had a 
double answer to his childish ambition for martyrdom, 
Teresa's life and Rodrigo's death. " Did I ever tell you," 
he asked in an intimate letter, 5th November, 1914, " did 
I ever tell you that even as a child I was convinced that 
one day God would give me the grace of martyrdom ? When 
quite small I read and re-read every martyr's life in the 
twelve volumes of Butler's Lives of the Saints, and longed 
and prayed to be a martyr, and I have often done so ever 
since. As years went on, the desire grew in intensity, and 
even now the sufferings of the martyrs, their pictures, and 
everything connected with their death, have a strange 
fascination for me and help me much. When I was ordained 
I begged for the foreign missions, never doubting that my 
request would be granted. But it was not to be, and never 
can be now ; and I was left wondering why God should 
have put that intense longing into my heart when He did 
not mean to gratify it. Then slowly light came. He did 
ask martyrdom, but not in the way I thought, a martyrdom 
far longer and a thousand times more painful and crucifying, 
a living martyrdom and a ceaseless crucifixion. So strong 
and clear is this light, especially recently, that I never pray 
now : ' Lord, what will You have me do ? ' but, ' Lord, 
help me to do what I know You wish.' Yes, Jesus is right 
when He says : ' I have told him over and over again what 
I want, but he will not give it to Me.' That is what is breaking 
my heart, as I feel it is breaking His, the pleading for a life 

I. — Life i. 4. 



2i6 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

of absolute annihilation, and at times what I can only call 
my powerlessness to give it ; want of love, of generosity, 
is there, I know, but these words do not really express my 
state. If He does mean me to lead the life which is sketched 
out in my mind, then I can understand why He lets me 
feel my utter misery and powerlessness, so that I may see 
clearly that it must be all the work of His grace. Jesus is 
very gentle but very firm with me. For some years past 
He has shown me that I must not shrink from what He 
asks. He is ever beside me urging me in the same direction — 
you know where His divine Face was turned so constantly 
during life and at its close. I am not afraid of sacrifice ; 
He has given me an intense love of suffering and humiliation. 
But why, oh ! why did He make me so wretchedly weak 
that I cannot take one step if His strong arm is not 
around me ? " 

Still he did not abandon the hope of laying down his life 
for Christ. Four days later he says in another letter : " What 
I am going to tell you now may pain you. I have volunteered 
for the Front as Military Chaplain, though perhaps I may 
never be sent. Naturally I have little attraction for the 
hardship and suffering the life would mean ; but it is a 
glorious chance of making the ' ould body ' bear something 
for Christ's dear sake. However, what decided me in the 
end was a thought that flashed into my mind when in the 
chapel : the thought that if I get killed I shall die a martyr 
of charity and so the longing of my heart will be gratified. 
This much my offering myself as chaplain has done for me : 
it has made me realise that my life may be very short and 
that I must do all I can for Jesus now." 

A similar thought occurs in his private diary under next 
day's date, (loth November, 1914) : " My offering myself 
as war chaplain to the Provincial has had a wonderful effect 
on me. I long to go and shed my blood for Jesus and, if 
He wills it, to die a martyr of charity. The thought that 
at any moment I may be called to the Front, perhaps to die, 
has roused a great desire to do all I can while I have life. 
I feel great strength to make any sacrifice and little difficulty 
in doing so. I may not have long now to prove my love 
for Jesus." 



THE GREAT ADVENTURE 217 

He waited a year before the sacrifice was asked of him. 
On i5th November, 1915, he makes this brief entry : 
" Received my appointment from the War Office as chaplain 
to the 1 6th Division. Fiat voluntas tua." " What the 
future has in store I know not," he writes to a correspondent 
on the same day ; " but I have given Jesus all to dispose 
of as He sees best. My heart is full of gratitude to Him 
for giving me this chance of being really generous and of 
leading a life that will be truly crucified." How hard he 
found this may be gathered from some words written a 
fortnight later on the eve of his starting for Whitely Camp, 
Surrey : "A last farewell, for I shall be far away when you 
receive this. My via crucis is nearly over ; but only in 
heaven will you know how I have suffered all this week. 
It is all for Him and I do not regret it ; but He filled my 
cup of bitterness this evening when I left my darling old 
Father. Thank God, at last I can say, I have given Him 
all ; or rather He has taken all from me. May His sweet 
will be done." He seems to have had a premonition of 
death, as indeed had several who knew his fearless zeal. 
" I want you to know," he writes on I4th January, 1916, 
" what I went through by volunteering for the Front. God 
made me feel with absolute certainty — I suppose to increase 
the merit of the offering — that I shall be killed. The struggle 
was hard, for I did not want to die ; not indeed that I am 
afraid of death, but the thought that I could never again 
do more for God or suffer for Him in heaven made the sacrifice 
too bitter for words." In the same strain he writes from 
Bordon Camp, Hants, a week later to a dear friend who 
was anxious for him : "He knows what is best for all of 
us. Would it not be more perfect then not to pray for my 
safety but rather that His designs may be carried out ? 
. . . I have only one regret now that death is such a 
distinct possibility — that I have done so little for our Blessed 
Lord and His glory. But it consoles me much to remember 
that one can still make up by a loving generosity for a past 
which is beyond recall." 

A few letters survive to tell us his impressions of camp 
life. On i5th December, 1915, he writes : " I cannot say 
I am quite in love with camp life, which in many respects 



2i8 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

is very repellent. But even in these disagreeable things 
there is a joy and secret pleasure, since it means all the more 
merit and, let us hope, a richer harvest of souls. My eyes 
have been opened still more to the awful godlessness of the 
world and the need, the immense need, there is for us who 
owe so much to our Blessed Lord to try and make up to Him 
for all this by greater love and generosity. It will never 
equal, I fear, the worldly generosity of these men. For 
example, this morning a regiment marched out of camp 
at 5 a.m. in torrents of rain merely for exercise. When 
they return to-night, they will dry their wet underclothing 
by sleeping in them ! " 

On New Year's Day Fr. Doyle with his regiment (8th Royal 
Irish Fusiliers) moved from Whitely Camp to Bordon Camp. 
The change was welcome to him for the reason given in the 
following letter four days later 1 : " Before I thank you for 
your letter which was doubly welcome in my exile, I want 
to tell you the New Year's gift our Lord gave me. We had 
an awful time of storm and rain coming over here, but 
the first thing I saw on reaching the barrack square was a 
hut marked R.C. Church. I took it for granted that it was 
just the usual hut set apart for Sunday Mass, but on trying 
the door you can imagine my delight to find a small but 
beautifully furnished chapel with a lamp burning before the 
altar, which made my heart leap with joy. 

" I felt as if all the hardships of my life had vanished, 
for I had found Him again who makes the hard things easy 
and the bitter things sweet. What did anything matter 
now since I could go and tell Him all about it and get help 
and consolation from Jesus. I really think that this month's 
privation of the Blessed Sacrament has taught me the true 
value of the Tabernacle. But His goodness did not stop 
here ; the other priest who had the key gave it to me without 
my even suggesting it, so I can go to Him at any hour of 
the day or night if I want to — do you think I shall ? Is 
He not good to have put the little chapel where He did, as 
it might have been in any other part of the camp, miles 
away? I do not think there is a happier man in England 

I. — See also page 109. 



THE GREAT ADVENTURE 

than I to-day. I am writing this, sitting on a piece of wood- 
no chairs in our quarters. There are about 1,200 Catholics 
in our brigade now. I get a few ' big fish ' each evening." 

The reference to soul-fishing will remind us that his life 
was by no means contemplative at this time, except in so 
far as he was able to be Martha by day and Mary by night. 
His work was very arduous and grew more so as the day 
of departure drew near. It was the last great chance for 
the soul of many an Irish lad. ' There is nothing like the 
prospect of a German shell," wrote Fr. Doyle, " for putting 
the fear of God into one ; and many an old rooster whom 
no mission ever moved has been blown out of his nest by the 
news of our departure." " We are having desperate work 
these days," he told a friend (i4th February, 1916). " The 
good God is simply pouring out His grace on these poor 
fellows and reconciling them before they die. It has to 
be quick work, no time for ' trimmings.' I have positively 
a pain in my arm giving Absolution and Communions in 
the morning. I was able to manage Exposition all day 
last Sunday, which brought in many an erring sheep. I 
realize that from this on my life will be a martyrdom in a 
way I never thought of. I have got to love my brave lads 
almost like my own brothers and sisters. They are so wild 
and reckless, and at the same time so full of faith and love 
of God and His Blessed Mother. Yet soon I shall have to 
see the majority of them blown to bits, torn and mangled 
out of shape. Our Brigade is leaving to-morrow for France. 
I am waiting till Friday night, so as to get in all the con 
fessions I can. Do pray I may be able to say daily Mass. 
I shall carry everything necessary on my back, and so may 
manage the Holy Sacrifice in the train. Whilst here I have 
given Jesus two things which He often asked, but which 
I refused through ' prudence and a fear of interfering with 
important work/ — a very old trick of the devil, which my 
eyes are open to see now. The first was sometimes to fast 
strictly all day — once I did a hard day's work ending up 
with a fifteen miles' march on a cup of tea. The second 
was to spend the whole night in prayer. Including con 
fessions I was able one night to pass eleven hours with Jesus — • 
telling Him every five minutes I was going after five more." 



220 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



(2.) EN ROUTE. 

He received unexpected orders from the General to proceed 
overseas on Thursday, iyth February. Half an hour before 
starting he wrote to his father : " I set out to face the future 
with a certain amount of trepidation. . . . Strange to 
say, I have not the smallest anxiety about the possible 
dangers of warfare, not so great for me as for others, but 
I do dread the horrors of the battlefield which all say no 
words can picture. Still it is a consolation to know what 
a comfort the mere presence of a priest is to both officers 
and men alike. They are one and all going to face their 
duty with the joy of heart which comes from a clean 
conscience ; many of them had not been to confession for 
over twenty years." Of the crossing itself he wrote to his 
father a brief description which indirectly reveals some 
characteristic traits. One passage may be quoted : ' The 
moon was surrounded by a magnificent halo or crown, which 
I promptly bagged for myself. I was fortunately able to 
get some tea on shore, for though they served us out with 
lifebelts, nothing in the shape of dinner or rations came 
along. There were only a few bunks which I left to the 
other officers, and as there was no place to sleep, except 
the stoke hole, which I was not having this journey, I picked 
a comfortable ? corner on deck and prepared for a snooze, 
when alas ! down came the rain. Providence however came 
to my rescue : the second engineer passing by very kindly 
offered me a share of his cabin, and I slept like a top on the 
settee. He was awfully kind to me, even offering me a 
share of his bunk, and this morning he had hot coffee and 
buns ready when I awoke ; but as I was hoping to be able 
to celebrate Mass on shore, I had to postpone that luxury. 
At present there seems little prospect of either Mass or 
breakfast, as it is now nine and we have been lying off shore 
since four this morning. 11.30 a.m. Just landed. Seeing 
there was no chance for Mass, I rooted up a Chinaman and 
secured a welcome cup of tea ; he brought me also a plate 
of cold liver and potatoes likewise cold — a dish to tempt 
one's appetite after a channel crossing ! " 



EN ROUTE 22* 

After a tiresome day at Havre, the rain never for a moment 
ceasing, the men entrained for their base. And after twenty- 
one and a half hours in the train there was a march of twelve 
miles. " I shall not try to describe that march," writes 
Fr. Doyle, " but you can gather what it was, with strong 
big men falling down now and then from sheer exhaustion. 
Under other circumstances I should not have minded the 
tramp, but I was near the end of my tether and was carrying 
a great coat, pack and water-bottle." After about two 
hours' plodding, an officer seeing Fr. Doyle's exhaustion 
induced him to get on an artillery limber. It was only 
when the waggons stopped at 2 a.m., that he discovered 
he was separated from the infantry and his regiment had 
gone to its unknown destination ; he was lost. After three 
hours' sleep under a cart, he walked on for a couple of miles 
and found himself in a good-sized town. Though except 
for two sandwiches he had not tasted food for thirty-five 
hours, he deferred breakfast till he could say Mass. Then 
finding there were no passenger trains, he boarded a slowly 
moving goods train and thus, sitting on uncomfortably 
explosive shells, he was taken a good way on his journey. 
Finally a Catholic officer whom he chanced to meet, motored 
him to his destination — Amettes, the birthplace of St. 
Benedict Joseph Labre, to whom, since his college days, he 
had a special devotion. Fr. Doyle had a comfortable room 
in the little convent. As he had a bad chill as the result 
of his three nights' exposure, he was lucky to have come 
under the kindly care of the good sisters. 

On 26th February the men left their comparatively snug 
quarters and began moving in easy stages towards the 
trenches. The grim reality of war grew nearer. 

(3.) CURE OF MAZINGARBE. 

" I am suffering much in every way," wrote Fr. Doyle in 
a private letter on 5th March, 1916, " most of all, perhaps, 
from sheer fatigue. As regards food and lodging I am not 
badly off, but the discomforts of the life would be long to 
tell. However, like S. Paul I can say that I superabound 



222 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

with joy in all my tribulations ; for I know that they come 
from God's hand and that they are working out some plan 
of His in my soul. What a joy to be able to offer oneself 
entirely, even life itself, each morning at Mass, and to think 
that perhaps before evening He may have accepted the 
offering ! " " Though the life is perhaps the very last I 
would choose humanly speaking," he wrote in another letter 
{i5th March), " I am ever so happy and contented, because 
I know I am doing what God wants and there is much good 
work to be done." 

It was not long before he had an experience of real danger. 
On Sunday, 5th March, he said Mass for the 8th Fusiliers. 
After he had finished (about 9 o'clock) he mounted his bicycle 
in order to go to the 8th Inniskillings, of whom he also had 
charge, and say Mass at eleven for them. They were 
stationed four miles away near the ruined village of 
Mazingarbe. Fr. Doyle may be left to describe his adventure 
in his own words. 

" On the way I noticed that heavy firing was going on 
ahead, but it was only when I reached a bend in the road 
that I realized the enemy were actually shelling the very 
spot I had to pass. Some soldiers stopped me, saying it 
was dangerous to go on. At the moment I was wondering 
what had become of the side of a vacant house which had 
suddenly vanished in a cloud of smoke, and I was painfully 
aware of the proximity of high explosive shells. 

" Here was a fix ! I knew my regiment was waiting in 
the village for Mass, and also that half of them were going 
to the trenches that afternoon for the first time ; if I did 
not turn up they would lose Confession and Holy Com 
munion, but the only way to reach them was by the 
shell-swept road. What really decided me was the thought 
that I was carrying the Blessed Sacrament, and I felt that, 
having our Lord Himself with me, no harm could possibly 
qome to me. I mounted the bicycle and faced the music. 
I don't want you to think me very brave and courageous, 
for I confess I felt horribly afraid ; it was my baptism of 
fire, and one needs to grow accustomed to the sound of 
bursting shells. Just then I was wishing my regiment in 
Jericho and every German gun at the bottom of the Red 
Sea or any other hot place. 



&etbune o 

ks /V//^ 
Maz/ngarbe O 




O ft 



10 



O Peronne 



Map showing the approximate position of the Western Front from the 

<,.•! t,» tl,,-. <r>mmo rluf'iiirr tlio ^itf li-,H",-,f" T,M£, 



224 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

" Call it a miracle if you will, but the moment I turned 
the corner the guns ceased firing, and not a shell fell till I 
was safely in the village Church. My confidence in God's 
protection was not misplaced. Naturally I did not know 
this was going to happen, and it was anything but pleasant 
riding down the last stretch of road, listening for the scream 
of the coming shell. Have you ever had a nightmare in which 
you were pursued by ten mad bulls, while the faster you 
tried to run, the more your feet stuck in the mud ? These 
were just my feelings as I pedalled down that blessed road 
which seemed to grow longer and longer the further I went. 

"At last I turned the corner, reached the Church, and 
had just begun Mass when down came the hail of shells 
once more. One or two must have burst very close, judging 
by the way the walls shook, but I felt quite happy and quite 
ready to be blown from the altar, for I saw a fine plump 
Frenchwoman just behind me ; she might have been killed, 
but I was quite safe ! 

" I mention this little adventure as I think it will console 
you, as it has consoled me, showing that all the good prayers 
are not in vain, and that this is a happy omen of God's loving 
protection from all dangers. I have just heard that one, 
at least, of the men to whom I gave Holy Communion that 
morning was killed the same night in the trenches." 

The cure being away at the war, Fr. Doyle regarded 
himself as priest of the parish and was able to act as such 
on a few occasions. Thus one evening (gih March) he heard 
quite by chance that an old woman was very ill ; he gave 
her the last Sacraments and she died almost before he got 
home. " You see my life has many consolations," he adds ; 
" and it is just as well, for this is a sad, sad war of which 
you at home have but the faintest idea ; may the good 
God end it soon." 

This is the description which Fr. Doyle gave of some of 
his activities on Sunday, igth March. 

" I started at seven in the morning by giving Holy Com 
munion to the men whose Confessions I had heard the 
previous evening, a goodly number I am glad to say. This 
was followed by a number of Confessions in French for the 
townspeople and some French soldiers. I am quite ready 



CURE OF MAZINGARBE 225 

to face any language at the present moment. This brought 
me up to nine, when my men had Mass Parade. 

" By chance the whole Regiment were in the village which 
meant of course that the Church would not hold them, so 
I had arranged for Mass in the open. The spot I selected 
was a large courtyard in front of the school — whereby hangs 
a tale. Armed with the Mayor's permission I approached 
the schoolmaster for his sanction, and I must say found him 
most obliging and very gracious, even helping to get things 
ready. It was only afterwards that I discovered that this 
man was a red-hot anti-clerical, anti everything that was 
good in fact, quite a bad lot, so that my request was about 
the same as asking the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge 
in Belfast for permission to have Mass in his hall ! He was 
so staggered, I suppose, by my innocent request that he 
could not find words to refuse. But the good folk of the 
town are wild with delight and immensely tickled by the 
idea of Mass in the porch of his school above all people ; 
needless to say, they have rubbed it into him well. 

" I had never celebrated Mass in the open before, and I 
think the men were as much impressed as I was. It was a 
glorious morning with just a sufficient spice of danger to 
give the necessary warlike touch to the picture by the presence 
of a German aeroplane scouting near at hand. I was a 
wee bit anxious lest a bomb might come down in the middle 
of the men, but I fancy our unwelcome visitor had quite 
enough to do, dodging the shells from our guns which kept 
booming all during Mass ; besides I felt confident that for 
once our guardian angels would do their duty and protect 
us all till Mass was over. 

' When I finished breakfast, I found a big number of men 
waiting for Confession. I gave them Communion as well, 
though they were not fasting, as they were going to the 
trenches that evening and being in danger of death could 
receive the Blessed Sacrament as Viaticum. It was the last 
Communion for many poor fellows who, I trust, are praying 
for me in Heaven now. 

" Having polished off all who came to the Church, I made 
a raid on the men's billets, and spent a few hours in stables, 
barns, in fact anywhere, shriving the remainder who gladly 



226 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

availed themselves of the chance of settling up accounts 
before they started for the front. The harvest, thank God, 
was good and consoling. Just before they marched at six 
in the evening, I gave the whole regiment — the Catholics, 
at least — a General Absolution. So the men went off in the 
best of spirits, light of heart with the joy of a good conscience. 
' Good-bye, Father,' one shouted, ' we are ready to meet 
the devil himself now ' — which I trust he did. 

" I dined with the two transport officers who bring up 
the rations and ammunition to the soldiers, and then mounted 
my horse and rode up to Headquarters at the communication 
trenches. . . . My work done, I mounted again and 
made for home. It was rather weird riding past the shattered 
houses in the dark, with the ping of a stray bullet to make 
you uncomfortable, while every few minutes a brilliant 
star-shell would burst overhead and the guns spat viciously 
at each other. ... I reached my billet and tumbled 
in just as the clock struck midnight." 

This of course is the record of a specially strenuous day. 
But it gives us a good idea of the chaplain's wonderful energy 
and devotedness. He was proud of the men for whom 
he worked. " They are Ireally a fine lot of fellows," he 
wrote on 3ist March from the rest-billets, " and make a good 
impression on the people wherever they go, more especially 
here in the North of France, the mining district, where most 
of the men are too busy washing the dirt out of themselves 
on Sunday to bother about much else. Hence it is an object 
lesson to the parlez-vous to see the crowds who come to 
Mass and Communion daily and Benediction in the 
evening." 

(4.) Loos. 

At 6 p.m. the whole four regiments of the 49th Brigade 
left their quarters in Noeux-les-Mines (near Bethune) 1 and 
went forward to the firing line. Up to this time half remained 
behind and Fr. Doyle stayed with them, as practically nothing 
could be done in the trenches themselves, while at the rear 

i. — See map p. 223. 



LOOS 227 

he had his hands full, with an odd visit to his absent men 
to cheer them in their mud and slush. On this occasion 
Fr. Doyle accompanied the men. Nearly all had been to 
Holy Communion that morning or the morning before and 
they now received General Absolution. The town of Loos 
was held in a salient and as the road to it was commanded 
by the German guns, it could be entered only at night. 
" Single file, no smoking," came the order as the danger 
zone was reached. After another mile came a second order, 
" Men will advance by twos, twenty paces apart." Stray 
bullets were buzzing about, fortunately no shells. Suddenly 
down the line came the command, " Every man lie flat." 
The road was being swept by a machine gun. After the 
leaden hail had stopped, the men moved on again into the 
town — where the Staff remained — and then out to man the 
trenches. That night Fr. Doyle slept for the first time 
in a dug-out. 

Next morning, which he notes as the twenty-sixth 
anniversary of his entrance into the Society, he emerged 
to view the havoc and ruin of what was once a town. He 
discovered a tiny wayside chapel of Our Lady of Consolation 
with the altar still standing ; and here amid the inferno 
of shot and shell he celebrated Mass. 

That afternoon he had ' the most exciting experience of 
his whole life.' The doctor and himself set out to visit the 
Field Ambulance Station at the other end of the town, where 
the wounded were sent at night from the Regimental Aid 
Post. 1 Without knowing it they walked along a road by 
broad daylight in full view of the German trenches and 
escaped only by a miracle. Fr. Doyle joined some officers 
in the cellar, who were having a tea party enlivened by a 
gramaphone. " McCormack," says Fr. Doyle, " had just 
finished the last bars of 'She is far from the land/ which 
brought back old memories, when suddenly Bertha Krupp 
opened her mouth in a most unladylike way, let a screech 
which you could hear in Dublin, and spat a huge shell right 

I. — The most advanced Red Cross position, where the wounded are first 
brought in by the battalion stretcher-bearers and where they are cleared by 
R.A.M.C. men to the Advanced Dressing Station. The chaplains of Irish 
regiments, where Catholics were so numerous, usually stationed themselves in 
the Regimental Aid Post. See also p. 248. 



228 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

into our courtyard." For half an hour the shells kept raining 
all around and the inmates of the cellar expected each 
moment to be their last. "As we went home in the dusk 
of the evening," writes Fr. Doyle, " I came to the conclusion 
that there are worse places to live in than poor old Ireland 
and also that I had had quite enough thrills for one day." 

It was not to be, however, for still another adventure 
awaited him. On returning, he found that a dead man had 
been brought in for burial. ' The cemetery, part of a field, 
was outside the town in the open country, so exposed to 
shell and rifle fire that it could not be approached by day. 
As soon as it was dark we carried the poor fellow out on a 
stretcher, just as he had fallen, and as quietly as we could 
began to dig the grave. It was weird. We were standing 
in front of the German trenches on two sides, though a fair 
distance away, and every now and then a star-shell went 
up which we felt certain would reveal our presence to the 
enemy. I put my ritual in the bottom of my hat and with 
the aid of an electric torch read the burial service, while 
the men screened the light with their caps, for a single flash 
would have turned the machine guns on us. I cannot say 
if we were seen or not, but all the time bullets came whizzing 
by, though more than likely stray ones and not aimed at 
us. Once I had to get the men to lie down as things were 
rather warm ; but somehow / felt quite safe, as if the dead 
soldier's guardian angel was sheltering us from all danger, 
till the poor dust was laid to rest. It was my first war burial 
though assuredly not my last. May God rest his soul and 
comfort those left to mourn him." 1 

The burials soon became more frequent, and Fr. Doyle 
had many gruesome experiences. Thus a few days later 
two bodies fell to bits when lifted off the stretcher and he 
had to shovel the remains of one poor fellow into the grave— 
a task which taxed his endurance. On ist April he had 
a further vivid experience of the horrors of war. 

" Taking a short cut across country to our lines I found 
myself on the first battle field of Loos, the place where the 
French had made their attack. For some reason or other 

i. — As a result of this experience Fr. Doyle at once learnt the burial service 
off by heart. 



LOOS 229 

this part of the ground has not been cleared, and it remains 
more or less as it was the morning after the fight. I had 
to pick my steps, for numbers of unexploded shells, bombs 
and grenades lay all round. The ground was littered with 
broken rifles, torn uniforms, packs, etc., just as the men 
had flung them aside, charging the German trenches. Almost 
the first thing I saw was a human head torn from the trunk, 
though there was no sign of the body. The soldiers had 
been buried on the spot they fell ; that is, if you can call 
burial, hastily throwing a few shovelfuls of clay on the 
corpses : there was little time, I fancy, for digging graves, 
and in war time there is not much thought or sentiment 
for the slain. As I walked along, I wondered had they made 
certain each man was really dead. One poor fellow had 
been buried, surely, before the breath had left his body, 
for there was every sign of a last struggle and one arm was 
thrust out from its shroud of clay. A large mound caught 
my eye. Four pairs of feet were sticking out, one a German, 
judging by his boots, and three Frenchmen — friend and foe 
are sleeping their long last sleep in peace together. They 
were decently covered compared with the next I saw ; a 
handful cf earth covered the wasted body, but the legs and 
arms and head were exposed to view. He seemed quite a 
young lad, with fair, almost golden, hair. 'An unknown 
soldier ' was all the rough wooden cross over him told me 
about him ; but I thought of the sorrowing mother, far 
away, thinking of her boy who was ' missing/ and hoping 
against hope that he might one day come back. Thank 
God, Heaven one day will reunite them both. I found a 
shovel near at hand, and after a couple of hours' stiff work 
was able to cover the bodies decently, so that on earth at 
least they might rest in peace." 

These few weeks in Loos were a time of great strain ; but, 
of course, there were intermissions. After three days and 
nights in the front trench the men moved back again for 
three days to a village out of range of rifle fire, though not 
immune from occasional shells. After this triduum of com 
parative rest they moved up to the support trench, and then 
three days later back once more in Loos where sometimes 
the Fusiliers had to spend nearly a week. " It was a 



230 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

memorable six days for us all," writes Fr. Doyle, " living 
day and night literally face to face with death at every 
moment. When I left my dug-out to go up or down the 
street, which I had to do scores of times daily. I never knew 
if I should reach the end of it without being hit by a bullet 
or a piece of shell ; and in the comparative safety of the 
cellar, at meals or in bed, there was always the pleasant 
prospect of being blown to bits or buried alive if the shell 
came in a certain direction. The life was a big strain on the 
nerves, for it does make one creepy — as happened to myself 
yesterday — to hear the rattle of shell splinters on the walls 
on either side of the road, almost to feel the thud of a nice 
jagged lump right behind and to see another fragment go 
hopping off the road a few yards in front. Why, Daniel in 
the lions' den had a gay time compared to a walk through 
the main street of Loos." The secret of his confidence can 
be guessed from the description of the Cross of Loos which 
he saw on 3rd April. " I had an opportunity, a rare one, 
thanks to the fog, of examining closely in daylight one of 
the wonders of the war, the famous Crucifix or Calvary of 
Loos. This is a very large cross standing on a mound in 
a most exposed position, the centre of fierce fighting. One 
of the four trees standing by it has been torn up by a shell, 
the branches of the others smashed to bits, a tombstone 
at its feet lies broken in half and the houses on either side 
are a heap of ruins. But neither cross nor figure has been 
touched. I looked closely and could not see even one bullet 
hole. Surely if the Almighty can protect the image of His 
Son, it will be no great difficulty to guard His priest also, 
as indeed He has done in a wonderful way." 

Fr. Doyle was cure of this parish of trenches, his church 
being his dug-out situated in the support trench near the 
doctor's dressing station. 1 He also humorously included 
innumerable rats, insects and vermin among his parishioners ! 
Of his men he was really proud. " Our poor lads are just 
grand," he says. " They curse like troopers all the day, 
they give the Germans hell, purgatory and heaven all combined 

i. — The first night he arrived in the trenches he found two officers in the 
dug-out intended for him. " But," he adds characteristically, " as they WITV 
leaving next day I did not care to evict them." So he slept on a trench-board 
in "an unoccupied glorified rabbit-hole." 



LOOS 231 

at night, and next morning come kneeling in the mud for 
Mass and Holy Communion when they get a chance ; and 
they beam all over with genuine pleasure when their Padre 
comes past their dug-out or meets them in the trench." It 
may be added that he was often in the front trench to 
encourage and bless the rain-sodden, mudstained, weary 
watchers. On Easter Sunday, 23rd April, he celebrated his 
first Mass in the trenches. He had quite a congregation, 
chiefly of officers, as the men were unable to leave their 
posts. " My church was a bit of a trench," he writes, "the 
altar a pile of sandbags. Though we had to stand deep 
in mud, not knowing the moment a sudden call to arms 
would come, many a fervent prayer went up to heaven 
that morning." 

(5.) A GAS ATTACK. 

On the evening of Wednesday, 26th April, the Germans 
began a slight bombardment which was the prelude to a 
formidable attack. It was Fr. Doyle's first experience of 
a battle and proved near being his last. Having met an 
officer who, though only slightly scratched, was badly shaken 
by an exploding shell, he brought him to his dug-out, tended 
him and made him sleep in his own bunk. Later on when 
he himself tried to sleep, he found he could not do so as the 
night was cold and he had given up his own blanket. His 
subsequent adventures may be best given in the words of 
his own vivid narrative. 

"About four o'clock the thought struck me that it would 
be a good thing to walk back to the village to warm myself 
and say an early Mass for the nuns, who usually have to 
wait hours for some chaplain to turn up. 1 They have been 
very kind to me, and I was glad of this chance of doing 
this little service to them. The village is about two miles 
behind our trench, in such a position that one can leave 
cover with perfect safety and walk there across the fields. 
As I left the trench about 4.45, the sun was just rising. It 
was a perfect morning with a gentle breeze blowing. Now 

i. — A few weeks later this convent was utterly destroyed. 



232 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

and again came the crack of a rifle, but all was unusually 
calm and still : little did I think of the deadly storm about 
to burst and hurry so many brave men into eternity. I 
had just reached a point half way between our trenches 
and the village when I heard behind me the deep boom of 
a German gun quickly followed by a dozen others. In a 
moment our gunners replied and before I could well realize 
what was taking place, the air was alive with shells. At 
first I thought it was just a bit of the usual ' good morning 
greeting ' and that after ten minutes' artillery ' strafe ' all 
would be quiet once more. But I soon saw this was a serious 
business, for gun after gun, and battery after battery, was 
rapidly coming into action, until at the lowest number 500 
guns were roaring all round me. It was a magnificent if 
terrifying sight. The ground fairly shook with the roar of 
the guns, for the ' heavies ' now had taken up the challenge, 
and all round the horizon I could see the clouds of smoke 
and dust from the bursting shells as both sides kept searching 
for their opponents' hidden cannon. 

" There I stood in the very centre of the battle, the one 
man of all the thousands engaged who was absolutely safe, 
for I was away from the trenches, there were no guns or 
troops near me to draw fire, and though tens of thousands 
of shells went over my head, not even a splinter fell near 
me. I felt that the good God had quietly ' dumped ' me 
there till all danger had passed. 

"After a while seeing that this heavy shelling meant an 
attack of some kind, and that soon many a dying man would 
need my help, I turned round and made my way towards 
the ambulance station. As I approached the trenches I 
noticed the smoke from the bursting shells, which was hanging 
thickly over them and was being driven towards me across 
the fields. For once, I said to myself, I am going to smell 
the smoke of a real battle, and I stepped out quite gaily— 
the next moment I had turned and was running back for 
my life — the Germans had started a poison gas attack which 
I had mistaken for shell smoke, and I had walked straight 
into it ! 

"After about 20 yards I stopped to see what was to be 
done, for I knew it was useless to try and escape by running. 



A GAS ATTACK 233 

I saw (assuredly again providentially) that I had struck the 
extreme edge of the gas and also that the wind was blowing 
it away to my left. A hundred yards in the opposite direction, 
and I was safe. 

" I must confess for a moment I got a shock, as a gas 
attack was the very last thing I was thinking about — in 
fact we thought the Germans had given it up. Fortunately 
too I had not forgotten the old days of the chemistry room 
at Ratcliffe College nor Brother Thompson and his ' stink 
bottles/ so I knew at the first whiff it was chlorine gas and 
time for this child to make tracks. 

" But I was not yet out of the wood. Even as I was 
congratulating myself on my good fortune, I saw both right 
and left of where I stood the green wave of a second gas 
attack rolling towards me like some huge spectre stretching 
out its ghostly arms. As I saw it coming, my heart went 
out to God in one fervent act of gratitude for His goodness 
to me. As probably you know we all carry ' smoke helmets/ 
slung over our shoulders in a case, to be used against a gas 
attack. That morning as I was leaving my dugout I threw 
my helmet aside. I had a fairly long walk before me, the 
helmet is a bit heavy on a hot day, and as I said, German 
gas was most unlikely. So I made up my mind to leave it 
behind. In view of what happened, it may appear 
imagination now, but a voice seemed to whisper loudly in 
my ear : ' Take your helmet with you ; don't leave without 
it/ 1 I turned back and slung it over my shoulder. Surely 
it was the warning voice of my guardian angel, for if I had 
not done so, you would never have had this letter. 

" I wonder can you picture my feelings at this moment ? 
Here was death in its most awful form sweeping down towards 
me ; thank God I had the one thing which could save me, 
but with a carelessness for which I ought to be scourged, 
I had never tried the helmet on and did not know if it were 
in working order. In theory, with the helmet on I was 
absolutely safe, but it was an anxious moment waiting for 
the scorching test, and to make things more horrible, I was 
absolutely alone. But I had the companionship of One 

I.— On the anniversary of this escape he once more asserted: "Some 
invisible, almost physical, force turned me back to get my helmet." 



234 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S J. 

Who sustained me in the hour of trial, and kneeling down 
I took the Pyx from my pocket and received the Blessed 
Eucharist as Viaticum. I had not a moment to spare, and 
had my helmet just fixed when I was buried in a thick green 
fog of poison gas. In a few moments my confidence returned 
for the helmet worked perfectly and I found I was able to 
breathe without any ill effects from the gas. 

" By the time I got down to the dressing station the guns 
had ceased fire, the gas blown away, and the sun was shining 
in a cloudless sky. Already a stream of wounded was coming 
in and I soon had my hands full, when an urgent message 
reached me from the front trench. A poor fellow had been 
desperately wounded, a bullet had cut him like a knife across 
the stomach, with results you can best imagine. He was 
told he had only a few minutes to live, and asked if they 
could do anything for him. ' I have only one wish before 
I die/ he answered, ' could you possibly get me Fr. Doyle ? 
I'll go happy then.' It was hard work to reach him, as 
parts of the communication trench were knee deep in water 
and thick mud. Then I was misdirected and sent in the 
wrong direction, but I kept on praying I might be in time, 
and at last found the dying man still breathing and conscious. 
The look of joy, which lit up his face when I knelt beside him, 
was reward enough for the effort I had made. I gave him 
Absolution and anointed him before he died, but occupied 
as I was I did not notice that a third gas attack had begun. 
Before I could get my helmet out and on, I had swallowed 
a couple of mouthfuls, which did me no serious harm beyond 
making me feel rather sick and weak. 

"As I made my way slowly up the trench, feeling altogether 
' a poor thing,' I stumbled across a young officer who had 
been badly gassed. He had got his helmet on, but was 
coughing and choking in a terrible way. ' For God's sake,' 
he cried, ' help me to tear off this helmet — I can't breathe. 
I'm dying.' I saw if I left him the end would not be far ; 
so catching hold of him, I half carried, half dragged him up 
the trench to the medical aid post. I shall never forget 
that ten minutes, it seemed hours. I seemed to have lost 
all my strength : struggling with him to prevent him killing 
himself by tearing off his helmet made me forget almost 



A GAS ATTACK 235 

how to breathe through mine. I was almost stifled, though 
safe from gas, while the perspiration simply poured from 
my forehead. I could do nothing but pray for help and 
set my teeth, for if I once let go, he was a dead man. Thank 
God, we both at last got to the aid post, and I had the 
happiness of seeing him in the evening out of danger, though 
naturally still weak. 

" Fortunately this last attack was short and light, so that 
I was able to take off my helmet and after a cup of tea was 
all right. The best proof I can give you of this, lies in the 
fact that I have since put in three of the hardest days' work 
of my life which I could not possibly have done had I been 
really gassed, as its first effect is to leave one as helpless 
as a child." 

This last remark was made in order to relieve his father's 
anxiety. But it was, to say the least, a meagre summary 
of his heroic work and almost miraculous escape. A year 
later he lifted the veil somewhat. " I have never told you," 
he then confessed, " the whole story of that memorable 
April morning or the repetition of it the following day, or 
how when I was lying on the stretcher going to ' peg out,' as 
the doctor believed, God gave me back my strength and 
energy in a way which was nothing short of a miracle, to 
help many a poor fellow to die in peace and perhaps to open 
the gates of heaven to not a few. 

" I had come through the tferee attacks without ill results, 
though having been unexpectedly caught by the last one, 
as I was anointing a dying man and did not see the poisonous 
fumes coming, I had swallowed some of the gas before I 
could get my helmet on. It was nothing very serious, but 
left me rather weak and washy. There was little time to 
think of that, for wounded and dying were lying all along 
the trenches, and I was the only priest on that section at 
the time. 

' The fumes had quite blown away, but a good deal of 
the gas, being of a heavy nature, had sunk down to the 
bottom of the trench and gathered under the duck-boards 
or wooden flooring. It was impossible to do one's work 
with the gas helmet on, and so as I knelt down to absolve 
or anoint man after man for the greater part of that day, 



236 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

I had to inhale the chlorine fumes till I had nearly enough 
gas in my poor inside to inflate a German sausage Jballoon. 

" I did not then know that when a man is gassed his only 
chance (and a poor one at that) is to lie perfectly still to 
give the heart a chance of fighting its foe. In happy ignorance 
of my real state, I covered mile after mile of those trenches 
until at last in the evening, when the work was done, I was 
able to rejoin my battalion in a village close to the Line. 

" It ,was only then I began to realise that I felt ' rotten 
bad ' as schoolboys say. I remember the doctor, who was 
a great friend of mine, feeling my puke and shaking his 
head as he put me lying in a corner of the shattered house, 
and then he sat beside me for hours with a kindness I can 
never forget. He told me afterwards he was sure I was a 
' gone coon/ but at the moment I did not care much. Then 
I fell asleep only to be rudely awakened at four next morning 
by the crash of guns and the dreaded bugle call ' gas alarm, 
gas alarm.' The Germans had launched a second attack, 
fiercer than the first. It did not take long to make up my 
mind what to do — who would hesitate at such a moment, 
when the Reaper Death was busy ? — and before I reached 
the trenches I had anointed a number of poor fellows who 
had struggled back after being gassed and had fallen dying 
by the roadside. ' 

' The harvest that day was a big one, for there had been 
bloody fighting all along ttj£ Front. Many a man died 
happy in the thought that the priest's hand had been raised 
in absolution over his head and the Holy Oils' anointing 
had given pardon to those senses which he had used to' offend 
•the Almighty. It was a long, hard day, a day of heart 
rending sights, with the consolation of good work done in 
spite of the deadly fumes, and I reached my .billet wet and 
muddy, pretty nearly worn out, but perfectly well, with not 
the slightest ill effect from what I had gone through, nor 
have I felt any since. Surely God has been good to me. 
That was not the first of His many favours, nor has it been 
the last " 

This was written a year later. In his first letter, while 
concealing the extreme risks he had incurred, he gave his 
father a brief consoling account of his two days' work amid 
the ghastly battlefield. 



A GAS ATTACK 237 

" On paper every man with a helmet was as safe as I 
was from gas poisoning. But now it is evident many of the 
men despised the ' old German gas,' some did not bother 
putting on their helmets, others had torn theirs, and others 
like myself had thrown them aside or lost them. From 
early morning till late at night I worked my way from trench 
to trench single handed the first day, with three regiments 
to look after, and could get no help. Many men died before 
I could reach them ; others seemed just to live till I anointed 
them, and were gone before I passed back. There they 
lay, scores of them (we lost 800, nearly all from gas) in the 
bottom of the trench, in every conceivable posture of human 
agony : the clothes torn off their bodies in a vain effort to 
breathe ; while from end to end of that valley of death 
came one low unceasing moan from the lips of brave men 
fighting and struggling for life. 

" I don't think you will blame me when I tell you that 
more than once the words of Absolution stuck in my throat, 
and the tears splashed down on the patient suffering faces 
of my poor boys as I leant down to anoint them. One 
young soldier seized my two hands and covered them with 
kisses ; another looked up and said : ' Oh ! Father I can 
die happy now, sure I'm not afraid of death or anything 
else since I have seen you.' Don't you think, dear father, 
that the little sacrifice made in coming out here has already 
been more than repaid, and if you have suffered a little 
anxiety on my account, you have at least the consolation 
of knowing that I have, through God's goodness, been able 
to comfort many a poor fellow and perhaps to open the gates. 
of Heaven for them." 

After this terrible experience Fr. Doyle was glad to have 
a few days' rest at the rear. For the first time in a fortnight 
he was able to remove his clothes and he slept for thirteen 
continuous hours in a real bed. He had, as he himself said, 
' nearly reached the end of his tether ' For his conduct on 
the occasion he was mentioned in dispatches. 1 On which 
he remarks : "I hope that the angels have done their work 

I. — His Colonel recommended him for the Military Cross but was told that 
Fr. Doyle had not been long- enough at the Front. So he was presented with 
the Parchment of Merit of the 4gth Brigade. 



238 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

as well and that I shall get a little corner in their report 
to Head Quarters above." Fortunately, there is no doubt 
about the latter point ! Not angels only but human souls 
speeded heavenwards bore tribute to the self-sacrificing zeal 
of the soldier of Christ. 

During the comparative lull which succeeded this attack 
Fr. Doyle was kept busy by the men, " scraping their 
kettles/' as they expressed it. "I wish mine were half as 
clean as some of theirs," he adds. Thus on Sunday, 
I4th May, between 600 and 700 men went to Holy Com 
munion. Once more he eulogizes his little flock. " One 
cannot help feeling proud of our Irish lads," he writes. 
" Everyone loves them — the French girls, naturally that 
goes without saying ; the shopkeepers love them for their 
simplicity in paying about five times the real value of the 
goods they buy. Monsieur le Cure would hug them each 
and everyone if he could, for he has been simply raking in 
the coin these days, many a one putting three and five franc 
notes in the plate, to make up, J suppose, for the trouser 
buttons of the knowing ones ; and surely our Blessed Lord 
loves them best of all for their simple, unaffected piety 
which brings crowds of them at all hours of the day to visit 
Him in the Tabernacle. Need I add that the Padre himself 
has a warm corner in his heart for his boys, as I think they 
have for him, judging by their anxiety when the report 
spread that I had got knocked out in the gas attack. They 
are as proud as punch to have the chaplain with them in 
the trenches. It is quite amusing to hear them point out 
jmy dug-out to strangers as they go by : ' That's our priest/ 
with a special stress on the our." For which assuredly the 
Fusiliers had good reason. 

What did he himself think of it all ? The following little 
description of another Crucifix will help to show us where 
his thoughts lay. 

" I paid a visit recently to another wonder of the war, 
the Church of Vermelles. Little remains of it now, for the 
town has been held in succession by the Germans, French, 
and ourselves, and every yard of ground was lost and won 
a dozen times. The church is just a heap of ruins : the roof 
has been burnt, the tower shot away, while the statues, 



A GAS ATTACK 239 

Stations, etc., are smashed to dust, but hanging still on one 
of the broken walls is a large crucifix absolutely untouched. 
The figure is a beautiful one, a work of art, and the face 
of our Lord has an expression of sadness such as I have 
never seen before. The eyes are open, gazing as it were 
upon the scene of desolation, and though the wall upon which 
the crucifix hangs is riddled with bullet holes and shell 
splinters, the image is untouched save for one round bullet 
hole just through the heart. The whole thing may be only 
chance, but it is a striking sight, and cannot fail to impress 
one and bring home the fact that if God is scourging the 
world as it well deserves, He is not indifferent to the sorrows 
and sufferings of His children." 

A few intimate letters written at this time give us a precious 
glimpse of his inner life. We are thus enabled to see a little 
of that inward soul-world, so calm and undisturbed, so 
perfectly hidden beneath the multifarious activities and 
cheerful vigour of a military chaplain. He felt that his 
present life, so repellent to his natural self, was at once 
the fulfilment and the test of all his previous aspirations 
for the foreign mission and martyrdom. His experience 
seemed to him a purifying preparation for some great task, 
the consummation of all his striving and sacrifice. " Life 
out here," he writes, " has had one strange effect on me. 
I feel as if I had been crushed under some great weight, 
an^ that the crushing had somehow got rid of much that 
was bad in me and brought me closer to Jesus. If it should 
be God's holy will to bring me safe out of this war, life will 
be too short to thank Him for all the graces He has given 
me here. I am already dreaming dreams of the big things 
I shall try to do for Him, but I fancy He wants to crush me 
still more before I get out of this. I read a passage recently 
in the letters of Pere Liberman 1 which is consoling. He 
says that he found from long experience that God never 
filled a soul with an ardent and lasting desire for anything, 
e.g., love, holiness, etc., without in the end gratifying it. 
Has He not in the lesser things acted thus with me ? You 
know my desire for the foreign missions because I realized 
that the privation and hardships of such a life, the separation 

I.— P. Goepfert, Life of the Ven F. M. P. Liberman, Dublin, 1880. 



240 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

from all naturally dear to me, would be an immense help 
to holiness. And here I am a real missioner, if not in the 
Congo, at least with many of the wants and sufferings and 
even greater dangers than I should have found there. The 
longing for martyrdom God has gratified times without 
number, for I have had to go into what seemed certain death, 
gladly making the offering of my poor life, but He did not 
accept it, so that the ' daily martyrdom ' might be repeated. 
How I thank Him for this keenest of all sufferings, the 
prospect of death when life is bounding within one, since 
it makes me a little more like the Saviour shrinking from 
death in the Garden ! Even my anxiety to have more 
time for prayer has been gratified, because while waiting 
for one thing or another or going on my rounds, I have 
many opportunities for a little talk with Him." 

What he especially valued was the privilege of being a 
living Tabernacle, of always carrying the Blessed Sacrament 
around with him. This was to Fr. Doyle not only a constant 
source of consolation but also enabled him to overcome his 
natural loathing for the scenes of strife and slaughter around 
him, and to manifest an amazingly imperturbable courage 
which he was really far from feeling. " I have been living 
in the front trenches for the last week," he says in another 
letter, " in a sea of mud, drenched to the skin with rain 
and mercilessly peppered with all sorts and conditions of 
shells. Yet I realize that some strange purifying process 
is going on in my soul, and that this life is doing much for 
my sanctification This much I can say : I hunger and 
thirst for holiness, and for humiliations and sufferings, which 
are the short-cut to holiness ; though when these things 
do come, I often pull a long face and try to avoid them. 
Yet lately I have come to understand as never before that 
it is only ' through many tribulations ' we can hope to enter 
the Promised Land of sanctity. I think when this war is 
over (about twenty years hence), I shall become a hermit ! 
I never felt so utterly sick of the world and worldlings. All 
this bustle and movement has wearied my soul beyond 
measure. I am longing for solitude, to be alone with Jesus, 
for He seems to fill every want in my life. All the same 
as the days go by I thank our Blessed Lord more and more 



A GAS ATTACK 241 

for the grace of getting out here. Not exactly because of 
the consolation of helping so many poor fellows or because 
of the merit the hard life must bring with it, but because 
I feel this experience has influenced my whole future, which 
I cannot further explain except by saying that God has 
given me the grace of my life since I came. 

" Then in addition there is the great privilege and joy 
of carrying our dear Lord next my heart day and night. 
Long ago when reading that Pius IX carried the Pyx around 
his neck, I felt a foolish desire, as it seemed to me, for the 
same privilege. Little did I think then that the God of 
holiness would stoop so low as to make me His resting-place. 
Why this favour alone would be worth going through twenty 
wars for ! 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, and that even when I do not 
directly think of Him, He is silently working in my soul. 
Do you not think that Jesus must have done very much 
for Mary during the nine months she bore Him within her ? 
I feel that He will do much, very much, for me too whilst 
I carry Him about with me." 

Writing on yth May he lets an intimate correspondent 
see clearly the source of all his strength and courage. 
" Sometimes God seems to leave me to my weakness and 
I tremble with fear," he confesses. "At other times I have 
so much trust and confidence in His loving protection that 
I could almost sit down on a bursting shell feeling I could 
come to no harm. You would laugh, or perhaps cry, if you 
saw me at this moment sitting on a pile of bricks and rubbish. 
Shells are bursting some little distance away on three sides 
and occasionally a piece comes down with an unpleasantly 
close thud. But what does it matter ? Jesus is resting on 
my heart, and whenever I like I can fold my arms over Him 
and press Him to that heart which, as He knows, beats 
with love of Him." 1 With what wonderful literalness does 
this attitude reproduce the message of our Lord Himself : 
" I say to you, My friends, Be not afraid of them who kill 

I. — He is alluding to the Blessed Sacrament which he was carrying. It was only 
two days after his superhuman work and miraculous recovery that he wrote in his 
diary : "Jesus said to me, You must make your life a martyrdom of prayer." Cited 
above, p. 114. 

Q 



242 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

the body and after that have no more that they can 
do.<; . . . Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings 
and not one of them is forgotten before God ? Yea, the 
very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, 
therefore ; you are of more value than many sparrows." 
(5. Luke 12. 4.) To which we may surely add the next 
verse : " Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall 
the Son of man also confess before the angels of God." A 
guarantee that not one of the unrecorded deeds of Christian 
heroism ' is forgotten before God,' and that Fr. Doyle, 
flitting like an angel of mercy over the gas-stricken field 
of Loos, got what he calls his little corner in the report to 
Head Quarters above. 



(6.) ANOTHER SPELL AT THE FRONT. 

On 2nd June, Fr. Doyle secured a much needed leave 
of absence. " I do not think," he says, " I ever looked 
forward to a holiday with such keenness in my life before." 
The nerve-racking, ear-splitting, ceaseless warfare ; the 
constant stream of soldiers to be helped, shriven, anointed 
or buried ; the physical discomforts, the rats and the vermin, 
the intense cold and knee-deep slush succeeded now by the 
aching glare of the chalk trenches ; the poison-gas working 
on his body, and the nauseating scenes of bloodshed working 
on his mind ; all this, quite apart from his self-imposed 
martyrdom of prayer and penance, had told severely on 
Fr. Doyle, though outwardly he was as joyous and gay as 
ever. His all too short holiday of ten days was soon over, 
however ; and once more he was back in the trenches. 

He was hardly back when a new adventure befel him. 
" It seems right," he tells his Father, " that I should not 
keep from you this last mark of the good God's wonderful 
protection which has been so manifest during the past four 
months." 

" I was standing in a trench, quite a long distance from 
the firing line, a spot almost as safe as Dalkey itself, talking 
to some of my men, when we heard in the distance the scream 



ANOTHER SPELL AT THE FRONT 243 

of a shell. It was evidently one of those random shots, 
which Brother Fritz sends along from time to time, as no 
other came after it. We very soon became painfully aware 
that our visitor was heading for us, and that if he did not 
explode in front of our trench, his career would certainly 
come to an end close behind us. I did not feel uneasy, 
for I knew we were practically safe from flying fragments 
which would pass over our heads, but none of us had 
calculated that this gentleman had made up his mind to 
drop into the trench itself, a couple of paces from where 
I stood. 

" What really took place in the next ten seconds I cannot 
say. I was conscious of a terrific explosion and the thud 
of falling stones and debris. I thought the drums of my 
ears were split by the crash, and I believe I was knocked 
down by the concussion, but when I jumped to my feet 
I found that the two men who had been standing at my left 
hand, the side the shell fell, were stretched on the ground 
dead, though I think I had time to give them absolution 
and anoint them. The poor fellow on my right was lying 
badly wounded in the head ; but I myself, though a bit 
stunned and dazed by the suddenness of the whole thing, 
was absolutely untouched, though covered with dirt and 
blood. 

" My escape was nothing short of a miracle, for a moment 
before I was standing on the very spot the shell fell and had 
just moved away a couple of paces. I did not think it was 
possible for one to be so near a high explosive and not be 
killed, and even now I cannot account for my marvellous 
escape. In saying this I am not quite truthful, for I have 
not a doubt where the saving protection came from. I had 
made up my mind to consecrate some small hosts at my 
Mass the following morning and put them in my Pyx as 
usual, but as I walked through the little village on my way 
to the trenches, the thought came to me that with so much 
danger about, it would be well to have our Blessed Lord's 
company and protection. I went into the church, opened 
the Tabernacle, and with the Sacred Host resting on my 
heart set out confidently to face whatever lay before me; 
little did I think I was to be so near death or how much 



244 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

depended on that simple action. That is the explanation 
of the whole affair; I trusted Him and I believe He just 
allowed this to happen on the very first day I got back to 
make me trust Him all the more and have greater confidence 
in His loving protection." 1 

Even the week's rest in billets, though a change from life 
in the trenches, meant no cessation of work or risk. It was 
a busy time for the chaplain, as the men availed of the 
opportunity for Confession and Holy Communion. Even 
here, well behind the firing line, danger was not absent, 
for the German long range guns often sent unwelcome visitors. 
" One shell hit this house," he complained, " came slick 
through the brick wall into my poor bedroom of all places, 
very shabby I call it, missed my bed by just an inch, took 
a dive through the floor into the room below, and having 
amused itself with the furniture, coolly walked out through 
the opposite wall without condescending to burst, in indig 
nation, I suppose, because I was not there. No one was 
hurt and not much harm done. I have put the head of my 
bed in the hole in the wall, for it is a point of honour among 
shells not to come twice through the same spot, and in 
consequence I sleep securely." " With all these prayers 
going on," he added to reassure those at home, " a fellow 
has no chance of getting hit ; it's not fair, I think ! " 

At any rate, it was not Fr. Doyle's fault that he was not 
hit, for when there was question of ministering to his men, 
he was absolutely heedless of danger. Further proof of this 
is unnecessary, but one or two more instances occurring 
at this time (July, 1916) may be recorded. He wanted to 
go quickly to a certain village which his men were holding. 
The journey by ' the underground/ otherwise ' trench street,' 
would take a couple of hours, whereas a quarter of an hour's 
cycle ride over the high road would bring him to the village. 

I. — In the first edition I quoted this extract from Fr. Doyle's letter of 28th June : 
''All last week there was fearful slaughter in our trenches. In fact I am quite worn 
out with carrying off the dead and burying them. To save time and trouble I made 
a big grave behind my dug-out and just pitched in the dead bodies ; one gets very 
callous, I fear, during war." I am afraid I took too literally this elaborate joke so 
typical of Fr. Doyle. The next sentence, overlooked by me, gives the key. " I was 
much helped in this by a lady whom you know well, as it was her tins of deadly 
explosives which laid the enemy low ; I have only to say Heating's once to make 
the foe flee." 



ANOTHER SPELL AT THE FRONT 245 

The road, however, was in full view of the German trenches 
which were quite near, and no one ever ventured along it 
in daylight. Fr. Doyle was the exception. He cycled the 
whole way without one bullet being fired. Moreover he had 
to slacken speed several times in order to avoid the shell 
holes with which the road was pitted, and he had to dismount 
once to pick up his bicycle pump which had been jerked 
off. " Judging by some remarks which have reached me 
since," he concludes, " people cannot make up their minds 
whether I am a hero or a fool — I vote for the second. But 
then they cannot understand what the salvation of even 
one soul means to a priest. So I just laugh and go my way, 
happy in the thought that I was in time." This diversity 
of judgement is just as applicable to Fr. Doyle's life as a 
whole. Was he a hero or a fool ? That is because we forget 
the possibility of his being both. 1 

" My second adventure, if I may so style it, (says Fr. Doyle) 
was of a different kind. Preparations had been made for 
the blowing up of a gigantic mine sunk under the German 
trenches, while at the same time our men were to make a 
raid or night attack on the enemy. The hour fixed was 
eleven o'clock, so shortly after ten I made my way up to the 
firing line, where the attacking party were waiting. They 
were grouped in two bodies, one on either side of the mine, 
waiting for the explosion to rush over the parapet and seize 
the newly formed mine-crater. 

"As I came along the trench I could hear the men whisper, 
' Here's the priest/ while the faces which a moment before 
had been marked with the awful strain of the waiting lit 
up with pleasure. As I gave the absolution and the blessing 
of God on their work, I could not help thinking how many 
a poor fellow would soon be stretched lifeless a few paces 
from where he stood ; and though I ought to be hardened 
by this time, I found it difficult to choke down the sadness 
which filled my heart. ' God bless you, Father, we're ready 
now,' was reward enough for facing the danger, since every 
man realized that each moment was full of dreadful 
possibilities. 

i.— "We are fools for Christ's sake," says S. Paul (I. Cor. 4. 10), "but you are 
wise in Christ." Surely there is room for both types of goodness. 



246 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

" It was well known that the Germans were counter 
mining, and if they got wind of our intention would certainly 
try and explode their mine before ours. It was uncanny 
walking along, knowing that at any moment you might 
find yourself sailing skywards, wafted by the gentle breath 
of four or five tons of explosive. Fortunately nothing 
happened, but the moments were running out, so I hurried 
down the communication trench to the dressing station in 
a dug-out about a hundred yards away, where I intended 
waiting for the wounded to be brought in. 

" On the stroke of eleven I climbed up the parapet out 
of the trench, and as I did there was a mighty roar in the 
bowels of the earth, the ground trembled and rocked and 
quivered, and then a huge column of clay and stones was 
shot hundreds of feet in the air. As the earth opened dense 
clouds of smoke and flames burst out, an awful and never 
to be forgotten sight. God help the poor fellows, even 
though they be our enemies, who were caught in that inferno 
and buried alive or blown to bits. 

" For a second there was a lull, and then it seemed as 
if hell were let loose. Our artillery in the rear were standing 
ready, waiting for the signal ; the moment the roar of the 
explosion was heard every gun opened fire with a deafening 
crash. Already our men were over the parapet with a yell 
which must have terrified the enemy, up the side of the 
crater, and were digging themselves in for their lives. Under 
cover of our guns the raiding party had raced for the enemy's 
trench, fought their way in and out again, as our object 
was not to gain ground." 

At this stage, the German guns having come into action, 
Fr. Doyle retired to the dug-out and was soon busy with the 
wounded and dying. One of these was a slightly wounded 
German prisoner ; he was only a young lad and his teeth 
chattered with fear. With great difficulty Fr. Doyle, who 
knew no German, calmed the poor fellow who turned out 
to be a Bavarian Catholic. It was by no means the only 
occasion on which this true minister of Christ practised 
that brotherhood and love of which war seems to be the 
cruel negation. More than once too he preached (in rather 
strong terms) to his men on their obligation to respect the 
lives of prisoners. 



ANOTHER SPELL AT THE FRONT 247 

Still another adventure. "August I5th has always been 
a day of many graces for me," writes Fr. Doyle. "It is 
the anniversary of my consecration to Mary and of my 
vows in the Society ; it was very nearly making me surpass 
our Lady herself by sending me higher up than she ever 
got in her life." The men were out of the trenches, staying 
in the village of Mazingarbe. On the afternoon of I5th 
August, 1916, most of the men were engaged in athletic 
sports in a field outside when the Germans began shelling 
the town. Needless to say, Fr. Doyle at once started for 
the scene of danger. 

" Knowing there were a good number of my boys about 
(he writes) I hurried back as quickly as I could, and made 
my way up the long, narrow street. The shells were all 
coming in one direction, across the road, not down it, so 
that by keeping close to the houses on the shady side there 
was little danger, though occasional thrills of excitement 
enough to satisfy Don Quixote himself. I reached the village 
cross-roads in time to lift up the poor sentry who had been 
badly hit, and with the help of a couple of men carried him 
to the side of the road. He was unconscious, but I gave him 
absolution and was half way through the anointing when 
with a scream and a roar which made our hearts jump a shell 
whizzed over our heads and crashed into the wall directly 
opposite on the other side of the street, covering us with 
brick dust and dirt. Bits of shrapnel came thud, thud, on 
the ground and wall around us, but neither I nor the men 
were touched. 

' Begorra, Father, that was a near one, anyhow/ said 
one of them, as he brushed the dust off his tunic, and started 
to fill his pipe. ' It was well we had your Reverence with 
us when Jerry (a nickname for German) sent that one across/ 
' You must not thank me, boys/ I said, ' don't you know 
it is our Lady's feast, and Mary had her mantle spread over 
us to save us from all harm ? ' ' True for you, Father', 
came the answer. But I could see by their faces that they 
were by no means convinced that I had not worked the 
miracle. 

" Though it was the I5th of August I was taking no risks, 
especially with this reputation to maintain ! So, the poor 



248 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

boy being dead, I bundled the rest of them down a cellar 
out of harm's way, and started off again. Heavy as the 
shelling was, little damage was done thanks to the fact 
that the sports had emptied the town. One man was beyond 
my aid, a few slightly wounded, and that was all. As I 
came round the corner of the Church I met four of my boys 
calmly strolling along in the middle of the street as if they 
were walking on Kingstown pier. I won't record what I 
said, but my words helped by the opportune arrival of an 
unpleasantly near H.E. (high explosive) had the desired 
effect, and we all took cover in the church. It was only 
then I realised my mistake, for it soon became evident the 
Germans were firing at the church itself. One after another 
the shells came in rapid succession, first on one side then 
on the other, dropping in front and behind the building, 
which was a target with its tall, white tower. It was mad 
ness to go out, and I do not think the men, some score of 
them, knew of their danger, nor did I tell them, but ' man 
of little faith,' as I was, I cast anxious eyes at the roof and 
wished it were stronger. All's well that ends well, they 
say. Not a shot hit the church, though the houses and road 
got it hot. Our fiery ordeal ended at last, safely and happily 
for all of us. And August I5th, 1916, went down on my 
list as another day of special grace and favour at Mary's 
hands." 

Quite apart from these special escapes, Fr. Doyle's ordinary 
days were filled with thrilling dangers and exhausting toil. 
" I often congratulate myself," he says, " on my good fortune 
in being appointed to the Irish Brigade, more especially 
as the last vacancy fell to me. The vast majority of the 
chaplains at the Front seldom see anything more dangerous 
than the shell of an egg of doubtful age. They are doing 
splendid work along the lines of communication, in the 
hospitals, or at the base. Even those who are attached 
to non-Catholic Divisions have little time to get to the 
trenches, their men are so scattered ; but we with the Irish 
Regiments live in the thick of it. We share the hardships 
and dangers with our men, and if we have less polish on our 
boots and belts than other spruce padres, let us hope we 
have something more to our bank account in a better 
world." 



ANOTHER SPELL AT THE FRONT 249 

Almost before daybreak Fr. Doyle was up and had the 
happiness of offering the Holy Sacrifice. In August, 1916, 
he was able to fit up a room in a deserted house and here 
from time to time he was able to celebrate Mass for the 
men, " a privilege which the poor fellows appreciate." In 
one corner were the cellar steps down which, when occasion 
required, priest and congregation vanished with marvellous 
celerity. Once a shell came through the wall and fell on 
the floor without bursting, covering the little altar with 
bricks and plaster. But when in the trenches he celebrated 
in his dug-out. The morning was spent in visits to five 
dressing stations in various parts of the trenches, saying 
some of his Office, Confessions or chats with the men. " Quite 
often," he says, " an officer will drop in for a friendly con 
troversial talk, resulting, thank God, in much good. There 
is no doubt that the faith and sincere piety of our men have 
made an immense impression on non-Catholics, and have 
made them anxious to know more about the true Church." 
" In the afternoon," he continues, " I make a tour of the 
front line trenches. To be candid, it is part of my work 
which I do not like. We chaplains are not bound to go 
into the firing line ; in fact are not supposed to do so, but 
the officers welcome us warmly, as a chat and a cheery word 
bucks the men up so much. It is not that the danger is 
very great ; in fact, I think it is much less than in other 
parts of the trenches, because the track being built in a 
zigzag, you are perfectly safe in a ' bay ' owing to the walls 
of clay on either side, unless a shell falls on the very spot 
where you are standing. But it is the uncanny feeling, 
which comes over one, knowing that the enemy in some 
parts are only thirty yards away, which makes the trip 
unpleasant. I have often come to a ' bay ' blown in shortly 
before by a shell from a mortar, a little gentleman weighing 
200 Ibs. ; you can see him coming in the air, and when you 
do, well you slip into the next ' bay ' and try to feel as small 
as you can. I have had to crawl past a gap in the trench, 
but I can honestly say I have never had anything approaching 
a near shave. The Lord does not forget His goats when 
He is minding His sheep ! " 

Night did not mean rest for Fr. Doyle, for it was then 



250 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

that he usually conducted burials. Moreover as most of 
the ordinary fighting was done at night it was then that he 
was most liable to ' sick calls/ He might perhaps have 
just turned in at 2 a.m., when word would come that one 
of his men in a distant part of the trench had his leg shot 
off. His ' home ' itself was a hole dug in the side of the 
trench, his ' bed ' was a couple of planks raised off the 
ground. " We have rats and fleas by the million," he writes, 
" innumerable flies which eat the jam off your bread before 
you can get it into your mouth, smells wondrous and varied, 
not to speak of other unmentionable things." 

Amid all these hardships he was consoled by the thought 
of how much his presence and ministrations meant to the 
poor fellows around him. " Though the life at times is 
rough and hard enough (at least the floor feels so at night) 
there are many consolations for a priest, not the least of 
which is the number of converts, both officers and men 
coming into the Church. Many of them have never been 
in contact with Catholics before, knew nothing about the 
grandeur and beauty of our religion, and above all have 
been immensely impressed by what the Catholic priests, 
^alone of all the chaplains at the Front, are able to do for 
their men, both living and dying. It is an admitted fact, 
that the Irish Catholic soldier is the bravest and best man 
in a fight, but few know that he draws that courage from 
the strong Faith with which he is filled and the help which 
comes from the exercise of his religion." 

He was naturally solicitous for his men, especially as the 
months dragged on with no intermission save a few brief 
days spent in reserve amid the ruins of a shattered village 
behind the lines. It was customary for a division which 
had been in the line for three months to get back to the 
base for a month's rest. The other divisions round the 
Sixteenth went back and returned, but the Irishmen were 
now six months without relief. " I suppose," writes 
Fr. Doyle, "it is a compliment to the fighting qualities of 
the 1 6th Division, for we are holding the most critical sector 
of the line ; but it is a compliment all of us would willingly 
forego." "As a matter of fact," he adds, " the very night 
we handed over a certain portion of the Front to another 



ANOTHER SPELL AT THE FRONT 251 

regiment, the Germans — how did they know of the 
change ? — came over and captured the trenches. So we 
had to go back again." Still the unfortunate Irishmen 
could not be kept in the trenches for ever. And on 25th 
August came the welcome order to move to the rear. Sudden 
and secret as the order was, the Germans knew all about 
it and put up a board with the message, " Good-bye, i6th 
Division, we shall give it hot to the English when they come." 
The Irish did their work well in Loos ; in the six months 
they did not lose a trench or a yard of ground ; and out 
of the Division of 20,000 over 15,000 men (including, of 
course, many sick and slightly wounded) had passed through 
the doctor's hands. 

Back through Amiens to the rear away from the sounds 
and sights of war. These long marches, made more trying 
by official incompetence, were very exhausting As usual 
Fr. Doyle was where his Master would have been, following 
the Ignatian ideal of mecum laborare in the Kingdom of 
Christ. " The officers, from captain up," he writes, " have 
horses ; but I prefer to shoulder my pack and foot it with 
my boys, for I know they like it, and besides I don't see 
why I should not share a little of their hardship." 
Incidentally we learn that he had been carrying a young 
lad's equipment in addition to his own, all day too without 
dinner or supper. It is clear that trie saints are incorrigibly 
' imprudent.' 

(7.) THE SOMME. 

The men of the i6th Division were under the impression 
that, after having done so much more than their share, 
they were making their way steadily towards the place 
appointed for their well deserved rest. But as a matter 
of fact many of these brave fellows were never to enjoy 
that promised time of quiet on this earth, for their road 
was leading them to the battle field of the Somme. By 
way of rest they were to be asked to achieve what English 
regiments had failed to do. They did it ; Guillemont and 
Ginchy were taken ; and many an Irish hearth is the poorer 
and lonelier " But 'twas a famous victory." 



252 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

The opening sentences of Fr. Doyle's next letter to his 
father (nth September, 1916) sufficiently indicate the terrible 
nature of the ordeal which we are about to recount. 

" I have been through the most terrible experience of my 
whole life, in comparison with which all that I have witnessed 
or suffered since my arrival in France seems of little con 
sequence ; a time of such awful horror that I believe if the 
good God had not helped me powerfully by His grace I 
could never have endured it. To sum up all in one word, 
for the past week I have been living literally in hell, amid 
sights and scenes and dangers enough to test the courage 
of the bravest ; but through it all my confidence and trust 
in our Blessed Lord's protection never wavered, for I felt 
that somehow, even if it needed a miracle, He would bring 
me safe through the furnace of tribulation. I was hit three 
times, on the last occasion by a piece of shell big enough to 
have taken off half my leg, but wonderful to relate I did 
not receive a wound or scratch — there is some advantage, 
you see, in having a good thick skin ! As you can imagine, 
I am pretty well worn out and exhausted, rather shaken 
by the terrific strain of those days and nights without any 
real sleep or repose, with nerves tingling, ever on the jump, 
like the rest of us ; but it is all over now ; we are well behind 
the firing line on our way at last for a good long rest, which 
report says will be enjoyed close to the sea." 

His previous letter had been written from Bray, 1 near 
Albert, on the river Somme, where there was a huge con 
centration of French and British forces. Each morning 
Fr. Doyle said Mass in the open and gave Holy Communion 
to hundreds of the men. " I wish you could have seen 
them," he writes, " kneeling there before the whole camp, 
recollected and prayerful — a grand profession surely of the 
faith that is in them. More than one non-Catholic was 
touched by it ; and it made many a one, I am sure, turn to 
God in the hour of need." On the evening of Sunday, 
3rd September, just as they were sitting down to dinner, 
spread on a pile of empty shell boxes, urgent orders reached 
the 1 6th Division to march in ten minutes. ' There was 
only time," says Fr. Doyle, " to grab a slice of bread and hack 

I. — See map p. 223. 



THE SOMME 255 

off a piece of meat before rushing to get one's kit." " As 
luck would have it," he adds, " I had had nothing to eat 
since the morning and was famished, but there was nothing 
for it but to tighten one's belt and look happy." There 
are occasions when even the world can appreciate Jesuit 
obedience ! After a couple of hours' tramp a halt was 
called and an order came to stock all impedimenta — kits, 
packs, blankets, etc., — by the side of the road. Fr. Doyle, 
it is almost needless to say, held on to his Mass things, though 
to his great sorrow for five days he was unable to offer the 
Holy Sacrifice — " the biggest privation of the whole 
campaign." 

The night was spent without covering or blankets, sitting 
on the ground. Next morning there was a short march 
over the brow of a hill and down into a valley still nearer 
to the front line. It was a great change from the trench 
life of the past six months, since at Loos for days one never 
saw a soul overground and all guns were carefully hidden 
But here there were scores and hundreds of cannon of all 
shapes and sizes, standing out boldly in the fields and 
" roaring as if they had swallowed a dish of uncooked shells." 
Amid this infernal din and never-ending roar and crash of 
bursting shells, men and horses moved about as if there 
were no war. In this valley of death Fr. Doyle's men had 
their first casualties and he himself had a very narrow escape 
which is best described in his own words. 

" I was standing about 100 yards away watching a party 
of my men crossing the valley, when I saw the earth under 
their feet open and the twenty men disappear in a cloud 
of smoke, while a column of stones and clay was shot a couple 
of hundred feet into the air. A big German shell by the 
merest chance had landed in the middle of the party. I 
rushed down the slope, getting a most unmerciful ' whack ' 
between the shoulders, probably from a falling stone, as it 
did not wound me, but it was no time to think of one's safety. 
I gave them all a General Absolution, scraped the clay from 
the faces of a couple of buried men who were not wounded, 
and then anointed as many of the poor lads as I could reach. 
Two of them had no faces to anoint and others were ten 
feet under the clay, but a few were living still. By this 



254 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

time half a dozen volunteers had run up and were digging 
the buried men out. War may be horrible, but it certainly 
brings out the best side of a man's character ; over and 
over again I have seen men risking their lives to help or 
save a comrade, and these brave fellows knew the risk they 
were taking, for when a German shell falls in a certain place, 
you clear as quickly as you can since several more are pretty 
certain to land close. It was a case of duty for me, but 
real courage for them. We dug like demons for our lads' 
lives and our own, to tell the truth, for every few minutes 
another ' iron pill ' from a Krupp gun would come tearing 
down the valley, making our very hearts leap into our mouths. 
More than once we were well sprinkled with clay and stones, 
but the cup of cold water promise was well kept, and not 
one of the party received a scratch. We got three buried 
men out alive, not much the worse for their trying experience, 
but so thoroughly had the shell done its work that there 
was not a single wounded man in the rest of the party ; all 
had gone to a better land. As I walked back I nearly shared 
the fate of my boys, but somehow escaped again, and pulled 
out two more lads who were only buried up to the waist 
and uninjured. Meanwhile the regiment had been ordered 
back to a safer position on the hill, and we were able to 
breathe once more." 

The men's resting place that night consisted of some open 
shell holes. " To make matters worse," writes Fr. Doyle 
" we were posted fifteen yards in front of two batteries of 
field guns, while on our right a little further off were half 
a dozen huge sixty-pounders ; not once during the whole 
night did these guns cease firing." This proximity not only 
contributed an ear-splitting din but added considerably to 
the men's risk owing to the occasional premature bursting 
of the shells. In spite of these discomforts and the torrential 
downpour of rain, the men slept out of sheer weariness. 
" I could not help thinking," says Fr. Doyle, " of Him who 
often had not where to lay His head, and it helped me to 
resemble Him a little." 

At last came the expected order to advance at once and 
hold the front line, the part assigned being Leuze Wood, 
the scene of much desperate fighting. Fr. Doyle may be 
left to describe the journey and the scene. 



THE SOMME 255 

" The first part of our journey lay through a narrow trench, 
the floor of which consisted of deep thick mud, and the bodies 
of dead men trodden under foot. It was horrible beyond 
description, but there was no help for it, and on the half- 
rotten corpses of our own brave men we marched in silence, 
everyone busy with his own thoughts. I shall spare you 
gruesome details, but you can picture one's sensations as 
one felt the ground yield under one's foot, and one sank 
down through the body of some poor fellow. 

" Half an hour of this brought us out on the open into 
the middle of the battlefield of some days previous. The 
wounded, at least I hope so, had all been removed, but the 
dead lay there stiff and stark, with open staring eyes, just 
as they had fallen. Good God, such a sight ! I had tried 
to prepare myself for this, but all I had read or pictured 
gave me little idea of the reality. Some lay as if they were 
sleeping quietly, others had died in agony, or had had the 
life crushed out of them by mortal fear, while the whole 
ground, every foot of it, was littered with heads or limbaj 
or pieces of torn human bodies. In the bottom of one hole 
lay a British and a German soldier, locked in a deadly 
embrace, neither had any weapon, but they had fought on 
to the bitter end. Another couple seemed to have realised 
that the horrible struggle was none of their making, and 
that they were both children of the same God ; they had 
died hand-in-hand praying for and forgiving one another. 
A third face caught my eye, a tall, strikingly handsome 
young German, not more, I should say, than eighteen. He 
lay there calm and peaceful, with a smile of happiness on 
his face, as if he had had a glimpse of Heaven before he died. 
Ah, if only his poor mother could have seen her boy it would 
have soothed the pain of her broken heart. 

" We pushed on rapidly through that charnel house, for 
the stench was fearful, till we stumbled across a sunken 
road. Here the retreating Germans had evidently made a 
last desperate stand, but had been caught by our artillery 
fire. The dead lay in piles, the blue grey uniforms broken 
by many a khaki-clad body. I saw the ruins of what was 
evidently the dressing station, judging by the number of 
bandaged men about ; but a shell had found them out even 
here and swept them all into the net of death. 



256 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

"A halt for a few minutes gave me the opportunity I was 
waiting for. I hurried along from group to group, and as 
I did the men fell on their knees to receive absolution. A 
few words to give them courage, for no man knew if he would 
return alive. A ' God bless and protect you, boys,' and I 
passed on to the next company. As I did, a soldier stepped 
out of the ranks, caught me by the hand, and said : ' I am 
not a Catholic, sir, but I want to thank you for that beautiful 
prayer.' The regiments moved on to the wood, while the 
doctor and I took up our positions in the dressing station 
to wait for the wounded. This was a dug-out on the hill 
facing Leuze Wood, and had been in German occupation 
the previous afternoon. 

" To give you an idea of my position. From where I 
stood the ground sloped down steeply into a narrow valley, 
while on the opposite hill lay the wood, half of which the 
Fusiliers were holding, the Germans occupying the rest ; 
the distance across being so short I could easily follow the 
movements of our men without a glass. 

" Fighting was going on all round, so that I was kept 
busy, but all the time my thoughts and my heart were with 
my poor boys in the wood opposite. They had reached it 
safely, but the Germans somehow had worked round the 
sides and temporarily cut them off. No food or water 
could be sent up, while ten slightly wounded men who tried 
to come back were shot down, one after another. To make 
matters worse, our own artillery began to shell them, inflicting 
heavy losses, and though repeated messages were sent back, 
continued doing so for a long time. It appears the guns 
had fired so much that they were becoming worn out, making 
the shells fall 300 yards short 

" Under these circumstances it would be madness to try 
and reach the wood, but my heart bled for the wounded 
and dying lying there alone. When dusk came I made up 
my mind to try and creep through the valley, more especially 
as the fire had slackened very much, but once again the 
Providence of God watched over me. As I was setting out 
I met a sergeant who argued the point with me. ' You 
can do little good, Father/ he said, ' down there in the wood, 
and will only run a great risk. Wait till night comes and 



THE SOMME 257 

then we shall be able to bring all the wounded up here. Don't 
forget that, though we have plenty of officers and to spare, 
we have only one priest to look after us.' The poor fellow 
was so much in earnest I decided to wait a little at least. 
It was well I did so, for shortly afterwards the Germans 
opened a terrific bombardment and launched a counter 
attack on the wood. Some of the Cornwalls, who were 
holding a corner of the wood, broke and ran, jumping right 
on top of the Fusiliers. Brave Paddy from the Green Isle 
stood his ground .... and drove the Germans back with 
cold steel. 

" Meanwhile we on the opposite hill were having a most 
unpleasant time. A wounded man had reported that the 
enemy had captured the wood. Communication was broken 
and Headquarters had no information of what was going 
on. At that moment an orderly dashed in with the startling 
news that the Germans were in the valley, and actually 
climbing our hill. Jerusalem ! We non-combatants might 
easily escape to the rear, but who would protect the 
wounded ? They could not be abandoned. If it were day 
light the Red Cross would give us protection, but in the 
darkness of the night the enemy would not think twice 
about flinging a dozen bombs down the steps of the dug-out. 
I looked round at the bloodstained walls and shivered. A 
nice coward, am I not ? Thank God, the situation was not 
quite so bad as reported ; our men got the upper hand, 
and drove back the attack, but that half-hour of suspense 
will live long in my memory." 

Unfortunately, Fr. Doyle gives no further details of his 
experiences except a brief account of Saturday, Qth 
September. In a subsequent letter (nth October) he des 
cribed a Mass for the Dead which he celebrated at the Somme, 
apparently on this Saturday morning. " By cutting a piece 
out of the side of the trench," he says, " I was just able to 
stand in front of my tiny altar, a biscuit box supported on 
two German bayonets. God's angels, no doubt, were 
hovering overhead, but so were the shells, hundreds of them, 
and I was a little afraid that when the earth shook with the 
crash of the guns, the chalice might be overturned. Round 
about me on every side was the biggest congregation I ever 



258 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

had : behind the altar, on either side, and in front, row 
after row, sometimes crowding one upon the other, but all 
quiet and silent, as if they were straining their ears to catch 
every syllable of that tremendous act of Sacrifice — but every 
man was dead ! Some had lain there for a week and were 
foul and horrible to look at, with faces black and green. 
Others had only just fallen, and seemed rather sleeping 
than dead, but there they lay, for none had time to bury 
them, brave fellows, every one, friend and foe alike, while 
I held in my unworthy hands the God of Battles, their Creator 
and their Judge, and prayed Him to give rest to their souls. 
Surely that Mass for the Dead, in the midst of, and surrounded 
by the dead, was an experience not easily to be forgotten." 

It was arranged that on the gth September the i6th 
Division should storm Ginchy, a strong village against which 
previous English attacks had failed. The 8th Fusiliers, 
having lost so many officers, were held in reserve. From 
seven in the morning till five in the evening the guns played 
on Ginchy. " Shortly before five," writes Fr. Doyle, " I 
went up to the hill in front of the town, and was just in time 
to see our men leap from their trenches and dart up the 
slope, only to be met by a storm of bullets from concealed 
machine guns. It was my first real view of a battle at close 
quarters, an experience not easily forgotten. Almost simul 
taneously all our guns, big and little, opened a terrific barrage 
behind the village, to prevent the enemy bringing up rein 
forcements, and in half a minute the scene was hidden by 
the smoke of thousands of bursting shells, British and 
German. The wild rush of our Irish lads swept the Germans 
away like chaff. The first line went clean through the village 
and out the other side, and were it not for the officers, acting 
under orders, would certainly be in Berlin by this time ! 
Meanwhile the supports had cleared the cellars and dug 
outs of their defenders ; the town was ours and all was 
well. At the same time a feeling of uneasiness was about. 
Rumour said some other part of the line had failed to advance, 
the Germans were breaking through, etc. One thing was 
certain, the guns had not ceased. Something was not 
going well." 

About nine o'clock the Fusiliers were getting ready to be 



THE SOMME 259 

relieved by another regiment. But one further experience 
was to be theirs. There came an urgent order to hurry 
up to the Front. "To my dying day," says Fr. Doyle, 
" I shall never forget that half -hour, as we pushed across 
the open, our only light the flash of bursting shells, tripping 
over barbed wire, stumbling and walking on the dead, 
expecting every moment to be blown into Eternity. We 
were halted in a trench at the rear of the village, and there 
till four in the morning we lay on the ground listening to the 
roar of the guns and the scream of the shells flying overhead, 
not knowing if the next moment might not be our last. 
Fortunately, we were not called upon to attack, and our 
casualties were very slight. But probably because the 
terrible strain of the past week was beginning to tell, or the 
Lord wished to give me a little merit by suffering more, 
the agony and fear and suspense of those six hours seemed 
to surpass the whole of the seven days. 

" We were relieved on Sunday morning, loth, at four 
o'clock, and crawled back (I can use no other word) to the 
camp in the rear. My feet, perhaps, are the most painful 
of all, as we were not allowed to remove our boots even at 
night. But otherwise I am really well, thank God, and a 
few days' good rest will make me better than ever. At 
present we march one day and rest the next, but I do not 
know where." 

On 23rd September Fr. Doyle writes to say that, by rail 
and motor lorries and especially by " shank's mare," they 
had travelled into Normandy — but not for their month's 
rest so long overdue. Within a week they were over the 
frontier again into Belgium, thankful at least to have a 
quieter section of the line than that at Loos, a place where 
in fact there seemed to be a sort of mutual understanding 
to keep quiet. Here Fr. Doyle went through the ordinary 
chaplain's work until early in November when he was able 
to come home on a week's leave of absence. 



260 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 



(8.) CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT. 

All through this terrible time Fr. Doyle's inner life was 
the same continuous persevering effort at self -conquest, 
immolation and union. Some of his thoughts and resolutions 
he, luckily for us, scribbled down in his little notebook. On 
loth August he records that he is constantly irritated by the 
ceaseless annoyances and inconveniences of his life. So he 
resolved — thus carrying out the advice he had often given 
to others — : " (i) to take every single detail of my life as 
done by Him ; (2) lovingly to accept it all in the spirit of 
immolation that my will and wishes may be annihilated ; 
(3) never to complain or grumble even to myself ; (4) to 
try and let everyone do with me as he pleases, looking on 
myself as a slave to be trampled on." " If I kept these 
rules," he added, " I should never be annoyed or upset 
about anything and should never lose my peace of soul." 
Less than a week after his fearful experience at the Somme— 
surely sufficient to justify a long respite from strain and 
suffering — we find this entry (i5th September) : "Again I 
felt most strongly urged to make the 50,000 aspirations 
the penance of my life, and to force myself, no matter at 
what cost, to get through them daily." A month later he 
made another effort to add to the inevitable hardships of 
his life by renewing his resolution to bear ' little sufferings ' 
without relief. And on his return from his short much- 
needed visit home, he reproached himself thus : ' While 
away on leave I deliberately resisted the urging of the Holy 
Spirit to do many hard things, e.g. to rise early and get all 
the Masses I could, make the Holy Hour, etc. I did none 
of these things and in consequence was very unhappy. I 
never have peace unless I am going against myself. I notice 
a continual interior urging to resume the marking of ' hard 
things,' because when I give up doing so the acts almost 
cease." On I3th December he reverts to this thought in 
the following record : " Since I became chaplain I have 
grown very lazy and unmortified, the cause of much 
unhappiness and remorse to me. My excuse is that my 




Fr. William Doyle, S.J., as Military Chaplain. 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 261 

present life is so hard and repugnant that I need these little 
indulgences. Then I think of Blessed Charles- Spinola, for 
example, amid the horrors of his prison, practising great 
austerities, fasting, etc., which make me ashamed of my 
cowardice. The Holy Spirit is constantly urging me not 
to let this precious time slip by, when even a small sacrifice 
is worth many a big one at other times. I see the only 
chance is to mark down the special acts I do, for though 
I hate doing so, I know it is an immense help, and otherwise 
nothing is done. I have begun the ' Book of Little Sacrifices ' 
again to-day." 

Another entry, made ten days later, may be quoted to 
show how difficult he really found that affability and calm 
ness which others remarked in him : 'I was very much 
annoyed because someone burnt the floor of my dug-out 
and also on finding my candles had been taken. On arriving 
at Locre I found a second bed in my room and heard that 
X was coming. This upset and worried me terribly till I 
realized that all these things were God's doing and that 
He wished to annihilate my will, so that I should never feel 
even the smallest interior disturbance no matter what might 
happen. I have secretly given permission to everyone to 
treat me as he wishes and to trample on me ; why then 
should I not try and live up to this life ? " 

Some quotations from letters written at this time to a 
few intimate friends and relatives will help to give us a 
further glimpse of that inner life which was naturally not 
revealed in the letters which he wrote home and destined 
for private circulation among a circle of acquaintances. 

" I am getting to feel that God does not want the sacrifice 
of my life, and that I shall return safely to do His work. 
Some time ago I was feeling very depressed because that 

I. — A few months previously he had come across an account of Luisa de Carvajal 
who, as Fr. Uoyle remarked in a letter, 'made herself the slave of her two maids.' 
(Cf. the C.T.S. pamphlet, A Spanish Heroine in England.) So he wrote in a letter 
dated 26th October : "I am slowly learning the lesson Jesus brought me out here to 
teach me. The first and greatest is that I must have no will of my own, only Ilis, 
and this in all things. It is hard to let everyone walk on you, even your own servant ; 
but Jesus asks this and I try to let Him arrange all as He pleases. Result : yesterday 
I got no dinner, though I foresaw this would be the consequence of this planning." 
"My genius of an orderly," he wrote on 22nd December, "fried meat and pudding 
together and, with a smile of triumph on his face, brought both on the same plate to 
my dug-out. He is a good poor chap, but I would not recommend him as a cook." 



262 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

sacrifice was greater than even you know, when my eyes 
fell on these words : ' The essence of the act of sacrifice 
did not consist in the slaying of the victim but in its offering.' 
That seemed to make me realize that God was satisfied 
with my willingness to die and that He had granted me my 
heart's desire to be a martyr, because the mere act of dying 
would add little to the crown of suffering I have gone 
through. At the same time I feel, oh ! with what joy since 
it is for Him, that I have still very much to face and that 
I shall have the happiness of being wounded and shedding 
my blood for Jesus. I try to crush down the longing and 
to wish only what He wishes. One word more about self. 
You have guessed my little secret concerning decorations. 
I have asked God that I may not receive any. For my 
dear Father's sake and the pleasure it would give my loved 
ones at home it would be great happiness to hear I had been 
honoured. But I have made the sacrifice of this to God, 
and so though my name has again gone to Head Quarters, 
nothing has come of it." 

As a matter of fact, however, early in January Fr. Doyle 
was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery at the Somme. 
For various reasons he disliked this distinction but was 
glad inasmuch as it gave pleasure to his Father, to whom 
he thus wrote on 4th January : "I am sorry these rewards 
are given to chaplains, for surely he would be a poor specimen 
of the Lord's Anointed who would do ^his work for such a 
thing. But seeing that they are going I must say I am really 
glad because I know it will give pleasure to an ' old soldier ' 
at home, who ought long ago to have had all the medals 
and distinctions ever conferred." 1 

Fr. Doyle's interests and happiness lay elsewhere. ' They 
have given me the M.C.," he said, " but His crosses are 
far more welcome." " I wonder," he wrote on yth November, 
" I wonder is there a happier man in France than I am. 
Just now Jesus is giving me great joy in tribulation, though 
conditions of living are about as uncomfortable as even 
S. Teresa could wish — perpetual rain, oceans of mud, damp, 
cold and a plague of rats. Yet I feel that all this is a 
preparation for the future and that God is labouring in my 

I. — The M.C. was subsequently to Fr. Doyle's death presented to his Father. 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 263 

soul for ends I do not clearly see as yet. Sometimes I kneel 
down with outstretched arms and pray God, if it is a part 
of His divine plan, to rain down fresh privations and 
sufferings." " But," he adds with a characteristic touch of 
whimsical humour, " I stopped when the mud wall of my 
little hut fell in upon me — that was too much of a 
good joke ! " 

The idea that his hard experience was preparatory to some 
great consummation reappears in the following interesting 
letter which he addressed to his sister on igth December, 
" I want to have a little chat with you," he begins " But 
you must promise to keep to yourself what I write to you. 
Did I ever tell you that my present life was just the one 
I dreaded most, being from a natural point of vie,w repugnant 
to me in every way ? So when our Blessed Lord sent me 
to the Front I felt ' angry ' with Him for taking me away 
from a sphere of work where the possibilities, at least, of 
doing good were so enormous, and giving me a task others 
could perform much better. It was only after a time that 
I began to understand that ' God's ways are not our ways, 
nor His thoughts our thoughts/ and the meaning of it all 
began to dawn on me. In the first place my life, especially 
here in the trenches, has become a real hermit's one, cave 
and all, a mixture of solitude with a touch of the hardships 
of a foreign mission. The result has been that God has 
come into my life in a way He never did before. He has 
put strange thoughts into my head and given me many 
lights which I feel have changed my whole outlook upon 
life. Then I feel, oh, so strongly, that I am going through 
a kind of noviceship, a sort of spiritual training, for some 
big work He wants me to do in the future. I feel every day 
as if spiritual strength and power were growing in my soul. 
This thought of being trained or fitted for God's work (if 
I may use the comparison with all reverence) like St. John 
the Baptist, has filled me with extraordinary joy and made 
me delight in a life which could not well be much harder. 

" Here I am in a bit of a hole in the side of a ditch, so low 
that I cannot stand upright and have to bend my head 
and shoulders during Mass — I can tell you my back aches 
at the end. My only window is the door (without a door) 



264 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

through which the wind blows day and night ; and a cold 
wind it is just now. I was offered a little stove but my 
* Novice Master ' did not want that luxury, for it never came. 
My home would be fairly dry if I could keep out the damp 
mists and persuade the drops of water not to trickle from 
the roof. As a rule I sleep well, though one is often roused 
to attend some poor fellow who has been hit. Still it is 
rather reversing the order of things to be glad to get up 
in the morning to try and get warm ; and it is certainly 
not pleasant to be wakened from sweet dreams by a huge 
rat burrowing under your pillow or scampering over your 
face ! This has actually happened to me. There is no 
great luxury in the matter of food, as you may well guess. 
Recently, owing to someone's carelessness, or possibly because 
the bag was made to pay toll on the way up to the trenches, 
my day's rations consisted of half a pot of jam and a 
piece of cheese ! 

" Through all this, and much in addition, the one thought 
ever in my mind is the goodness and love of God in choosing 
me to lead this life, and thus preparing me without a chance 
of refusal for the work He wants doing. No amount of 
reading or meditating could have proved to me so con 
vincingly that a life of privation, suffering and sacrifice, 
accepted lovingly for the love of Jesus, is a life of great joy, 
and surely of great graces You see, therefore, that I have 
reasons in abundance for being happy, and I am truly so. 
Hence you ought to be glad that I have been counted worthy 
to suffer something for our dear Lord, the better to be 
prepared to do His work. Ask Him, won't you, that I 
may not lose this golden opportunity, but may profit to the 
full by the graces He is giving me. Every loving wish from 
my heart for a holy and happy Xmas. Let our gift to the 
divine Babe be the absolute sacrifice of even our desires, 
so that His Will alone may be done." 

One final quotation will be given from an intimate 
Christmas letter, so that while we are following Fr. Doyle's 
outward career, so heroic and, at a safe distance, so 
picturesque, we may not misread the real man within, so 
hidden and unsuspected and, to most men, so unintelligible. 

" I certainly did not think this time twelve months (he 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 265 

writes) that my next Christmas greetings to you would be 
from a military camp. I cannot help wondering where my 
good wishes will reach you from when another year has 
passed. God has given me one grace at least since I came 
here. I feel absolutely in His Hands and joyous in the 
thought that no matter what may happen it will be all for 
His greater glory. Though Christmas Day was miserably 
wet, the Divine Babe filled my heart with joy at the thought 
that my life now was a little bit at least more like to His. 
I am learning here better every day that there is no life 
of happiness like one full of ' hard things ' borne for love 
of God, For some time past I have felt, I know not why, 
an intense longing for holiness at any price. I wonder 
what the price is ? Do you ever ask God to make me a 
saint ? No use asking for miracles, I suppose ! Well, I 
shall take my revenge by begging holiness for you. 

" In some ways I have found life out here much easier 
than I expected and in other respects a good deal more 
trying. Still if I get only a little bit of holiness out of it 
all, will it not be well worth it all ? Jesus knows I have 
only one wish in this world — to love Him and Him alone — 
for the rest He has carte blanche to do as He pleases in my 
regard. I just leave myself in His loving Hands and so 
have no anxiety or care, but great peace of soul. I am off 
now for a fortnight's spell in the trenches, and if it is not 
to be Saint Teresa's mori it will at least be pati." 

This is not an inappropriate place for inserting an excerpt 
from a similar letter though it was written some months 
later (March, 1917) : " Two great lights or graces seem to 
have come to me as a result of my present life. The first 
is that God's will is everything to me now. . . . True, 
nature rebels at times, for He has filled me with such a longing 
to labour for Him, to live and suffer for His dear sake, that 
the thought of death is very bitter. I can only call it a 
living martyrdom. But I conquer the feeling by saying 
this little prayer : ' Take, O Lord, and receive my liberty, 
my health and strength, my limbs, my flesh, my blood, my 
very life. Do with me just as You wish; I embrace all 
lovingly — suffering, wounds, death — if only it will glorify 
You one tiny bit.' That always brings back peace, even 



266 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

when a bullet grazing my head drives home the reality of 
the offering. The second grace is the realisation of the 
immense power of prayer — I had almost said it is everything. 
This urging to a constant life of prayer has been going on 
for years, but I had a kind of scruple about ' wasting time ' 
in this way. God has set these doubts at rest. ... I 
have a little system of my own for counting my prayers ; 
to represent it by figures, the 10,000 before the war has 
grown to 100,000 daily now, with the result that He has 
entered into my life as He had never done before." 

These citations will suffice to demonstrate the perfect 
continuity of Fr. Doyle's inner life and to preclude the 
possibility of imagining any discrepancy between the later 
and the earlier stages of his ministry, however different 
be the setting. 

We must now indicate some of the events and conditions 
which intervened before his next home-coming (igth 
February, 1917). Early in December, 1916, Fr. Doyle was 
changed from the Irish Fusiliers to the 8th Dublins ; 
accordingly he was henceforth attached to the 48th Brigade 
which was also part of the i6th Division. He was naturally 
sorry to part with his men, some of whom cried when told 
that he was leaving. But he was once more among Irishmen 
and quite close to his old Battalion in the line. Fr. Doyle 
was not far from the convent of Locre where he had a com 
fortable week's billet when his six days' spell in 'the trenches 
was done. His dug-out merits a passing notice. Fr. Doyle 
gives a humorous description : " Picture a good respectable 
deep Irish ditch with plenty of water and mud in the 
bottom ; scrape a fair-sized hole in the bank, cover the top 
with some sheets of iron, pile sandbags on top ; and you 
have my dwelling. The door serves also as window and lets 
in not only light and air, but stray cats, rats galore and many 
creepy crawly beasties, not to mention rain, snow, and at 
times a breeze which must have been hatched at the North 
Pole." It was in this dug-out that Fr. F. M. Browne, S.J., 
met Fr. Doyle on the evening of 23rd December, 1916, when 
he came up with the 2nd and gth Dublins who were relieving 
the 8th Dublins and R. I. Rifles " During our whole time 
there," writes Fr. Browne, " we relieved each other in this 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 267 

way every eight days I remember how decent Fr. Willie 
used to be, coming up early on the relief days, before his 
Battalion came up, in order that I might get away. He 
knew how I hated it — and I did not hate it half as much 
as he did. We used generally to confess each other before 
leaving. We were very exact about waiting for each other, 
so that I do not think the (48th) Brigade was ever without 
a priest in the line." A curious thing about this chaplains' 
dug-out was that it was No. 13 on the side of the hill where 
Strong Point 13 was situated. 1 Moreover the two chaplains 
always violated the three candle superstition. Yet, in spite 
of the fact that it was one of the least protected — there 
were no sandbags on portion of the roof and only two rows 
on the sides — it was the only dug-out, existing in Dec. 1916, 
which was still untouched when the position was evacuated 
on 7th June, 1917. The men used to say, " Little Fr. Doyle's 
dug-out can't be hit ! " Whenever there was heavy firing, 
cooks and other non-combatants used to crowd into it. 
Once when Fr. Doyle hurriedly returned to get something 
he had forgotten, he found twelve men squeezed into the 
little dug-out which was hardly big enough to contain four ! 

Though this interval at the Front was comparatively quiet, 
it was not altogether devoid of incidents. For example, 
one day in December Fr. Doyle had just finished breakfast — 
principally smoky tea tasting of petrol — when he heard a 
shell come singing overhead with that peculiar note which 
to the experienced betokens proximity. He ran to the 
door — the running consisted of one step — and saw the 
explosion about two hundred yards away at the foot of the 
hill. Two more shells came, each fifty yards shorter in range 
than its predecessor, the direct line of fire passing through 
the dug-out, into which Fr. Doyle retired and anxiously 
awaited the unwelcome visitor. Fortunately the dug-out 
escaped with a shower of stones and clay on the roof. " It 
is a curious thing," he observes, " that I have never had a 
moment's hesitation nor ever felt fear in going into the 
greatest danger when duty called and some poor chap needed 

I. — On the reverse slope of the ridge running along the valley between Wytschaete 
and Kemmel Hill. See map p. 223 

2. — The men used to say " Little Fr. Doyle," the adjective denoting endearment 
rather than stature — Fr. Doyle was 5ft. loins, high. 



258 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

help. But to sit in cold blood, so to speak, and to wait 
to be blown to pieces or buried by a crump is an experience 
which tests one's nerves to the limit. Thank God, I have 
been able to conceal my feelings and so to help others to 
despise the danger, when I was just longing to take to my 
heels. An officer said to me at the Somme, ' I have often 
envied you your coolness and cheerfulness in hot corners.' 
I rather surprised him by saying that my real feeling was 
abject fear and I often shook like a leaf." That same after 
noon another big shell came plump down close to where 
he was sitting at hi' lunch. " Three of my lads," he recounts, 
" came tearing in to my dug-out ; they had nearly been 
sent to glory and felt they were safe with the priest. The 
poor priest cracks a joke or two, makes them forget their 
terror, and goes on with his lunch while every morsel sticks 
in his throat from fear and dread of the next shell. A 
moment passes, one, two, here it comes ; dead silence and 
anxious faces for a second, and then we all laugh, for it is 
one of our own shells going over. Five minutes more and 
we know all danger has passed. It has been a memorable 
day for me, though only one of many such in the past." 

The approach of Christmas meant the arrival of many 
presents to Fr. Doyle, which, needless to say, soon found 
their way to the Dublins. " L. and W.'s gift of ' smokes,' ' 
he writes, " was a God-send. The parcel arrived in the 
midst of pelting rain which had been going on all day. I 
put on my big boots and coat, and trotted — or I should 
rather say, waded — up to the front line and gave each man 
a handful. You would not believe how it bucked them up 
or how welcome that smoke was to the brave fellows, as 
they stood there in mud and water, soaked through and 
through, hungry and sleepless. ' Sure, Father, it's little 
enough to bear for our sins/ is the way the rough lads look 
at their hardships. Almighty God would be a queer Goc 
if He did not forgive and forget whatever they may have 
done, with such a spirit as this." 

Christmas itself Fr. Doyle had the good luck of spendim 
in billets. He got permission from General Hickie to have 
Midnight Mass for his men in the Convent. The chape 
was a fine large one, as in pre-war times over three hundrec 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 269 

boarders and orphans were resident in the Convent ; and 
by opening folding-doors the refectory was added to the 
chapel and thus doubled the available room. An hour 
before Mass every inch of space was filled, even inside the 
altar rails and in the corridor, while numbers had to remain 
in the open. Word had in fact gone round about the Mass, 
and men from other battalions came to hear it, some having 
walked several miles from another village. Before the Mass 
there was strenuous Confession-work. ' We were kept hard 
at work hearing confessions all the evening till nine o'clock/* 
writes Fr. Doyle, " the sort of Confessions you would like, 
the real serious business, no nonsense and no trimmings. 
As I was leaving the village church, a big soldier stopped 
me to know, like our Gardiner Street friend, ' if the Fathers 
would be sittin' any more that night/ He was soon polished 
off, poor chap, and then insisted on escorting me home. 
He was one of my old boys, and having had a couple of 
glasses of beer — ' It wouldn't scratch the back of your throat, 
Father, that French stuff ' — was in the mood to be com 
plimentary. ' We miss you sorely, Father, in the battalion/ 
he said, ' we do be always talking about you/ Then in a 
tone of great confidence : ' Look, Father, there isn't a man 
who wouldn't give the whole of the world, if he had it, for 
your little toe ! That's the truth.' The poor fellow meant 
well, but ' the stuff that would not scratch his throat ' 
certainly helped his imagination and. eloquence. I reached 
the Convent a bit tired, intending to have a rest before 
Mass, but found a string of the boys awaiting my arrival, 
determined that they at least would not be left out in the 
cold. I was kept hard at it hearing Confessions till the stroke 
of twelve and seldom had a more fruitful or consoling couple 
of hours' work, the love of the little Babe of Bethlehem 
softening hearts which ' all the terrors of war had failed 
to touch." 

The Mass itself was a great success and brought consolation 
and spiritual peace to many a war- weary exile. This is 
what Fr. Doyle says : 

" I sang the Mass, the girls' choir doing the needful. One 
of the Tommies, from Dolphin's Barn, sang the Adeste 
beautifully with just a touch of the sweet Dublin accent 



270 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

to remind us of ' home, sweet home,' the whole congregation 
joining in the chorus. It was a curious contrast : the chapel 
packed with men and officers, almost strangely quiet and 
reverent (the nuns were particularly struck by this), praying 
.and singing most devoutly, while the big tears ran down 
many a rough cheek : outside the cannon boomed and the 
machine-guns spat out a hail of lead : peace and good will — 
hatred and bloodshed ! 

" It was a Mid.night Mass none of us will ever forget. A 
good 500 men came to Holy Communion, so that I was 
more than rewarded for my work." 

On Christmas Day itself all was quiet up at the front line. 
The Germans hung white flags all along their barbed wire 
and did not fire a shot all day, neither did the English. For 
at least one day homage was paid to the Prince of Peace. 
Slaughter began next day with renewed energy. Two little 
incidents which Fr. Doyle chronicles as having occurred on 
26th December may be here given in his own words. 

" On St. Stephen's Day the men were engaged in a football 
match, when the Germans saw them, sent over a lovely 
shot at long range, which carried away the goal post — the 
umpire gave a ' foul ' — and bursting in the middle of the 
men, killed three and wounded seven. The wounded were 
bandaged up and hurried off to hospital, the dead carried 
away for burial ; and then the ball was kicked off once more, 
and the game went on as if nothing had happened. The 
Germans must have admired the cool pluck of the players, 
for they did not fire any more. This is just one little incident 
of the war, showing how little is thought of human life out 
here ; it sounds callous but there is no room for sentiment 
in warfare, and I suppose it is better so " 

The other incident is of more personal interest. 

" I was riding on my bicycle past a waggon when the 
machine slipped, throwing me between the front and back 
wheels of the limber. Fortunately the horses were going 
very slowly and I was able, how I cannot tell, to roll out 
before the wheel went over my legs. I have no luck, you 
see, else I should be home now with a couple of broken legs, 
not to speak of a crushed head. The only commiseration 
I received was the remark of some passing officers that ' the 
Christmas champagne must have been very strong/ ' 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 271 

From a few more of his letters despatched at this time 
we can fill in some details and conditions of his life during 
the first two months of 1917. The cold was intense. 
Fr. Doyle's references thereto are suggestive and eloquent : 
" Jan. 27th. Cold ! 

Jan. 28th. Colder ! ! 

Jan. 29th. More colder ! ! ! 

Jan. soth. !!!!!!" 

Once he apologises for not writing by saying that he could 
not hold a pencil in his fingers. " Before I have finished 
dressing in the mornings, not a very long process/' he says, 
" the water in which I had washed is frozen again. 1 One 
has to be very careful, too, of one's feet, keeping them well 
rubbed with whale oil, otherwise you would soon find yourself 
unable to walk, with half a dozen frozen toes. A dug-out 
is not the warmest of spots just at present ; but even if 
I felt inclined to growl, I should be ashamed to do so, seeing 
what the poor men are suffering in the trenches." One 
would fancy that living mostly in an open hole in the side 
of a ditch while the thermometer registered several degrees 
below zero, would cool even a saint's ardour for suffering. 
But here is the inexorable entry in his diary (ist Feb.) : 
" Constant urging of Jesus to do ' hard things ' for Him, 
things which cost. I shrink from sacrifice, but I know well 
He wants it and I can never be happy or at peace otherwise. 
I find I am falling off in the 100,000 aspirations. Have 
bound myself for a week by vow to make the full number." 

Before starting a spell in the trenches Fr. Doyle used to 
endeavour to get as many men as possible to Confession 
on the previous evening and then to Mass and Holy Com 
munion in the morning. As one battalion was some miles 
from the other, this meant an early start and ride or walk, 
through rain, slush and snow or, later, over hard-frozen 
ground " I have celebrated Mass in some strange places 
and under extraordinary conditions," he writes from the 

I. — As a matter of fact the temperature was for over a fortnight many degrees 
below zero. During this time it took five or six hours of hard labour to dig a grave. 
"I think the limit was reached,'' writes Fr. Doyle, "when the wine froze in the 
chalice at Mass, and a lamp had to be procured to melt it before going on with 
the Consecration. I am thinking it will take fifty lamps to thaw out the poor 
chaplain ! " 



272 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

trenches on 28th December, " but somehow I was more than 
usually impressed this morning The men had gathered in 
what was once a small convent. For with all their faults, 
their devil-may-care recklessness, they love the Mass and 
regret when they cannot come. It was a poor miserable 
place, cold and wet, the only light being two small candles. 
Yet they knelt there and prayed as only our own Irish poor 
can pray, with a fervour and faith which would touch the 
heart of any unbeliever. They are as shy as children, and 
men of few words ; but I know they are grateful when one 
tries to be kind to them and warmly appreciate all that 
is done for their soul's interest." While in the trenches 
Fr. Doyle was not allowed to have Mass for his men, owing 
to the danger of having many gathered together near the 
firing line. So each morning he went back to where the 
reserve company was stationed, about twenty minutes' 
walk ; which gave those who were free a chance of coming 
often to Holy Communion. On February 2nd, however, he 
was able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the trenches, his chapel 
being a dug-out capable of holding ten or a dozen " But 
as my congregation numbered forty-six," he says, " the 
vacant space was small. How they all managed to squeeze 
in I cannot say. There was no question of kneeling down ; 
the men simply stood silently and reverently round the little 
improvised altar of ammunition boxes, ' glad,' as one of them 
quaintly expressed it, ' to have a say in it.' Surely our 
Lord must have been glad also, for every one of the forty-six 
received Holy Communion, and went back to his post happy 
at heart and strengthened to face the hardships of these 
days and nights of cold." What a difference the Real 
Presence made in the ministrations and influence of a 
Catholic chaplain ! 

These Irish lads had a simple strong faith and reverence 
for the priest. That same afternoon (2nd Feb.) as Fr. Doyle 
was coming back from his round of the front line trench, 
he found it necessary to get under cover as shelling began. 
So he crawled into a hole in which six men were already 
crouching. No one could have been more welcome. " Come 
in, Father," cried one, " we're safe now, anyhow." On 
another similar occasion the remark was made, " Isn't the 



CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT 273 

priest of God with us, what more do you want ? " The 
poor fellows fancied that Fr. Doyle was invulnerable ; no 
wonder when they saw him sauntering cooly around amid 
shells and splinters. He was always near to cheer them up 
when depressed and nervous and to minister to them when 
wounded. If a raid was to be made into the enemy trenches, 
he was sure to come round the line in the early hours of the 
morning to relieve the men's tense strain by a cheery word 
and to give each man Absolution before ' going over the 
top/ Often he had but one hour's sleep. Often too as 
he was fast asleep, tucked up in his blankets, dreaming 
pleasantly of something ' hot ' — the favourite dream on 
these cold nights — would come the call, say, " Two men 
badly wounded in the firing line, Sir." In a few seconds 
he had pulled on his big boots and jumped into his water 
proof and was darting down the trench, floundering along 
the dark ditch with an occasional star shell to intensify the 
gloom, perhaps being misdirected along these tortuous 
passages, more than once having to run the gauntlet of a 
machine gun. And all the while there was before the 
chaplain's mind the picture of " the wounded soldier, with 
his torn and bleeding body, lying out there in this awful 
biting cold, praying for the help that seems so slow in 
coming." Here is a description of one such ' sick-call ' in 
the early hours of I3th January, 1917. 

" I found the dying lad — he was not much more — so tightly 
jammed into a corner of the trench that it was almost 
impossible to get him out. Both legs were smashed, one 
in two or three places, so his chances of life were small, and 
there were other injuries as well. What a harrowing picture 
that scene would have made. A splendid young soldier, 
married only a month they told me, lying there pale and 
motionless in the mud and water, with the life crushed out 
of him by a cruel shell. The stretcher bearers hard at work 
binding up, as well as they may, his broken limbs ; round 
about a group of silent Tommies looking on and wondering 
when will their turn come. Peace for a moment seems to 
have taken possession of the battle field, not a sound save 
the deep boom of some far-off gun and the stifled moans 
of the dying boy, while as if anxious to hide the scene, nature 
drops her soft mantle of snow on the living and dead alike. 



274 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

" Then, while every head is bared, come the solemn words 
of absolution, ' Ego te absolve, I absolve thee from thy sins. 
Depart Christian soul, and may the Lord Jesus Christ receive 
thee with a smiling and benign countenance. Amen.' Oh ! 
surely the gentle Saviour did receive with open arms the 
brave lad, who had laid down his life for Him, and as I turned 
away I felt happy in the thought that his soul was already 
safe in that land where ' God will wipe away all sorrow from 
our eyes, for weeping and mourning shall be no more.' ' 

This was the message which the Catholic priest brought 
with him into this arena of brutal strife and cruel bloodshed, 
the vision of a world of peace. " God shall wipe away all 
tears from their eyes ; and death shall be no more, nor 
mourning nor crying nor sorrow shall be any more, for the 
former things are passed away. And He that sat on the 
throne said, Behold I make all things new." (Apoc. 21. 4.) 
A new heaven and a new earth, let us hope, after the slaughter 
of so many guiltless and brave men and the agony of countless 
widows and orphans. " The cry of them hath entered into 
the ears of the Lord of sabaoth." (Jas 5. 4.) 



EASTER IN THE PAS DE CALAIS 275 

CHAPTER X. 
MILITARY CHAPLAIN 



(i.) EASTER IN THE PAS DE CALAIS. 

FR. Doyle was only a week back in the trenches 
after his short trip home, when the 48th Brigade 
received welcome orders to move to the rear for a 
rest. The rest, however, seems to have consisted chiefly 
of extra drill, apparently in preparation for the coming 
offensive. " We left Belgium," he writes, " on the Saturday 
before Palm Sunday (i.e. 3ist March) — a glorious morning, 
dry under foot, with brilliant sunshine. The Brigade of 
four regiments made a gallant show, each headed by its 
band of pipers, and followed by the transport, etc. We 
were the first to move off, and so came in for an extra share 
of greetings from the villagers who turned out to see us 
pass, as fine a lot of sturdy lads as you could wish to gaze 
on, not to mention the gallant chaplain. 

" Our march for the first day was not a very long one, 
something aoout 20 miles, but as every pace took us further 
and further from the trenches, the march was a labour of 
love. At mid-day a halt was called for dinner, which had 
been cooking slowly in the travelling kitchens which accom 
panied us, and in a few minutes every man was sitting by 
the road-side negotiating a big supply of hot meat and 
potatoes with a substantial chunk of bread. We, poor 
officers, were left to hunt for ourselves, a hunt which did 
not promise well at first, as the people in the estaminefs 
were anything but friendly and said they had nothing to 
give us to eat. The reason, I discovered later, was that 
some British officers had gone away without paying their 
bill, a not uncommon thing I am sorry to say Eventually, 
with the help of a little palaver and my bad French, our 
party secured some excellent bread and butter, coffee, and 
a basket of fresh eggs On again after an hour's rest. 



276 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

" Marching with a heavy rifle and full kit is no joke, hence 
our pace is slow. I often wonder how the poor men stick 
it, and stick it they do, most of them at least, till I have 
seen them drop senseless by the road from sheer exhaustion. 
As a rule they are left there to follow the column as best 
they can, for if they knew that falling out meant a lift, not 
many of the regiment would reach their destination on 
foot. To make matters worse we had to tramp along over 
the rough paved roads, which must be an invention of the 
Old Boy to torture people. At first the road feels like this 

mmmmm then after ten miles AAAAAAA till at last you 
are positive that they have paved the way with spikes instead 
of stones, something in this fashion AAAAAAAAA • My 
poor feet ! 

"At last the town we were bound for came in sight, and 
hopes of a good rest were high, when word came along that 
we were not to stay in that haven of peace and plenty but 
trudge on another three miles. The camel is supposed to 
be a patient animal, but Tommy can give him points anj^ 
day. Our lodging was a mutilated country farmhouse, 
dirty and uncomfortable, the less said about it the better, 
but everyone was too tired to care much even though we 
officers, snoring on the floor, felt inclined to envy the sardines 
in their comfortable box. 

" It was impossible to have Mass for the men in the 
morning, even though it was Palm Sunday, as there was 
much work to be done and we had to be off early I got 
away to the little village and offered up the Holy Sacrifice 
for them, emptied a coffee pot, and fell into my place as the 
regiment marched off. That was a hard day We were all 
stiff and sore for want of previous exercise, and in addition 
were well scourged by sleet, and rain, and snow, though at 
times the sun did its best to brighten things up a bit. Our 
luck turned when we reached our night's halting place, a 
good-sized town with comfortable billets. A big party of 
my men were quartered in the public ball-room, which 
contained an automatic organ. The last I saw of them 
was a score of ' couples ' waltzing round quite gaily, without 
a sign of having the best part of a forty mile march to 
their credit. 



EASTER IN THE PAS DE CALAIS 277 

" Monday saw us early afoot. Nothing of great interest, 
except that the country was becoming more hilly, and 
prettier, the stones harder, our feet and shoulders sorer, 
quite a longing for the repose of the trenches was 
springing up in many a heart. That evening ended our 
tramp, and here we have been ever since, and are to remain 
for some time longer, much to our joy. Probably we shall 
return to the same place we came from, but no one really 
knows our future movements." 

" Here " was a little village in the Pas de Calais called 
Nordausques, on the right (east) of the main Saint-Omer- 
Calais road, about sixteen kilometres from each of these 
places. During this fortnight away from the sound of the 
guns, Fr. Doyle had a very busy time. So indeed had the 
men. ' The morning," he says, " is given up to various 
exercises, one of which is the storming of a dummy German 
trench to the accompaniment of fearful, blood-curdling yells, 
enough to terrify the bravest enemy. The afternoon is spent 
at football and athletic sports, so that the men are having 
a good, if a strenuous, time. So is the poor Padre. My two 
regiments are quartered in two villages some miles apart. 
The four companies of each regiment in different hamlets, 
and to make things more inconvenient still, the two platoons 
of each company, thirty-two in all, are distributed in as 
many farmhouses. You can imagine I have no easy task 
to get round to see all my men, which I am anxious to do, 
so as to make sure that every man, if possible, gets to his 
Easter Duty. I have Mass every morning for them with 
many Communions daily, seventy to-day in one church ; 
and then in the evening, having finished Devotions in one 
village and heard the men's Confessions, I ride over to the 
other for Rosary and Benediction, with more Confessions. 
In addition to this, there are many stray units scattered 
about in various places, machine-gunners, trench mortar 
battery men, etc., who, with the instruction of converts, 
prevent me from feeling time hanging on my hands " 

This brief sojourn in the Pas de Calais enabled Fr. Doyle to 
celebrate Holy Week and Easter fittingly and thus to bring 
into these poor fellows' rest-interval emotions higher than 
those involved in rehearsals for future bloodshed. " On Spy 



278 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Wednesday evening," he recounts, " after Benediction, I 
told the men I wanted nine volunteers to watch an hour 
during the following night before the Altar of Repose. I had 
barely finished speaking when the whole church made a 
rush up to the altar rails, and were keenly disappointed 
when I told them I could only take the first nine, though 
I could have had thirty an hour if I wanted them. I was 
touched by the poor fellows' generosity, for they had just 
finished a long, hard day's work with more before them. 
I got the nine men to bring their blankets into the little 
sacristy, and while one watched, the others slept. Surely 
our Lord must have been pleased with His Guard of Honour, 
and will bless them as only He can." 

" Easter Sunday," he continues, " was quite a red letter 
day in the annals of the town. The regiment turned out 
in full strength, headed by the pipers, and crowded the 
sanctuary, every inch of the church, and out beyond. I had 
eight stalwart sergeants standing guard with fixed bayonets 
round the altar. At the Consecration and also at the Com 
munion of the Mass the buglers sounded the Royal Salute 
which is only given to Monarchs. The guard at the word 
of command presented arms, and in our poor humble way 
we tried to do honour to the Almighty King of Kings on the 
day of His glorious triumph. I must not forget to add 
that the lassies and maidens did us the honour of coming 
to sing during Mass, casting many an envious glance (so 
rumour says) down on the handsome Irish lads praying so 
devoutly below." 

No wonder that Fr. Doyle wrote a little later : ' The 
faith and fervour of our Irish lads have made a great 
impression everywhere. I was once quite delighted to hear 
the cure* rubbing it into his congregation, drawing a contrast 
between them and the Irish soldiers much to the disadvantage 
of the former." On Easter Sunday the good cure received 
a very tangible proof of Irish faith, for his collection bag 
contained a very unprecedented number of silver coins and 
five franc notes. When referring to his host in Nordausques, 
Fr. Doyle was led to make some general observations which 
may be worth recording : 

' The village was blest by the presence of a holy, zealous 



EASTER IN THE PAS DE CALAIS 279 

cure, who seemed more anxious even than I, that the men 
should profit spiritually by their stay in his parish, and not 
only gave me every facility for my work, but himself helped 
as far as he could. I am convinced the French clergy will 
benefit very much by this war. All over the country, as 
you know, there are a multitude of tiny parishes, numbering 
often less than 200 souls including children. Even if all 
therein were practical Catholics, that would never give work 
for a priest with two wooden legs, the result being that a 
man with little to do often does less than he has to do, for 
abundance of work creates a spirit of zeal. Now that the 
ranks of the clergy have been sorely decimated, some three 
thousand French priests have been killed already, the sur 
vivors will have to multiply their efforts, and take charge 
of perhaps two or three parishes, much to their own personal 
advantage, I think." 

The quiet if strenuous interlude amid the hills and pine- 
woods of the Pas de Calais came to an end all too soon. Low 
Sunday saw the men once more on their trenchward march, 
to the tune of cold pelting rain. That night a halt was made 
close to Saint-Omer, which gave Fr. Doyle an opportunity 
of visiting the twelfth century Cathedral and the old Jesuit 
College from which Stonyhurst was founded. The final 
stage of the journey was very trying, the men " had to face 
the cobble stones at six in the morning with a hurricane 
of rain and sleet which slashed like a whip." and arrived 
near Locre after tramping for over eight hours without 
a morsel of food. Once more life in and out of the 
trenches began. 



(2.) MAY DEVOTIONS. 

During the first fortnight of May the whole 48th Brigade — 
consisting of 2nd, 8th, and gth R. Dublin Fusiliers and 
6~7th R. Irish Rifles — was out of the trenches. The and 
and 8th Dublins were in Locre and the gth were at Clare 
Camp less than two miles west of Locre ; the Rifles were 
at Kemmel, three miles east of Locre. 1 The two chaplains, 

i. — See map p. 223. 



a8o FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Fr. Browne and Fr. Doyle, availed themselves of this interval 
to organize Month of May devotions for the men Every 
evening they had rosary, hymns, short sermon, and 
Benediction, followed by more hymns — the ' boys ' liked to 
hear their own voices. " One result of the devotions," 
writes Fr. Doyle, " has been the conversion of the only 
really black sheep in the regiment, a man very many years 
away from his duty, a hard morose character, upon whom 
I had many times failed to make any impression. I saw 
it was useless to argue with him, so at the beginning of the 
month I handed him over to the Blessed Virgin as a hopeless 
case with which she alone could deal. Last evening I met 
him and thought I would try once more to make him see 
the awful danger he was running of losing his soul. It was 
all no use, the devil had his prey too tightly held to shake 
him off like that. Then a thought struck me, ' Look,' I 
said, ' this is the month of May ; you surely won't refuse 
our Blessed Lady.' The poor fellow fell on his knees, and 
there and then made his confession. I gave him Holy 
Communion and now he is a changed man, as happy as 
a lark." 

In Fr. Doyle's notebook there are some hastily written 
outlines of talks to his men. Though they refer to an earlier 
period of the year — during this May he preached chiefly 
on the Litany of our Lady 1 — these rough notes will give 
us an idea of his practical homely style. Hence a few 
extracts will be given here. 



" TWO SOLEMN MOMENTS." 

" The end of that life which God gave to be spent in His 
service. 

" A solemn moment when we lie down for the last time 
and look back upon our life which is gone for ever — a 
precious talent entrusted to us, not to misuse, or bury in 
ground, like slothful servant, but to spend to good use till 
the Master comes. 

i. — " I remember well," writes Fr. F. Browne, " Fr. Doyle's wonderful fervour 
and eloquence on ' Virgin most faithful ' and also on ' Help of Christians.' " 



MAY DEVOTIONS 281 

•' What is true of end of life equally true of end of a year. 
Another milestone of our journey to eternity. Just 365 
days of a life already so short passed away. All of us have 
taken a big stride towards the hour of our death, and let 
us not forget it, the happiness and reward of Heaven. 

" For a moment let us pause in this journey of life and look 
back. What strikes us ? (i) God's goodness. How many 
began last year well and strong, full of plans, now dead. 
How many a young life quenched on the battle field. A 
million a week died. All that time God's Providence has 
watched over us and protected us from danger. His love 
surrounded us. 

" (2) Our opportunities. Life means more than the mere 
enjoyment of living, the time of sowing the seed of good 
works whose harvest we shall reap in Heaven ; as long as 
we live we can merit. Pile up treasures in Heaven and 
increase our happiness for all eternity. Holy Mass, 
Sacraments, and prayers, every act we do for God means 
greater joy and glory. 

" (3) Our return. Walk back the road — our angel has kept 
the watch of every act. Tablets to mark spots where our 
acts were done, (a) Piles of curses, bad language. (6) Rows 
of empty beer bottles with all the sins they bring, (c) In 
a word little good but much evil. 

" A sad picture, but we must not lose heart. Last mile 
of march, tighten knapsack on back, pull ourselves together 
and step out more hardy for the last mile. For many the 
last mile of life. We shall make it worthy of Him so good 
to us : — more prayers, duty better done ; greater watch 
fulness over our tongues and our evil inclinations, so that 
we may exclaim : I have fought a good fight, done my duty 
to my country and my God : — a crown of glory." 



" CONFESSION." 

"A serious word : matter of life and death, eternal life, 
the salvation or damnation of many depend upon it. Going 
to the Front in a couple of weeks, in middle of shot and shell, 
in danger at any moment of instant death Are you ready 



282 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

to face God ? None of us are afraid, it has to come some 
time, but, ' know ye not there is a judgement ? ' ' O Lord 
preserve thou my soul.' So much depends on it. ' What 
shall I do . . .to judge.' God won't be very angry 
about our sins He knows our weakness. ' He is a patient 
and merciful God ' but furious that we should appear before 
His holy Face covered with sin and every abomination 
when we could have got rid of all. 

" The Wedding Garment. You know where you can find 
the white ' wedding garment/ find the pond of the Sacred 
Blood where to wash stains away. Don't delay. Hell full 
of men who said ' later on.' God help the man who when 
he had the chance did not make his peace with God. 

"I am pleading for your immortal souls; it matters little 
in the end whether we have been rich or poor, lives of 
hardship or pleasure, but to save one's soul or lose it 
matters much. 

" It may be hard for some to square up accounts (not half 
so hard as you think) but a million times harder to burn 
in Hell, cursing your folly. 

Confessions 4 to 6 in C. Hut." 

"THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY." 

" Saddened and disappointed not better response (Con 
fession). Man who said he would go after Boer War. All 
intend to go ; miserable. ' Later on.' Hell full of men 
who said ' later on.' Public house. 

" To-day's Gospel (5 Matthew 8. 1-13.) : Leper, awful sight, 
image of sin. ' Lord, Thou canst make me clean.' 
show yourself to the priest.' Christ says same now. He 
longing to forgive the past ; to wash away every iniquity 
to make sins red as scarlet, whiter than snow. For the sake 
of your immortal souls. Far harder to hear the awful wore 
' Depart ye cursed, I know ye not.' ' 

"FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY." 

' Lord save us we perish ' Gospel (5. Matthew 8. 23 27). 

Man's life a warfare ; not for country, body, but 

immortal souls. 



MAY DEVOTIONS 283 

" Our Lord wishes to remind us of this incident hinted 
in gospel. We often find fierce storms springing up in our 
souls. We call them temptation, storms of anger — impurity, 
craving for drink, stirred up by the devil who hopes to lead 
us to destruction. We need not fear temptation. 

(1) Not sin : — Christ's temptation. 

(2) A good sign — Blessed Cure d'Ars. ' Became pleasing 

to God.' ' Prepare thy soul for temptation/ 

(3) Merit. 

" Remedies, (a) Avoid devil (women). (b) Pray. Christ 
knew danger of disciples. ' Came a great calm/ the reward 
of victory ; remorse after sin ; each victory means strength. 
' Count it all joy/ " 



(3.) THE PADRE IN THE TRENCHES. 



Long before the titles of our Lady's Litany were exhausted 
it was time to return to the trenches. At the conclusion 
of such a respite the chaplain used to give General Absolution. 
In a letter written to his father about this time Fr. Doyle 
thus describes and comments on the touching scene : 

" We reap a good harvest with confessions every day, at 
any time the men care to come, but there are many who 
for one reason or another cannot get away, hence before 
going into the trenches, which nearly always means death 
for some poor fellows, we give them a General Absolution. 
I do not think there can be a more touching or soul inspiring 
sight than to see a whole regiment go down upon their knees, 
to hear that wave of prayer go up to Heaven, as hundreds 
of voices repeat the Act of Contrition in unison, ' My God, 
I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended You/ There 
is an earnestness and a depth of feeling in their voices, which 
tells of real sorrow, even if one did not see the tears gather 
in the eyes of more than one brave man. And then the 
deep, reverent silence as the priest raises his hand over the 



284 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

bowed heads and pronounces the words of forgiveness. 
Human nature is ever human nature, and even Irish soldiers 
commit sins ; you can picture then the feelings of any priest 
standing before that kneeling throng, knowing that by the 
power of God his words have washed every soul pure and 
white. I love to picture the foul garment of sin falling 
from every man there at the words of Absolution, and to 
watch the look of peace and happiness on the men's faces 
as they lift their rifles and fall into rank, ready for anything, 
even ' to meet the divil himself,' as my friend of long ago 
shouted out as he marched by me. Don't you agree with 
me that the consolations and real joys of my life far outweigh 
the hard things and privations, even if there were no ' little 
nest-egg ' being laid up in a better and happier world ? 

It is when we read such an extract that we most clearly 
realise the inner motive-power which sustained Fr. Doyl 
amid ' the hard things and privations/ far more irkson 
and painful to him than to one mentally less idealistic 
physically less highly strung and sensitive. He was brave 
and untiring, not because he found life congenial, but becaus 
he found it so hard. His interests were concentrated 01 
his mission to be ' another Christ ' ; this was the ideal ii 
whose consuming fire all other ideas were fused. " I can 
say with all truth," he wrote, " I have never spent a happier 
year. For though I have occasionally felt as if the limit 
of endurance were reached, I have never lost my good spirits, 
which have helped me over many a rough road " He needed 
all his courage. What a life it was ! From extremes of 
heat to unimagined depths of cold ; for days water above, 
below, everywhere, and then from this aquatic misery to 
burning sun and parching thirst. There were long tramps 
by day, with pack and equipment growing heavier each 
hour, till one became a mass of sweat and mud ; nights 
without sleep, burying the dead or stumbling along trenches 
to minister to the dying ; nights, too, made hideous by 
bursting shells or the still more terrible warning of 
approaching poison-gas. Our thoughts go back to Paul of 
Tarsus, whose life was spent " in journeying often, in perils 
of waters, in perils of robbers, ... in labour and pain- 
fulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings 



THE PADRE IN THE TRENCHES 285 

often, in cold and nakedness." (// Cor. IT. 26. ) l Yet, as 
Fr. Doyle pointed out, these physical sufferings were light 
in comparison with that constant sense of insecurity and 
suspense, the strain of being never really oat of danger for 
miles behind the front, the oppressive feeling of waiting 
for the stroke of an uplifted sword. " Pain and privation," 
he writes, " are only momentary, they quickly pass and 
become even delightfully sweet, if only borne in the spirit 
with which many of my grand boys take these things : 
' Shure, Father, it's not worth talking about ; after all, is 
it not well to have some little thing to suffer for God and 
His Blessed Mother ? ' But the craven fear which at times 
clutches the heart, the involuntary shrinking and dread of 
human nature at danger and even death, are things which 
cannot be expressed in words. An officer, who had gone 
through a good deal himself, said to me recently : ' I never 
realized before what our Lord must have suffered in the 
Garden of Gethsemane when He began to fear and grow 
sorrowful.' Yet His grace is always there to help one when 
most needed, and though the life is hard and trying at times, 
I have never ceased to thank Him for the privilege (I can 
call it nothing else) of sharing in this glorious work." 

In a letter written to his father on 25th July, he invites 
him to come in spirit with him on a visit to the trenches. 
He is thus led to describe a typical incident of his ' glorious 
work,' which must have been as consoling to the father as 
it was to the son. " There is a party coming towards us 
down the trench," he writes ; " aud as they have the right 
of way, we must squeeze into a corner to let them pass. 

I. — Life at the Front was after all not so different from that of the foreign mission 
which had been Fr. Doyle's ambition. "You have to be an Indian," wrote the 
martyr John de Bre"beuf in 1635. " Bend your shoulders to the same burdens as they 

bear Remember that Jesus Christ is the true greatness of the missionary. 

Him alone and His cross are you to seek, in running after these people. With Him 

you will find roses on thorns, sweets in bitterness, everything in nothingness 

You will sleep on a skin, and many a night you will never close an eye on account of 

the vermin that swarm over you Blasphemy and obscenity are commonly 

on their lips. You are often without Mass ; and when you succeed in saying it, your 
cabin is full of smoke or snow. The Indians never leave you alone and are continually 

yelling and shouting at the top of their voice The food will be insipid, but 

the gall and vinegar of our Blessed Saviour will make it like honey on your lips. . . . 
You have only the necessaries of life, and that makes it easy to be united with God. 
.... You are obliged to pray, for you are facing death at every moment."- 
T. J. Campbell, S.J., Pioneer Priests of North America : Among the ffurons, 1910, 
pp. 104-107. 



286 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

A poor wounded fellow lies on a stretcher with death already 
stamped on his face. The bearers lay their burden gently 
down — these rough men have the tender heart of a woman 
for the wounded — reverently uncover their heads and with 
draw a little as the priest kneels behind the dying man's 
head. A glance at the identity-disc on his wrist, stamped 
with his name, regiment, and religion, shows that he is a 
Catholic — for there are few men, no matter what their belief, 
who do not carry a rosary or a Catholic medal round their 
necks. I wonder what the non-Catholic Padres think of 
this fearful increase of Idolatry ! 'Ah, Father, is that 
you ? Thanks be to God for His goodness in sending you ; 
my heart was sore to die without the priest. Father — the 
voice was weak and came in gasps — Father, oh, I am glad 
now, I always tried to live a good life, it makes death so 
easy.' The Rites of the Church were quickly administered 
though it was hard to find a sound spot on that poor smashed 
face for the Holy Oils, and my hands were covered with his 
blood. The moaning stopped ; I have noticed that a score 
of times, as if the very touch of the anointing brought relief. 
I pressed the crucifix to his lips as he murmured after me : 
4 My Jesus mercy,' and then as I gave him the Last Blessing 
his head fell back, and the loving arms of Jesus were pressing 
to His Sacred Heart the soul of another of His friends, who 
I trust will not forget, amid the joys of Heaven, him who 
was sent across his path to help him in his last moments. 

"It is little things like this which help one over the hard 
days and sweeten a life which has little in it naturally 
attractive. If you had come up the trench with me twelve 
months ago on the morning of the gas attack and watched 
that same scene repeated hour after hour, I think you would 
have thanked God for the big share you have in the salvation 
of so many souls." 

We are able to narrate one or two incidents of ' this glorious 
work ' which occurred at this period. ' The enemy for once 
did me a good turn," he writes on 22nd May. " I had 
arranged to hear the men's confessions shortly before he 
opened fire, and a couple of well directed shells helped my 
work immensely by putting the fear of God into the hearts 
of a few careless boys who might not have troubled about 






THE PADRE IN THE TRENCHES 287 

coming near me otherwise. I wonder were the Sacraments 
ever administered under stranger circumstances ? Picture 
my little dug-out (none too big at any time) packed with 
men who had dashed in for shelter from the splinters and 
shrapnel coming down like hail. In one corner is kneeling 
a poor fellow recently joined — who has not ' knelt to the 
priest/ as the men quaintly say, for many a day — trying 
to make his Confession. I make short work of that, for a 
shower of clay and stones falling at the door is a gentle hint 
that the ' crumps ' are getting uncomfortably near, and I 
want to give him Absolution in case an unwelcome visitor 
should walk in. Then, while the ground outside rocks and 
seems to split with the crash of the shells, I give them all 
Holy Communion, say a short prayer, and perform the 
wonderful feat of packing a few more men into our sardine 
tin of a house. . 

"As soon as I got the chance, I slipped round to see how 
many casualties there were, for I thought not a mouse could 
survive the bombardment. Thank God, no one was killed 
or even badly hit, and the firing having ceased, we could 
breathe again. I was walking up the trench from the 
dressing station when I suddenly heard the scream of another 
shell. ... It was then I realized my good fortune. 
There are two ways to my dug-out, and naturally I choose 
the shorter. This time, without any special reason, I went 
by the longer way ; and it was well I did. for the shell pitched 
in the other trench, and probably would have caught me 
nicely as I went by. But instead of that it wreaked its 
vengeance on my unfortunate orderly, who was close by 
in his dug-out, sending him spinning on his head but other 
wise not injuring him I found another string of men 
awaiting my return in order to get Confession and Holy 
Communion. In fact I had quite a busy evening, thanks 
once more to Fritz's High Explosive, which has a wonderful 
persuasive effect of its own. I am wondering how many 
pounds of H.E. I shall require when giving my next 
retreat ! " 

In his letter of 2Qth May he records an exploit of his in 
which, he thinks, " there was really little danger." "A few 
nights ago," he writes, " I had been along the front line as 



288 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

usual to give the men a General Absolution which they are 
almost as anxious to receive for the comfort it will be for 
their friends at home, should they fall, as for themselves. 
I was coming down to the advanced dressing station, when 
I learned that a small party had ' gone over the top ' on 
our right, though I had been told the raid was only from the 
left. When I got to the spot I found they had all gone 
and were lying well out in No Man's Land. It was a case 
of Mahomet and the mountain once more. The poor 
' mountain ' could not come back, though they were just 
longing to, but the prophet could go out, could he not ? 
So Mahomet rolled over the top of the sandbags into a 
friendly shell hole, and started to crawl on his hands and 
knees and stomach towards the German trenches. Mahomet, 
being only a prophet, was allowed to use bad language, of 
which privilege he availed himself, so report goes, to the 
full, for the ground was covered with bits of broken barbed 
wire, shell splinters, nettles, etc., etc., and the poor prophet 
on his penitential pilgrimage left behind him much honest 
sweat and not a few drops of blood. 

" That was a strange scene ! A group of men lying on 
their faces, waiting for certain death to come to some of 
them, whispering a fervent act of contrition, and God's 
priest, feeling mighty uncomfortable and wishing he were 
safely in bed a thousand miles away, raising his hand in 
Absolution over the prostrate figures. One boy, some little 
distance off, thinking the Absolution had not reached him, 
knelt bolt upright, and made an act of contrition you could 
have heard in Berlin, nearly giving the whole show away 
and drawing the enemy's fire. 

" There was really little danger, as shell holes were 
plentiful, but not a little consolation when I buried the dead 
next day to think that none of them had died without 
Absolution. I was more afraid getting back into our own 
trenches ; for sentries, seeing a man coming from the 
direction of No Man's Land, do not bother much about 
asking questions and object to nocturnal visitors." 

The next night (24th May) another raid was made and 
Fr Doyle recounts how he was able to help a poor prisoner. 
" One German prisoner, badly wounded in the leg, was 



THE PADRE IN THE TRENCHES 289 

brought in," he writes. " He knew only a few words of 
English, but spoke French fluently. I try to do all I can 
for the unfortunate prisoners, as sometimes not much 
sympathy is shown them, and they have evidently been 
drilled into believing that we promptly roast and eat them 
alive. I gave him a drink, made him as comfortable as 
possible, and then seeing a rosary in his pocket, asked him 
was he a Catholic. ' I am a Catholic priest,' I said, ' and 
you need not have any fear/ ' Ah, monsieur/ he replied, 
' vous etes un vrai pretre ' (you are a true priest). He gave 
me his home address in Germany, and asked me to write 
to his parents. ' Poor father and mother will be uneasy,' 
he said, as his eyes filled with tears. ' O mon Dieu, how 
I am suffering, but I offer it all up to You/ I hope to get 
a letter through by means of the Swiss Red Cross, which 
will be a comfort to his anxious parents, who seem good 
pious souls/' 1 

What a consoling little picture of Christian charity rising 
above human strife and passion ! What an insight into the 
noble peace-mission of " a true priest " ! 

One other quotation will give a further little illustration 
of Fr. Doyle's ministry while his men were in reserve. Early 
on the morning of Sunday, 3rd June, they were relieved, 
after a rather strenuous time of sixteen days in the front 
line, more than usually trying for want of sleep. As Mass 
for the men was not till mid-day, Fr. Doyle had " planned 
a glorious soak in the convent, an unblushing gluttonous 
feast of blankets, for the poor old tired 'oss." But through 
some misunderstanding his orderly did not turn up with 
his horse, so he had to trudge back with his heavy pack. 
On reaching his billet at 2 a.m., he found the door of his 
room locked. " I had not the heart to wake up the poor 
nuns," he says ; " and after all when one is fast asleep, is 
not a hard plank just as soft as a feather bed ? You see 
I am becoming a bit of a philosopher ! " ' The next 
morning," he continues, " I had Mass in a field close to the 
camp. I wish you could have seen the men as they knelt 
in a hollow square round the improvised altar, brilliant 
sunshine overhead, and the soft green of spring about them. 

I. —See other instances of his kindness to prisoners on pp. 246, 299. 
T 



290 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE. SJ. 

They looked so happy, poor lads, as I went down one line 
and up the other, giving them the Bread of the Strong, and 
I could not help thinking of another scene long ago when 
our Lord made the multitude sit down on the grass, and fed 
them miraculously with the seven loaves. Before I got to 
the end of my 700 Communions I felt wondrous pity for the 
twelve Apostles, for they must have been jolly tired also. 

"At present I am living in the camp which is further back 
even than the convent, out in the green fields of the country, 
most peaceful and restful. I have a little tent to myself, 
but have Rosary, Mass, Confessions, etc., out in the open. 
The men have absolutely no human respect, and kneel in 
rows waiting for their turn ' to scrape,' 1 as if they were 
in the church at home, paying no heed to the endless stream 
of traffic. I am sure non-Catholics must wonder what on 
earth we are at." 

While solicitous for his flock when under his charge, he 
was not unmindful of them when dead. The following 
letter, which appeared in the Irish Catholic »for 26th May, 
1917, was written by Fr. Doyle. 

" 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." 

I. — " Scraping one's kettle" was expressive slang for cleaning one's soul by Confession. 



WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 291 



(4.) WYTSCHAETE RiDGE. 1 

" To save you unnecessary anxiety," Fr. Doyle wrote to 
his father on nth June, " I told you in my last note (that 
of 5th June already quoted) that we were again on the march, 
which was quite true, but the march was not backwards 
but towards the enemy. When I wrote we were on the 
eve of one of the biggest battles of the war, details of which 
you will have read in the morning papers." In another 
confidential letter of the same date (5th June), however, 
he was more communicative. " I have not told them at 
home," he wrote, " and do not want them to know but 
we have had a terrible time for the last three weeks, constant 
and increasing shelling, with many wonderful escapes. We 
are on the eve of a tremendous battle and the danger will 
be very great. Sometimes I think God wishes the actual 
sacrifice of my life — the offering of it was made long ago. 
But if so, that almost useless life will be given most joyfully. 
I feel wonderful peace and confidence in leaving myself 
absolutely in God's Hands. Only I know it would not be 
right, I would like never to take shelter from bursting shells ; 
and up to a few days ago, till ordered by the Colonel, I never 
wore a steel helmet. I want to give myself absolutely to 
Him to do with me just as He pleases, to strike or kill me, 
as He wishes, trying to go along bravely and truthfully, 
looking up into His loving Face, for surely He knows best. 
On the other hand I have the conviction, growing stronger 
every day, that nothing serious will befall me ; a wound 
would be joy, ' to shed one's blood for Jesus,' when I would 
gladly empty my veins for Him. Otherwise why would He 
impress so strongly on my mind that this ' novitiate ' out 
here is only the preparation for my real life's work ? Why 
does He put so many schemes and plans into my mind ? 
Why has He mapped out several little books, one of which 
will do great good, I believe, because every word will be 
His ? Then the possibilities of the Holy Childhood have 
gripped me, and His little perishing souls, 10,000 a day, 

i. — See map on p. 223. 



292 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

seem ever to be pleading for a sight of Jesus ! Yet I have 
laid even the desire to do these things at His Feet, and I 
strive might and main to have no will but His, for this pleases 
Him most. I am very calm and trustful in face of the awful 
storm so soon to burst. But could it be otherwise, when 
He is ever with me and when I know that should I fall, it 
will only be into His Arms of love ? " 

Fr. Doyle atoned for his previous reticence by sending 
his father, immediately after the battle, a rather long account 
of his own experiences during the few weeks prior to the 
attack of yth June, as well as during the actual engagement. 

" For months past preparations on a gigantic scale were 
being made for the coming attack, every detail of which 
the Germans knew. For some reason or other they left us in 
comparative peace for a long time, and then suddenly started 
to shell us day and night. 

" We had just gone into the line for our eight days, and 
a lively week it was. How we escaped uninjured from the 
rain of shells which fell round about us, I do not know. The 
men had practically no shelter, as their dug-outs would 
scarcely keep out a respectable fat bullet, not to speak of 
a nine or twelve-inch shell (this is the diameter of the shell- 
base, not its length), and used to run to me for protection 
like so many big children with a confidence I was far from 
feeling, that the ' priest ' was a far better protection than 
yards of re-inforced concrete. 

" I have come back to my little home more than once 
in the early hours of the morning to find it packed with 
two-legged smoking ' sardines/ quite happy and content in 
spite of Fritz's crumps, to be greeted with the remark : ' We 
were just saying, Father, that this is a lucky dug-out, and 
it is well for us that we have your Reverence with us.' God 
bless them for their simple faith and trust in Him, for I feel 
I 'owe it to my brave boys that we were not blown sky-high 
twenty times. In fact the ' Padre's Dug-out ' was quite 
a standing joke among the officers, who used to come after 
a strafe to see how much of it was left. 

" Our next eight days in support were even worse, as the 
Germans had brought up more guns, and used them freely. 
Our Head-Quarters was a good sized house, which had never 



WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 293 

been touched since the war began, being well screened by 
a wood behind. We were in the middle of dinner the first 
evening, when in quick succession half a dozen shells burst 
close around. It was only later on we learned the reason 
of this unexpected attack. One of the officers, in spite of 
strict orders to the contrary, had gone on a raid with a map 
in his pocket on which he had marked various positions, 
our H.Q. among others. He was captured, and ' the fat 
was in the fire.' Owing to someone's carelessness no 
provision had been made for protection against bombard 
ment, and we had to stand in the open with our backs against 
a brick wall, watching the shells pitching right and left 
and in front, wondering when would our turr^ come. 

' Three or four times each night at a couple of hours' 
interval the torture began afresh, just as one was dozing 
off to sleep, sending men and officers flying for safety to the 
' shady side ' of the house. Shelling in the open or in a 
trench is not so pleasant, but this was horrible, for we knew 
the guns were searching for the spot so obligingly marked 
on our map. One morning about 2 a.m. I had gone down 
the road to look after some men, when two shells smashed 
in the roof of the house I had left, killing five of our staff, 
and nearly knocking out the Colonel and two other officers. 
We got shelter in another Mess only to find that this was a 
marked spot too, though the aim was not so accurate. 

"All during this time our guns were keeping up the 
bombardment of the Wytschaete Village and Ridge, which 
the i6th Irish Division were to storm. I think I am accurate 
in saying that not for ten minutes at any time during these 
sixteen days did the roar of our guns cease. At times one 
or two batteries would keep the ball rolling, and then with 
a majestic crash every gun, from the rasping field piece up 
to the giant fifteen-inch howitzer, would answer to the call 
of battle, till not only the walls of the ruined houses shook 
and swayed but the very ground quivered. You may 
fancy the amount of rest and sleep we got during that period, 
seeing that we lived in front of the cannon, many of them 
only a few yards away, while the Germans with clock-work 
regularity pelted us with shells from behind. If you want 
to know what a real headache is like, or to experience the 



294 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

pleasure of every nerve in your body jumping about like so 
many mad cats, take the shilling, and spend a week or two 
near the next position we hope to capture. 

"All things come to an end, and at last we finished our 
sixteen days Limbo (Purgatory is not near enough to Hell !) 
and marched back to the rest camp with tongues, to vary 
the metaphor, hanging out for sleep. That night a villainous 
enemy airman dropped bombs close to our tents, and the 
following day the guns shelled us, far back as we were. We 
must be a bad lot, for ' there is no rest for the wicked/ they 
say. For once my heart stood still with fear, not so much 
for myself as for the poor men. There we were on the side 
of a hill, four regiments crowded together, our only protection 
the canvas walls of the tents, with big shells creeping nearer 
and nearer 

" Orders had been given to scatter, but it takes time to 
disperse some 4,000 men, and one well-aimed shell would 
play havoc in such a crowd. Forgive me for mentioning 
this little incident. I want to do so in gratitude and to 
bring out the wonderful love and tenderness of our Divine 
Lord for His own Irish soldiers, not to claim the smallest 
credit for myself. I had brought the Ciborium to my tent 
after Mass, as the men were coming to Confession and Holy 
Communion all the day. Human beings could not help us 
then, but He, Who stilled the tempest, could do so easily. 
There was only time for one earnest ' Lord save my poor 
boys,' for at any moment the camp might be shambles 
full of dead and dying, before I rushed out into the open. 
As I did a shell landed a few feet behind an officer, sending 
him spinning, but he jumped up unhurt. A moment more 
down came a second right into the middle of a group of men, 
and, miracle of miracles, failed to explode. A third burst 
so close to another party I was sure half were killed, though 
I must confess I never saw dead men run so fast before. 
And so it went on, first on one side, then on another, but 
at the end of the half hour's bombardment not a single man 
of the four regiments had been hit, even slightly. 

' The chances of a good night's rest were at an end, for 
we had to turn out to sleep, as best we could, under the 
hedges and trees of the surrounding country. It was a big 






WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 295 

loss to the men, as once the attack (which was due in three 
days) began, there was little chance of closing an eye. We 
priests say a prayer at the end of our Office asking the Lord 
to grant noctem quietam (a peaceful night). I never fully 
appreciated this prayer till now, and have said it more than 
once lately with heart-felt earnestness. 

" These few days were busy ones for us, Fr. Browne and 
myself. The men knew they were preparing for death, and 
availed themselves fully of the opportunities we were able 
to give them. Fortunately the weather was gloriously fine, 
so there was no difficulty about Mass in the open. There 
was a general cleaning up and polishing of souls, some of 
them not too shiny, a General Communion on two days 
for all the men and officers, with the usual rosary and prayers 
each evening, consoling for us, because we felt the men 
had done their best, and the future might be safely left in 
the hands of the great and merciful Judge. 

" I fancy the feelings of most of us were the same : awe, 
not a little fear, and a big longing to have it all over. We 
knew the seriousness of the task before us, for Wytschaete 
Hill, the key of the whole position, was regarded even by the 
General Staff, as almost impregnable, and the German boast 
was that it would never be taken. Without detracting one 
bit from the dash and bravery of our Irish lads, which won 
unstinted praise from everyone — ' The best show I have seen 
since I came to France/ said Sir D. Haig — full credit must 
be given to the artillery for pounding the defences to dust, 
without which our troops would still be on this side of the 
300 ft. hill, instead of a couple of miles on the other side. 
Everyone felt the losses would be severe, if not colossal, 
and, as we sat on our hill and gazed down into the valley 
beyond, crammed with roaring guns, and watched the shells 
bursting in hundreds, knowing the moment was near for 
us to march down into that hell of fire and smoke, it was 
small wonder if many a stout heart quaked, and thoughts 
flew to the dear ones at home, whom one hardly hoped to 
see again. 

" There were many little touching incidents during these 
days ; one especially I shall not easily forget. When the 
men had left the field after the evening devotions, I noticed 



296 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

a group of three young boys, brothers I think, still kneeling 
saying another rosary. They knew it was probably their 
last meeting on earth and they seemed to cling to one another 
for mutual comfort and strength, and instinctively turned 
to the Blessed Mother to help them in their hour of need. 
There they knelt as if they were alone and unobserved, 
their hands clasped and faces turned towards heaven, with 
such a look of beseeching earnestness that the Mother of 
Mercy surely must have heard their prayer : ' Holy Mary 
pray for us now — at the hour of our death. Amen.' ' 

In a subsequent letter (25th July) Fr. Doyle refers to some 
of the talks which he gave to his men during these days. 
So the passage may be inserted here " Before the last 
big battle," he writes, " I gave the men a few talks about 
Heaven, where I hope many of them are now. I have the 
satisfaction of knowing that what I said helped the poor 
fellows a good deal, and made them face the coming dangers 
with a stouter heart. The man of whom I told you last 
year, who said he ' did not care a d— - for all the b— 
German shells, (please excuse language), because he was 
with the priest that morning/ expressed in a forcible manner 
what many another felt, that when all is said and done, a 
man's religion is his biggest (and only true) consolation, 
and the source of real courage. I reminded them of the 
saying of the Blessed Cure d' Ars : ' When we get to Heaven 
and see all the happiness which is to be ours for ever, we 
shall wonder why we wanted to remain even one day on 
earth.' God hides these things from our eyes, for if we 
saw now ' the things God has prepared for those that love 
Him/ life on earth would be absolutely unlivable, and so, 
I said, the man who falls in the charge is not the loser but 
immensely the gainer, is not the unlucky one but the fortunate 
and blessed. You should have seen how the poor chaps 
drank in every word, for rough and ignorant as they are, 
they are full of Faith ; though I fear their conception of an 
ideal Heaven, for some at least, would be a place of unlimited 
drinks and no closing time There was a broad smile when 
I told them so ! " 

" On Wednesday night, June 6th," continues Fr Doyle, 
" we moved off, so as to be in position for the attack at 



WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 297 

3.10 a.m. on Thursday morning, the Feast of Corpus Christ! ! 
I got to the little temporary chapel at the rear of our trenches 
soon after twelve, and tried to get a few moments' sleep 
before beginning Mass at one, a hopeless task, you may 
imagine, as the guns had gone raging mad. I could not 
help thinking would this be my last Mass, though I really 
never had any doubt the good God would continue to protect 
me in the future as He had done in the past, and I was quite 
content to leave myself in His hands, since He knows what 
is best for us all." 

It was 11.50 when Fr. Browne and Fr. Doyle reached 
the little sandbag chapel which they had used when holding 
the line. There they lay down for an hour's rest on two 
stretchers borrowed from the huge pile waiting near by for 
the morrow's bloody work. Leaving their servant lying 
fast ^asleep through sheer exhaustion, the two chaplains got 
up at i a.m. and prepared the altar. Fr. Doyle said Mass 
first and was served by Fr Browne, who, not having yet 
made his Last Vows, renewed his Vows at the Mass, as he 
always did at home on Corpus Christi. It was surely a 
weird and solemn Renovation. While Fr. Browne unvested 
after his own Mass and packed up the things, Fr. Doyle 
and his servant (now awake) prepared breakfast. At 2.30 
the two chaplains put on their battle kit and made for their 
respective aid posts. Up near the front line, along the 
hedgerows, the battalions of the 48th Brigade were massed 
in support position. Their task was not to attack, but to 
follow up and consolidate and, should need arise, to help 
the leading brigades. "As I walked up to my post at the 
advanced dressing station," says Fr. Doyle, " I prayed for 
that peace of a perfect trust which seems to be so pleasing 
to our Lord." And he repeated to himself the verses of a 
little leaflet which a friend had sent to him when he first 
became chaplain : 

Oh ! for the peace of a perfect trust, 

My loving God, in Thee ; 
Unwavering" faith that never doubts 
Thou choosest best for me. 

In this spirit, in which he had so often schooled himself 
during his years of spiritual struggle, he waited for the coming 
crash of battle. 



298 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

" It wanted half an hour," he continues, "to zero time — 
the phrase used for the moment of attack. The guns had 
ceased firing, to give their crews a breathing space before 
the storm of battle broke ; for a moment at least there was 
peace on earth and a calm which was almost more trying 
than the previous roar to us who knew what was coming. 
A prisoner told us that the enemy knew we were about to 
attack, but did not expect it for another couple of days. 
I pictured to myself our men, row upon row waiting in the 
darkness for the word to charge, and on the other side the 
Germans in their trenches and dug-outs, little thinking that 
seven huge mines were laid under their feet, needing only 
a spark to blow them into eternity. The tension of waiting 
was terrific, the strain almost unbearable. One felt inclined 
to scream out and send them warning. But all I could do 
was to stand on top of the trench and give them Absolution, 
trusting to God's mercy to speed it so far. 

" Even now I can scarcely think of the scene which followed 
without trembling with horror. Punctually to the sec6nd 
at 3.10 a.m. there was a deep muffled roar ; the ground in 
front of where I stood rose up, as if some giant had wakened 
from his sleep and was bursting his way through the earth's 
crust, and then I saw seven huge columns of smoke and 
flames shoot hundreds of feet into the air, while masses of 
clay and stones, tons in weight, were hurled about like 
pebbles. I never before realized what an earthquake was 
like, for not only did the ground quiver and shake, but 
actually rocked backwards and forwards, so that I kept on 
my feet with difficulty. 

" Later on I examined one of the mine craters, an appalling 
sight, for I knew that many a brave man, torn and burnt 
by the explosion, lay buried there. If you expand very 
considerably the old Dalkey quarry near the railway and 
dig it twice as deep, you will have some idea of the size of 
one of our mine craters, twenty of which were blown along 
the front of our attack. 

" Before the de"bris of the mines had begun to fall to earth, 
the ' wild Irish ' were over the top of the trenches and on 
the enemy, though it seemed certain they must be killed 
to a man by the falling avalanche of clay. Even a stolid 



WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 299 

English Colonel standing near was moved to enthusiasm : 
' My God ! ' he said, ' what soldiers ! They fear neither 
man nor devil ! ' Why should they ? They had made their 
peace with God. He had given them His own Sacred Body 
to eat that morning, and they were going out now to face 
death, as only Irish Catholic lads can do, confident of victory 
and cheered by the thought that the reward of Heaven 
was theirs. Nothing could stop such a rush, and so fast 
was the advance that the leading files actually ran into the 
barrage of our own guns, and had to retire. 

" Meanwhile hell itself seemed to have been let loose. 
With the roar of the mines came the deafening crash of our 
guns, hundreds of them. This much I can say : never 
before, even in this war, have so many batteries especially 
of heavy pieces been concentrated on one objective, and 
how the Germans were able to put up the resistance they 
did was a marvel to everybody, for our shells fell like hail 
stones. In a few moments they took up the challenge, and 
soon things on our side became warm and lively. 

" In a short time the wounded began to come in, and a 
number of German prisoners, many of them wounded, also. 
I must confess my heart goes out to these unfortunate 
soldiers, whose sufferings have been terrific. I can't share 
the general sentiment that ' they deserve what they get 
and one better.' For after all are they not children of the 
same loving Saviour Who said : ' Whatever you do to one 
of these My least ones you do it to Me.' I try to show them 
any little kindness I can, getting them a drink, taking off 
the boots from smashed and bleeding feet, or helping to 
dress their wounds, and more than once I have seen the 
eyes of these rough men fill with tears as I bent over them, 
or felt my hand squeezed in gratitude. 

" My men did not go over in the first wave ; they were 
held in reserve to move up as soon as the first objective 
was taken, hold the position and resist any counter attack. 
Most of them were waiting behind a thick sand-bag wall 
not far from the advanced dressing station where I was, 
which enabled me to keep an eye upon them. 

' The shells were coming over thick and fast now, and at 
last, what I expected and feared happened. A big ' crump ll 

I. — 4 '2 shrapnel. 



300 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

hit the wall fair and square, blew three men into the field 
50 yards away, and buried five others who were in a small 
dug-out. For a moment I hesitated, for the horrible sight 
fairly knocked the ' starch ' out of me and a couple more 
' crumps ' did not help to restore my courage. 

" I climbed over the trench and ran across the open, as 
abject a coward as ever walked on two legs, till I reached 
the three dying men, and then the ' perfect trust ' came 
back to me and I felt no fear. A few seconds sufficed to 
absolve and anoint my poor boys, and I jumped to my feet, 
only to go down on my face faster than I got up, as an express 
train from Berlin roared by. 

" The five buried men were calling for help, but the others 
standing around seemed paralysed with fear, all save one 
sergeant, whose language was worthy of the occasion and 
rose to a noble height of sublimity. He was working like 
a Trojan, tearing the sand-bags aside, and welcomed my 
help with a mingled blessing and curse. The others joined 
in with pick and shovel, digging and pulling, till the sweat 
streamed from our faces, and the blood from our hands, 
bu£ we got three of the buried men out alive, the other two 
had been killed by the explosion. 1 

" Once again I had evidence of the immense confidence 
our men have in the priest. It was quite evident they were 
rapidly becoming demoralized, as the best of troops will 
who have to remain inactive under heavy shell fire. Little 
groups were running from place to place for greater shelter, 
and the officers seemed to have lost control. I walked 
along the line of men, crouching behind the sand-bag wall, 
and was amused to see the ripple of smiles light up the 
terrified lads' faces, (so many are mere boys) as I went by. 
By the time I got back again the men were laughing and 
chatting as if all danger was miles away, for quite unin 
tentionally, I had given them courage by walking along 



I. — Fr. Doyle did not forget his helper. A little later he was able to write : "You 
may be interested to hear that the Sergeant of whom 1 spoke in my long letter ' him 
of the ruddy language,' has beer, awarded the D.C.M. (Distinguished Conduct Medal), 
the private's equivalent of the M.C. I told the Colonel of his coolness and fine work 
in digging out the rive buried men, and recommended him for a decoration, which I 
am glad to say was accepted at Head-Quarters. The poor chap is very proud of his 
medal, which I told him he won by his eloquent language." 



WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 30* 

without my gas mask or steel helmet, both of which I had: 
forgotten in my hurry. 

" When the regiment moved forward, the Doctor and I 
went with it. By this time the ' impregnable ' ridge was 
in our hands and the enemy retreating down the far side. 
I spent the rest of that memorable day wandering over the 
battle field looking for the wounded, and had the happiness 
of helping many a poor chap, for shells were flying about 
on all sides." 

"As I knew there was no chance of saying Mass next 
morning, I had taken the precaution of bringing several' 
Consecrated Particles with me, so that I should not be 
deprived of Holy Communion. It was the Feast of Corpus 
Christi and I thought of the many processions of the Blessed 
Sacrament which were being held at that moment all over 
the world. Surely there never was a stranger one than 
mine that day, as I carried the God of Consolation in my 
unworthy arms over the blood-stained battle field. There 
was no music to welcome His coming save the scream of a 
passing shell ; the flowers that strewed His path were the 
broken, bleeding bodies of those for whom He had once 
died; and the only Altar of Repose He could find was the 
heart of one who was working for Him alone, striving in 
a feeble way to make Him some return for all His love- 
and goodness 

" I shall make no attempt to describe the battle field. 
Thank God, our casualties were extraordinarily light, but 
there was not a yard of ground on which a shell had not 
pitched, which made getting about very laborious, sliding 
down one crater and climbing up the next, and also increased 
the difficulty of finding the wounded. 1 

" Providence certainly directed my steps on two occasions 
at least. I came across one young soldier horribly mutilated, 
all his intestines hanging out, but quite conscious and able 
to speak to me. He lived long enough to receive the Last 
Sacraments, and died in peace. Later on in the evening 
I was going in a certain direction when something made me 

i. — As a result of having to wear his boots so continuously, Fr. Doyle was suffering 
from very severe ' blood blisters ' on his feet. This must have made his climbing up 
and down shell-holes an excruciating torture. 



302 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

turn back when I saw in the distance a man being carried 
on a stretcher. He belonged to the artillery, and had no 
chance of seeing a priest for a long time, but he must have 
been a good lad, for Mary did not forget him ' at the hour 
of his death.' 

" The things I remember best of that day of twenty-four 
hours' work are : the sweltering heat, a devouring thirst 
which comes from the excitement of battle, physical weak 
ness from want of food, and a weariness and footsoreness 
which I trust will pay a little at least of St. Peter's heavy 
score against me." 

The next two days, Friday and Saturday, were a repetition 
of Thursday. Fighting was practically over, but guns were 
being brought up and positions consolidated. Fr. Doyle 
had little rest and plenty to do, and on at least one occasion 
had a very narrow escape from an eight-inch shell. Early 
on Sunday morning the exhausted Battalions were relieved. 
After the battle the men marched back by easy stages to 
the rear, and in a few days were settled down ' in quite a 
nice part of France/ billeted in comfortable farmhouses for 
a few weeks of rest and training — the only rest which was 
allowed to the i6th Division in the two years and three 
months that it was in the field. 



(5.) His LAST SERMON. 

The 48th Brigade was at rest or rather down for a rifle 
shooting course near St. Omer. The 2nd and 8th Dublins 
were in and around the little village of St. Martin au Laert 
about a mile and a half from St. Omer, the gib. Dublins 
about a mile distant in a country camp, and the R. I. Rifles 
a little further away. The new Bishop of Arras, Boulogne 
and St. Omer, Mgr. Julien, was to make his formal entry 
into Arras on Saturday, 2Oth July, and to be present next 
•day at the conclusion of the Novena to our Lady of Miracles 
Through the instrumentality of Fr. Browne, with the ready 
compliance of General Hickie, it was arranged that there 
should be a church parade in honour of the Bishop on 



HIS LAST SERMON 303 

Sunday, 2ist. About 2,500 men came down. Fr. Browne 
said Mass and Fr. Doyle preached. The ceremony, which 
was most impressive and successful, has fortunately been 
described in a letter of Fr. Browne's, which we are allowed 
to reproduce : 

" I arrived at the Cathedral about n o'clock (says 
Fr. Browne), and was in despair to find that the Pontifical 
High Mass was not yet finished. Our people are so punctual 
and the French so regardless of time-tables that I was sure 
there would be confusion and delay when our 2,000 Catholics 
would begin to arrive. But it was not to be. Quietly and 
wonderfully quickly the Mass ended, and the people went 
out to watch the Bishop go back in procession to his house 
close by. I was relieved to see that neither he nor any of 
the priests unvested. Then Fr. Doyle and I had to try 
to clear away the hundred or so people who remained and 
the other hundred or so people who came wandering in for 
the last Mass — which for the day was to be ours. ' Donnez 
place, s'il vous plait, aux soldats qui vont arriver,' 1 I went 
round saying to everyone. They moved from the great 
aisle and got into the side-chapels, leaving the transepts 
and aisles free. Many refused to do this when with pious 
exaggeration I said, ' Presque 3,000 soldats Irlandais vont 
arriver tout a ]' heure.' 2 And lo ! they were coming. 
Through all the various doors they came, the Qth Dubs, 
marching in by the great western door, the 8th Dubs, through 
the beautiful southern door, through which St. Louis was the 
first to pass just 700 years ago, the 2nd Dubs, coming into 
the northern aisle and making their way up to the northern 
transept. Rank after rank the men poured in until the 
vast nave was one solid mass of khaki with the red caps of 
General Hickie and his staff and the Brigadiers in front. 
Then up the long nave at a quick clanking march came the 
Guard of Honour. Every button of its men, every badge, 
shone and shone again ; their belts were scrubbed till not 
even the strictest inspection could reveal the slightest stain, 
and their fixed bayonets only wanted the sun to show how 
they could flash. Up they came, and with magnificent 

I. — Make room, please, for the soldiers who are coming. 
2. — About 3,000 Irish soldiers are just coming. 



FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

precision took their places on either side of the altar. I 
was just leaving the sacristy to begin Mass when I saw the 
Bishop's procession arriving. He had promised to come 
only after the sermon, but here he was at the beginning of 
the ceremony, making everything complete. Of course, I 
saw nothing, being engaged in saying Mass, but those who 
did said it was a wonderful sight. The beautiful altar, 
standing at the crossing of the transepts and backed by the 
long arches of the apse and choir, was for the feast surrounded 
by a lofty throne bearing the statue of our Lady of Miracles. 
The sides were banked up high with palms ; then the Guard 
of Honour standing rigidly in two lines on either side ; lastly 
the Bishop in his beautiful purple robes on his throne. From 
the pulpit Fr. Doyle directed the singing of the hymns, and 
then, after the Gospel, he preached. I knew he could preach, 
but I had hardly expected that anyone could speak as he 
spoke then. First of all he referred to the Bishop's coming, 
and very, very tactfully spoke of the terrible circumstances 
of the time. Next he went on to speak of our Lady and the 
Shrine to which we had come. Gradually the story was 
unfolded ; he spoke wonderfully of the coming of the Old 
Irish Brigade in their wanderings over the Low Countries. 
It was here that he touched daringly, but ever so cleverly, 
on Ireland's part in the war. Fighting for Ireland and not 
fighting for Ireland, or rather fighting for Ireland through 
another. Then he passed on to Daniel O'Connell's time as 
a schoolboy at St. Omer and his visit to the Shrine. It 
certainly was very eloquent. Everyone spoke most highly 
of it afterwards, the men particularly, they were delighted. 1 

"After the sermon Mass went on. At the Sanctus I heard 
the subdued order, ' Guard of Honour, 'shun ! ' There was 
a click as rifles and feet came to position together. Then 

I. — [The sermon appealed to the men by its more or less historical reference to the 
Irish Brigade that had come there three hundred years before. The men of the 8th 
Dublins declared that Fr. Doyle " ought to get into Jim Larkin's shoes ! " It appealed 
to others for a different reason. General Ramsay (a Protestant) stated afterwards 
that it was one of the most tactful and impressive sermons he had ever heard, 
and General Hickie said that he was intensely pleased with the way in which 
* dangerous ' topics had been handled without offending anyone. It certainly required 
some diplomatic skill to appeal to Irish regiments in the British Army by evoking 
memories of the Irish Brigade which fought against England. Nor was it easy, with 
out hurting English susceptibilities, to convey the (act that the Irish soldiers who were 
listening were righting for what they believed was Ireland's cause as well as Belgium's. 
Fr. Doyle succeeded.] 



HIS LAST SERMON 305 

as the Bishop came from his throne to kneel before the altar, 
twelve little boys in scarlet soutanes, with scarlet sashes 
over their lace surplices, appeared with lighted torches and 
knelt behind his Lordship. At the second bell came the 
command, ' Guard of Honour, slope rifles ! ' And then as 
I bent over the Host, I heard, ' Present arms ! ' There was 
the quick click, click, click, and silence, till, as I genuflected, 
from the organ-gallery rang out the loud clear notes of the 
buglers sounding the General's Salute." 

At the end of the Mass the Bishop in a neat little speech 
thanked the men for the great honour they had paid him. 
He was especially struck, he said, by the fact that most 
of them had marched a long way (some nearly ten kilometres) 
to attend, and he asked those of his flock who were present 
to learn a lesson from the grand spirit and deep faith of the 
Irish soldiers. The ceremony concluded by a march past, 
with bands playing, in front of the Episcopal Palace. The 
Bishop stood on the steps of his house, beaming as he replied 
to the ' eyes right ' of each company as it passed him. 

This last sermon of Fr. Doyle will serve as a final proof — 
if such be needed — that the man, whose inner life has been 
portrayed in previous chapters, was no awkward recluse or 
unpractical pietist. He was full of lovable human qualities ; 
especially conspicuous was his unselfish thoughtfulness which 
always seemed so natural, so intertwined with playful 
spontaneity, that one came to take it for granted. He had 
a wonderful influence over others and knew how to win 
the human heart because he had learnt the Master's secret 
of drawing all to himself. He could, as we have just seen, 
preach persuasively when occasion demanded ; but his real 
sermon was his own life. And from this pulpit he spoke 
alike to Protestants and Catholics. " For fifteen months," 
writes Dr. C. Buchanan (gth Sept., 1917), " Fr. Doyle and 
I worked together out here, generally sharing the same 
dug-outs and billets, so we became fast friends, I acting as 
medical officer to his first Battalion. Often I envied him 
his coolness and courage in the face of danger : for this 
alone his men would have loved him, but he had other 
sterling qualities, which we all recognised only too well. 
He was beloved and respected, not only by those of his own 



306 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

Faith, but equally by Protestants, to which denomination 
I belong. To illustrate this — Poor Captain Eaton, before 
going into action last September, asked Fr. Doyle to do 
what was needful for him if anything happened to him, as 
he should feel happier if he had a friend to bury him. Capt. 
Eaton was one of many whom Fr. Doyle and I placed in their 
last resting place with a few simple prayers. For his broad- 
mindedness we loved him. He seldom if ever preached, 
but he set us a shining example of a Christian life." 1 

A similar testimony is eloquently conveyed in a little 
incident recorded by Fr. Doyle in a letter which he wrote 
to his father on 25th July, 1917. He wrote it seated on a 
comfortable roadside bank under a leafy hedge, listening, 
during this intermezzo from the dreadful drama of war, to 
the nightingales singing in the Bois de Rossignol near by. 
" While I was writing," he says, " one of my men, belonging 
to the Irish Rifles, of which I have charge also, passed by. 
We chatted for a few minutes and then he went on, but 
came back shortly with a steaming bowl of coffee which 
he had bought for me. ' I am not one of your flock, Father,' 
he said, ' but we have all a great liking for you.' And then 
he added : ' If all the officers treated us as you do, our lives 
would be different.' I was greatly touched by the poor 
lad's thoughtfulness, and impressed by what he said : a 
kind word often goes further than one thinks, and one loses 
nothing by remembering that even soldiers are human 
beings and have feelings like anyone else." 

There lies the secret of Fr. Doyle's popularity — his 
Christlike democracy. With him there was neither Jew nor 
Gentile, neither officer nor private ; all were men, human 
beings, souls for whom Christ died. Every man was equally 
precious to him ; beneath every mud-begrimed unkempt 
figure he discerned a human personality. 2 He would risk 
ten lives, if he had them, to bring help and comfort to a 
dying soldier no matter who he was. Once he rushed up 



I. — Once when Dr. Buchanan was unwell and there were no blankets to lie 
upon in the damp dug-out, Fr. Doyle lay flat, face downwards, on the ground, 
and made the doctor lie upon him. 

2. — Hence too he often reverently gathered up in a handkerchief and buried 
the remains of what had once enshrined a human soul. 



HIS LAST SERMON 307 

to a wounded Ulsterman and knelt beside him. "Ah, 
Father," said the man, " I don't belong to your Church/' 
" No," replied Fr Doyle, " but you belong to my God." 
To Fr. Doyle all were, brothers to be ministered unto. " He 
that will be first among you shall be your servant, even as 
the Son of Man is not come to be ministered unto but to 
minister, and to give His life a redemption for many." 
(5. Matthew 20. 27.) 



(6.) THE BATTLE OF YPRES. 1 

" We shall have desperate fighting soon," wrote Fr. Doyle 
in a private letter dated 25th July, " but I have not the least 
fear, on the contrary a great joy in the thought that I shall 
be able to make a real offering of my life to God, even if 
He does not think that poor life worth taking." To avoid 
causing anxiety he said nothing to his father about the 
impending battle until the first phase was over. On I2th 
August he sent home his last letter, a long budget or diary 
which will enable us to describe, chiefly in his own words, 
the events which occurred up to that date. 

By way of preface we shall first transcribe from the letter 
a little story which, in spite of its humorous setting, has a 
serious application to his own hard life. " Help comes to 
one in strange ways," he writes, " and the remembrance 
of a quaint old story has lightened for me the weight of a 
heavy pair of boots over many a mile of muddy road. The 
story may interest you : 

" In the good old days of yore a holy hermit built him a 
cell in a spot a few miles from the well, so that he might 
have a little act of penance to offer to Almighty God each 
day by tramping across the hot sand and back again with 
his pitcher. All went gaily for a while, and if the holy 
man did lose many a drop of honest sweat he knew he was 
piling up sacks of treasure in Heaven, and his heart was 
light. But — oh ! that little ' but ' which spoils so many 
things — but though the spirit was willing, the sun was very 

i. — See map on p. 223. 



308 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

warm, the sand most provokingly hot, the pitcher the devil 
and all of a weight, and the road seemingly longer each 
day. ' It is a bit too much of a good joke/ thought the 
man of God, ' to tramp these miles day in and day out, 
with my old bones, clanking like a traction engine. Why 
not move the cell to the edge of the water, save time (and 
much bad language probably) and have cool water in 
abundance, and a dry hair shirt on my back ? ' 

"Away home he faced for the last time with his brimming 
water jar, kicking the sand about in sheer delight, for the 
morrow would see him on the trek, and an end to his weary 
trudging, when suddenly he heard a voice, an angel's voice 
he knew it to be, counting slowly ' One, two, three, four.' 
The hermit stopped in wonder and so did the voice, but 
at the next steps he took the counting began again, ' Five, 
six, seven.' Falling on his knees the old man prayed that 
he might know the meaning of this wonder. ' I am the 
angel of God,' came the answer, ' counting up each step 
which long ago you offered up to my Lord and Master, so 
that not a single one may lose its reward. Don't be so 
foolish as to throw away the immense merit you are gaining, 
by moving your cell to the water's edge, for know that in 
the eyes of the heavenly court nothing is small which is 
done or borne for the love of God.' 

' That very night down came the hermit's hut, and before 
morning broke he had built it again five miles further from 
the well. For all I know he is merrily tramping still back 
wards and forwards across the burning sand, very hot and 
tired no doubt, but happy in the thought that the recording 
angel is busy counting each step. 

" I do not think I need point the moral. But I hope 
and pray that my own good angel is strong at arithmetic, 
and won't get mixed when he starts his long tot ! " 

To understand this little parable is to understand much 
of Fr. Doyle's life, his desire to emulate his angel guardian's 
arithmetic as well as his inveterate habit of adding to, instead 
of subtracting from, the ' hard things ' of life. 

We can now begin his record of these last terrible 
experiences. 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 309 

joth July. 

" For the past week we have been moving steadily up to 
the Front once more to face the hardships and horrors of 
another big push, which report says is to be the biggest 
effort since the War began. The blood-stained Ypres battle 
field is to be the centre of the fight, with our left wing running 
down to the Belgian coast from which it is hoped to drive 
the enemy and, perhaps, force him by a turning movement 
to fall back very far. 

" The preparations are on a colossal scale, the mass of men 
and guns enormous. ' Success is certain ' our Generals tell 
us, biit I cannot help wondering what are the plans of the 
Great Leader, and what the result will be when He has issued 
His orders. This much is certain : the fight will be a 
desperate one, for our foe is not only brave, but clever and 
cunning, as we have learned to our cost. 

" Mass in the open this morning under a drizzling rain 
was a trying if edifying experience. Colonel, officers and 
men knelt on the wet grass with the water trickling off them, 
while a happy if somewhat damp chaplain moved from 
rank to rank giving every man Holy Communion. Poor 
fellows : with all their faults God must love them dearly 
for their simple faith and love of their religion, and for the 
confident way in which they turn to Him for help in the 
hour of trial. 

" One of my converts, received into the Church last night, 
made his First Holy Communion this morning under cir 
cumstances he will not easily forget. I see in the paper 
that 13,000 soldiers and officers have become Catholics 
since the War began, but I should say this number is much 
below the mark. Ireland's missionaries, the light-hearted 
lads who shoulder a rifle and swing along the muddy roads, 
have taught many a man more religion, by their silent 
example, than he ever dreamed of before. 1 

" Many a time one's heart grows sick to think how few 

I. — As I transcribe these words of Fr. Doyle, there lies before me a letter 
from another chaplain: "The men are -wonderful — I ought to write it in 
capitals— so cheerful and so patient amidst their very real sufferings. I refer to 
the Irish element in the battalion, for there is a most marked difference in the 
demeanour and conduct of the various groups. Now I need hardly ask the 
origin of a particular group or individual ; the attitude of mind, body and lips 
is sufficient for me." 



310 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

will ever see home and country again, for their pluck and 
daring have marked them down for the positions which 
only the Celtic dash can take : a post of honour, no doubt, 
but it means slaughter as well. 1 

" We moved off at 10 p.m., a welcome hour in one way, 
as it means marching in the cool of the night instead of 
sweating under a blazing sun. Still when one has put in 
a long day of hard work, and legs and body are pretty well 
tired out already, the prospect of a stiff march is not too 
pleasant." 

3ist July. 

" It was 1.30 a.m. when our first halting place was reached, 
and as we march again at three, little time was wasted 
getting to sleep. It was the morning of July 3ist, the 
Feast of St. Ignatius, a day dear to every Jesuit, but doubly 
so to the soldier sons of the soldier saint. Was it to be 
Mass or sleep ? Nature said sleep, but grace won the day, 
and while the weary soldiers slumbered the Adorable Sacrifice 
was offered for them, that God would bless them in the 
coming fight and, if it were His Holy Will, bring them safely 
through it. Mass and thanksgiving over, a few precious 
moments of rest on the floor of the hut, and we have fallen 
into line once more. 

"As we do, the dark clouds are lit up with red and golden 
flashes of light, the earth quivers with the simultaneous 
crash of thousands of guns and in imagination we can picture 
the miles of our trenches spring to life as the living stream 
of men pours over the top — the Fourth Battle of Ypres 
has begun. 

" Men's hearts beat faster, and nerves seem to stretch 
and vibrate like harp strings as we march steadily on ever 
nearer and nearer towards the raging fight, on past battery 
after battery of huge guns and howitzers belching forth 
shells which ten men could scarcely lift, on past the growing 
streams of motor ambulances, each with its sad burden of 
broken bodies, the first drops of that torrent of wounded 

i. — Fr. Doyle met his death in the next ' post of honour ' assigned to his Irish 
flock in spite of what they had suffered during the previous day. On i6th 
August the l6th Division made an advance along the Frezenberg ridge behind 
Ypres, where English Divisions had already failed several times. 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 311 

which will pour along the road. I fancy not a few were 
wondering how long would it be till they were carried past 
in the same way, or was this the last march they would 
ever make till the final Roll Call on the Great Review Day. 

" We were to be held in reserve for the opening stages of 
the battle, so we lay all that day (the 3ist) in the open fields 
ready to march at a moment's notice should things go badly 
at the Front. Bit by bit news of the fight came trickling 
in. The Jocks (i5th Scottish Division) in front of us, had 
taken the first and second objective with little opposition, 
and were pushing on to their final goal. All was going 
well, and the steady stream of prisoners showed that for 
once Dame Rumour was not playing false. Our spirits 
rose rapidly in spite of the falling rain, for word reached 
us that we were to return to the camp for the night as our 
services would not be required. Then the sun of good news 
began to set, and ugly rumours to float about. 

' Whether it was the impetuous Celtic dash that won 
the ground, or part of German strategy, the enemy centre 
gave way while the wings held firm. This trick has been 
played so often and so successfully one would imagine we 
should not have been caught napping again, but the 
temptation for victorious troops to rush into an opening 
is almost too strong to be resisted, and probably the real 
state of affairs on the wings was not known. The Scotties 
reached their objective, only to find they were the centre 
of a murderous fire from three sides, and having beaten off 
repeated counter-attacks of the ' demoralized enemy ' were 
obliged to retire some distance. So far the Germans had 
not done too badly. 

" It was nearly eight o'clock, and our dinner was simmering 
in the pot with a tempting odour, when the fatal telegram 
came : ' the battalion will move forward in support at once.' 
I was quite prepared for this little change of plans having 
experienced such surprises before, and had taken the 
precaution of laying in a solid lunch early in the day. I 
did not hear a single growl from anyone, though it meant 
we had to set out for another march hungry and dinnerless, 
with the prospect of passing a second night without sleep. 
When I give my next nuns' retreat I think I shall try the 



312 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

experiment of a few supperless and bedless nights on them, 
just to see what they would say, and compare notes with 
the soldiers. The only disadvantage would be that I should 
be inundated with applications to give similar retreats in 
other convents, everyone being so delighted with the 
experiment, especially the good Mother Bursar who would 
simply coin money ! 

" On the road once more in strict fighting kit, the clothes 
we stood in, a rain coat, and a stout heart. A miserable 
night with a cold wind driving the drizzling rain into our 
faces and the ground underfoot being rapidly churned into 
a quagmire of slush and mud. I hope the Recording Angel 
will not be afraid of the weather and will not get as tired 
of counting the steps as I did : ' Ten thousand and one, 
ten thousand and two/ — a bit monotonous even with the 
memory of the old hermit to help one. 

' The road was a sight never to be forgotten. On one 
side marched our column in close formation, on the other 
galloped by an endless line of ammunition waggons, extra 
guns hurrying up to the Front, and motor lorries packed 
with stores of all kinds, while between the two flowed back 
the stream of empties and ambulance after ambulance filled 
with wounded and dying. 

" In silence, save for the never ceasing roar of the guns 
and the rumble of cart wheels, we marched on through the 
city of the dead, Ypres, not a little anxious, for a shower 
of shells might come at any minute. Ruin and desolation, 
desolation and ruin, is the only description I can give of a 
spot once the pride and glory of Belgium. The hand of 
war has fallen heavy on the city of Ypres ; scarce a stone 
remains of the glorious Cathedral and equally famous Cloth 
Hall ; the churches, a dozen of them, are piles of rubbish, 
gone are the convents, the hospitals and public buildings, 
and though many of the inhabitants are still there, their 
bodies lie buried in the ruins of their homes, and the smell 
of rotting corpses poisons the air. I have seen strange 
sights in the last two years, but this was the worst of all. 
Out again by the opposite gate of this stricken spot, which 
people say was not undeserving of God's chastisement, across 
the moat and along the road pitted all over with half filled 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 313 

in shell-holes. Broken carts and dead horses, with human 
bodies too if one looked, lie on all sides, but one is too weary 
to think of anything except how many more miles must 
be covered 

"A welcome halt at last with, perhaps, an hour or more 
delay. The men were already stretched by the side of the 
road, and I was not slow to follow their example. I often 
used to wonder how anyone could sleep lying in mud or 
water, but at that moment the place for sleep, as far as I 
was concerned, did not matter two straws, a thorn bush, 
the bed of a stream, anywhere would do to satisfy the longing 
for even a few moments' slumber after nearly two days 
and nights of marching without sleep. I picked out a soft 
spot on the ruins of a home, lay down with a sigh of relief, 
and then, for all I cared, all the King's guns and the Kaiser's 
combined might roar till they were hoarse, and all the rain 
in the heavens might fall, as it was falling then, I was too 
tired and happy to bother. 

: ' I was chuckling over the disappearance of the officer 
in front of me into a friendly trench from which he emerged 
if possible a little more muddy than he was, when I felt 
my two legs shoot from under me, and I vanished down the 
sides of a shell-hole which I had not noticed. As I am not 
making a confession of my whole life, I shall not tell you 
what I said, but it was something different from the 
exclamation of the pious old gentleman who used to mutter 
' Tut, tut ' every time he missed the golf ball. 

' The Head Quarters Staff found shelter in an old mine- 
shaft, dark, foul-smelling, and dripping water which promised 
soon to flood us out. Still it was some protection from the 
down-pour outside, and I slept like a top for some hours 
in a dry corner sitting on a coil of wire." 

ist August. 

" Morning brought a leaden sky, more rain, and no 
breakfast ! Our cook with the rations had got lost during 
the night, so there was nothing for it but to tighten one's 
belt and bless the man (backwards) who invented eating. 
But He Who feeds the birds of the air did not forget us, 
and by mid-day we were sitting down before a steaming 



314 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

tin of tea, bully beef and biscuits, a banquet fit to set before 
an emperor after nearly twenty-four hours' fast. Not for 
a moment during the whole of the day did the merciless 
rain cease. The men, soaked to the skin and beyond it, 
were standing up to their knees in a river of mud and water, 
and like ourselves were unable to get any hot food till the 
afternoon. Our only consolation was that our trenches were 
not shelled and we had no casualties. Someone must have 
had compassion on our plight, for when night fell a new 
Brigade came in to relieve us, much to our surprise and 
joy. Back to the camp we had left the previous night, one 
of the hardest marches I ever put in, but cheered at the 
thought of a rest. Once again we got through Ypres without 
a shell, though they fell before and after our passing ; good 
luck was on our side for once." 

Here they remained for a couple of days, and it was during 
this interval that Fr Doyle wrote the above little chronicle. 
He resumed it on the morning of Sunday, i2th August. 
" Dearest Father," he began, " when I finished writing the 
last line I could not help asking myself should I ever continue 
this little narrative of my adventures and experiences, for 
we were under marching orders to make our way that night 
to the Front Line, a series of shell holes in the ground won 
from the enemy. To hold this we knew would be no easy 
task, but I little thought of what lay before me, of the 
thousand and one dangers I was to pass through unscathed, 
or of the hardship and suffering which were to be crowded 
into the next few days. 

"It is Sunday morning, August I2th. We have just got 
back to camp after (for me at least) six days and seven 
continuous nights on the battle-field. There was no chance 
last night of a moment's rest, and you may imagine there 
was little sleep the previous nights either, sitting on a box 
with one's feet in 12 inches of water. For the past forty- 
eight hours we have lived, eaten and slept in a flooded 
dug-out, which you left at the peril of your life, so you may 
fancy what relief it was to change one's sodden muddy 
clothes. 

' Tired as I am, I cannot rest till I try to give you some 
account of what has happened, for I know you must be 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 315 

on the look-out for news of your boy, and also because my 
heart is bursting to tell you of God's love and protection, 
never so manifest as during this week. 

" He has shielded me from almost countless dangers 
with more than the tender care of an earthly mother — what 
I have to say sounds in parts almost like a fairy tale — and 
if He has tried my endurance, once at least almost to breaking 
point, it was only to fill me with joy at the thought that 
I ' was deemed worthy to suffer (a little) for Him.' 

" I shall give you as simply as I can the principal 
events of these exciting days as I jotted them down in my 
note-book." 

Before resuming the diary it is necessary to remark that 
after the death of Fr Knapp (3ist July), Fr. Browne was 
appointed chaplain to the 2nd Irish Guards. Hence from 
2nd August till his death Fr. Doyle had the four Battalions 
to look after, as no other priest had come to the 48th Brigade. 
A certain priest had indeed been appointed as Fr. Browne's 
successor by Fr. Rawlinson. But by some error the order 
was brought to a namesake, who, on arriving at Poperinghe 
and discovering the mistake, absolutely refused to have 
anything to do with the battle. This will explain why 
Fr. Doyle had such hard work and why he would not allow 
himself any rest or relief. 1 On i5th August, the day before 
Fr. Doyle's death, Fr. Browne wrote to his brother (Rev. 
W. F Browne, C.C.) : 

" Fr. Doyle is a marvel. You may talk of heroes and 
saints, they are hardly in it ! I went back the other day 
to see the old Dubs, as I heard they were having, we'll say, 
a taste of the War. 

" No one has been yet appointed to my place, and 
Fr. Doyle has done double work. So unpleasant were the 
conditions that the men had to be relieved frequently. 
Fr. Doyle had no one to relieve him and so he stuck to the 
mud and the shells, the gas and the terror. Day after day 
he stuck it out. 

" I met the Adjutant of one of my two Battalions, who 
previously had only known Fr. Doyle by sight. His first 
greeting to me was : — ' Little Fr. Doyle ' — they all call him 

I. — See p. 321. 



316 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

that, more in affection than anything else — ' deserves the 
V.C. more than any man that ever wore it. We cannot 
get him away from the line while the men are there, he is 
with his own and he is with us. The men couldn't stick it 
half so well if he weren't there. If we give him an orderly, 
he sends the man back, he wears no tin hat, and he is always 
so cheery/ Another officer, also a Protestant, said : ' Fr. 
Doyle never rests. Night and day he is with us. He finds 
a dying or dead man, does all, comes back smiling, makes 
a little cross, and goes out to bury him, and then begins 
all over again.' 

" I needn't say, that through all this, the conditions of 
ground, and air and discomfort, surpass anything that I 
ever dreamt of in the worst days of the Somme." 

We can now give the last fragment of Fr. Doyle's diary. 

jth August. 

"All day I have been busy hearing the men's confessions, 
and giving batch after batch Holy Communion. A con 
solation surely to see them crowding to the Sacraments, 
but a sad one too, because I know for many of them it is 
the last Absolution they will ever receive, and the next time 
they meet our Blessed Lord will be when they see Him face 
to face in Heaven." 

And here — he was writing a week later — Fr. Doyle 
interrupts his narrative by a spontaneous outburst of grief 
for the loss of those whom he loved as ' his own children.' 
" My poor brave boys ! " he exclaims. " They are lying 
now out on the battle-field ; some in a little grave dug and 
blessed by their chaplain, who loves them all as if they were 
his own children ; others stiff and stark with staring eyes, 
hidden in a shell-hole where they had crept to die ; while 
perhaps in some far-off thatched cabin an anxious motheV 
sits listening for the well-known step and voice which will 
never gladden her ear again. Do you wonder in spite of 
the joy that fills my heart that many a time the tears gather 
in my eyes, as I think of those who are gone ? " 

"As the men stand lined up on Parade, I go from company 
to company giving a General Absolution which I know is 
a big comfort to them, and then I shoulder my pack and 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 317 

make for the train which this time is to carry us part of 
our journey. ' Top end for Blighty, boys, bottom end 
Berlin,' I tell them as they clamber in, for they like a cheery 
word. ' If you're for Jerryland, Father, we're with you 
too,' shouts one big giant, which is greeted with a roar of 
approval and Berlin wins the day hands down. 

" Though we are in fighting kit, there is no small load 
to carry : a haversack containing little necessary things, 
and three days' rations which consist of tinned corn beef, 
hard biscuits, tea and sugar, with usually some solidified 
methylated spirit for boiling water when a fire cannot be 
lighted ; two full water-bottles ; a couple of gas-helmets 
the new one weighing nine pounds, but guaranteed to keep 
out the smell of the Old Boy himself ; then a waterproof 
trench coat ; and in addition my Mass kit strapped on my 
back on the off chance that some days at least I may be 
able to offer the Holy Sacrifice on the spot where so many 
men have fallen. My orderly should carry this, but I prefer 
to leave him behind when we go into action, to which he 
does not object. On a roasting hot day, tramping along 
a dusty road or scrambling up and down shell-holes, the 
extra weight tells. But then I think of my friend the hermit, 
and the pack grows light and easy ! 

"As I marched through Ypres at the head of the column, 
an officer ran across the road and stopped me : 'Are you a 
Catholic priest ? ' he asked, ' I should like to go to Con 
fession.' There and then, by the side of the road, while 
the men marched by, he made his peace with God, and went 
away, let us hope, as happy as I felt at that moment It 
was a trivial incident, but it brought home vividly to me 
what a priest was and the wondrous power given him by 
God. All the time we were pushing on steadily towards 
our goal across the battle-field of the previous week. Five 
days almost continuous rain had made the torn ground 
worse than any ploughed field, but none seemed to care as 
so far not a shot had fallen near. 

' We were congratulating ourselves on our good luck, when 
suddenly the storm burst. Away along the front trenches 
we saw the S;O.S. signal shoot into the air, two red and two 
green rockets, telling the artillery behind of an attack and 



3i8 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J 

calling for support. There was little need to send any signal 
as the enemy's guns had opened fire with a crash, and in a 
moment pandemonium, in fact fifty of them were set loose. 
I can but describe the din by asking you to start together 
fifty first class thunder storms, though even then the swish 
and scream, the deafening crash of the shells, would be 
wanting. 

" On we hurried in the hope of reaching cover which was 
close at hand, when right before us the enemy started to 
put down a heavy barrage, literally a curtain of shells, to 
prevent re-inforcements coming up. There was no getting 
through that alive and, to make matters worse, the barrage 
was creeping nearer and nearer, only fifty yards away, while 
shell fragments hummed uncomfortably close. Old shell- 
holes there were in abundance, but every one of them was 
brim full of water, and one would only float on top. Here 
was a fix ! Yet somehow I felt that though the boat seemed 
in a bad way, the Master was watching even while He seemed 
to sleep, and help would surely come. In the darkness I 
stumbled across a huge shell-hole crater, recently made, 
with no water. Into it we rolled and lay on our faces, while 
the tempest howled around and angry shells hissed overhead 
and burst on every side. For a few moments I shivered 
with fear, for we were now right in the middle of the barrage 
and the danger was very great, but my courage came back 
when I remembered how easily He Who had raised the 
tempest saved His Apostles from it, and I never doubted 
He would do the same for us. Not a man was touched, 
though one had his rifle smashed to bits. 

" We reached Head Quarters, a strong block house made 
of concrete and iron rails, a master-piece of German clever 
ness. From time to time all during the night the enemy 
gunners kept firing at our shelter, having the range to a 
nicety. Scores exploded within a few feet of it, shaking us 
till our bones rattled ; a few went smash against the walls 
and roof, and one burst at the entrance nearly blowing us 
over, but doing no harm thanks to the scientific construction 
of the passage. I tried to get a few winks of sleep on a stool, 
there was no room to lie down with sixteen men in a 
small hut. And I came to the conclusion that so far we 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 319 

had not done badly and there was every promise of an 
exciting time." 

6th August. 

" The following morning, though the Colonel and other 
officers pressed me very much to remain with them on the 
ground that I would be more comfortable, I felt I could 
do better work at the advanced dressing-station, or rather 
aid-post, and went and joined the doctor. It was a 
providential step and saved me from being the victim of an 
extraordinary accident. The following night a shell again 
rushed into the dug-out severely burning some and almost 
suffocating all the officers and men, fifteen in number, with 
poisonous fumes before they made their escape. Had I been 
there, I should have shared the same fate, so you can imagine 
what I felt as I saw all my friends carried off to hospital, 
possibly to suffer ill effects for life, while I by the merest 
chance was left behind well and strong to carry on God's 
work. I am afraid you will think me ungrateful, but more 
than once I almost regretted my escape, so great had been 
the strain of these past days now happily over. 

" For once getting out of bed (save the mark) was an 
easy, in fact, delightful task, for I was stiff and sore from 
my night's rest. My first task was to look round and see 
what were the possibilities for Mass. As all the dug-outs 
were occupied if not destroyed or flooded, I was delighted 
to discover a tiny ammunition store which I speedily con 
verted into a chapel, building an altar with the boxes. The 
fact that it barely held myself did not signify as I had no 
server and had to be both priest and acolyte, and in a way 
I was not sorry I could not stand up, as I was able for once 
to offer the Holy Sacrifice on my knees. 

" It is strange that out here a desire I have long cherished 
should be gratified, viz. : to be able to celebrate alone, 
taking as much time as I wished without inconveniencing 
anyone. I read long ago in the Acts of the Martyrs of 
a captive priest, chained to the floor of the Coliseum, offering 
up the Mass on the altar of his own bare breast, but apart 
from that, Mass that morning must have been a strange 
one in the eyes of God's angels, and I trust not unacceptable 
to Him. Returning to the dressing-station, I refreshed the 



320 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

inner man in preparation for a hard day's work. You may 
be curious to know what an aid-post is like. Get out of 
your mind all ideas of a clean hospital ward, for our first 
aid dressing-station is any place, as near as possible to the 
fighting line, which will afford a little shelter — a cellar, a 
coal hole, sometimes even a shell-hole. Here the wounded 
who have been roughly bandaged on the field are brought 
by the stretcher bearers to be dressed by the doctor. Our 
aid-post was a rough tin shed built beside a concrete dug-out 
which we christened the Pig Sty. You could just crawl 
in on hands and knees to the solitary chamber which served 
as a dressing room, recreation hall, sleeping apartment and 
anything else you cared to use it for. One could not very 
well sit up much less stand in our chateau, but you could 
stretch your legs and get a snooze if the German shells 
and the wounded men let you. On the floor were some 
wood-shavings, kept well moistened in damp weather by a 
steady drip from the ceiling, and which gave covert to a 
host of curious little creatures, all most friendly and 
affectionate. There was room for three but as a rule we 
slept six or seven officers side by side. I had the post of 
honour next the wall, which had the double advantage of 
keeping me cooj. and damp, and of offering a stout resistance 
if anyone wanted to pinch more space, not an easy task, 
you may well conclude. 

" I spent a good part of the day, when not occupied with 
the wounded, wandering round the battle-field with a spade 
to bury stray dead. Though there was not very much 
infantry fighting owing to the state of the ground, not for 
a moment during the week did the artillery duel cease, 
reaching at times a pitch of unimaginable intensity, I have 
been through some hot stuff at Loos, and the Somme was 
warm enough for most of us, but neither of them could 
compare to the fierceness of the German fire here. For 
example, we once counted fifty shells, big chaps too, whizzing 
over our little nest in sixty seconds, not counting those that 
burst close by. In fact you became so accustomed to it 
all that you ceased to bother about them, unless some battery 
started ' strafing ' your particular position when you began 
to feel a keen personal interest in every new comer. I have 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 321 

walked about for hours at a time getting through my work, 
with ' crumps ' of all sizes bursting in dozens on every side. 
More than once my heart has nearly jumped out of my mouth 
from sudden terror, but not once during all these days have 
I had what I could call a narrow escape, but always a strange 
confident feeling of trust and security in the all powerful 
protection of our Blessed Lord. You will see before the end 
that my trust was not misplaced. All the same I am not 
foolhardy nor do I expose myself to danger unnecessarily, 
the coward is too strong in me for that ; but when duty- 
calls I know I can count on the help of One Who has never 
failed me yet." 

jih August. 

" No Mass this morning, thanks, I suppose, to the kindly 
attention of the evil one. I reached my chapel of the previous 
morning only .to find that a big 9-5 inch shell had landed 
on the top of it during the day ; went away feeling very 
grateful I had not been inside at the time, but had to abandon 
all thought of Mass as no shelter could be found from the 
heavy rain. 

" The Battalion went out to-day for three days' rest, but 
I remained behind. Fr. Browne has gone back to the Irish 
Guards. He is a tremendous loss, not only to myself 
personally, but to the whole Brigade where he did magnificent 
work and made a host of friends. And so I was left alone. 
Another chaplain was appointed, but for reasons best known 
to himself he did not take over his battalion and let them 
go into the fight alone. There was nothing for it but to 
remain on and do his work, and glad I was I did so, for many 
a man went down that night, the majority of whom I was 
able to anoint. 

" Word reached me about mid-night that a party of men 
had been caught by shell fire nearly a mile away. I dashed 
off in the darkness, this time hugging my helmet as the 
enemy was firing gas shells. A moment's pause to absolve 
a couple of dying men, and then I reached the group of 
smashed and bleeding bodies, most of them still breathing. 
The first thing I saw almost unnerved me ; a young soldier 
lying on his back, his hands and face a mass of blue 



322 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

phosphorus flame, smoking horribly in the darkness. He 
was the first victim I had seen of the new gas the Germans 
are using, a fresh horror in this awful war. The poor lad 
recognized me, I anointed him on a little spot of unburnt 
flesh, not a little nervously, as the place was reeking with 
gas, gave him a drink which he begged for so earnestly, 
and then hastened to the others. 

" Back again to the aid-post for stretchers and help to 
carry in the wounded, while all the time the shells are coming 
down like hail. Good God ! how can any human thing 
live in this ? As I hurry back I hear that two men have 
been hit twenty yards away. I am with them in a moment, 
splashing through mud and water. A quick absolution and 
the last rites of the Church. A flash from a gun shows me 
that the poor boy in my arms is my own servant, or rather 
one who took the place of my orderly while he was away, 
a wonderfully good and pious lad. 

" By the time we reached the first party, all were dead, 
most of them with charred hands and faces. One man 
with a pulverized leg was still living. I saw him off to 
hospital made as comfortable as could be, but I could not 
help thinking of his torture as the stretcher jolted over the 
rough ground and up and down the shell holes. 

" Little rest that night, for the Germans simply pelted 
us with gas shells of every description, which, however 
thanks to our new helmets, did no harm " 



8th August. 

There is little to record during the next couple of days 
except the discovery of a new cathedral and the happiness 
of daily Mass. This time I was not quite so well off, as I 
could not kneel upright and my feet were in the water which 
helped to keep the fires of devotion from growing too warm. 
Having carefully removed an ancient German leg, I managed 
to vest by sitting on the ground, a new rubric I had to 
introduce also at the Communion, as otherwise I could not 
have emptied the Chalice. I feel that when I get home 
again I shall be absolutely miserable because everything 
will be so clean and dry and comfortable. Perhaps some 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 323 

kind friend will pour a bucket or two of water over my bed 
occasionally to keep me in good spirits. 

" When night fell, I made my way up to a part of the 
Line which could not be approached in daylight, to bury 
an officer and some men. A couple of grimy, unwashed 
figures emerged from the bowels of the earth to help me, 
but first knelt down and asked for Absolution. They then 
leisurely set to work to fill in the grave. ' Hurry up, boys,' 
I said, ' I don't want to have to bury you as well/ for the 
spot was a hot one. They both stopped working much to 
my disgust, for I was just longing to get away. ' Be gobs, 
Father,' replied one, ' I haven't the divil a bit of fear in 
me now after the holy Absolution.' ' Nor I,' chimed in the 
other, ' I am as happy as a king.' The poor Padre who had 
been keeping his eye on a row of ' crumps ' which were coming 
unpleasantly near felt anything but happy ; however there 
was nothing for it but to stick it out as the men were in a 
pious mood ; and he escaped at last, grateful that he was 
not asked to say the rosary." 

loth August. 

"A sad morning as casualties were heavy and many men 
came in dreadfully wounded. One man was the bravest I 
ever met. He was in dreadful agony, for both legs had been 
blown off at the knee But never a complaint fell from his 
lips, even while they dressed his wounds, and he tried to 
make light of his injuries. ' Thank God, Father,' he said, 
' I am able to stick it out to the end. Is it not ail for little 
Belgium ? ' The Extreme Unction, as I have noticed time 
and again, eased his bodily pain. ' I am much better now 
and easier, God bless you,' he said, as I left him to attend 
a dying man. He opened his eyes as I knelt beside him : 
'Ah ! Fr. Doyle, Fr. Doyle,' he whispered faintly, and then 
motioned me to bend lower as if he had some message to 
give. As I did so, he put his two arms round my neck and 
kissed me. It was all the poor fellow could do to show his 
gratitude that he had not been left to die alone and that 
he would have the consolation of receiving the Last 
Sacraments before he went to God. Sitting a little way off 
I saw a hideous bleeding object, a man with his face smashed 



324 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

by a shell, with one if not both eyes torn out. He raised 
his head as I spoke. ' Is that the priest ? Thank God, 
I am all right now.' I took his blood-covered hands in mine 
as I searched his face for some whole spot on which to anoint 
him. I think I know better now why Pilate said ' Behold 
the Man ' when he showed our Lord to the people. 

" In the afternoon, while going my rounds, I was forced 
to take shelter in the dug-out of a young officer belonging 
to another regiment. For nearly two hours I was a prisoner 
and found out he was a Catholic from Dublin, and had been 
married just a month. Was this a chance visit, or did God 
send me there to prepare him for death, for I had not long 
left the spot when a shell burst and killed him ? I carried 
his body out the next day and buried him in a shell hole, 
and once again I blessed that protecting Hand which had 
shielded me from his fate. 

" That night we moved head quarters and aid-post to a 
more advanced position, a strong concrete emplacement, but 
a splendid target for the German gunners. For the forty- 
eight hours we were there they hammered us almost 
constantly day and night till I thought our last hour had 
come. There we lived with a foot, sometimes more, of water 
on the floor, pretty well soaked through, for it was raining 
hard at times. Sleep was almost impossible — fifty shells a 
minute made some noise — and to venture out without 
necessity was foolishness. We were well provided with 
tinned food, and a spirit lamp for making hot tea, so that 
we were not too badly off, and rather enjoyed hearing the 
German shells hopping off the roof or bursting on the walls 
of their own strong fort." 

i ith August. 

" Close beside us I had found the remains of a dug-out 
which had been blown in the previous day and three men 
killed. I made up my mind to offer up Mass there for the 
repose of their souls. In any case ' I did not know a better 
'ole to go to,' and to this little act of charity I attribute 
the saving of my life later on in the day. I had barely 
fitted up my altar when a couple of shells burst overhead, 
sending the clay tumbling down For a moment I felt very 



THE BATTLE OF YPRES 325 

tempted not to continue as the place was far from safe. 
But later I wa? glad I went on for the Holy Souls certainly 
came to my aid as I did to theirs. 

" I had finished breakfast and had ventured a bit down 
the trench to find a spot to bury some bodies left lying there. 
I had reached a sheltered corner, when I heard the scream 
of a shell coming towards me rapidly, and judging by the 
sound, straight for the spot where I stood. Instinctively 
I crouched down, and well I did so, for the shell whizzed 
past my head — I felt my hair blown about by the hot air — 
and burst in front of me with a deafening crash. It seemed 
to me as if a heavy wooden hammer had hit me on the top 
of the head, and I reeled like a drunken man, my ears ringing 
with the explosion. For a moment I stood wondering how 
many pieces of shrapnel had hit me, or how many legs and 
arms I had left, and then dashed through the thick smoke 
to save myself from being buried alive by the shower of 
falling clay which was rapidly covering me. I hardly know 
how I reached the dug-out for I was speechless and so badly 
shaken that.it was only by a tremendous effort I was able 
to prevent myself from collapsing utterly as I had seen so 
many do from shell shock. Then a strange thing happened : 
something seemed to whisper in my ear, one of those sudden 
thoughts which flash through the mind : ' Did not that 
shell come from the hand of God ? He willed it should be 
so. Is it not a proof that He can protect you no matter 
what the danger ? ' 

" The thought that it was all God's doing acted like a 
tonic ; my nerves calmed down, and shortly after I was 
out again to see could I meet another iron friend. As a 
matter of fact I wanted to see exactly what had happened, 
for the report of a high explosive shell is so terrific that one 
is apt to exaggerate distances. An officer recently assured 
me he was only one foot from a bursting shell, when in reality 
he was a good 40 yards away. You may perhaps find it 
hard to believe, as I do myself, what I saw. I had been 
standing by a trellis work of thin sticks. By stretching 
out my hand I could touch the screen, and the shell fell 
smashing the woodwork. ! My escape last year at Loos was 
wonderful, but then I was some yards away, and partly 



326 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

protected by a bend in the trench. Here the shell fell, I 
might say, at my very feet ; there was no bank, no protection 
except the wall of your good prayers and the protecting 
arm of God. 

" That night we were relieved, or rather it was early 
morning, 4.30 a.m., when the last company marched out. 
I went with them so that I might leave no casualties behind. 
We hurried over the open as fast as we could, floundering 
in the thick mud, tripping over wires in the darkness, and, 
I hope, some of the lay members cursing the German gunners 
for disturbing us by an odd shot. We had nearly reached 
the road, not knowing /it was a marked spot when like a 
hurricane a shower of shells came smashing down upon us. 
We were fairly caught and for once I almost lost hope of 
getting through in safety. For five minutes or more we 
pushed on in desperation ; we could not stop to take shelter, 
for dawn was breaking and we should have been seen by the 
enemy. Right and left in front and behind, some far away, 
many very close, the shells kept falling Crash ! One has 
pitched in the middle of the line, wounding five men, none 
of them seriously. Surely God is good to us, for it seems 
impossible a single man will escape unhurt, and then when 
the end seemed at hand, our batteries opened fire with a 
roar to support an attack that was beginning The German 
guns ceased like magic, or turned their attention elsewhere, 
and we scrambled on to the road and reached home without 
further loss." 

(7.) THE END. 

This was the end of Fr. Doyle's diary. There followed 
just this last message to his Father, so pathetic in the light 
of his death two days later : "I have told you all my escapes, 
dearest Father, because I think what I have written will 
give you the same confidence which I feel, that my old arm 
chair up in Heaven is not ready yet, and I do not want yon 
to be uneasy about me. I am all the better for these couple 
of days' rest, and am quite on my fighting legs again. Leave 
will be possible very shortly, I think, so I shall only say 
au revoir in view of an early meeting. Heaps of love to 



THE END 327 

every dear one. As ever, dearest Father, your loving son, 
Willie. 14/8/17." Before this letter had reached home, the 
great Leave Day had come for Willie Doyle. He was called 
Home. " Blessed are the dead? who die in the Lord. From 
henceforth now, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their 
labours, for their works follow them." (Apoc. 14. 13.) 

The recital, which has just been given, of Fr. Doyle's 
superhuman exertions and hairbreadth escapes, has made 
it abundantly clear that only by some continuous miracle 
could he hope to survive another such advance. It came 
next day, the i5th, when once more the Irish troops were 
moved up through and beyond Ypres. Here on the dawn 
of Thursday, i6th August, the front line from St. Julien 
to the Roulers railway south of Frezenberg was held by 
Irishmen waiting for the order to advance. Every 
insignificant rise in the undulating Flemish farmlands in 
front of them was crowned by a German post ; there were 
several strong ' pill-boxes ' (concrete blockhouses) and in the 
middle of the line of attack a spur (Hill 35) dominated every 
approach. It was these redoubts — especially Borry Farm 
Redoubt with its sixty expert gunners and five machine- 
guns — which frustrated all attempts of the Irish infantry. 
Moreover, no supporting waves came up for no living beings 
could get through the transverse fire of the German machine- 
guns. And so when the German counterattack was launched 
in the afternoon, the Rifles, the Dublins, and the Inniskillings 
had to retire, taking with them what wounded they could. 
Many groups were surrounded and cut off or had to fight 
their way back in the night. 1 

Fr. Doyle was speeding ail day hither and thither over 
the battlefield like an angel of mercy ; his words of Absolution 
were the last words heard on earth by many an Irish lad 
that day, and the stooping figure of priest and father, seen 
through blinding blood, filled the glance of many in 
their agony. Perhaps once more some speechless youth 
ebbing out his life's blood, kissed his beloved padre, or by 
a silent handshake bade farewell to the father of his soul. 
"Ah, Father Doyle, Father Doyle." " Is that the priest ? 

I. — In the fourth battle of Ypres, from 3ist July to i6th August, the i6th 
Division lost 230 officers and 4,370 other ranks. 



328 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Thank God, I am all right now." "Ah, Father is that you ? 
Thanks be to God for His goodness in sending you ; my 
heart was sore to die without the priest." . . . All the 
little stories come back to us as we try to reconstruct that 
last great day of priestly ministry and sacrifice. We shall 
never know here below, for towards the evening of that 
heroic day Fr. Doyle died a martyr of charity. The great 
dream which had haunted him for a lifetime had come true ; 
he shed his blood while working for Christ. " Greater love 
than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his 
friends." (5. John 15. 13.) " The good shepherd giveth 
his life for his sheep." (S. John 10. n.) 

Few authentic details can be gathered concerning that 
day of carnage and confusion, especially as the troops were 
retiring from ground which was not finally occupied until 
about six weeks later after severe fighting. What little is 
known may be recounted from letters and newspaper 
reports. 1 Here are a few tributes from war correspondents : 

"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 head quarters, 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 

i. — The best substantiated account is this. Fr. Doyle had been engaged 
from early morning in the front line, cheering and consoling his men, and 
attending to the many wounded. Soon after 3 p.m. he made his way back to 
the Regimental Aid Post which was in charge of a Corporal Raitt, the doctor 
having gone back to the rear some hours before. Whilst here word came in 
that an officer of the Dublins had been badly hit, and was lying out in an 
exposed position. Fr. Doyle at once decided to go out to him, and left the Aid 
Post with his runner, Private Mclnespie, and a Lieutenant Grant. Some 
twenty minutes' later, at about a quarter to four, Mclnespie staggered into the 
Aid Post and fell down in a state of collapse from shell shock. Corporal Raitt 
went to his assistance and after considerable difficulty managed to revive him. 
His first words on coming back to consciousness were: "Fr. Doyle has been 
killed ! " Then bit by bit the whole story was told. Fr. Doyle had found the 
wounded officer lying far out in a shell crater. He crawled out to him, absolved 
and anointed him, and then, half dragging, half carrying the dying man, 
managed to get him within the line. Three officers came up at this moment, 
and Mclnespie was sent for some water. This he got and was handing it to 
Fr. Doyle when a shell burst in the midst of the group, killing Fr. Doyle and 
the three officers instantaneously, and hurling Mclnespie violently to the 
ground. Later in the day some of the Dublins when retiring came across the 
bodies of all four. Recognising Fr. Doyle, they placed hint and a Private 
Meehan, whom they were carrying back dead, behind a portion of the 
Frezenberg Redoubt and covered the bodies with sods and stones. 



THE END 329 

was not touched — not touched until his own turn came. 
A shell burst close by, and the padre fell dead." 

(Sir Philip Gibbs in the Daily Chronicle and the Daily 
Telegraph ; also in his book From Bapaume to Passchendaele, 
1917, p. 254.) 

" 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 battle 
field 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. 1 They 
remember him as a saint — they speak his name with tears." 

(Percival Phillips in the Daily Express and also the Morning 
Post, 22nd August, 1917.) 

" Many tales of individual gallantry are told ; two 
instances especially which should be recorded ; one being 
that of an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps attached 
to the Leinsters, who spent five hours in circumstances of 
the greatest danger tending the wounded, and behaving in 
all ways with consummate heroism ; and the other that of 
a Roman Catholic chaplain who went up with the men, 
sustained and cheered them to the last, till he was killed." 

(The Times, 22nd August, 1917.) 

The following passage is from a letter of General Hickie 
written to a friend on i8th Nov.; 1917. 

" Fr. Doyle was one of the best priests I have ever met, 
and one of the bravest men who have fought or worked 
out here. He did his duty, and more than his duty, most 
nobly, and has left a memory and a name behind him that 

I. — Compare what Dom Bede Camm says of Fr. B. Kavanagh, C.S.S R. : 
" He was warned not to go where he did, for the danger was too great, but he 
said, ' If my boys can go there, so can I.' " — Dublin Review, vol. 165, 1919, p. 62. 



330 . FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

will never be forgotten. On the day of his death, i6th 
August, he had worked in the front line, and even in front 
of that line, and appeared to know no fatigue — he never 
knew fear. He was killed by a shell towards the close of 
the day, and was buried on the Frezenberg Ridge. . . . 
He was recommended for the Victoria Cross by his 
Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by myself. 
Superior Authority, however, has not granted it, and as no 
other posthumous reward is given, his name will, I believe, 
be mentioned in the Commander-in- Chief 's Despatch. . . . 
I can say without boasting that this is a Division of brave 
men ; and even among these, Fr. Doyle stood out " 

Though Fr Doyle cared nothing for human decoration? — 
it was another Commander-in-Chief under Whom he served — 
it seems right to chronicle this judgement of others and to 
record the fact that he was recommended for the D.S.O. 
at Wytschaete and the V.C. at Frezenberg. However the 
triple disqualification of being an Irishman, a Catholic and 
a Jesuit, proved insuperable. 1 

On I5th December, 1917, General Hickie, having discovered 
Mr. Doyle's address, paid another tribute : "I could not 
say too much about your son," he wrote. " He was loved 
and reverenced by us all ; his gallantry, self-sacrifice, and 
devotion to duty were all so well known and recognized. 
I think that his was the most wonderful character that I 
have ever known." 

" Strong Point 13 and the little dug-out of the brave padre 
rise before me as I write," says an Irish officer in the Catholic 
News (i5th September, 1917.) " I recall the early Mass 
when our battalion was in reserve. Often have I knelt at 
the impromptu altar serving that Mass for the padre in the 
upper barn, hail, rain, and snow blowing in gusts through 
the shell-torn roof. He knew no fear. As company officers, 
how many times have we accompanied him through the 
front line system to speak a word to the men. Well do we 



I.— A soldier, knowing what Father Knapp and Father Gwynn had done, once 
asked his chaplain : " Aren't our priests, Father, forbidden to take the V.C. ? ! " 
Even before the Frezenberg action Fr. Doyle was_ reputed by the officers to have 
earned the V.C. Thus Lieut. Galvin, writing home 'on I4th August, 1917, says : " If 
ever a man earned the V.C. in this war, it is Father Doyle. He i:> simply splendid. 
He comes up every night under heavy shell-fire, burying the dead and binding the 
wounded and cheering the men. I wish to heavens we had a few doctors like him." 



THE END 331 

remember when at long last we went back for rest and 
training, how our beloved padre did the long three days' 
march at the head of the battalion. 

" Which of the men do not recall with a tear and a smile 
how he went ' over the top ' at Wytschaete ? He lived with 
us in our newly- won position, and endured our hardships 
with unfailing cheerfulness. In billets he was an ever 
welcome visitor to the companies, and our only trouble was 
that he could not always live with whatever company he 
might be visiting. 

" Ypres sounded the knell. Recommended for the D.S.O. 
for Wytschaete, he did wonderful work at Ypres, and was 
recommended for the V.C Many a dying soldier on that 
bloody field has flashed a last look of loving recognition as 
our brave padre rushed to hi? aid, braving the fearful barrage 
and whistling machine-gun bullets, to give his boy a last 
few words of hope." 

" He was one of the finest fellows I ever met," wrote 
Lt.-Col. H. R. Stirke (commanding the 8th Dublins) on I3th 
September, 1917, " utterly fearless, always with a cheery 
word on his lips, and ever ready to go out and attend the 
wounded and dying under the heaviest fire. He was 
genuinely loved by everyone, and thoroughly deserved the 
unstinted praise he got from all ranks for his rare pluck 
and devotion to duty," 

In its own way the following generous appreciation by a 
Belfast Orangeman is rather unique. It was published in 
the Glasgow Weekly News of ist September, 1917 : 

" Fr. Doyle was a good deal among us. We couldn't 
possibly agree with his religious opinion, but we simply 
worshipped him for other things. He didn't know the 
meaning of fear, and he didn't know what bigotry was. He 
was as ready to risk his life to take a drop of water to 
a wounded Ulsterman as to assist men of his own faith and 
regiment. If he risked his life in looking after Ulster 
Protestant soldiers once, he did it a hundred times in the 
last few days. . . . The Ulstermen felt his loss more 
keenly than anybody, and none were readier to show their 
marks of respect to the dead hero priest than were our Ulster 
Presbyterians. Fr. Doyle was a true Christian in every 



332 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE. S.J. 

sense of the word, and a credit to any religious faith. He 
never tried to get things easy. He was always sharing the 
risks of the men, and had to be kept in restraint by the staff 
for his own protection. Many a time have I seen him walk 
beside a stretcher trying to console a wounded man with 
bullets flying around him and shells bursting every 
few yards." 

"He never tried to get things easy"— words conveying 
a truth deeper than this Ulster soldier could realise ! May 
we not reverently recall S. Paul's sentence : " Having joy 
set before Him, He endured the cross " ? (Hebr. 12. 2.) 

A similar tribute was paid by Sergeant T. Flynn, Dublin 
Fusiliers, in a letter written home and published in the 
Irish News, 2Qth August, 1917 : 

" We had the misfortune to lose our chaplain, Fr. Doyle, 
the other day. He was a real saint and would never leave 
his men, and it was really marvellous to see him burying 
dead soldiers under terrible shell fire. He did not know 
what fear was, and everybody in the battalion, Catholic 
and Protestant alike, idolised him. I went to Confession 
to him and received Holy Communion from him a day or 
two before he was killed, and I feel terribly sorry after him. 

" He loved the men and spent every hour of his time 
looking after them, and when we were having a fairly hot 
time in the trenches he would bring us up boxes of cigarettes 
and cheer us up. The men would do anything he asked 
them, and I am sure we will never get another padre like 
him. Everybody says that he has earned the V.C. many 
times over, and I can vouch for it myself from what I have 
seen him do many a time. He was asked not to go into 
action with the battalion, but he would not stop behind, 
and I am confident that no braver or holier man ever fell 
in battle than he." 

An even more convincing testimony was borne by a Fusilier 
who happened to be home in Dublin on leave at the time 
of Fr. Doyle's death. Meeting a friend who told him the 
news, he kept repeating incredulously : " He's not dead. 
He couldn't be killed ! " When at last he was shown a 
paper describing the padre's death, the poor fellow knelt 
down on the pavement and began to pray. Then to the 
crowd which gathered round him he recounted how, when 



THE END 333 

he was lying wounded in an exposed position and expecting 
every moment to be killed by a shell, Fr. Doyle had crept 
out to him and carried him to a place of safety. 1 

The good sisters of St. Anthony's Institute, Locre, who 
had always been so kind to Fr. Doyle, were anxious to have 
his remains, not realising the circumstances of his death. 
The Superioress wrote to Fr. Browne a touching little note 
on 2ist August : 

" What very sad news I have received ! Our good brave 
holy Fr. Doyle has been killed ! Compassionate Lord Jesus 
give him eternal rest ! Rev. Fr Browne will accept my 
condolence, my feelings of sympathy in the great loss of 
our good Fr. Doyle, your confrere. Notre petit saint, he 
has now received his recompense for his holy life, his great 
love for God and neighbour. Oh ! he was so much loved 
by everybody and we shall never forget him. We are all 
very glad to have had him with us in the convent and to 
have made his life as comfortable as possible. Were it not 
possible Rev. Fr. to bring his holy body to the convent ? 
It were a great honour to us to have it." 

Fr. Browne himself, who had been with Fr Doyle in 
Clongowes and Belvedere, who had, above all, been so- 
intimately associated with him in their joint mission to the 
48th Brigade, expressed his grief and his esteem in a letter, 
written on 20th August, from which a passage may be 
-quoted : 

"All during these last months he was my greatest help, 
and to his saintly advice, and still more to his saintly example, 
I owe everything I felt and did. With him, as with others 
of us, his bravery was no mere physical show-off. He was 
afraid and felt fear deeply, how deeply few can realise. And 
yet the last word said of him to me by the Adjutant of the 
Royal Irish Rifles in answer to my question, ' I hope you 
are taking care of Fr. Doyle ? ', was, ' He is as fond of the 
shells as ever.' His one idea was to do God's work with the 
men, to make them saints. How he worked and how he 

I. — After Fr. Doyle's death some of the men of the 8th Dublins expressed their 
appreciation in verses whose untutored genuineness will excuse all literary short 
comings. The first stanza runs thus : 

He is gone from amongst us, may his soul rest above, 
The pride of our regiment whom every man loved, 
His life's work is o'er, he has finished his toil, 
So may God rest the soul of our brave Father Doyle. 



334 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S J. 

prayed for this ! Fine weather and foul he was always 
thinking of them and what he could do for them. In the 
cold winter he would not use the stove I bought for our 
dug-out. He scoffed at the idea as making it ' stuffy '- 
and that when the thermometer was fifteen to twenty degrees 
below zero, the coldest ever known in living memory here. 
And how he loathed it all, the life and everything it implied ! 
And yet nobody suspected it. God's Will was his law. And 
to all who remonstrated, ' Must I not be about the Lord's 
business ? ' was his laughing answer in act and deed and 
not merely in word. May he rest in peace — it seems super 
fluous to pray for him." 

There once more we have Fr. Doyle's unmistakable 
portrait, those characteristic traits familiar now to us who 
in these pages have read his inner life : the jest -concealed 
cross, the unsuspected loathing, the fear so pleasantly dis 
guised, the selfless work and incessant prayer, the loving 
trustfulness in God's Will. And as we come to the close 
of this life-story, all its incidents are gathered up in memory 
to blend into a final cadence : the novice's blood-sealed 
covenant, the consuming love and zeal, the hidden reparation, 
the vigils and scourgings, the pond at Rathfarnham, the 
nettles at Delgany, the mud and blood of West Flanders 
and the Pas de Calais. Nothing befitted such a life like 
the end of it. 

' Did you not know that I must be about my Father's 
business ? ' he would have gently asked us had we, prudent 
ones, expostulated with him that day for being foolhardy. 
His Father's business : not bloodshed and hate and strife, 
but mercy and brotherhood and reconciliation. He might, 
of course, have stayed behind in Ypres or St. Jean ; he 
could, had he wished, have kept out of danger. Perchance 
there were some who said, ' He saved others, himself he 
cannot save.' They were right. ' For whoever wishes to 
save his life will lose it, and whoever for My sake, loses his 
life, will save it. What does it avail a man if, after gaining 
the whole world, he has lost or forfeited himself ? ' ' For 
My sake ' — ' I tell you, as often as you did it for one of these 
My brothers, however lowly, you did it for Me.' Beyond 
and besides the great legion of faithful ordinary workers, 



THE END. 335 

there is need of a handful of heroes, men who save others 
because they cannot save themselves. Nicely calculated 
prudence could not survive without some of the foolishness 
of the Cross. The death of a hero or a martyr is a higher 
achievement than mere continuance of physical life. 

' Lord, if it be Thou,' cried impetuous Peter, ' bid me 
come to Thee upon the waters .' And Christ said ' Come ' 
to foolish Peter, while the prudent apostles remained in the 
boat. Surely, as Fr. Doyle on that August morning looked 
out upon those undulating Flemish fields where shell-barrage 
and bullet-blasts laid low the advancing waves of brave 
men, surely he heard the Master's voice bidding him come 
to Him upon the waters. And he came ; with his great 
hearted faith he never doubted. " I am not foolhardy nor 
do I expose myself to danger unnecessarily, the coward is 
too strong in me for that ; but wiben duty calls I know I 
can count on the help of One who has never failed me yet." 
How could he resist ? Out yonder, in Verlorenhoek and 
Frezenberg and along the Hannebeek stream, the smashed 
and bleeding bodies of his poor fellows were lying. . . . 
" My poor brave boys ! They are. lying now out on the 
battle-field : some in a little grave dug and blessed by their 
chaplain who loves them all as if they were his own children ; 
others stiff and stark with staring eyes, hidden in a shell- 
hole where they had crept to die ; while perhaps in some 
far-off thatched cabin an anxious mother sits listening for 
the well-known step and voice which will never gladden 
her ear again." Having loved his ' poor brave boys ' in 
this world and eased their passage to the next, he loved 
them to the end. He did not desert them in their day of 
defeat without dishonour. And so, somewhere near the 
Cross Roads of Frezenberg, where he lies buried with them, 
the 'chaplain and men of the 48th Brigade are waiting 
together for the great Reveille. 



336 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 



APPENDIX 

• 

SOME FURTHER LETTERS OF FATHER DOYLE 

SINCE the issue of the first edition of this book some 
further personal letters of Fr. Doyle have come to 
light. They are published here because they have a 
valuable biographical interest. The intimate records which 
have been utilised in the previous pages present us with 
one side of his character, a side which was unknown even 
to those who lived with him. This rather unexpected 
revelation must not be allowed to obscure his intense 
humanness and natural gaiety of disposition. These few 
letters which survive will show us that even as a novice 
he had a fund of humour and an almost irresistible twitching 
to play pranks ; his letters from the Front have already 
demonstrated that he retained this jocose buoyancy to the 
very end. The man who wrestled with aspirations and 
plunged into austerities could always crack a joke and enjoy 
a hearty laugh. If the Diary of his Long Retreat conjures 
up the vision of a sour-visaged, prudish, would-be saint, the 
error will be quickly dispelled by reading the con 
temporaneous letters here printed. To which may be added 
this testimony of one who lived long with Fr. Doyle : " I 
found the Life very interesting and very wonderful. Certainly 
I have come across no record of austerities practised on 
such a scale in recent times. In his early life, until 
Ordination, I knew Fr. Doyle very well indeed. We were 
together for two years at Stony hurst, and I was thrown 
very much in his company. He was always a very reserved 
man ; it was impossible to know him ; he never let you 
into his secrets, hardly ever, I think, consulted you about 
anything. It was impossible to be really intimate with 
him, as one always felt that he would not take you into his 
confidence. This explains, I think, the fact that people 



APPENDIX 337 

had no conception of the life he led, which would never 
have been known had not his notes been discovered. In 
his early life he gave no indication of the sanctity he after 
wards attained. He was always, of course, very good ; but 
he was better known for his jokes and freaks than for piety. 
He was always, however, very determined ; and if he set 
his mind on anything, nothing would deter him from carrying 
it through. When then, later on, he set himself to become 
a saint, it is not surprising that he overcame his own 
inclinations as he had overcome all other obstacles." For 
those who lived in close association with Fr. Doyle this 
estimate, being obvious, need not be reproduced. But for 
such as have come to know Fr. Doyle only through 
the medium of these printed pages, it is both helpful 
and consoling to emphasise the human elements of his 
character. It is also desirable in the interests of biographical 
accuracy. Hence the publication of these few letters which 
in themselves may seem unimportant and ordinary. 



I. — LETTER TO HIS SISTER FROM THE NOVICESHIP. 
Tullabeg, Christmas, 1891. 

I am sure you must have come to the conclusion that 
your wild scamp of a brother had gone the way of all flesh, 
seeing that not so much as a postage stamp has come from 
him for ages ! Perhaps you will forgive my long neglect 
when I tell you that since I left Ratcliffe I hardly know 
whether I have been on my head or my heels half the time. 
It is only now I am beginning to realise all that has happened 
since tKen. 

It may interest you to know what I have been doing 
since I left my Alma Mater. I came home about the middle 
of July with the intention of entering Clonliffe ; and what 
is the strange part of the whole business is that just before 
I left Ratcliffe, I told Fr. Davis, our Spiritual Director, 
that I would as soon shoot myself as enter a religious order f 
But man proposes and God disposes ; so it was in my case. 



338 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

I came down here to see Charlie about the middle of August 
twelve months, and spent a few days with him. But I 
uttered a fervent Deo Gratias when I found myself on my 
way home, thanking my stars that I had not the honour 
of putting N.S.J. after my name. Then came a spell of 
four months' idleness at home during which someone was 
praying hard for a brother of his, and not in vain, for on 
Christmas Day, just a year next Friday, grace had done 
its work and the ranks of the black-robed Fathers were 
swelled by a saintly aspirant to perfection ! Soon after 
making up my mind to enter the Society, I applied to the 
Provincial for admission, which he readily granted — and no 
wonder, seeing the fine fish he had hooked ! 

I arrived off the coast of Tullabeg on March 3ist, and 
was immediately seized upon by Charlie and initiated into 
the mysteries and black magic of Jesuit life. 

Perhaps you would like to know how things are going 
with me here. Well, I am as happy as the day is long, 
though at times, I confess, I find it hard to keep from turning 
somersaults, jumping out of the window, coming downstairs 
head first, or from some other mad freak of the kind. 
I often think that if there was any madness running in the 
family, it found a resting-place in me ! I suppose you 
heard that I have been through the Long Retreat, as it is 
called, the retreat of thirty days, which every Jesuit novice 
has to make. It was a wonderful time. I do not think 
that I ever spent such a happy time in all my life. 



II. — LETTER TO HIS MOTHER FROM THE NOVICESHIP. 
Tullabeg, Christmas,- 1891. 

The time down here is most extraordinary ! They have 
only twenty minutes to the hour and about six or seven 
of these are called a day — at least that is the conclusion 
I have come to. Well, having discovered that Christmas is 
at hand, I also discovered (and I am very sorry I did) that 
countless letters have to be written. The very first is going 



APPENDIX 339 

to be to your own loved self to wish you the old wish that 
is ever new : A merry Christmas and a happy New Year. 

At this point an animated discussion took place between 
the writer and the builders of the Crib as to which of the 
two animals found among the Crib figures was the donkey 
and which the ox. " O(a)x them," said I ; while some one 
suggested that if they walked away, the ass would follow, 
as birds of a feather flock together. Eventually the 
unfortunate ass was ordered to do duty as one of the kings, 
and by splitting the ox in two, a capital cow was made out 
of one half, while the other half served as the donkey. Such 
are the advantages of holy poverty ! 

As you see we contrive to get a great deal of fun out of 
simple things, and since there are thirty young scamps like 
myself down here, life manages to be fairly lively. Up to 
this the weather has been very mild, but a touch of frost 
has come at last and I expect we shall have skating soon. 

And now my time (a precious thing here) is up, and I 
must stop if I am to get this off to you for to-morrow. I am 
very well and very happj^, and that is what you want to 
know most. Is it not, dearest Mother ? 



III. — LETTER TO HIS SISTER FROM CLONGOWES. 
8th April, 1902. 

I really intended to send you my Easter greetings in good 
time. But with one thing or another I found myself in Holy 
Week almost before I well realised that Lent had begun. 
And with Holy Week came a multiplicity of duties which 
left little spare time ; and then the Easter vacation, vacation 
at least for the boys, but not vacation for us poor prefects, 
ior we had to be on duty all day. Now however that I 
am a bit free, I wish you every happiness and blessing, with 
abundance of grace to make you all that our dear Lord 
wishes you to be. May you always be faithful to His call. 

I was ever so glad to learn that you are keeping well and 
strong. I have seldom felt better, thank God ; and the 



340 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

best proof of this is that I am able to get through my day's 
work — and it is not always a light one — as well as any man. 
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you for your prayers 
for myself and my boys, and also for your promise to 
continue the same. Believe me, you are doing a real 
apostolic work in praying for these dear little children. 
I could tell you things that have happened which would 
show you that your good prayers and those of others have 
not been thrown away. I have many an anxious hour to 
go through and many difficulties to face ; but the thought 
that good souls are interceding on my behalf makes the 
burden light. 

Now for a bit of good news. We are to go down south 
this summer fcr our vacation. . . . About two months 
more and you may expect to see me. Till then pray hard 
for your wild scamp of a brother who is just as anxious as 
yourself to make some little progress in the spiritual life. 



IV. — LETTER TO HIS SISTER FROM MILLTOWN PARK. 
Morning of his Ordination, 28th July, 1907. 

I know that you will be glad to receive a few lines from 
the hands which a few hours ago have been consecrated 
with the holy oil. Thank God a thousand thousand times, 
I can say at long last, I am a priest, even though I be so 
unworthy of all that holy name implies. How can I tell 
you all that my heart feels at this moment ? It is full to 
overflowing with joy and peace and gratitude to the good 
God for all that He has done for me, and with heartfelt 
thankfulness to the dear old Missionary for all her prayers. 
. . . I say my first Mass to-morrow at nine at Hampton 
for the dear Parents, the second (also at nine) at Terenure will 
be for you. . . . Thank you for all you have done for 
me ; but above all thank the dear Sacred Heart for this 
crowning grace imparted to your little brother who loves 
you so dearly. 



APPENDIX 34i 

V. — LETTER TO HIS FATHER FROM THE TERTIANSHIP. 
Tronchiennes, i4th November, 1907. 

Lazarus is risen ! But by mistake they left him in the 
tomb thirty-three instead of the scriptural three days ; and 
poor Lazarus is jolly glad to get out and breathe again ! 
We came out of retreat yesterday, having commenced on 
the afternoon of Oct. gth. After each eighth day we were 
given a walk in the afternoon for some hours, but with the 
retreat order of time in the morning and evening. These 
three days, however, did not count as part of the thirty 
days' retreat. I have nearly forgotten how to talk or write 
to you so you must excuse all mistakes. As I wrote to 
Fr. Charles, I have been simply amazed at the good form 
I have been in all during this trying time, and now at the 
end I am wonderfully fresh and fit. Many of the fathers 
were not able to go through all the exercises ; but I missed 
nothing, not even the hour's meditation at midnight. That 
is perhaps the worst thing in the whole retreat. You go 
to bed as usual at nine, and then just as you are in the middle 
of your best dream, a wretcl\, a perfect villain you think 
him, puts his head into your room just as all the clocks of 
Ghent are booming twelve and says : Benedicamus Domino 
(Let us bless the Lord). By all means, you say, but would 
it not do to bless Him between the blankets ? The Psalmist 
says, Let them rejoice in their beds ! You feel it is rather 
too much of a good joke, but you remark this pleasure only 
comes once in a lifetime ; and so you tumble out on the 
cold floor (my carpet must have gone off for spring cleaning) 
and jump into your togs as quickly as you can, for the 
midnight air of Belgium has a sting in it. However the 
hour passes quickly, and then one dive for the blanket, though 
I felt much more inclined for breakfast. Four o'clock came 
round very quickly — I really think there is something amiss 
with the clocks here. But in spite of it all and the undoubted 
strain of the continued retreat. I do not feel one bit the 
worse and I feel a good deal better in the spiritual life. 

The truth is, Tronchiennes agrees with me and the food 
I find excellent. I was a bit afraid of this, as one fortnight 



342 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

in Enghien long ago knocked me out of tune completely. 
It is rather hard work getting accustomed to a second 
dinner at seven, having dined at twelve ; but ' I does my 
endeavours/ and I think I succeed. I now weigh — no, I 
won't put it on paper, it looks too terrible when worked 
out in kilos. It is nice to say ' I am nine stone,' but if you 
say you weigh two or three hundred kilos, people get a bit 
alarmed. 

As you may imagine, life here is not very exciting. My 
chief amusement is listening to the bells of this house or I 
should rather say houses, for it is a second Maynooth, huge 
in size. There is a special bell for the Lay Brothers and 
one for the Lay Brother Novices ; another for the 
Noviceship, and a fourth for the Juniors. We have our 
own bell and there is a large bell for the whole house ; a 
bell to call Fathers who are wanted in the parlour, a brazen- 
tongued beast of a bell at the hall door, and to crown all, 
the church steeple which was formerly a part of this old 
abbey of Premonstratensian monks has a chime all oi its 
own. May the Lord be good and send a thunder storm 
somewhere near that chime that we might have a little 
peace ! . . . . 

I have been very fortunate in getting a room facing south, 
so that I have the sun all day. My window looks down 
on the river which flows past the house ; and I am able to 
study Belgian country life and inhale Belgian country smells 
from a couple of farms just opposite. The grounds around 
are very large, with pretty walks ; one especially along the 
bank of the river is a great favourite of mine. 



VI. — LETTER TO HIS FATHER FROM ABERDEEN. 
Lent, 1908. 

As I know you will be anxious to hear of my doings in 
Aberdeen during the past three weeks, I will try and jot 
down as well as I can all that will be of interest to 
you. I know you will not think me egoistical if I talk chiefly 
about myself or if I am too self-laudatory ; you will under 
stand the motive which inspires the blowing of my own 
trumpet. 



APPENDIX 343 

I was rather uneasy on my way to Scotland, as it was 
the first mission ever given by Jesuits in the " granite city," 
and naturally we hoped it would be successful. Then, 
though I was very glad to work under such a great man 
as Fr. Matthew Power, who is nearly as famous in Scotland 
as Fr. Tom Burke was in Ireland, I could not help feeling 
that I should play only a very humble second fiddle beside 
him. Fr. Power is a tiny creature of only 6 ft. 6 ins. and 
18 stone weight, but his heart is as big as himself and from 
the start he gave me every encouragement and we soon 
became great friends. I have been most fortunate to begin 
my missionary career under such a master ; for Fr. Power 
has had a vast and varied experience and I learnt very much 
from him, and I hope to profit by his advice and hints. My 
three weeks' training will stand to me in the future and will 
be simply invaluable in time to come. Fr. Power's 
personality and name were bound to draw the people, and 
I was happy also at the thought that so many good prayers 
were being offered for the success of the mission. As I 
wrote to you, it has been, thank God, an unqualified success. 
We were told by the priests that it was impossible to make 
an impression on the Aberdonian Catholics, they were cold, 
unemotional, with a great deal of apathy. They are all 
well-to-do people in the Cathedral parish, many with plenty 
of money, no poor and no Irish. The congregation numbers 
1,300 ; the Sunday offering (there is no charge at the door) 
averages I3/-, made up chiefly of coppers : I saw one rich 
lady in the front bench put a halfpenny in the plate with a 
look of regret on her face that she had not got a farthing. 
As a proof that we had touched somewhat even the hard 
Scottish heart, they contributed £25 on the last Sunday 
when a collection was made for the expenses of the Mission ! 
The priests declared such a thing was unheard of in 
Aberdeen ; and I fancy will not be again for some time. 

We also succeeded in getting the people to take up daily 
Communion, over a hundred go every morning now, though 
there were practically none when we came. In many other 
ways much and lasting good has been done and the people 
have got a lift which they wanted badly, for though very 
good at heart, there is far too much coldness and indifference 
amongst them. 



344 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

Even the old Bishop — a typical Scot — caught the general 
enthusiasm ; and after a very complimentary speech on 
Sunday invited us to come back next year (probably Advent) 
and give a renewal of the mission. As you may imagine, 
the work has been hard. We found it necessary to change 
the original programme and add to the services. This 
meant I had to speak on a large number of subjects for which 
I was quite unprepared and often I had to preach after a 
. few moments hasty thought, but certainly the grace of God 
was in abundance. I was not the least bit nervous and 
never at a loss for plenty to say. Though the Church is 
very large and lofty I was easily able to make myself heard 
in every part of it. 

| Sunday was a busy day. This was the programme. 
I, said Mass at 8 and gave Holy Communion which nearly 
filled the time till 9. Then Children's Mass which I 
heard with them explaining the various parts of the Mass 
as we went along. A rush for breakfast followed by a 
sermon at n, the Cathedral being as well filled as at night, 
the Scotch love sermons I am told. At 3 o'clock instructions 
for children. At 3.30 Fr. Power began a controversial 
lecture for non-Catholics, which proved a great success and 
is to be continued by the Bishop. At 6 I gave a double 
instruction, a quarter of an hour on the Creed, another 
quarter on one of the Commandments, Fr. Power following 
with the sermon. Four talks in one day I found quite 
enough to satisfy my zeal. I got a slight cold and quite 
lost my voice on the fifth day, but was able to resume on 
the day following. Besides the Children's Mass and evening 
instruction we had every day a sermon in the morning, a 
double instruction and sermon in the evening, dividing the 
honours of the pulpit between us. I was rather tired at 
the end, but feel fit and keen to open at Great Yarmouth, 
St. Mary's Church, on Sunday. 

I have had a moving week. Monday I remained in 
Aberdeen very busy with confessions. Tuesday to Glasgow. 
Wednesday : came to the Mount. Spent Thursday with L 
and F ; and to-day I start for Yarmouth. I suppose I may 
take my invitation there as a proof that they were satisfied 
at Aberdeen, as Fr. Power told me he had written to give 
me a " good character." 



APPENDIX 345 

There are many things, funny and consoling, which I 
could tell you about the mission. One lady, who wanted 
me to sanction a very shady proceeding, bluntly expressed 
her great annoyance : " Really, Father, this is very dis 
appointing, I was looking forward to this Mission for I 
thought that Jesuits were men of the world \ " What she 
intended to say was she thought they had no consciences. 
On the last evening another lady came and said, " Father 
I want to thank you for the great happiness you have brought 
to one home in Aberdeen. My daughter has been in great 
trouble for a long time and for years has longed for someone 
to whom she could open her heart. You cannot imagine 
the joy in that house to-night, and I promise you a grateful 
mother's prayers as long as I live." 

I got to like the people very much, they are not effusive, 
but genuine and sincere, and I felt really sorry at leaving 
them. At the close of the mission quite a large number 
came to wish us good-bye and to thank us for the mission. 
The " holy missioners " have been photographed in various 
positions, to be sold for the benefit of the church. I shall 
send you copies when they come. I have never met 
anywhere such kindness as from the Administrator, 
Fr. Meany, and his curates. They made us quite at home 
from the start and did everything to help us and make the 
mission a success. I have written this in great haste so I 
know you will excuse it. When I see you next I shall be 
a " bloatered aristocrat " after my stay in Yarmouth. Just 
off for the train. A little prayer for my work next week. 1 



i. — The Bishop was Dr. Chisholm who died in 1918. Father M. Power, S.J. , 
to whom reference is made in the above letter, wrote thus to Mr. Hugh Doyle 
on 3ist August, 1917 : " My very dear brother and colleague on the Aberdeen 

Mission, Father Wm. Doyle, S.J., is gone Young and inexperienced 

at the start of our great mission some years ago, he proved conclusively to me, 
his senior, and to all the local clergy and people, that he was a Jesuit Missioner 
' to the manner born,' and this from the very first sermon he preached. Every 
day he grew in the affection of the Aberdonians until we parted to his great 

grief and mine A little panegyric on him has been preached in the 

Cathedral, Aberdeen." 



346 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

VII. — LETTER TO HIS FATHER FROM YARMOUTH. 
2oth April, 1908. 

The mission closed last night with a grand nourish of 
tmmpets, renewal of vows, and general scorching of the 
Old Boy's tail, not to speak of one lady's hat, who, when 
I told all to raise their lighted candles, calmly thrust hers 
into the middle of a flower garden which she carried on her 
head. She was gallantly rescued from the destruction by a 
young officer behind her ; perhaps that encounter may have 
a happy ending. Naturally speaking I am very glad the week 
is over. The physical effort of speaking every night for 
well over an hour is a big one, and then there was the 
responsibility and strain of having everything on my own 
shoulders. Supernaturally I am sorry not to have another 
week, for now that I have " got " the people much good 
might be done. However I have no reason to complain 
for God's grace and the effect of all your good prayers have 
been evident during the course of the mission. Though I 
cannot say I am quite satisfied — perhaps I expected too 
much — the Fathers here are more than pleased, thank God, 
and the people tell me the Yarmouth Catholics surpassed 
themselves. 

I certainly started under great disadvantages. . . . 
The mission was only announced the preceding Sunday for 
the first time, no posters put up and no hand bills sent round. 
In Ireland people come to a mission without the asking, 
over here they must be dragged ; hence the preparation by 
the local clergy visiting and inviting the people is looked 
upon as more important than the sermons of the mission. 
All this work was neglected, and even at the end of the week 
I came across families who did not even know a mission, 
was going on. In spite of that, the church was well filled, 
especially towards the end, for I made the people go round 
and hunt up their friends, each lady having to bring " six 
men in tow each night." 

I was told the Yarmouth people had very little faith, 
were very cold and must be taken very quietly ; a thing I 



APPENDIX 347 

was quite determined not to do, and with the happiest 
results, for a bit of Celtic fire and dash was quite 'refreshing 
to them after the solemn sermons they are accustomed to 
in England generally. More than one told me that was 
just what they wanted, and they proved themselves only 
too willing to respond. One little thing was gratifying. On 
the first morning only three people came to Mass ; this 
morning the church was well filled though the mission is 
over and there were several rails for Holy Communion, which 
they have promised to keep up. 

I have got so hardened about blowing my own trumpet 
that I make no excuse for doing so again. I was greeted 
on Friday evening by two ladies from London staying here, 
with " Father, we have heard Fr. Bernard Vaughan preaching 
twice on the Passion, but we both prefer your sermon to 
night." Do you live near the Blarney Stone ? said I to 
myself. I was told that another Protestant dame, who had 
been attending the mission, refused to come at the end 
because she said " I do not want to become a Catholic." 
When I was offered this work in Aberdeen I was very much 
inclined to refuse it. I was rather afraid of facing the music 
alone, and besides tired after my three weeks' work. 
I cannot say how glad I feel now that I came ; it has been 
a splendid experience for me, and simply invaluable. I was 
certainly much more at home and preached better than 
in Scotland. 

I had a strange experience which seemed providential. 
In my wanderings through the slums I came across by 
accident an old woman over ninety who had not entered 
a church for long, long years. " I have led a wicked life," 
she said, " but every day I asked God to send me a good 
friend before I died and I feel now my prayer is heard." 
The next day I came back and heard her Confession, and 
brought her Holy Communion on Easter Sunday. As the 
tears streamed down her old withered face she said, " Oh, 
Father this is the first happy day of my life, for I have never 
known what happiness is since I was a child." I could not 
help feeling that the opening of heaven to that poor sinner 
was a reward more than enough for all the long years of 
preparation now passed. 



348 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

I remain here till the end of the week, go to London on 
Saturday, and cross over to Tronchiennes on Monday. I am 
really very well and not as tired as I expected. Yarmouth 
is a pretty place, fine sea and magnificent air. All England 
and his wife here to-day. 



VIII. — LETTER TO HIS MOTHER FROM THE TERTIANSHIP, 
Tronchiennes, 2ist July, 1908. l 

Here I am back again safe and sound in Tronchiennes, 
the Beloved, after my fortnight's tramp round Belgium : 
legs no doubt a bit tired for they have covered some 200 
miles, but feeling as fit as a fiddle and in magnificent form 
after spending so many days in the fresh air and sun. 
I intended to send you a long account of my adventures 
and experiences, comical and otherwise ; but as the retreat 
begins to-morrow and I have much to do, I must content 
myself with a rapid sketch and fill in details when we meet. 

Our pilgrimage was a novel and on the whole enjoyable 
experience ; but at times owing to the great heat and our 
heavy black soutanes buttoned down to the feet, walking 
was anything but a pleasure. Everywhere we met with 
wonderful kindness, though here again, there were, at times, 
rebuffs which gave one an opportunity of exercising his 
patience and humility, if he had any. 

We started from here on the 7th, our luggage consisting 
of a night-shirt, a pair of socks, a razor, an extra trouser's 
button, and the grace of God. I was fortunate in my 
companion, a Fr. Roberts from the English Province ; we 
got on capitally together though the Belgians we met seemed 
much amused at two " deadly enemies " tramping along 
side by side. Our destination was the shrine of our Lady 
of Ch£vremont, near Liege, a famous place for pilgrimages 

i. — Besides giving a Mission during- Lent, the Tertian Fathers are supposed, 
in any country in which it is possible, to make a Pilgrimage, begging- 
their way. 



APPENDIX 349 

in Belgium, which we reached in five days, walking on an 
average over 20 miles a day. As we had no money, we 
had to depend on our sturdy legs to find us a bed for the 
night, and on our eloquent tongues for food and drink. In 
the French-speaking parts this was not so difficult, but in 
the Flemish districts our vocabulary was sorely taxed. 
However we found this phrase very useful and expressive : 
" Waar is het grubben " ? — which sounds very much like, 
" Where is the grub ? " That, with a little pantomime, 
saved us at least from starvation. 

Our first day's walk brought us to Alost, famous for the 
fact that this is the only one out of 840 colleges which the 
Society possessed in 1773, the time of the Suppression, 
which was restored to us on the Restoration of the Society 
in 1814. It is a magnificent building ; every boy, and they 
number some hundreds, has his own room. 

Wednesday. Early afoot for Brussels. On the way made 
a detour to Jette to visit the famous convent of the Sacred 
Heart nuns, over 200 in the Community, where the incorrupt 
body of their foundress B. Madame Barat now rests, having 
been brought a short time ago from France. Great kindness 
and warm welcome. Had privilege of seeing the Saint's 
shrine ; prayed for you all. A long trudge over the pavement 
of Brussels, from end to end of the city, brought us to the 
new Jesuit College of St. Michael. The old college with 5oa 
boys being too small, our Fathers have just opened a second 
and expect to have 1,000 boys next summer. A refreshing 
swim in the bath, food for body and soul, and then to bed 
to dream of future doings. 

Thursday. A delightful walk this morning through the 
Bois de Soignes, the most beautiful bit of scenery I have 
seen in Belgium. Four hours' march brought us to the 
other side of the forest very hungry. A convent loomed in 
the distance. " The Black Sisters " the people called them, 
and black they were in name and heart ! " No pilgrim 
fathers wanted to-day, thanks," was all the welcome we 
got ; so we retired as gracefully as we could. When we 
last saw that convent, it was still standing ; but I am sure 
by this it is a heap of ruins, covering the remains of the 
wretched Black Sisters. Our next attempt was amusing. 



350 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ 

We saw a fine building on a hill and were told the Brothers 
lived there. Hunger lends wings to the feet and soon that 
hill was scaled. We rang ; a dream of a maid, gorgeous in 
all the splendour of her noble calling, opened the door : 
rather a surprise in a holy religious house. " Were the 
Brothers at home ? " A smile. " They are never at home — 
away at Brussels enjoying themselves," was the answer. 
Rather mystifying ; but everything was explained when we 
learned later in the day that the occupants of that 
magnificent pile were three old bachelors, brothers ! 

The poor pilgrim took in several reefs in his belt and 
plunged down the hill in search of the Cure's house. The 
good Fathers held up their hands in horror when they heard 
what we proposed to do. "Ah ! les Anglais ! " that explains 
all ; the English are all a bit mad, you know. With the 
inner man well fortified we faced the road for Louvain ; 
afternoon coffee in a friendly convent where the ubiquitous 
Irish nuns and Irish girls, whom we found in every religious 
house, came in to see us. 

Friday. So far we had managed to lodge in our own 
houses, but now for a plunge into the great unknown. We 
left Louvain at 8, and 8 the same evening found us tramping 
into Landen, ever famous for the death of the great Sarsfield. 
As I walked across the battlefield his dying words came 
back to me : " Would that this were for Ireland ! " Sarsfield 
left his blood to moisten the plain of Landen, while the big 
drops of perspiration which rolled from our faces will certainly 
raise a record crop of wheat. To our dismay the Cure was 
away from home. At the convent we were told we would 
find rooms. Alas ! they were all in the hands of the painter, 
so the good Mother said ; but it was evident the nuns were 
afraid of us. We had a hearty meal, however, of bread 
and cheese washed down with cooling water. I could have 
eaten a haystack, for we were both famished. On the road 
again. Here was a fix. Nearly nine, no bed and almost 
all our Office to say. However the Lord was good and we 
found an old priest who gave us two rooms for the night. 

Saturday. Up with the lark for we had our 26 miles to 
cover in order to reach Liege in the evening. Old Sol was 
up before us sharpening his teeth for a blazing day. I shall 



APPENDIX 351 

never forget the heat of that Saturday. Eighty degrees in 
the shade. You may imagine what we felt on the long 
dusty road with not a tree to shelter us, quite the exception 
in Belgium. Only for our umbrellas I am certain we should 
have got sunstroke, as it was we reached Liege quite worn 
out and exhausted. 

On the road we passed a sign post with the inscription : 
" Half a mile to Booz." The invitation was too tempting 
to resist. We turned down the road, found a jovial priest ; 
and an hour afterwards two dusty pilgrims emerged from 
his house singing " Vive Monsieur le Cure "—only the heat, 
nothing more ! 

Sunday. On Sunday we rested in Liege. My companion 
was rather done up, but I felt quite rested and in spite of 
the intense heat went out to see the city — very beautiful 
it is, built in two valleys. I have many things to tell you 
about Li£ge which I must reserve for another time. 

Monday. We started on Monday morning at 4.30 to say 
Mass at Chevremont. Two hours' walk and a climb up the 
side of a mountain to the shrine I do not recommend before 
breakfast. We got through our devotions, returned in time 
for dinner, and then faced the trifle of 12 miles to Tongres. 
On the way we passed a magnificent chateau, the residence, 
we learned, of Baron Wautters. The lady of the house 
received us most graciously, invited us to tea with her sons 
and daughters, and on leaving told us she was most happy 
and honoured to entertain two Jesuit Fathers in her house. 
It is a small world after all, for she told us she was a distant 
cousin of Fr. Daly, S.J. Tongres is the noviceship of the 
French Fathers expelled from Toulouse. They have rented 
a huge house, with a large park for £100 a year. As they 
make, or save, more than that in fruit, vegetables, and fish 
which fill the lake, the house is really a gift. Great kindness 
from all ; the good Rector insisted on our resting a day 
and then sent us off by train to visit Maastricht in Holland. 
It was a novel sight for me to see the Rector come to meet 
us with a cigar in his mouth, and after dinner to take 
recreation while the whole community sat with long clay 
pipes in their mouths. Maastricht most interesting, especially 
the church dating from the fourth century. 



352 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

Our return journey, through another part of the country, 
was somewhat similar to what I have described. We said 
Mass in the old home of St. John Berchmans, slept wherever 
night found us and sampled the good things in many a house. 
As time was running short when we reached Louvain again, 
we came back here by train ; and thus ended a memorable 
experience. We had walked nearly 200 miles, seen most 
of Belgium and its interesting sights, and our expenses at 
the end were exactly nil. It is the cheapest trip I know, 
I recommend it strongly ! 

Retreat ends on July 3ist. I then return to Ireland to 
give retreats in Newry and Wexford. Love to all. Mv 
last letter from exile. Till we meet. 



IX. — LETTER TO HIS SISTER FROM BELVEDERE COLLEGE. 
June, 1909. 

I have had a very pleasant year at Belvedere, it Was my 
first year in the Ministry as a Priest, hence the work though 
hard was consoling. I often thank God for sending me to 
Dublin, for there one has so many opportunities of doing 
good and helping poor souls. Indeed if I could have accepted 
all the work offered to me, I am afraid little would have been 
done at Belvedere, but all the same I managed to get in a fair 
share of retreats and sermons, not to speak of some thousands 
of confessions. In spite of it all I really have never felt 
better, so you need not' be afraid of my " doing too much " 
as you call it. I am almost certain there will be no change 
in my present status, and that I shall remain in Belvedere. 
However, I cannot say yet where I shall be next year. 

I hope to send you shortly my little booklet on " Retreats 
for Workingmen," which is being printed at present. As 
you know I am very anxious to see these retreats started 
in Ireland, for I believe they would do a world of good and 
be the means of checking the dreadful irreligious spirit which 
is beginning to creep in even here in holy Ireland, especially 
among our uneducated men. I am hoping this little 
pamphlet may be the means of starting the good work ; 



APPENDIX 353 

at least it will- help to do so by giving people an idea of what 
has been done in other countries. I am very grateful to 
you all for your good prayers ; you must ask St. Joseph 
to find a suitable house now, for I feel if a start were once 
made all would be well. 



X. — LETTER TO HIS SISTER FROM BELVEDERE COLLEGE. 
July, 1909. 

This little book has a history. For some time back I 
have been studying the question of retreats for workmen. 
But last year when I saw in Belgium the wonderful good 
brought about by them and had an opportunity of seeing 
some of the houses where these retreats are given, I made 
up my mind to try to do something here in Ireland. . . . 
My next discovery was that few people over here knew 
anything about these retreats and less of the immense good 
they had already done. I set to work to get all the prayers 
I could, and really they have been heard, for very many 
difficulties with regard to this little book have been over 
come. I am hopeful it will do much towards bringing about 
the starting in Ireland of workingmen's retreats. In case 
you should not know it, I would point out to you that the 
most important page is the top of the back cover. 1 



XI. — LETTER TO HIS SISTER FROM BELVEDERE COLLEGE. 
ayth October, 1909. 

At long last I am a little less busy — I wonder am I ? for 
the good Father Rector has just been in to ask me to look 
after the Plays for Xmas, which is a job as you know. 
However you have been good to me so I must find time 
for a little chat. I hope you will not mind a typed letter 

i. — On this we read : "What can I do? (i) Pray that God may provide the 
means to establish retreats for workingmen. (2) Distribute copies of this 
pamphlet among the men of your district." 
X 



354 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

as I am such a slow writer with the pen and I want to say 
a lot of things to my little sister. 

I would have answered your letter before only for the 

past two weeks I have been just run off my legs. I had 

left the preparation of my sermon over till this month and 

was counting on a nice quiet fortnight when a Father got 

sick and I was asked to give the retreat for him at the X 

Convent to the Children of Mary. By the way I am becoming 

quite a specialist in this line I have had so many retreats 

lately. In fact I know almost all the good girls in town 

by this, and a few of the queer ones too ! It is consoling 

work and I find a great deal of good can be done among 

them, though, at the same time, it is hard work to give a. 

talk in the morning, rush back to class all day and then 

preach for an hour in the evening again, to say nothing of 

the confessions. I find it hard to refuse to give these retreats 

I have had such strange experiences at all of them, in fact 

sometimes I imagine the guardian angels come in to the 

box first and whisper questions to be asked. Another 

consoling thing is that many of the girls induce their young 

men to come up here to confession, if they have been long 

away, so I am able to catch two kinds of birds. One poor 

fellow said to me recently : " Father, I want to straighten 

things out for I have peace neither with God nor woman. 

Since your retreat she has given me a time of it and says 

she will not let me alone till I come up and see you." This 

was a little hint I gave the girls. You can see, therefore, 

that I am kept busy. I often have to laugh when I settle 

down to a quiet bit of work, for my whistle at the speaking 

tube never seems to stop. The strangest collection of queer 

characters seem to come here and I as the Minister have to 

see them. Imposters, beggars and sad cases of all kinds. 

I am glad of it, for here again much good can be done, and 

somehow God keeps sending me a few shillings now and 

again, and this wins their hearts. I think I told you before 

how grateful I feel to the good God for putting me in Dublin. 

There are so many openings for a priest which he would 

not get .say down at Clongowes. I know you have told me 

before that I ought not to do too much and so get knocked 

up, but how can one keep quiet when one sees so much to 



APPENDIX 355 

be done, sin of all kinds to be prevented and souls to be 
saved ? Is it not better even to shorten one's life a little 
if needs be in doing good than to become " blue mouldy " 
through idleness? But the strange thing of all is that in 
spite of my hard work — or is it because of it ? — I have never 
felt better or stronger or in finer form than now. Give me 
credit for a little bit of common sense and ask God to send 
me more work for Him. 

You ask me in your letter about the Retreats for Workmen. 
I have nothing but good news to give you. The blessing 
of God is certainly on the work. You remember what led 
me to write the little book, my bargain with our Lord that 
if this project was pleasing to Him (for I had been thinking 
of it for years) He would station me in Dublin when I 
returned from the Tertianship, for naturally the start would 
have to be made there. At the time I was positive that 
there was no chance whatever of this happening, for many 
reasons ; what was my amazement to hear that I was to 
come to Belvedere. I kept my promise of trying to start 
these retreats by bringing out the pamphlet. I told you 
the effort it cost me ; I see now that the Old Boy had a 
hand in that, for the little book has set people talking and 
thinking, and it is only a question of a short time till the 
first retreat will be given. 

I said the blessing of God was on the work. First of all 
He has raised up ardent supporters amid the S.J's. . . . 
Then the workingmen themselves are showing a keen interest 
in the proposal. A short time ago a deputation from 
Guinness's Brewery came to see me, saying they had seen 
the " Retreats for Workingmen," and wanted to know when 
a start would be made. They promised to send 50 for the 
first retreat from their department alone, and assured me 
that hundreds more would follow. They expressed their 
willingness to pay anything for the privilege of making a 
retreat such as described and said, if the Archbishop would 
give permission, they would beg from door to door for money 
to build a house of retreats : '" We would work our fingers 
down to the bone to get money for this." 

Best of all, only yesterday a gentleman of this city promised 
a donation of £2,000 to start the work. He had just read the 



356 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

book and was so delighted with the idea he resolved to make 
this generous donation. (At present this is private : you 
may speak of it in general terms but do not go into details). 
Is not this encouraging ? and is not God good ? No doubt 
this seems a large sum, but it only means an income of about 
£40 a year, so you must pray on for more benefactors. The 
rent of a suitable house would come to £150 or £200 a year, 
for we would require bed rooms for about 25 men, a chapel, 
dining room, etc., and good grounds. I have my eye on 
just what is needed. An old Dublin mansion, just outside 
the city and on the tram line ; fully 25 bed rooms or rooms 
which could be divided, a splendid room for a chapel, a 
dining hall, sitting room for wet days and eight acres of 
garden well laid out. It is nearly ideal in size and situation, 
is actually in the market, only the owner wants too high a 
rent. You must simply storm Heaven to soften his heart, 
and get the little ones to do the same. You may perhaps 
think I exaggerate when I say that if once these retreats 
are established the}^ will do an amount of good which will 
surpass all expectations. It would seem to be the divinely 
appointed new remedy for a new evil, the falling away of 
the working classes from all religion and the spread of 
Socialism. 

I suppose you have seen my sermon in the Freeman. If 
not let me know and I will send you a copy. I was amazed 
when I opened it to find that they had given me a verbatim 
report, for as a rule they devote half a column of small print 
to such things, and only the " big guns " are well treated. 
All this must seem like pride on my part, but really it is 
only another instance of God's great generosity to me. 
Candidly I have not much ability or talents. Superiors 
know that, and it was a hard struggle enough to get through 
my studies, but perhaps for that very reason and because 
God knows I have no cause for getting proud or attributing 
any success to myself or my efforts, He seems to take a delight 
in blessing all I do. I scarcely ever preach a sermon without 
feeling that it has been a failure, and I come down from the 
pulpit sometimes in real blues ; then I am told everyone 
liked it immensely, the money comes flowing in, and 
invitations for charity sermons (I have just refused three) 



APPENDIX 357 

and retreats come pouring in also. I simply cannot thank 
God for all He is doing for me, and I ask myself over and 
over again " What does it all mean ? " I really feel like 
a spoiled, petted child and it frightens me sometimes not 
a little. Well, I suppose the good God knows what He is 
about, but I do not. 

I have spoken very freely to you, for I have no secrets 
from you, but of course this letter is intended for your eye 
only — this you must promise me. I know you pray for me 
constantly, as I do for you every morning at Mass, but you 
must do more now, for I feel the want of prayer more than 
ever. I feel too that not much real work will be done 
for God without holiness, and that if one were only a saint 
then the mills of the Lord would hum. You will do a grand 
work for God by trying to sanctify our brother. God help 
you for you have a hard nut to crack ! 



358 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

* 

AFTERWORD 

AN APOLOGY FOR SAINTS 

IN the preceding pages Fr. Doyle has, as far as possible, 
been allowed to speak in his own words. This was 
accomplished by quoting not only from letters kindly 
lent by correspondents, but also from private journals found 
after his death. There is no new-fangled principle involved 
in the use of such documents. We have such instances as 
S. Ignatius Loyola, S. John Berchmans, Ven. Luis de la 
Puente, Ven. Claude de la Colombiere, Fr. Paul Segneri, and 
many other members of the Society of Jesus ; not to speak 
of seculars such as Eugenie de Guerin, Lady Georgiana 
Fullerton, Elizabeth Leseur, Giosue Borsi ; in all which cases 
private journals, sometimes exceedingly intimate, were 
published after the author's death. 1 Moreover there are 
other instances in which saints have actually written such 
records with the deliberate intention of securing at least 
posthumous publication ; 2 a.nd, of course, there are numerous 
examples of intimate spiritual autobiographies written by 
the order of a superior or confessor and subsequently made 

i.— Cf. foreword to A Soldier's Confidences -with God, New York, 1918, 

pp. viii., xiii. : "These meditations were not written for publication, 

they were the intimate talks of a soul with God While he lived they 

could never be printed. But these records of a soldier's soul were far too 

precious to be lost G. Borsi's death alone. made these Colloquies the 

property of the world." With Fr. Doyle's loving- outbursts (printed on pp. 102 ff) 
may be compared this prayer of the young Italian lieutenant (p. 19) : " My 

Jesus, Thou knowest and seest how madly I love Thee, how I adore 

Thee, how the very thought of Thee inebriates me, exalts me, and makes me 
happy, Jesus, my God, my Father, my Light, my Joy, my Love ! Thou knowest 
that nothing- in the world pleases me so well as to behold Thee, to think of 
Thee, to gaze upon and kiss the sacred wounds that on the Cross saved and 
redeemed me and paid all for me." 

2.— S. Augustine's Confessions and S. Teresa's Life are the most famous 
examples. S. Gertrude represents our Lord as saying to her: " I desire your 
writings to be an indisputable evidence of My divine goodness in these latter 
times in which I purpose to do good to many." — Life and Revelations of 
S. Gertrude, Eng. trans, by a Religious of the Order of Poor Clares, London, 
1865, p. 93. B. Henry Suso tells us that he did not burn his Autobiography 
because " he was stopped by a heavenly message from God forbidding it." — 
The Life of B. Henry Suso by Himself, c. i ; Eng. trans, by T. Knox, 
reissue [1914], p. 6. 



AFTERWORD 359 

public. 1 The legitimacy, even for a confessor, of revealing 
the graces and virtues of a deceased penitent is admitted 
by all theologians. 2 But one occasionally hears a half- 
uttered protest from those amateur theologians who desire 
to make Catholicism easy and fashionable by making Cana 
compete with Calvary. That the saints of long ago were 
horribly austere and painfully uncompromising must 
apparently be accepted as an unfortunate fact. What is 
intolerable is that . anyone should violate conventional 
religious respectability by exhibiting a contemporary 
specimen of a species supposed to be extinct ; it is against 
all the canons of evolution. 3 Thus there was an outcry when 
the great preacher of Notre Dame was revealed to the world 
as one addicted to the medieval habit of scourging himself 
and insisting on a strict observance of rule. " We have long 
asked ourselves," writes his friend and biographer, 4 " how 
we should make known all that we know on this subject. 
Should we let the truth be rather guessed than plainly told 
in detail ? Should we veil our narrative under a transparent 
cloud of terms and images in order not to shock timid and 
fastidious minds ? Or ought we not rather simply and 
frankly to tell the truth at all risks ? This last course 
appeared to us preferable ; it seemed worthier of the man 
whose victories we are relating and of the holy actions with 
which his life is filled. Why should riot we have the courage 

i. — For example, Ven. .Marie-Terese, Foundress of the Congregation of the 
Adoration of Reparation, "The Little Flower," and Sister Gertrude-Marie. 

2. — Nemo dubitat post mortem sancti viri extraordinarias gratias illi factas 
revelare. — Ballerini-Palmieri, Opus theologicum morale (de Sacramento poeni- 
tentiae § 953), 1 893 2 , v . 518. Cf. Bartoli, 5. Ignatius de Loyola (New York, 1855) 
ii. 205: Fr. Eguia "was even overheard to express 'a hope that he might 
survive the saint were it but for a few hours, so that, freed from the obedience 
which he owed him, he might reveal certain secret things which would fill all 
those who heard them with admiration." 

3.— If Fr. Doyle "had lived in Italy in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, 
his life would certainly have been the subject of enthusiastic study in many 
quarters to-day." — Messenger of the Sacred Heart ; , June, 1920, p. 86. 

4.— D. Chocarne, O.P., The Inner Lip of the V. Rev. Pere Lacordaire, Eng. 
trans. Dublin [1867], pp. 331, 344. It would be comically irrelevant to cite 
against such procedure what Fr. Gerard Hopkins, S.J., said to Coventry 
Patmore about the latter's immolated book: "That's tellings." Patmore's 
Sponsa Dei " was not more nor less than an interpretation of the love between 
the soul and God by an analogy of the love between a woman and a man." 
Fr. Hopkins " placed before Patmore the dilemma of having either to burn the 
book or to show it to his director — and the latter alternative was offensive to 
the poet's pride." E. Gosse, Coventry Patmore, 1905, pp. 169 f. 



360 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

to tell and the public to hear of those things which he had 
the courage to do ? . . . I well know how jealous he 
was in keeping a veil over these secret practices ; and I 
ask myself if his severe eye from the height of heaven will 
not blame me for what I have dared to do. . . . And 
yet how can one speak of this life without saying what was 
the soul of it ? without revealing what was the hidden and 
powerful spring which gave motion to all its virtues, to its 
tenderness, its eloquence and its piety ? " 

Surely, unless the inner life of Catholicism be something 
of which we must be ashamed, it is not only allowable but 
desirable to hold up for our help and inspiration the struggles 
and strivings, the graces and achievements of one who once 
lived beside us but is now beyond the bourne of temptation 
and pride, that so we may say as the Church says of others, 
Ecce sacerdos magnus qui in diebus suis placuit Deo. Without 
indicating the sources and methods of his spirituality, what 
would there be to chronicle in the life of Fr. Doyle ? Unless 
perchance, as has been actually suggested, we were to reduce 
him to the level of a war- journalist ! The reception already 
accorded to his biography is ample vindication of the decision 
to reveal the story of his soul. The letter of the wish which 
Fr. Doyle expressed when on earth has been deliberately 
overruled in view of the greater good he must now surely 
desire : the continuation of his apostolate after his death. 1 

But how, it may be asked, can the publication of 
singularities, however heroic, help ordinary readers ? To 
which it may in the first place be replied that a life without 
some such distinguishing characteristics, without something 
of the abnormal or supernormal in it, could hardly be written 
at all. Even in the case of our Lord the evangelist sums 
up His hidden life in the words " He was subject to them." 
And if we wanted to write the life of an obedient religious, 
we should perforce be equally laconic, unless, of course, we 
could give instances of abnormal punctiliousness such as 
S. John Berchmans practised or recount the miraculous 
flowering of an obediently watered stick. No one expects 

i. — As a matter of fact, some of the most intimate revelations related in 
the foregoing pages (e.g., those concerning- "holy follies") were contained 
in letters and papers on the destiny of which Fr. Doyle expressed no wish. 



AFTERWORD 361 

to read the life of a man who ate and slept and talked just 
as a few million others do. What we look for in the life of 
a saint or religious is to find that he did what we do but 
much better and much more. Such a man always excites 
prejudices in certain minds ; he is inexplicable and the 
inexplicable is always irritating ; he disturbs our com 
placency and upsets our conclusions. And it is usually 
moderate religious people who most resent the intrusion of 
an extremist ; the good is the greatest enemy of the better. 1 
How familiar sounds the temptation which so* long assailed 
B. Henry Suso 2 : "It may be all right that you should 
amend your life, but do not set about it so impetuously. 
Begin with such moderation that you may be able to bring 
it to completion. You should eat 'and drink heartily and 
treat yourself well, and at the same time be on your guard 
against sins. Be as good as you please within yourself, 
and yet with such moderation that the world without may 
not take fright at you, as the saying is. Is the heart good, 
all is good. Surely you may be merry with people and still 
be a good man. Others too wish to go to heaven, and yet 
do not lead a life of exercises such as yours." Which sounds 
eminently sane and modern advice, and was doubtless 
accepted by most of Suso's contemporaries. 

But this cult of mediocrity is wrong and unnecessary. 
Mediocrity propagates itself without any special advocacy ; 
it is only heroism or extremism which it requires effort and 
care to keep alive in the world. Even when appealing to 
ordinary folk the mistake is often made of not asking enough. 
There is latent heroism in most men ; the ability to inspire 
men is simply the power of evoking this heroism. 3 The 
tendency to wet-blanket and discourage all efforts after the 

i. — Thus the Cure of Ars was preached against and denounced to his bishop. 
" Those who did so were not bad priests ; they thought they were giving- glory 
to God by combating superstition and defending the faith against dangerous 
novelties and wild enthusiasm." — Monnin, Life of the B. Cure" d'Ars, p. 136. 

2. — Life, ch. 2, p. 7 (tr. Knox). 

3. — For example, Fr. Doyle's advocacy of the Holy Hour will seem a little 
outlandish to many good people. Yet see the enthusiastic response he got 
from his Irish soldiers (pp. 277 f). At Isleworth (London) more than ten years 
ago the devotion of the Holy Hour (on the night before each First Friday) was 
started in connection with the local Men's Confraternity of the Blessed 
Sacrament. It has been a continued success owing to the fervour of the men — 
nearly all of them workers who have to start early on the Friday. 



362 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

heroic and extraordinary is extremely dangerous to spiritual 
idealism. No doubt, as has already been many times pointed 
out in this book, 1 every human life, even that of a canonised 
saint, is a tissue of trivial incidents and commonplace 
actions. But even here, right at the heart of our ordinary 
lives, there is the perennial struggle of the spiritual man 
against his impulses, of grace against nature. What may 
be called ordinary virtue, marital fidelity, for instance, or 
business honesty or social justice, is not in the least natural ; 
it is already an extraordinary conquest of nature. To 
attempt, as Protestantism has done, to segregate these 
virtues from the religious counsels of perfection or the 
impetuous heroism of the saints, is bad psychology as well 
as bad spirituality. "It is an indisputable fact," writes a 
distinguished Protestant professor, 2 " that Protestantism, 
with its. objection on principle to the ascetic ideal of life, 
occupies an entirely isolated position amidst all the great 
religions, including those of the Ancient World. This sliould 
indeed give us pause. And the matter is not b}' any means 
settled by drawing attention to the unnatural character of 
asceticism or by reference to the abuses and exaggerations 
which naturally accompany such a great and difficult attempt 
to elevate man above himself. Protestantism should rather 
ask itself if as a result of this position it does not lend 
assistance to a species of naturalism which may some day 
prove disastrous to itself." In principle the very same 
objection applies to that tendency which sometimes makes 
even Catholics look askance at the heroism of the saints ; 
it is simply an infiltration of the current naturalism. 

We have largely got into the habit of judging the saints 
irom a purely analytic standpoint ; we are inclined to seize 

i. — See p. 123 for instance. It is worth while emphasising once again that, 
in spite of his secret heroism, Fr. Doyle was by no means exteriorly singular 
or abnormal. " There was nothing much to distinguish him from other young 
Jesuits," writes one who lived with him in Stonyhurst (Messenger of the Sacred 
Heart, June, 1920, p. 86), " except perhaps that he was more lively and fond of 
what, for want of a better word, we must call harmless mischief." 

2.— F. Foerster, Marriage and the Sex-Problem, ch. 9, Eng. trans. (1912), 
•pp. 154^ Also p. 153 : "The Protestant manse itself, like the whole family of 
Christians, is still unconsciously nourished by the spiritual greatness of the 
institution of celibacy, of the mighty advance against the dominion of the senses 
which it represents." It is significant that the Church which upholds celibacy 
is also the only guardian of family life. 



AFTERWORD 

upon certain details, to examine them in isolation and to 
express them in terms of our own psychology ; we, as it 
were, remove the facts from their proper molten medium 
and reduce them to our own temperature. Whereas the 
true significance of those spiritual heroes whom we call 
saints lies not in this or that mode of expression, but in their 
lives as a whole. They are a concrete proof of the spiritual 
greatness of man in his age-long struggle with what is of 
the brute, they represent so many conquests of grace-aided 
humanity over mere nature. And in every generation such 
testimonies are needed, for there are always those to whisper 
in our willing ears that our impulses are unconquerable, 
that certain virtues are unnatural, and that suffering is the 
primary evil of life. The soul of a saint is a sacred laboratory 
wherein once more man's spirituality is tested and his destiny 
demonstrated. How often was the Parish Priest of Ars 
seen to display the joy of victory over a vanquished enemy 
after some especially severe test of endurance ! Sometimes 
he was utterly prostrate, unable even to stand, after a long 
spell of fasting and work. " On these occasions," says his 
companion and biographer, 1 " he would laugh merrily and 
seem as much delighted with himself as a schoolboy who 
has succeeded in some mischievous frolic." Or rather, let 
us say, like a man of science who has succeeded in some 
new experiment. There is a good deal of truth in an 
American psychologist's admission, that " Fr. Vianney's 
asceticism taken in its totality was simply the result of a 
permanent flood of high spiritual enthusiasm longing to 
make proof of itself." 2 

But in the lives of the saints there is something deeper 
than mere asceticism. Pain has profounder and more 
mysterious functions than simply to serve as spiritual 
athletics. 3 The problem of suffering is one whose theoretic 
solution well nigh -baffles the human intellect ; yet in real 
life and practice it is solved and overcome by the followers 

i. — Monnin, Life of the Blessed Cure" d' Ars, Eng. trans. (Burns & Gates, n.d.), 
pp. n8f. Rather like Fr. Doyle ; compare pp. 132, 167, above. 

2. -W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 190612, p. 304. The lerm 
Asceticism is not comprehensive enough ; see above p. 135. 

3. — 'A young man," Pere Lacordaire used to say (Inner Life, p. 397), " must 
feel the sting of pain if he would not feel the sting of pleasure." 



364 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

of the Crucified. The saint is one who voluntarily plunges 
into the great stream of suffering and so, in ways ineffable 
but experienced, joins in a spiritual process whereby 
humanity is purified, energized and reconciled. Even 
William James, 1 alluding to men's instinctive appreciation 
of heroism and self-sacrifice, confesses : " The metaphysical 
mystery thus recognised by common sense — that he who 
feeds on death that feeds on men possesses life supereminently 
and excellently and meets best the demands of the universe- 
is the truth of which asceticism has been the faithful 
champion. The folly of the cross, so inexplicable by the 
intellect, has yet its indestructible and vital meaning." 

It is more important, however, to realise that a good deal 
of what is called asceticism or mortification is not really 
such at all. Apart from the personal love of Christ it would 
be immeasurable folly. "As valiant knights of our imperial 
Lord, let us not lose heart," writes B. Henry Suso. 2 "As 
noble followers of our venerable Leader, let us be of good 
cheer and rejoice to suffer. For if there were no other profit 
and good in suffering, than that we became more like the fair 
bright mirror Christ the more closely that we copied Him 
in this, our sufferings would be well laid out. It seems to 
me in truth that even if God meant to give the same reward 
hereafter to those who suffer and to those who do not suffer, 
we ought still to choose suffering for our lot, were it only 
to be like Him. For love produces likeness and devotion 
to the beloved, so far as it can and may." Likeness to 
Christ is thus the dominant note ; the pain-aspect is quite 
subsidiary. This becomes still more apparent when we 
examine some of the ' holy follies ' of the saints. When 
they are not regular acts of rigorous methodic asceticism, 
they will be found to be impetuous and perhaps clumsy 
efforts to externate intense love. They are mystic and 
dramatic episodes, and not mere freaks of self-infliction. 
Thus we are told of Pere Lacordaire 3 that " one Good Friday 
he made himself a large cross, caused it to be set up in a 
subterranean chapel, had himself fastened to it with ropes, 

i. — Ibid., p. 364. 

2. — Life, c. 33, pp. n8f, trans. Knox. 

3. — Chocarne, Inner Life, Eng. trans. [1867], p. 335. 



AFTERWORD 365 

and remained suspended to it for the space of three hours." 
A passion-play one might, say, a dramatic re-enactment of 
Calvary, certainly not a fakir-like seeking of pain. It would 
be more correct to say that it was done to lessen pain, the 
pain of love. " Once," says Fr. Doyle (p 164 above), " to 
ease the, pain of love I tried with a penknife to cut the sweet 
name of Jesus on my breast." B. Henry Suso did the same, 
and he has described the incident with such beautiful 
simplicity and clearness that his words will be quoted in 
full. While he was one day " suffering exceedingly from the 
torments of divine love," it occurred to him to " devise 
some love-token." 

" In this fervour of devotion, he threw back his scapular, 
and baring his breast, took in his hand a style. Then, 
looking at his heart, he said : Ah, mighty God, give me 
to-day strength and power to accomplish my desire, for 
Thou must be burnt to-day into my very inmost heart. 
Thereupon he set to work and thrust the style into the flesh 
above his heart, drawing it backwards and forwards, up 
and down, until he had inscribed the Name of Jesus upon 
his heart. The blood flowed plenteously out of his flesh 
from the sharp stabs, and ran down over his body into his 
bosom ; but this was so ravishing a sight to him through 
the ardour of his love, that he cared little for the pain. 

" When he had finished, he went thus torn and bleeding 
from his cell to the pulpit under the crucifix, and kneeling 
down said : Ah, Lord ! my heart and soul's only love ! 
look now upon my heart's intense desire. Lord, I cannot 
imprint Thee any deeper in myself ; but do Thou, O Lord, 
I beseech Thee, complete the work and imprint Thyself 
deep down into my very inmost heart, and so inscribe Thy 
Holy Name in me that Thou mayest nevermore depart from 
my heart. 

" Thus he bore upon him for a long time love's wound, 
until at length it healed up. But ... he bore the Name 
-upon his heart until his death, and at every beat of his heart 
the Name moved with it. . . . Thenceforth when any 
trouble befell him, he used to look at the love-token and 
his trouble became lighter. It was his wont also at times 
to say within himself fond words like these : See, 



366 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

earthly lovers write their beloved's name upon their 
garments ; but I have written Thee upon the fresh blood 
of my- heart." 1 

This account of a deed, so full of heroic love and poetry, 
will enable us to see that many similar incidents in the lives 
of the saints are not ascetic and penitential, but mystical 
arid joyous. Their object is not to seek pain but to find 
an outlet for pent-up love ; and like all expressions of love, 
they are liable to be misinterpreted and even ridiculed by 
an outsider. "When these impetiiosities (of love) are not 
very violent," says S. Teresa, 2 " they seem to admit of a 
little mitigation — at least the soul seeks some relief because 
it knows not what to do — through certain penances ; the 
painfulness of which, and even the shedding of its blood, 
are no more felt than if the body were dead. The soul seeks 
for ways and means to do something that may be felt, for 
the love of God ; but the first pain is so great that no bodily 
torture I know of can take it away." From the very terms 
used it is clear that such an outburst has nothing whatever 
to do with penance in the ordinary sense. A similar remark 
applies to that intense desire to shed one's blood for Christ 
which characterised so many saints and is particularly 
prominent in the life of Fr. Doyle. This blood-letting is 
not a form of mortification at all ; it is a sacrificial act, a 
mystic rite of self-immolation to Him whose Blood was shed 
for many unto the remission of sins. 3 

Yet since we must perforce view the saints from the 
outside, untouched by their almost incomprehensible love, 

i. — Life, c. 5, pp. 17 f. The Ven. Anne Madeleine Remuzat did the same, 
the wound on her breast being -miraculously healed. — Life (By the Sisters of the 
Visitation of Harrow), Dublin, 1920, pp. 85 f. 

2. — Life 29. 15. Alluding to the wound of love, she says (§ 13) "this pain is 
so sweet that there is no joy in the world which gives greater delight." 

3.— We read in Bacci, Life of S. Philip Neri, Eng. tr., 1868 2, p. 126 : "When 
blood issued from his nose or from his mouth, he prayed the Lord that so much 
might flow as would correspond in some manner to the Blood shed for love of 

him Thus we read of S. Lutgarde that when she longed for martyrdom 

and God did not see fit to grant her request, He contented her by allowing a 
large quantity of blooa to flow from her mouth." Here there is no question of 
pain-seeking. Of course it does not follow that the saints always analysed and 
distinguished the entirely different phenomena which are loosely called penance ; 
that is the business of the theologian and the psychologist. In Fr. Doyle's life 
there are numerous indications of this longing for sacrificial bloodshed and 
martyrdom. On the occasion of his two miles' walk barefooted to a country 
'chapel (see p. 159), while making the Holy Hour, he made a gash on his breast 
in order to offer up some of his blood. 



AFTERWORD 367 

our natural tendency is to be struck, and even horror-struck, 
at the purely physical aspect. For every ten who read the 
account of Fr.. Doyle's nettle-bath, scarcely one will see that 
the only really important sentence is this (p. 165) : " That 
day the love of Jesus Crucified was burning in my heart 
with the old longing to suffer much for Him and even give 
Him my life by martyrdom." It is as the expression of love, 
and not as a mere freak of penance, that we must view such 
an act. " By ancient right," says B. Henry Suso, " love 
and suffering go together. There is no wooer but he is a 
sufferer; no lover but he is a martyr." 1 There can be no 
question of any literal imitation of such acts by those who 
are merely striving for self-mastery. To introduce the idea 
of mechanical manipulation and self-conscious method into 
such deeds would be sheer sacrilege and presumptuous per 
version. When Christ's love reaches a certain intensity in 
a man, it will then spontaneously, seek such outlets ; and 
these must be judged by special criteria: 2 

Even when we have eliminated from the lives of the saints 
all these outpourings of love and reparation, there remains, of 
course, especially in their earlier years, a constant striving 
after self-conquest expressed in a succession of mortifications. 
Here too, in the lower region of asceticism, 3 the unthinking 

i. — Life, c. 4, p. 13. tr. Knox. Fr. Doyle's question (p. 166) can easily be 
answered : " Had not the saints suffered in this way for Him with joy and 
gladness of heart ? " If any Catholic does not ' feel that the fact that such 
things occur in the lives of the saints entirely justifies ' the publication of such a 
passage, he ought to be able to produce some reason. Those who resent the 
acts of a contemporary like Fr. Doyle are singularly reticent concerning the 
saints. What do they think of S. Peter of Alcantara who scourged himself with 
iron chains and nettles and often threw himself into a frozen pond and remained 
three or four hours in it (Life, London, 1856, ii. 95 f.) ? or of B. Paul of the 
Cross who rolled himself naked in a thorn bush ? (Mgr. Strambi, B. Paul of the 
Cross, London, 1853, in. 343), or of the Jesuit Father Segneri (p. 167 above)? 

2. — "The three best and most assured marks of lawful inspirations are 
perseverance against inconstancy and levity, peace and gentleness of heart 
against disquiet and solicitude, humble obedience against obstinacy and 
extravagance." — S. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, viii. 13. 

3. — Compare what the great Dominican theologian D. Banes wrote to S. Teresa 
in 1572 : " It is said of S. Francis that men took him for a fool; that he stripped 
himself and put on clothes fit only for the poorest of men. I respect that because 
it was the work of the Holy Ghost. S. Francis at this time wore no religious 
habit, belonged to no Order and had taken no vows ; his conduct was prudent 
in the state he was in." — D. Lewis, Life of S. John of the Cross, 18972 pp. 67 f. 
That is, an asceticism which would be right in one state or religious order, 
would be wrong in another. So S. Teresa said of the mortifications of the nuns 
in a certain monastery : "I fear for their health and would rather they kept the 
rule, for that gives them enough to do ; and anything extra should be done in 
moderation." — Foundations, 18. 7. 



368 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

transference of practices from the lives of others into our 
own would be reprehensible. Fr. Doyle had a great devotion 
to S. Benedict Joseph Labre, but it never occurred to him 
to imitate his heroic dirt. 1 When the Church made S. Rose 
of Lima the patroness of America, it was clearly not intended 
to encourage American Catholic women to cut off their hair 
and to disfigure themselves, to wear spiked crowns and chains 
and to sleep on broken glass. All such actions are in them 
selves morally indifferent ; in any concrete case they may 
be right if they are means proportionate to attaining a noble 
end, or they may be wrong inasmuch as they are self-willed 
freaks, morbid self-delusions, or zeal without knowledge. 
" In the spiritual life," says S. Thomas Aquinas, 2 " the love 
of God is the end in view. Fasting, watching and suchlike 
bodily exercises are not sought as an end, they are employed 
as necessary for the end, i.e. to restrain the passions. 
Hence they must be used with due discretion, that passion 
may be overcome but nature not extinguished. ... If 
anyone weakens his natural strength by fasting, watching 
and suchlike, so that he cannot do his work, . . . without 
any doubt such a one sins." When once these practices are 
relegated to the level of means or mechanism or contrivance — 
and it often requires an effort so to regard them, for like a 
miser or any slave to habit, we arc prone to forget the end 
and worship the means — it is easy to see that while the end 
is the same the means must vary infinitely with time and 
place and person. B. Henry Suso is an outstanding example 
of extraordinary penances ; yet there came a time when 
thev ceased to be a means to the end and were abandoned. 

*/ 

"At length after the Servitor had led, from his eighteenth 
to his fortieth year, a life of exercises according to the outer 
man, ... he left them off. And God showed him that 
all this austerity and all these practices were nothing more 

i. — " Cleanliness, which helps both to health and edification, should be 
observed by all concerning their persons and everything else." — Regulae 
Communes S.J., 19. " He was a lover of cleanliness and held dirt in the greatest 
abhorrence, particularly dirty clothes." — Bacci, Life of S. Philip Neri, p. 223. 
Which need not prevent us from seeing the spiritual heroism of him who for 
seven years wandered as a scantily-clad, ulcerous, verminous beggar • a useful 
much-needed protest against the modern superstition that soap-and-water is 
synonymous with the grace of God. 

2. — Quodlibeta 5, a. 18. 



AFTERWORD 369 

than a good beginning and a breaking through his uncrushed 
natural man. And he saw that he must press on still further 
in quite another way if he wished to reach perfection." 
" Look inwards, friend," he said to himself, " and you will 
find yourself still really there, and will perceive that, not 
withstanding all your outward practices in which you did 
of your own choice exercise yourself, you are still undetached 
from self in what relates to contradictions at the hands of 
others. . . . When you should let yourself be humiliated, 
you take to flight ; when you should expose yourself to the 
blow, you hide ; when you are praised, you laugh ; when 
you are blamed, you mourn. It may be true that you need 
a higher school." 1 It is indeed characteristic of true 
spirituality that interior mortification is always paramount 
to, and often dispenses with, exterior penances. S. Philip 
Neri used to touch his forehead and say, "A man's sanctity 
lies within the compass of three fingers." "Another advice 
which he gave was to take care not to become so attached 
to the means as to forget the e'nd ; and that it is not well 
to be so taken up with mortifying the flesh as to omit to 
mortify the brain, which after all is the principal matter." 2 

While not neglecting the mortification of the will and 
those safe chastisements which come to us from God's hands, 
it may very well be that many of the saints indulged in 
excessive austerities. The Church is not responsible for the 
aberrations of even the holiest of her children. 3 Yet we 
must not be too ready to condemn as exaggerated in others 
what might be too much for MS. B. Henry Suso, for example, 

i. — Life, chapters 21, 22; pp. 64, 67, tr. Knox. Suso was delighted to be 
freed from hi* life of penance, " he used to weep for joy whenever he called to 
mind his penitential bonds." " Henceforth, dear Lord," he said, " I will lead a 
quiet life and enjoy myself. I will quench my thirst fully with wine and water, 
and I will sleep unbound on my straw bed." — c. 22, p. 68. He did not realize 
that harder combats awaited him : loss of good name, suspicion and ingratitude, 
interior desolation. 

2. — Bacci, Life of S. Philip Neri, 1868 2, pp. 268, 285. See also p. 212 above. 
Similarly S. John of the Cross (Dark Night of the Soul, i. 6) speaks of " discretion, 
submission and obedience, which is the penance of the reason and therefore a 
sacrifice more sweet and acceptable to God than all the other acts of bodily 
penance." 

3. — See above p. 162. S. Bernard admitted that his excessive penance had 
ruined his health. —Life by William of S. Thierry, iv. 21. See also T. Campbell, S. J. , 
"Asceticism" in Cath. Encycl., i. 770 and A. Hamon in Diet. Apologiitique 
i. (1913) 313. Fr. C. Martindale, S.J., speaks of the "ill-judged and perhaps 
obstinate and perverse behaviour" of S. Aloysius. — In God's Army: Christ's 
Cadets, 19172, pp. i8f. 
Y 



370 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

who seems a clear case of exaggeration, had a mind of child 
like simplicity and logical directness ; he knew exactly why 
he adopted his terrible austerities and why he gave them 
up. 1 " He was in his youth of a temperament full of fire 
and life. And when this began to make itself felt and he 
perceived what a heavy burden he had in himself, it was 
very bitter and grievous to him. And he sought, by many 
devices and great penances, how he might bring his body 
into subjection to his spirit. . . . He continued this 
tormenting exercise for about sixteen years. At the end of 
this time, when his blood was now chilled and the fire of his 
temperament destroyed, there appeared to him in a vision 
on Whit Sunday a messenger from heaven, who told him 
that God required this of him no longer. Whereupon he 
discontinued it and threw all these things away into a running 
stream." Not a trace of morbidity or self-will, not the 
slightest evidence of mental distortion, not even any proof 
of ill effect on his health, for he lived to be sixty-five. More 
over, like S. Catherine of Siena, S. Rose of Lima and other 
saints, he was at times privileged to receive a spiritual mystic 
drink which served in lieu of bodily nourishment. But apart 
from any such miraculous intervention, there is abundant 
evidence to show that the austere practice of the saints is 
often actually more conducive to health than would be for 
them a normal life of ease. And modern experiments on 
bodily fatigue have shown the enormous influence and power 
of mental ideals. S. Teresa 2 enunciated a very helpful 

i. — Life, c. 17, pp. 46, 48 f. W. James (Varieties of Rel. Exp., p. 360) calls 
him a "tragic mountebank" — a judgement which reveals James's blindness to 
the finer and more personal elements of Christian perfection, on a par with his 
contempt for S. Gertrude, S. Teresa, S. Aloysius, and S. Margaret Mary. Even 
Dean Inge says of Suso : " The story of the terrible penances which he inflicted 
on himself for part of his life is painful and almost repulsive to read ; but they 
have nothing in common with the ostentatious self-torture of the fakir." — Christian 
Mysticism, 1912 2, p. 172. To say of Fr. Doyle that 'he was nearer the 
Salvationist freelance than the modern conception of the Jesuit ' is a trifle too 
reminiscent of James's flippant obtusity to be worthy of a Catholic. 

2. — Life, 13. 9-10. Fr. Doyle, who was naturally delicate, seems actually to have 
improved in health owing to his hard life. Compare also p. 95 : " The result was a 
most marvellous increase of bodily vigour." Also p. 162 f : "I am convinced that my 
health will not suffer, as past experience has shown me that I am always better when 
giving Him all." Care of health is particularly incumbent on a Jesuit. "With a 
healthy body you can do much," says St. Ignatius, " but what can you do with an 
ailing one ? " — Monumenta Ignatiana, i. loS. Another saying attributed to him is 
this: "An ounce of holiness with excellent health is worth more in work for souls 
than excellent holiness with an ounce of health." — Epistolae S. Ignattt, p. 566 
(Liber Sententiarum No. 69), Bononiae, 1837. 



AFTERWORD 371 

truth when she said : " Being myself so sickly, I was always 
under constraint and good for nothing, till I resolved to 
make no account of my body nor of my health. . . . 
My health has been much better since I have ceased to look 
after my ease and comforts." 

Whatever about their practice, the saints' advice to others 
is clear and unanimous. The case of B. Henry Suso is so 
striking that his advice to a spiritual daughter, a Dominican 
nun, is worth reproducing : 

" Dear daughter, if your purpose is to order your spiritual 
life according to my teaching, as was your request to me, 
cease from all such austerities, for they suit not the weakness 
of your sex and your well-ordered frame. The dear Jesus 
did not say, Take My cross upon you. But He said to each, 
Take up your cross. You should not seek to imitate the 
austerity of the ancient fathers nor the severe exercises of 
your spiritual father. You should only take for yourself a 
portion of them such as you can practise easily with your 
infirm body, to the end that sin may die in you and yet your 
bodily life may not be shortened. . . . Our natures are 
not all alike and what is suitable for one suits not another. 
Therefore it must not be thought that, if perchance a man 
has not practised such great austerities, he will be thereby 
hindered from arriving at perfection. At the same time, 
those who are soft and delicate should not despise austerities 
in others or judge them harshly. Let each look to himself 
and see what God wants of him, and attend to this, leaving 
all else." 1 To this counsel of a saint we shall add the sound 
and solid advice of a well-known writer on the spiritual life : 2 

" In aiming at sanctity each individual should consult the 
peculiar call of grace, and take into consideration the especial 
duties which God has allotted to him according to his 
condition in life. The astonishing penance and austerities 

l.— Life, c. 37, pp. 138 f. This, as being applicable to lay people, may be also 
cited from the Cur£ of Ars (Life by A. Monnin, p. 102) : " Suppose, for example, a 
man who has to earn his bread by his daily labour. It comes into that man's head to 
do great penances, to pass the half of his night in prayer. If he is well instructed, he 
will say : 'No, I must not do that, because I shall not be able to do my duty to 
morrow if I do ; I shall be sleepy and the least thing will make me impatient ; I shall 
not do half as much work as if I had a night's rest ; I must not do this.' " 

2.— P6re J. N. Grou, S.J., The Intei ior of Jesus and Mary, i. 29; Eng. trans, by 
S. Frisbee, S.J., 1891, i. 217. 



372 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, SJ. 

practised by some saints under the inspiration of divine 
grace should never be condemned ; yet it is essential to 
attend to the following recommendations : — 

" (i) To limit our admiration of these holy excesses within 
certain bounds, lest they produce too strong an impression 
on the imagination, and neither to propose to imitate them 
nor to look on them as an indispensable requisite to 
sanctity. 

" (2) Whether we embrace the practice of great corporal 
mortification or not, to attach ourselves principally to interior 
virtues, these being the essence of sanctity, and all the rest 
a mere appendage which can be separated from the spirit 
without detriment to either. 

" (3) As far as the choice depends on ourselves, to prefer 
a common life, in order the more perfectly to imitate Jesus 
Christ, to preserve humility, to guard against pride which 
loves singularity, and to render virtue attractive to our 
neighbour instead of prejudicing him against it by presenting 
it to his view encumbered with almost endless exterior 
practices." 

Such eminently moderate and prudent advice fails, 
however, to meet the more fundamental objection that all 
these ascetic practices are absurdly out of date. " Even in 
the Mother Church herself/' roundly asserts W. James, 
" where ascetic discipline has such a fixed traditional prestige 
as a factor of merit, it has largely come into desuetude if 
not discredit. A believer who flagellates or macerates himself 
to-day arouses more wonder and fear than emulation. Many 
Catholic writers who admit that the times have changed in 
this respect do so resignedly." To do James justice it must 
be said that he is referring not to asceticism in general but 
only to the ways in which it finds expression. " I believe," 
he says, " that a more useful consideration of the whole 
matter, distinguishing between the general good intention of 
asceticism and the uselessness of some of the particular acts 
of which it may be guilty, ought to rehabilitate it in our 
esteem. For in its spiritual meaning asceticism stands for 
nothing less than for the essence of the twice-born philosophy 
It symbolises, lamely enough no doubt but sincerely, the 
belief that there is an element of real wrongness in this world. 



AFTERWORD 



373 



which is neither to be ignored nor evaded, but which must 
be squarely met and overcome by an appeal to the soul's 
heroic resources and neutralized and cleansed away by 
suffering." 1 But if we eliminate all or most of the practices 
approved by the experience of centuries, how can asceticism 
itself survive ? Apart from acts, it is merely an abstract 
idea. If, as James himself advises (quoted on p. 126), we 
must " be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary 
points " and strive after " self-denial in unnecessary things," 
we shall soon be perilously near to a return to the old- 
fashioned fasting, abstention, self-restraint and physical pain. 
" But to our generation," complains Francis Thompson, 2 
" uncompromising fasts and severities of conduct are found 
to be piteously alien ; not because, as rash censors say, we 
are too luxurious, but because we are too nervous, intricate, 
devitalised. We find our austerities ready-made. The east 
wind has replaced the discipline, dyspepsia the hair-shirt. 
. . . It grows a vain thing for us to mortify the appetite — 
would we had the appetite to mortify ! " And so on, in a 
similar slightly flippant vein. Yet within ten years the men 
for whom this pleading was made were ready for the horrors 
and hardships of a terrible war. Fr. Doyle despaired of 
ever equalling " the worldly generosity of these men " 
(p. 218). It is only when the invitation is from Christ that 
we begin all at once to make excuse. The ridiculous unmanly 
plea that " we " are too nervous, intricate, devitalised and 
dyspeptic to face a fast or a discipline, may be applicable 
to a decadent industrial civilisation ; there are other spots 
on the globe. But for such by all means let the east wind 
and dyspepsia suffice 3 ; the saints would have no quarrel 
with such advice, as is apparent from all that has already 
been quoted. And let the abstinence be gentle. ' The 
Vigil of S. Peter, you mean, Watkins," said Mr. Vincent. 4 
" I thought so. Then let us have a plain beefsteak and a 

I. — Varieties of Religious Experience, pp. 297 f, 362. 

2.— Health and Holiness, pp. 20 f. It is curious to find S. Teresa (Life, 27. 17) 
saying half-sarcastically : "The world cannot bear such perfection now; it is said 
that men's health is grown feebler and that we are not now in those former times." 

3.— As a matter of fact a little of the Church's mortifications might be quite hygienic 
for such people. Cf. P&re J. Tissot, The Interior Life, Eng. tr. 1913, pp. 126, 263. 

4. — Newman, Loss and Gain, ch. 10, p. 80. 
Z 



374 FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE, S.J. 

saddle of mutton ; no Portugal onions, Watkins, or currant- 
jelly ; and some simple pudding, Charlotte pudding, Watkins, 
that will do." 

Biit what is intolerable is that lovers of Christ who can 
still dare and do what their spiritual forbears did, should be 
pooh-poohed as disagreeable anachronisms or, still worse, 
pitied as half insane. It is not by such compromise that 
men will be won to Christ. The truth alone will set men 
free. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel ; let us openly 
utter those hard sayings which are to the Jews a stumbling- 
block and to the Gentiles foolishness. Once principles are 
admitted, the decadent and the dyspeptic shall have every 
consideration except that of being allowed to set a standard 
for the virile and the healthy. How curiously nervous are 
certain apologists lest Protestants should suspect that con 
temporary Catholics used fast and scourge ! The lives of 
the saints are published of course, but apparently they are 
to be regarded as ancient history. And how scrupulous we 
are lest, owing to imprudent example, there be one discipline 
too much or one meal too little ! And all this in a world 
teeming with luxury, callousness and self-indulgence. 
Catholics, at least, who confess Jesus and Him Crucified, 
can strive after the tolerance of the saints when it is a question 
merely of the means suited to each individual. All that is 
claimed in this book is the right of a man to follow 
unflinchingly, if God calls him, in that royal road of the 
Cross which has been trod by so many lovers and heroic 
followers of Christ. If any of us are otherwise called or 
find elsewhere our cross, we can close this book with Christ's 
words echoing in our ears, Quid ad te ? Tu Me seqnere. 
What is it to thee ? Do thou follow Me. 



INDEX 



Abandonment, 153, 187 ff, 260, 265, 

291, 297. 

Aberdeen, 33, 342 f. 
Adoration Reparatricc (Congregation) 

135, 156. 

'Agere Contra,' -24, 27, 34, 63, 90. 
Alost, 349. 

Aloysius, S., 369, 370. 
Alphonsus, Saint, 8, Si. 
Amettes, 98, 201. 
Amiens, 251. 
Angers, 74, 172. 
Aqu?;viva, Father C., S.J., 37. 
Arras, 302. 
Ars, Cure of, 23, 31, 112, 114, 124, 

154, 161, 184, 212, 296, 361, 363, 

3?i- 

Asceticism, 122 flf, 211 ff, 363 ff. 
Aspirations, 60, 62, 113 ff, 175, 184, 

205, 260 f, 266, 271. 
Athanasius, Saint, 134. 
Augustine, S., 97, 358. 

Bacci. See Philip Neri. 

Ballerini- — Palmieri, 359. 

Banes, D., 367. 

Barat, B. Mme., 349. 

Bartoli, D., S.J., 359. 

Battlefields, Description of, 229, 255, 

' 258, 312 ff. 

Baudrillart, Mgr., 157, 177. 

Bazin, Rene, 72. 

Belvedere College, 21, 64, 352 f, 355. 

Benedict, Saint, 171. 

Benedict, Sister, i, 6, 24, 127, 263, 

34° • 
Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration, 

139. 

Benson, Mgr. R. H., 100, 170. 
Bcrchmans, S. John, 24, 27, 35, 56, 

T 2.5. 352, 358, 360- 
Berghe, Mgr. van den, 156. 
Bernard, S., 369. 
' Black Baby Crusade,' 80. 
Blessed Virgin, The, 8, 10, 68, 74, 86, 

98, 115, 148, 194, 241, 247, 280, 

285, 296, 304, 348. 
Boer War, 19. 
Booz, 351. 

Bois de Rossignol, 306. 
Bois de Soignes, 349. 



Bordon Camp, 109, 217. 
Borry Farm Redoubt, 327. 
Borsi, G., 353. 
Bos co, Don, 84. 
Bray, 252. 

Bn-bcuf, John de, S.J., 88, 285. 
Browne, Father F. M., S.J., 266, 280, 
295, 297. 3°2-5, 315- 321, 328, 333. 
Brussels, 349. 
Buchanan, Dr. C., 305 f. 

Calage, Pere, S.J., 139. 

Calvary, 28, 57, 61, 124, 138. 

Campbell, Rev. T., S.J., 88, 285, 369. 

Carmelites, 66, 123, 128, 156. 

Carvajal, Luisa de, 261. 

Cassian, 35. 

Catherine of Siena, Saint, 26, 138, 

157, 163, 370. 

Champagnat, Ven. Pere, 84. 
Chapman, Dom. J., 171. 
Chevremont, Our Lady of, 348, 351. 
Chisholm, Bishop, 344 f. 
Chocarne, D., O.P. See Lacordaire. 
Clare Camp, 279. 
Classes of Men, The Three, 48. 
Claver, S. Peter, S.J., 54. 
Cleanliness, 368. 
Clongowes, 12, 21, 339, 354. 
' Clongownian,' 16. 
Clonliffe College, i. 
Collette, Saint, 114. 
Colombiere, Ven. Claude, S.J., 23, 36, 

146, 358. 
' Communia Non Communiter,' 34. 

See also under Ordinary Actions. 
Confession, 154, 171, 173 f, 281. See 

also under Irish Soldiers. 
Congo Mission, 42, 46, 54, 61, 62, 79. 
Converts, 170, 250, 277, 309. 
Corbie, 114. 
Cork, 65, 98. 
Cross, The, 195 ff. 
Crucifix, 103, 230, 239. 

Dalkey, i, 10, 159, 298. 

Daly, Father, S.J., 351. 

Davis, Father, 337. 

Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, 135, 

139. 156. 
Death, 28, 43, 217, 280. 



375 



376 



INDEX 



Delany, Father W., S.J., 74. 

Delgany, 165. 

Direction of Souls, 170 ff. 

Discouragement, 178 n. 

Donnybrook, 150. 

Doyle, Father Charles, S.J., 6, 8, 81, 

127, 338, 341. 
Doyle, Fred., i, 8. 
Doyle, Father William, S.J. 

Born (3rd March, 1873), i. 

Ratcliffe College (Sept. 1889), 7 

Noviceship (3ist March, 1891), 
9, 338. 

First Vows (isth Aug. 1893), 10. 

Clongowes (1894-1896), 12. 

Philosophy (1898-1901), 18. 

Clongowes and Belvedere (1901- 
1904), 21. 

Theology (1904-1907), 23. 

Ordination (28th July, 1907), 25, 

34° • 

Tertianship (1907-1908), 30. 

First Retreat (1908), 33. 

Mission at Aberdeen and Yar 
mouth (Lent, 1908), 33, 342 ff. 

Final Vows (Feb. 1909), 92. 

Missions (1908-1915), 64. 

Visit to Continent (1912), 74, 172. 

Military Chaplain. 
C.F. to Irish Fusiliers (Nov. 

1915). 217. 

Havre (Feb. 1916), 220. 
Mazingarbe, 221. 
Loos (3ist March, 1916), 226. 
Gas Attack (26th April, 1916), 

231- 
Parchment of Merit of 49th 

Brigade, 237. 
Leave of Absence (2nd June, 

1916), 242. 

At the Somme (Sept. 1916), 251. 
Belgian Front again (Oct. 1916), 

259- 
Transferred to 8th Dublins (Dec. 

1916), 266. 
Midnight Mass at Locre (Xmas, 

1916), 268. 

Military Cross (Jan. 1917), 262. 
Leave of Absence (igth Feb. 

1917), 266. 

Easter in the Pas de Calais, 275. 
May Devotions at Locre and 

Kemmel, 279. 
Wytschaete (6th June, 1917), 

291. 

Recommended for D.S.O., 330 f. 
Sermon at Arras (2ist June, 
3°2. 



Doyle, Fr. William, S.J.— Contd. 

Sole Chaplain to 48th Brigade 

(2nd Aug. 1917). 3i5- 
Death at Frezenberg (i6th Aug. 

1917). 327 f . 335- 
Recommended for V.C., 330 f. 

Publications, etc. 
' Retreats for Workingmen ' 

(1909), 73, 352 f. 
' Vocations ' (1913). 80. 
' Life of Fr. Paul Ginhac, S.J.' 

(I9M), 86. 

' Synopsis of the Rubrics and 
Ceremonies of Holy Mass ' 
(1914), 154. 

' Shall I be a Priest ? ' (1915), So- 
Projected Meditation Book, 175. 
Projected Vocation Letters, 84. 
Pamphlets planned, 83, 154, 291. 
Sermon Notes, 28, 280. 
Drogheda, 66. 

Dublin, 332, 356. See Belvedere, 
Cionliffe, Dalkey, Donnybrook, 
Hampton, Rathfarnham, Terenure. 

Eaton, Captain, 306. 

Eguia, Father, S.J., 

Election, 53. 

Emmaus, 59, 103. 

Enghien, 180, 342. 

Examcn. Particular, 35, 112, 203 f. 

Exercises, Spiritual, analysed, 38; 

Father Doyle's Notes on 40 ft. 
Eymard, Pere, 83. 

Family Life, 362. 

Feyerstetn, Pere, S.J., 160. 

Flight into Egypt, 47. 

Flynn, Sergt. T., 332. 

Foerster, F., 362. 

' Follies,' 26, 161 ff, 371 f. 

Forbin-janson, Mgt. de, 79. 

Fourvieres, Our Lady of, 31. 

Foxford, 75. 

Francis of Assisi, Saint, no, 132, 367. 

Francis Borgia, Saint, S.J., 37. 

Francis de Sales, Saint, 109, 116, 139, 

155, 163, 169, 199, 212, 367. 
Francis Xavier, Saint, S.J., 28, 35. 
Franklin, Benjamin, 35. 
' Freeman's Journal,' 356. 
French Cures, 279. 
Frezenberg Ridge, 310, 327. 
Fuller-ton, Lady G., 358. 

Galgani, Gemma (1878-1903), 97, 158. 
Galvin, Lieut. D. J., 330. 
Gas Attack, 231 ff. 



INDEX 



377 



German Prisoners, 246, 288 f, 299. 
Gertrude, Saint, 106 f, 130, 164, 358, 

37°- 
Gertrude-Marie, Sceur (1870-1908), 

93- 130, 139, 144. 155, 158, 359- 
Gethsemane, 105, 107, 137, 178, 240, 

285. 

Ghent, 341. 
Gibbs, Sir Philip, 328. 
Ginchy, 251, 258. 
Ginhac, Pere Paul, S.J., 86, 95, 112, 

i?3 f- 

Glasgow, i, 66. 
Gosse, E., 359. 
Grant, Lieut., 328. 
Grou, J., S.J., 371. 
Guerin, E de, 358. 
Guillemont, 251. 
Gwynn, Father John, S.J., 330. 

Haig, Sir Douglas, 295. 

Hamon, A., S.J., 369. 

Hamont, 33. 

Hampton Convent, 340. 

Havre, 220. 

Health, 370. See under Prudence. 

Healy, Lieut.-Col., 328. 

Heaven, 296. 

Hegarty, Brother Frank, 81 . 

Hell, 42, 282. 

Heroism, 27, 127, 196, 202, 214, 

361 ff. 

Hickie, General, 268, 302 f, 329 f. 
Hidden Life, 47, 360. 
Holy Childhood, 79, 291. 
Holy Hour, 22, 107, 137, 361. 
Hopkins, G., S.J., 359. 
Hoyos, Yen. B. de, S.J., 138. 
Humility, The Three Degrees of, 49. 
Hulst, Mgr. d', 107, 124, 139 f, 157, 

177, 201. 

Ignatius of Antioch, Saint, 105, 136. 

Ignatius Loyola, Saint, 17, 30, 34, 
37, 62, 100, 106, 109, in, 121 f, 
136, 165, 169, 171, 202, 209, 213, 
3io, 358 f, 370. 

Immolation, 133 ff, 364 ff ; Act of, 

193- 

Inge, Dean, 370 
Inner Life, 87 ff. 

Ireland, Fighting for, 3, 304. 
' Irish Catholic,' 290. 
Irish Soldiers 

Sixteenth Division, 217, 250, 

252, 293, 302, 310. 
» Chaplains, 227, 300, 315, 321. 
Bravery, 250, 295, 299, 323. 
Religion, 219, 226, 231, 238, 250, 
268 f, 272, 285, 288, 292, 296, 
3°9, 323- 



Irish Soldiers.- CG//W. 

Confessions, 219, 224 f, 238, 269, 
283, 286, 290, 294, 296, 316 f. 

Deaths, 234, 236 f, 247, 273 f, 
286, 301, 321 f. 

Burials, 228, 244, 316, 320, 323. 
Isleworth, 361. 

James the Apostle, Saint, 208. 
James, William, 126, 171, 363 f, 370, 

372 f. 

Jesuit Missionaries, 88, 285. 
Jesuit Type of Holiness, 36, in, 121, 

2OI, 370. 

Jette, 349. 

John of the Cross, S., 94, 172, 188, 

367. 369- 

Joseph, Saint, 47. 
Jowett, Benjamin, 99. 
Judgement, 43. 
Julien, Mgr., Bishop of Arras, 302. 

Kavanagh, Father B., 329. 

Kemmel Camp, no, 279. 

Kenny, Father Tim., S.J., 10. 

Kew College, 77. 

Kiernan, Lieut. F., 328, 330. 

Kilmacud, 151. 

Kingdom of Christ, The, 45, 251. 

Knapp, Father, O.D.C., 315, 330. 

Knight of the Blessed Sacrament, 

108. 

Knox, R. A., 170. 
Knox, T. F. See Suso. 

Labre, Benedict Joseph, Saint, 36, 98, 

221, 368. 

Lacordaire, P&re, O.P., 359, 363 f. 
Landen, 350. 
Larkin, Jim, 304. 
Legueu, Abbe S., 172. See also 

under Gertrude-Marie. 
Leo XIII., 139. 

Leroux de Bretagne, Canon, 161. 
Leseur, E., 358. 
Leuze Wood, 254, 256. 
Lewis, D., 367. 

Liberman, Ven. F. M. P., 239. 
Liege, 348, 350 f. 
Limerick, 141, 151. 
Lisieux, 74, 98. 

' Little Flower,' 27, 98, 114, 124, 359. 
Little Nellie of Holy God, 98. 
Little Things, 201 ff. 
Little Victories, Book of, 121, 261. 
Locre (and Convent), 98, 108, 261, 

266, 268 f, 279, 289, 333. 
Loos, 226 fif, 251, 253, 325. 
Lourdes, 74, 98. 
Louvain, 352. 



INDEX 



Love o? Christ, 99 #, 358, 364 ff. 
Lyons, 31. 

Maastricht, 351. 

McDonnell, Rev. J., S.J., Si, 107. 
Mclnespie, Private, 328. 
Magdalen, S. Mary, 130, 137. 
Margaret Mary, S., 31, 51, 96, 103, 

106, 124, 128, 134, 137!, 153, 370. 
Marie de Jesus (Marie Deluil-Martiny), 

156, 158. 
Marie de Jesus (Emilia d' Oultremont, 

Baroness d' Hooghvorst), 144, 167. 
Marie Reparatrice (Congregation), 

135, 144- 
Marie-Terese (Theodclindo Dubouche) 

156, 164, 359. 
Martindale, C., S.J., 369. 
Martyrdom, 10, 53, 58, 142, 215, 2^0, 

291, 328. 
Mass, 65, 154 ff, 319; at the Front, 

231, 249, 252, 257, 263, 268 , 271 f, 

289, 295, 297, 309 f, 317, 319, 

321 f, 324 f, 330. 
Masse, Pere Enemond, S.J., 88. 
Maturin, Father B. W., 170. 
Maynooth, 342. 
Mazingarbe, 222, 247. 
Meehan, Private, 328. 
Mermillod, Cardinal, 157. 
Milltown Park, 23, 55, 340. 
Mission, Foreign, 53- 79, 239. 
Monnin, Abbe. See Ars (Cure of). 
Mortification : S. Ignatius's view;-, 

17, 122, 169, 171 ; Fr. Doyle's 

views, 26, 108, 211 ft ; Fr. Doyle's 

practice, 122 ft. 
Murrough, 159, 366. 
Mysticism, 96. 

Napoleon, 46. 

Nativity, The, 46, 106, 265, 339 

Newman, Cardinal, 373. 

Newry, 352 

Noeux-les -Mines, 226. 

Nordausques, 277. 

Noviceship. See under Tullabeg. 

O'Connell, Daniel, 304. 

Office, Divine, 90, 113, 116, 121, 161. 

Orangemen's Appreciation, 307, 329, 

331- 
Ordinary Actions, 24, 35, 43, 49, 56, 

125, 2OI ft". 

Padial, Yen. Emm., S.J., 138. 
Paray-le-Monial, 30, 42. 
Paris, 31. 
Passion, The, 55. 
Patmore, Coventry, 359. 



Paul of the Cross, B., 367. 

Peter of Alcantara, S., 367. 

Peter's Denial, Saint, 56. 

Petit, Pere Adolphe, S.J., 32, 172. 

Petit, Pere Auguste, S.J., 52, 56. 

Philip Neri, S., 366, 368 f. 

Phillips, Percival, 329. 

' Pink Pills,' 175. 

Pius IX., 156. 

Pius X., 160. 

Plater, Father Charles, S.J., 71 f, 77. 

Poperinghe, 315. 

Power, Father M., S.J., 343, 345. 

Prat, Pere, S.J., 155. 

Prayer : S. Ignatius's views, 17, 34 ; 

Fr. Doyle's practice, 66, 107 If, 

163, 241, 266 ; Advice, 206 IT ; 

For Missions, 65, 156, 208, 340. 
Priestly Sanctity and Reparation, 

154 if, 194. 

Priestly Sanctity, League of, 159. 
Prodigal Son, The, 44. 
Protestantism, 170, 362. 
Prudence, 161 f, 169, 211 f, 367 ft, 

See under Sleep. 
Puente, Yen. L. de la, S.J., 358. 

Raitt, Corporal, 328. 
Ramsay, General, 304. 
Ramsgrange, 93. 
Ratcliffe College, 7, 233, 337. 
Rathfarnham, 78, no. 
Ravignan, Pere de, S.J., 207. 
Rawhneon, Father, 315. 
Remuzat, Yen. Anne M., 366. 
Reparation, 76, 13311. 
Resurrection, The, 59. 
Rickaby, Father Joseph, S.J., 38. 
Roberts, Father S., SJ. M 348. 
Rose of Lima, S., 368, 370. 
Russell, Father Matthew, S.J., 172. 
j Ruville, A. von, 170. 

Sacrament, The Blessed, 52, 62, 108, 
122, 164, 207, 218, 240 f, 243. See 
also under Mass. 

Saint Julien, 327. 

Saint Martin au Laert, 302. 

Saint-Omer, 279, 302. 

Sarsfield, Patrick, 350. 

Scottish Division (i5th), 311. 

Scourging, The, 57. 

Segneri, Yen. Paul, S.J., 107, 358, 

367- 

Seneca, 35, 133. 
Sheffield, 7. 
Sleep, Mortification in, 57, 66, 

130, 163, 219. 
Socialism, 356. 
Somme, The, 251 S. 



INDEX 



379 



Spinola, B. Charles, S.J., 261. 
Standards, The Two, 48. 
Stirke, Lieut. -Colonel H., 328, 331. 
Stonyhurst, 19, 78, 279, 336, 362. 
Strauabi, Mgr., 367. 
Suau, Pire, S.j", 37, 167. 
Suffering, 133^, 364 if. 
Suso, B. Henry, O.P., 358, 361, 365, 
367, 368 f, 370 f . 

Teresa, Saint, 26, 96, 101, 123, 128, 
138, 149, 156, 182, 185, 188, 206, 
215, 262, 265, 358, 367, 370, 373. 

Terenure, 340. 

Tertianship, 30 ff, 341 ff. 

Therese, Soeur. See under Little 
Flower. 

Thomas Aquinas, Saint, 122, 134, 
169, 368. 

Thompson, Brother, 233. 

Thompson, Francis, 371. 

Tissot, Pere J., 373. 

Tongres, 351. 



Tours, 74. 

Tronchiennes, 30, 341, 348. 

Tullabeg, 8 f , 20, 81, 146, 337 f. 

Union with God, 92 ff, 119, 187 ff, 



Vaughan, Father B., S.J., 347. 
Vaughan, Clare, 167. 
Vincent de Paul, Saint, 183. 
Vermelles, 238. 
Vocations, 80. 

Vonier, Abbot A., 135, 162. 
Vow : of Consecration, 106 ; of Per 
fection, 146; Short, no, 131, 271. 

Wexford, 352. 
Whitely Camp, 217. 
Workers' Retreats, 71 ff, 352 ff. 

Wytschaete, 291. 

Yarmouth, 33, 344, 346 f. 
Ypres, 312. 



PRINTED BY PURCELL AND co., CORK. 



BX 4705 D6907 1922 TRIN 
O'Rahilly, Alfred. 
Father William Doyle S.J 



BX 4705 D69O7 1922 TRIN 
O'Rahilly, Alfred. 
Father William Doyle S.J