A Saint & Soldier

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by Samuel McCarthy  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 24, 2022   

Fr. Willie Doyle's canonization cause

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Known as the Land of Saints and Scholars, Ireland soon may have a new saint. Church Militant's Sam McCarthy has more on this latest Servant of God.

On Sunday, Bp. Tom Deenihan of the diocese of Meath joined Jesuit Fr. Leonard Moloney to celebrate the opening ceremony of the canonization cause for World War I military chaplain Fr. Willie Doyle.

Fr. Leonard Moloney, S.J.: "The war that Fr. Willie Doyle served in as a chaplain was an imperialist war."

Fr. Doyle served as chaplain to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the British Army and saw action at several significant battles, including the Somme, Messines and Passchendaele. 

Despite holding the rank of captain, the priest — instead of sleeping in officers' quarters — insisted on spending his time in the trenches with his men.

Irish-born Maj. Gen. Sir William Hickie spoke well of Fr. Doyle: "He was loved and reverenced by us all; his gallantry, self-sacrifice, and devotion to duty were all so well-known and recognized. I think that his was the most wonderful character I have ever known."

Fr. Doyle was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during the Battle of the Somme. He was recommended for both the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, though it has been suggested anti-Catholic bias played a role in British Army officials refusing him the medals. 

Fr. Doyle was killed by mortar shells while rescuing two Anglican soldiers during the Battle of Passchendaele.

Saints Josemaría Escrivá and Teresa of Calcutta claimed devotions to Fr. Doyle and his life and writings.

Diocesan postulator Fr. John Hogan — in charge of investigating Father Doyle's life — stated, "[H]ere is the life of a great saint, of a man so abandoned to God that God worked through him in the most extraordinary ways. ... I cannot help but think ... that God has an important task for Willie Doyle as a saint within the Church."

As a child, Fr. Doyle begged the Blessed Virgin to grant him as an adult the gift of martyrdom. Having laid down his life in service as a priest, Fr. Willie Doyle might also be considered a martyr for having laid down his life for his friends in battle.

After the horrors he faced in the Somme, Fr. Doyle had a mental breakdown from which he quickly recovered. That led many Catholics after his death to pray for his intercession in cases involving mental health.

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