Friday, March 01, 2013

Peter Doyle and the Rosary - This Month in Irish American News

Pete Doyle -The Mr. Chips of Leo High School, Chicago IL

Leo Legend Pete Doyle greeted his guys, yesterday when these accomplished Lions returned to mentor the young Lions of Leo.  Every Alumnus from years 1967-Present, ask for Brother Doyle, Handsome Willie, Mr. Doyle, Pete!

             Peter Doyle and the Rosary – They’re Back at Leo High School

My Dad once told me, “Everything comes back but spats.” The old man knew what he was stalking about whether it was buying tools, jazz records, or clothing – buy to last and skip the trendy. His advice served me well, I love real jazz and eschew the Kenny G varietal elevator music, wear essentially the same public statement with my cloths and hair style (unaltered since 1966- urban prep/greaser) and I demand that the skilled craftsmen that I hire to improve or repair my home use only the best tools.

There are reasons why some things never change; they are classic, and why though out of sight and mind for whatever reason are always welcomed back. You can not say that of the Mullet-hair statement, the Nehru Jacket, or the Leisure suit.

That same can and should be said about wonderful persons and practices.

Pete Doyle is back at Leo. The former Irish Christian Brother who began his long teaching career at Leo High School in 1967, returned three years ago. Mr. Doyle is remembered as Bro Doyle by hundreds of Alumni who pay homage to the man who exemplifies the Spirit of the Lion.

Back in the day, Leo Pep Rallies were often punctuated by bleachers and balcony seats of Leo Men chanting “Handsome, Willie! Handsome Willie!!!!” Handsome was the appellation of student affection for a teacher or coach. The Irish Christian Brothers referred to one another not by their given names, but by their Christening names; thus, Brother Peter William Doyle CCF was called Willie – Handsome Willie.

Pete “Handsome Willie” Doyle teaches religion and coaches track and serves as this school’s campus minister. Leo High School is was and shall always remain Catholic.

No one exemplifies Leo’s Catholic culture better than Handsome Willie Doyle. Students learn exactly why Leo’s Catholic identity is the key to their success. There is much that goes into the tale and worship is a huge part of the glory that is Leo Alumni support and the continuation of the eighty seven year mission on 79th Street.

Pete Doyle and a group of teachers and students instituted the Leo Men Pray program that takes place immediately after school and before athletic practices. Out this program and Mr. Doyle’s religion classes emerged interest in a uniquely Catholic form of prayer. African American evangelical and a few Muslim students indicated great interest in a very particular devotion to Our Lady.

The Rosary is back at Leo High School – the school named for the Rosary Pope –Leo XIII. The Rosary focused and dedicated to Our Lady, became one of great Catholic devotions.

Remember devotions? You know ‘external, public practices of piety?’ Piety? That’s a toughie these days. Piety is equated to hypocrisy, or at the very least rather pinched in the sphincter. Piety is merely means ‘respect’ drawn from a very complex sense of Roman virtue. The Romans and subsequently the Catholic Church took virtue to mean the steps to good living – a gradus. At the most basic was pietas –recognition and reverence for ancestors. Piety came to mean doing a public act that reflected one’s faith and core beliefs. As Catholics dissolved into mere Americans, breast beating, signs of the cross, counting of beads, genuflection and finally living up to the faith became silly things performed by the unevolved. I took three Leo students out for lunch and said grace with the sign of the cross sandwiching the prayer and you should have seen the looks I got from tables of hep and hip.

I have had a rosary in pocket, as well as my keys, some folding money, a toothpick a hankie and those great tasting Listerine pads for years. I pray through the day with the beads tucked away. No need to publicly pronounce my pities unless invited or commanded to do so. The Rosary is a great help to me and it keeps me aware of my vanities and impulses. Don’t hurt none.

I asked Mr. Doyle about the interest our young men, mostly non-Catholic, have shown in this most Catholic of devotions. I began by asking, “You have been a long-time influence on generations of Leo Men (1967-Present). How do you see the young men of today?”

“You know, Pat, they are much the same: some take to studies, some to sports and all need to be loved and encouraged Like the young guys when I first came here to teach, they show a great interest in spiritual things. There seems to be a greater hunger for more sacred rituals and devotions along with their hunger for God and grasping some sense in this life.”

Pete Doyle was born in Los Angeles, CA and returned to teach there in the 1980’s after leaving the Irish Christian Brothers. Aside from that brief teaching hiatus and short stint with St. Gregory High School on the north side, Peter Doyle has stayed close to Leo.

Leo’s Mr. Chips explained the development of interest in the Rosary as a devotion, “Today’s Leo student has a much more spontaneous response to prayer. They are at ease with a personal relation to Jesus. As teens they love to do things in groups which seems to lend itself to a more formalized devotion and the rosary fills that need. Since we began the Leo Men Pray program traditional prayers have had a powerful effect from group prayer. The public nature of bearing witness to Christ through His Mother seems to have hit a chord with the guys. It is active prayer.”

The tangible benefits of holding onto the rosary during the Rosary itself seems to have added to the current interest by students, most of whom are non-Catholic. Doyle went on, “Holding onto a sacred object while publicly or privately praying, meditating and fingering the beads appeal to the young men. They like medals, medallions, charms and the like. The Church has always used the material to our own ascent to the spiritual.”

Pete Doyle is back and now the Rosary is Back. Get this. Pete Doyle wants to have a May Crowning here on 79th in the Leo courtyard at the Statue of Our Lady.

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