Friday 30 November 2018

To Raise the Fallen: A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers, and Spiritual Writings of Fr. Willie Doyle - Edited by Dr. Patrick Kenny

To Raise the Fallen: A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers, and Spiritual Writings of Fr. Willie Doyle
William J.G. 'Willie' Doyle
Dr. Patrick Kenny (Editor)
US Edition
Ignatius Press
ISBN 9781621642565
eISBN 9781642290585
UK Edition
ISBN 9781847308078

Over the last few years I have read several biographies of military chaplains. I read a biography of Fr. Willie Doyle and want to read more about him. This book is an excellent starting point. This book contains a brief selection with an outline of Fr. Doyle's life. Sections for letters from different points in his life. And an appendix with testimonies about his military service and valour. The chapters in the book are:

1. Letters from the Front
2. The War Within
3. Spiritual Advice
4. Priesthood and Vocations
5. Meditations on the Stations of the Cross
6. Personal Prayers
Appendix: Testimonies

This book was hard to put down. To read about this man of God in his own hand is both a blessing and a challenge. I do not know how anyone could read his letters and not be challenged in their faith. The book is drawn from his letters and his personal journals. Journals that he wished to have destroyed upon his death but that he superiors saw the value of and they were preserved. The introduction begins with this personal contract that he wrote in his journal in May of 1883:

"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, on this the first day of thy month, solemnly commence my life of slow martyrdom by earnest hard work and constant self-denial. With my blood I promise thee to keep this resolution, do thou, sweet Mother, assist me and obtain for me the one favour I wish and long for: to die a Jesuit Martyr."

And he lived that spirit for the next 24 years. He lived to serve. And as a young man that needed to take a break from his studies more than once because of ill health, it was surprising that he achieved ordination. And yet at each impasse in following his vocation, he seemed to grow in stamina, resolve, and fortitude. The booklet he wrote on vocations and becoming a priest are still available today. He had immense impact during his life, and also since his death. This volume spans samples from his published writings, his private journals and his letters.

The first of the testimonies in the appendix is from Major General Sir William Bernard Hickie:

"Father 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 will never be forgotten. On the day of his death, 16 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 dispatch. . . . I can say without boasting that this is a division of brave men; and even among these, Fr Doyle stood out."

This is an excellent read. I encourage you to give it a read and let the life of this man encourage and challenge you. For I am certain it will.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For all reviews and articles about Military Chaplains click here.

Books by and about Fr Willie Doyle:

No comments: