FATHER WILLIE DOYLE, S.J.(1873-1917), was an Irish Jesuit priest who was killed in action during the First World War.
Born in Dalkey, Ireland, he was the youngest of seven children of Hugh and Christine Doyle. He was educated at Ratcliffe College, Leicester. After reading St. Alphonsus’ book Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State he was inspired to enter the priesthood and was an ordained Jesuit priest in 1907. He served for five years on the mission staff. From 1908 to 1915, he gave no less than 152 missions and retreats. His fame as preacher, confessor and spiritual director spread wide and far, and he had a special gift to hunt out the most hardened and neglected sinners and to bring them back with him to the church for confession. He maintained a fervent spiritual life of union with Christ offering himself as a victim for the salvation of souls.
Father Doyle served in the Army Chaplains' Department of the British Army during World War I, appointed as a chaplain to 48 Brigade of the 16th Irish Division. During the Battle of Loos he was caught in a German gas attack.General Hickie, the commander-in-chief described Father Doyle as "one of the bravest men who fought or served out here."
|In Seminary- Back- middle- Fr. John Sullivan to his right (see next Blog)|
A recommendation for a Military Cross was rejected as "he had not been long enough at the front". Father Doyle was presented with the parchment of merit of the 49th (Irish) Brigade instead. He was killed in the Battle of Langemarck, on 16 August 1917. Fr. Doyle's body was never recovered but he is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial. He was proposed for canonisation in 1938, but this was not followed through. His papers can be found in the Jesuit archives, Leeson Street, Dublin.
From a review of the 4th edition of the book in The Irish Monthly, 1931, published by the Irish Jesuit Province is O’Rahilly’s Life of Fr. William Doyle:
We cannot recommend this work too highly to our readers, for it is one of the best modern biographies we have seen, and has already done much to arouse an intelligent appreciation of Catholic asceticism both within the Church and without. Translations have been made into the German, Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch and Polish languages. Professor O’Rahilly has given us an unique story of one of the outstanding personalities of the Great War and at the same time a study in spirituality which is destined to rank among the classics of modern religious life.