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Today, 16th August is the 107th anniversary of Fr Willie Doyle who was killed as a serving Catholic chaplain in the Allied forces in World War I in Langemark, Belgium. In recent years, devotion to Fr Willie has grown and his cause has been formally advanced in Rome that could lead to him being beatified and canonised someday. His witness to charity and selfless mercy shines still as a bright light, ignited at a time of terrible darkness in Europe.

Fr Willie had a strong devotion to Our Lady and loved the Feast day of her Assumption. This was because he made his religious vows as a Jesuit on the feast day in 1893. It is indeed ironic or better still providential that he was killed the day after the feast day on 16th August 1917.

Below is a film/documentary about the life and witness of Fr Willie Doyle, the brave Irishman and priest. Also below is a poignant extract from his diary from the 15th August 1916, just a year before his death.


Thoughts for the Feast of the Assumption from Fr Willie Doyle

Knowing there were a good number of my boys about I hurried back as quickly as I could, and made my way up the long, narrow street. The shells were all coming in one direction, across the road, not down it, so that by keeping close to the houses on the shady side there was little danger, though occasional thrills of excitement enough to satisfy Don Quixote himself. I reached the village cross-roads in time to lift up the poor sentry who had been badly hit, and with the help of a couple of men carried him to the side of the road. He was unconscious, but I gave him absolution and was half way through the anointing when with a scream and a roar which made our hearts jump a shell whizzed over our heads and crashed into the wall directly opposite on the other side of the street, covering us with brick dust and dirt. Bits of shrapnel came thud, thud, on the ground and wall around us, but neither I nor the men were touched. “Begorra, Father, that was a near one, anyhow”, said one of them, as he brushed the dust off his tunic, and started to fill his pipe. “It was well we had your Reverence with us when Jerry (a nickname for German) sent that one across”. “You must not thank me, boys” I said, “don’t you know it is our Lady s feast, and Mary had her mantle spread over us to save us from all harm? “True for you, Father”, came the answer. But I could see by their faces that they were by no means convinced that I had not worked the miracle. Though it was the 15th of August I was taking no risks, especially with this reputation to maintain ! So, the poor boy being dead, I bundled the rest of them down a cellar out of harm’s way, and started off again. Heavy as the shelling was, little damage was done thanks to the fact that the sports had emptied the town. One man was beyond my aid, a few slightly wounded, and that was all. As I came round the corner of the Church I met four of my boys calmly strolling along in the middle of the street as if they were walking on Kingstown pier. I won t record what I said, but my words helped by the opportune arrival of an unpleasantly near H.E. (high explosive) had the desired effect, and we all took cover in the church. It was only then I realised my mistake, for it soon became evident the Germans were firing at the church itself. One after another the shells came in rapid succession, first on one side then on the other, dropping in front and behind the building, which was a target with its tall, white tower. It was madness to go out, and I do not think the men, some score of them, knew of their danger, nor did I tell them, but man of little faith, as I was, I cast anxious eyes at the roof and wished it were stronger. All’s well that ends well, they say. Not a shot hit the church, though the houses and road got it hot. Our fiery ordeal ended at last, safely and happily for all of us. And August 15th, 1916, went down on my list as another day of special grace and favour at Mary’s hands.
For more about Fr Willie Doyle, click The Father Willie Doyle Association

'Eternal Father, your priest, Fr William Doyle, offered his life as a sacrifice to your love. With zeal for the salvation of souls, he sought to raise the fallen and console the broken-hearted. Amid the horrors of war, he was a servant of your grace and an advocate for peace and reconciliation. Teach us to imitate his love for you and his heroic devotion to your service.

If it is your will that he should be venerated among the Saints of your Church, make known by miracles and favours the glory he enjoys in your presence. Trusting in your merciful goodness, graciously grant us, through his intercession, the grace of _______. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be


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