Fr William Doyle, SJ
A friend of mine, Pat, has a great interest in the life of the Irish Jesuit, Fr Willie Doyle, who died as he heroically served soldiers during World War I (see his blog here). I was talking about the same priest with other friends of mine yesterday and one of them told me that his grandfather had been a friend of Fr Doyle and they had served together in the war. It is a small world.
Fr Doyle was one of Ireland's unsung heroes - a typical example of the humble padre out on the frontline bringing comfort and help to the soldiers, Catholic and non-Catholic, in the midst of the horrors of war. The example priests like these offer is truly amazing, revealing the astounding courage which is one of the graces conferred on a priest in the sacrament of holy orders.
Among those heroic priest being considered for beatification is Fr Emil Kapaun who died of neglect in a Korean hospital during the Korean war in 1951 - there appears there may be a miracle for him. Another fine example is the "Grunt Padre" himself, Fr Vincent Capodanno, a native of New York who died in the Vietnamese conflict in 1967. These priests are not to be seen as men who support war, but rather knowing that human beings are in the middle of life-threatening conflicts, they take the risk to be with them to minister to them and, if it happens, to prepare them for death and be with them when they die. As Fr Capadanno often said: "I need to be with my men - to say Mass for them" - that sums it up. That's why Fr Doyle was on the battlefield, and he died carrying out that ministry.
Are such priests martyrs? Now that is an interesting question. Martyrdom, defined strictly, is when one willingly accepts death for Christ, the Christian faith, the Church, a teaching or a virtue. These priests died, not for the faith, but rather in solidarity with those they were ministering to. I see that both Fr Capodanno and Fr Kapaun's Causes are proceeding on the basis of heroic virtue, and so require miracles for beatification. Their decision to remain with their troops in the heat of battle at the risk of their lives may not merit to be called martyrdom, but it does reveal heroic virtue.
There is supposed to be a Cause for Fr Willie Doyle, though I can find no trace of it. There was certainly great devotion to him in the past, and as my friend Pat points out in a recent blog post, St Josemaria Escriva was influenced by the Irish priest and seems to have used Fr Willie's spirituality and teaching in his own. So what happened to his Cause - did it start at all? Well, according to this blog post, it seems it "faded out" in the 1960's. That would sound right if it is true - we got rid of a lot of things in the 60's including faith and virtue. Now that we are finally recovering from the hippy madness, might we not try and look at our saints again, Fr Doyle among them?
And while we are at it (I'm on a roll now, rant coming....) include Nellie Organ of Cork, child mystric of the Eucharist; Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh, visionary Mary Byrne and Dame Judy Coyne, the "saints" of Knock; Tom Doyle, the saintly Legion of Mary worker who was renowned for his holiness and service of the poor in Dublin; the priest martyrs of the Columban order; not to mention jump starting the Causes already in progress. Time to get the finger out. Ireland needs saints, we already have candidates, why ignore them - surely we are not embarrassed by them......or are we?
Possible "Saints" of Knock Shrine. The visionary Mary Byrne, renowned for her holiness of life, the Parish Priest at the time of the apparitions, Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh; and the great defender of Knock and foundress of the Handmaids of Knock Shrine, Dame Judy Coyne.