The Year of Vocations has ended and the Holy Year for Priests is about to begin. In the brief interim, let us pause to remember Fr. William Doyle, of the Society of Jesus, awarded the Military Cross for his work as a Chaplain in the trenches of World War I.
Fr. Doyle is worth remembering not only for his own saintly, 'though some would say imprudent, example, nor for his heroic zeal for souls most especially during the greatest soul harvest that the world had, until then, seen, but also for the depth and richness of his spiritual writings.
In particular, we wish to remember his work entitled: Vocations. This work, while not about traditional vocations in the modern sense, in that it relates not to the traditionalist ghetto but to the soul in relation to Eternity, and, to be fair, it is equally applicable to vocations within the Church but outside of the ghetto. However, for the soul in discernment, it is a spiritual treasure to be consumed and made one's own.
At the same time, Fr. Doyle's Prayer for Priests is surely not only a powerful call upon the Treasury of Heaven for God's Ministers but equally an edifying and enlightening text worthy of much and deep meditation upon the nature of the Catholic Priesthood.
The vita by Professor Alfred O'Rahilly is a spiritual classic. In summary, Professor O'Rahilly writes: "William Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, in Ireland on March 3, 1873. He was the youngest of seven children, four boys and three girls, out of which two boys became Jesuits, another died a few days before his priestly ordination and one of the three girls became a Sister of Mercy: four vocations out of seven children."
"He entered the Jesuit Novitiate at the age of 18 after reading St. Alphonsus’ book “Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State”. Soon after his ordination in 1907, his superiors appointed him on the mission staff for five years. From 1908 to 1925, he gave no less than 152 missions and retreats. His fame as preacher, confessor and spiritual director spread wide and far, and he had a special gift to hunt out the most hardened and neglected sinners and to bring them back with him to the church for confession."
"In the midst of such an active apostolate, he maintained a fervent spiritual life of union with his Eucharistic Lord, offering himself as a victim for the salvation of souls with the Divine Victim.
He was finally appointed during World War I chaplain of the 16th Irish Division at the front in November 1915 and having fulfilled his priestly duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed in the Battle of Ypres on August 16, 1917, having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.” This good shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep."