Happy Father’s Day to all our Dads and spiritual Fathers! To welcome in the Year of the Priest, we are going to share stories and books on amazing priests who have touched our lives in some manner. Father Willie Doyle was an Irish Jesuit who became an Army Chaplain in World War I. He died at the age of 44 on the plains of Ypres, Belgium, August 16, 1917, braving heavy gunfire to give his dying men the last rites.
Prior to his chaplaincy, he was a member of the Jesuit mission staff, giving retreats to feed his love for souls. His intense devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus fueled his own interior life and bore fruit in the lives of those he preached to. His retreats were always backed up by nocturnal Adoration and varied penitential practices. “Love of God is holiness and the cost of love is pain.” A few of his devotional exercises were quite unique. So madly in love with Our Lord was he that when he was alone in Chapel he used to “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.” He also would climb up to embrace a life-size Crucifix and cover Our Lord’s Wounded Face with kisses. He was renowned for the number of aspirations he would say every day, keeping in mind the Presence of God at every moment.
In addition to his great sense of humor and bright personality, he was also known for being impulsive and decisive, tending to bossiness! “To begin with, he was simple and natural; people felt at home with him at once. He was very human and made large allowance for frailties. He was sympathetic and kind; a good listener, never showing impatience or weariness, no matter how drawn-out or tangled the tale.” (Merry in God, Roman Catholic Books)
There’s a marked difference between his picture as a young Jesuit seminarian and the picture above, taken shortly before he was killed on the battlefield. The sufferings he willingly undertook for the Love of Christ transformed him and prepared him for his eternity with his Beloved Lord.
Read more about Fr. Willie Doyle in Merry in God, A Life of Father William Doyle, S.J. and Father William Doyle S.J. by Professor Alfred O’Rahilly.