JOSEPH FRANCIS DOYLE, S.J. – MAY HE REST IN PEACE
The Tampa Jesuit High School community is dealing with the death of their past President, Father Joseph F. Doyle, SJ who died at St. Joseph Hospital on Saturday afternoon. Father Doyle served as President of Jesuit from 1996 till last Spring when he suffered a major stroke. He had recovered enough to return on his own to Tampa to visit friends when he suffered further, serious heart complications and died. Born in New York City, Father Doyle was a member of the New Orleans province of the Society of Jesus. He was loved by the Tampa Jesuit community and I thought very highly of him as well. What follows is my homily at his funeral Mass tonight at the Chapel of the High School.
HOMILY AT THE FUNERAL OF REVEREND JOSEPH F. DOYLE, S.J.
St. Anthony Chapel on the campus of Jesuit High School
December 11, 2008
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg, FL
“God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people. . . .and he will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain. . .” [Rev. 21,5]
Father Joseph Doyle was a man of deep faith. He lived his entire life for what transpired last Saturday afternoon when he passed from this life to his final destination. A just and fair man throughout his life, he knew that the moment would come when he would be lovingly placed in the hands of God and no torment, be it a stroke, heart failure or heart attack could touch him. The Rite of Ordination of a deacon in the Church says this to any man aspiring to serve the Lord and his people: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” [Rites of Ordination, 143] The Rite of Ordination to the priesthood takes this charge one level higher as when the newly ordained priest is presented the gifts of bread and wine, the bishop says to him: “Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” [Rites of Ordination, 111]
What did Father Doyle read, teach and believe from the readings chosen for this his funeral Mass? Can any one of us who knew him well believe for a moment that he saw death as “affliction” or “utter destruction.” He lived, believed and taught that all of us are pilgrims on this earth who from time to time are tested, challenged but if at passing from this life to the next we deserve a passing grade, then we shall be at peace. Each day of his life he practiced the beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel.
We knew him to be a meek man but not a weak man. We knew him to be a peacemaker, not a hell raiser. We knew him to be merciful but with a strong hunger for justice and righteousness. And on occasion, even here on this campus, when he found himself insulted or persecuted, he simply conformed his life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross and moved on.
With gentleness, justice, kindness, and, I am told, generous applications of mercy, he presented the young men whose education was entrusted to him with a living example of one who waits and walks patiently through this life taking seriously the word’s of Jesus, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Father Doyle is now where he lived to be, in transitus, transition, from this life into the next. Every waking moment he believed, taught, and practiced the Scriptures in which we recall his life tonight. He was very comfortable with who he was, the work he was ordained to do, and the expectations of the Society which had shaped his life from Fordham Prep to Tampa Jesuit.
Little did I know that twice in one year I would be asked to preach at Father Doyle’s farewell Masses. Our gathering in the spring was sad for we said farewell to a man struggling to walk and talk. He was impatient with his infirmities and stubbornly determined to conquer the effects of his stroke. I was not at all sure that we would ever see him again though I had offered him a position as Spiritual father at the new Bethany Center. This Fall I began to hear rumors that he was well enough to travel back to Tampa and he had told me when I made my offer that he hoped he would die here. He got his wish.
I mentioned in May that even before Father Doyle arrived in 1996 I had heard from Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston what an extraordinary priest the Society was sending and how he would miss Father Joe. I mentioned also that only recently when I mentioned in passing to my predecessor, Archbishop John Clement Favalora, prior to the stroke that I had invited Father Doyle to spend his final years at our new Bethany Center, that he, the Archbishop, told me how at one very difficult moment at the seminary in New Orleans when the seminarians were practically in revolt, Father Doyle came and gave a day of recollection and literally “calmed the savage beasts.” Archbishop Favalora said, “I love Father Doyle and I shall always be grateful to him.”
But he touched other lives than just bishops. An alumnus of this high school who is now at Loyola, Baltimore, Brendan Stack e-mailed this to me two days ago: “I was very upset to hear that he [Father Doyle] had passed. He was a very big part of the Jesuit I learned to love. The memory of him that I departed Jesuit with was that he cared more for us, his students, than any other school President I have encountered. He was a great man, and what he taught me as well as all of my classmates will live on forever.”
Father Doyle allowed me the privilege of this pulpit on many occasions. None made me as happy as tonight when I can speak the heart of most of us gathered here. We know that the face of God in the person of Joseph Francis Doyle, sixty years a son of Ignatius, thirty-eight a priest of Jesus Christ, has gone home.
He will not need to speak loudly at heaven’s gate, which he probably is still incapable of doing, for they shall know in advance that he was a “blessing” to all who called upon him, he understood what he did in this life, and he brought peace to many. No one deserves more to hear the words of the Lord: well done good and faithful servant.