Marking the feast day of St Vincent de Paul with Willie Doyle SJ

It is the feast of St Vincent de Paul. In Ireland St Vincent De Paul is best remembered by giving his name to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, which for those unfamiliar with it is a lay organisation working for social justice. In modern Ireland the need for the “V de P” is as great as ever.

The website Remembering Willie Doyle is devoted to the Irish Jesuit Willie Doyle, killed in action during World War 1. Most days the Remembering Willie Doyle blog is updated with an extract from Fr Doyle’s diaries or other writings.

The thoughts for September 27th lead into a consideration of St Vincent de Paul, the Jansenist heresy (which, when one reads about it, sounds with its emphasis on sin and damnation something close to an unfortunate strain in Irish Catholicism over the years) and  the state of the Church in France 350 years ago and parallels with today:

Fr Doyle isn’t the only great spiritual hero who felt he had much lukewarmness to account for. Today’s saint, Vincent de Paul, seems to have had very mixed motives during his early years. The desire to secure a prestigious ecclesiastical benefice and live in comfort seems to have been foremost in his mind when he was ordained a priest in his very early 20’s. In fact, he even had recourse to the courts to vindicate what he saw as his rights in the Church, and, so keen was he to protect his rights that he even chased a man who owed him money to Marseilles. It was on this expedition that he was kidnapped by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave. It is this experience, plus the importance of friendships like those with St Francis de Sales and Pierre de Berulle that gradually brought about his conversion.

There are other important similarities between St Vincent and Fr Doyle. Both were renowned for their charity. In Fr Doyle’s case this started very early in life – as a child he would take food from his family home and give it to the poor around Dalkey, his native village. He kept this habit all his life, often giving away his food and gifts to soldiers in the trenches.

 

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