Friday, May 26, 2017

St. Philip Neri, pray for us!

Blessed John Henry Newman and Father Frederick Faber wrote several hymns in honor of the Oratory's founder, St. Philip Neri, whose feast we celebrate today. Here is one of Newman's hymns to his beloved patron:

This is the Saint of gentleness and kindness,
Cheerful in penance, and in precept winning:
Patiently healing of their pride and blindness,
Souls that are sinning.

This is the Saint, who, when the world allures us,
Cries her false wares, and opes her magic coffers,
Points to a better city, and secures us
With richer offers.

Love is his bond, he knows no other fetter,
Asks not our all, but takes whate'er we spare him,
Willing to draw us on from good to better,
As we can bear him.

When he comes near to teach us and to bless us,
Prayer is so sweet, that hours are but a minute;
Mirth is so pure, though freely it possess us,
Sin is not in it.

Thus he conducts, by holy paths and pleasant,
Innocent souls, an sinful souls forgiven,
Towards the bright palace, where our God is present,
Throned in high heaven.

Father Jonathan Robinson, C.O., wrote about how St. Philip Neri influenced Blessed John Henry Newman in Faith and Reason: The Journal of Christendom College in Winter 1989:

St. Philip founded the Oratory, and Newman having discovered the Oratory began to learn about St. Philip. This seems to be the historical progression. Once, however, he began to discover St. Philip he found someone, as we would say today, with whom he could identify. Philip was born at Florence in 1515 (the same year as St. Teresa of Avila). Later, near Naples, while working in an uncle's business (which he was to inherit) he had a religious experience which left him without interest in secular pursuits. He renounced his inheritance and moved to Rome. From this time, when he was about 18, until his early 30's, he lived the life of a poor recluse, earning just enough through tutoring to meet his simple wants. During this period he spent long hours, even whole nights, in prayer in the catacombs where the early Christians had buried their dead, and where they could safely celebrate the mysteries of their religion. Those dark and silent galleries were for Philip the living and speaking image of the ages of persecution. Cardinal Newman, in a litany he wrote, called Philip "Man of primitive times," and in many respects he does seem more a man of earlier times than one whose lot was cast amid the splendors and conflicts of the sixteenth century. . . . 

Newman tells us that Philip came not to argue, not to berate, not to condemn: "He put from him monastic rule and authoritative speech, as David refused the armour of his King _ he would be an ordinary individual priest as others, and his weapons would be but unaffected humility and unpretending love."4 But, whatever St. Philip was, he was anything but ordinary. . . . .

Newman, having come to know Philip as the founder of the Oratory, came to love him for himself. Yet on the face of it the reason for the attraction is not obvious. Dwight Culler has argued that Newman was able to see in St. Philip the incarnation of his educational ideals, and I think he is correct.7 Philip's sanctity was built on, or into, the humanism of renaissance Italy. St. Philip, if he had not become a saint, might well have been a courtier or a philosopher instead. In his youth, says Father Bacci, one of his first biographers, he studied philosophy and theology until "he was reckoned one of the most distinguished scholars in the schools of Rome." But, when "he had made sufficient advancement in learning, not for his own use only, but also for the edification of others . . . he laid his studies aside and applied himself wholly to that science which is found in the crucifix."8

Please read the rest there.

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