Bishop Tom Deenihan of Meath has welcomed the decision by the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints to authorise the opening of the cause of Father Willie Doyle, SJ. With this authorisation, Father Doyle becomes known as a ‘Servant of God’. Father Doyle’s cause will be officially opened at Solemn Vespers for Christ the King on Sunday next, 20 November at 5pm in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, all are welcome.
Bishop Deenihan said, “Father Willie Doyle completed his Jesuit Noviciate in Rahan, County Offaly, in the Diocese of Meath, and it was there that he took an oath offering his life to God, an oath that was ultimately realised on the battlefield in 1917.”
Since announcing the opening of the cause, Bishop Deenihan said he has been struck by the extent of devotion to Father Doyle, despite the Military Chaplain having died one hundred and five years ago. The ceremony for the opening of the cause will be attended by people from all over Ireland, Catholic and Anglican priests from England, including the Head Army Chaplains from both Ireland and England, as well as retired members of the Irish and British armies. Father Leonard Moloney, the Provincial of the Jesuits will offer the reflection at the ceremony and pupils and staff of Clongowes Wood, where Father Doyle was stationed for a time, will also be present.
Bishop Deenihan noted, “An Irish Priest working as an Army Chaplain with the British Forces in 1917 and ministering to soldiers who were Catholic and Protestant, ultimately losing his life while bringing a fellow soldier to safety has something to say to our time too. A generosity that extends beyond nationality and creed by the Jesuit, Father Willie Doyle in 1917 is very much in tune with Pope Francis, a Jesuit pope, one hundred and five years later. It is a message that needs to be heard. Generosity is the hallmark of the Christian calling.”
Over the years, much has been written on Father Doyle. Bishop Deenihan said that his favourite story is contained in Alfred O’Rahilly’s biography of Father Doyle. After Father Doyle’s death, his father’s house was being burgled. The burglar came across a photograph of Father Doyle on the dresser and asked who it was. His father said that it was his son who lost his life as an Army Chaplain. The burglar responded that he knew him. He was a soldier and Father Doyle was his chaplain. He said that Doyle was a good man, dropped his bag of stolen property and walked out empty handed. “Perhaps this was Father Doyle’s first miracle”, Bishop Deenihan joked. Father Doyle was also an accomplished Spiritual Director and Retreat Preacher.
Bishop Deenihan said in conclusion, “Father Doyle’s Cause enjoys the support of the Irish Episcopal Conference and I am optimistic for its progress. Many throughout the world believe that this man is in heaven. Indeed, Doyle is being invoked today as far away as South Africa.”
The official petitioner for the Father Doyle’s cause is the Father Willie Doyle Association. This is the first time in Ireland that a lay association has been formed to promote a canonisation cause. Commenting on the opening of the cause, Patrick Kenny, the President of the Association, said that the message of Father Doyle’s life was more relevant now than 100 years ago. He said, “Father Willie was a heroic chaplain, but he hated the war and longed for peace. His charity was universal – he cared for all soldiers, including German prisoners, and he was killed while rescuing two wounded Anglican soldiers from Ulster. His life is an example to us of how we should live, and love, as Christians”.