Thursday, May 26, 2011

For All The Saints: St. Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri
painted by Fr. Kevin Kelly
-Feast of St. Philip Neri
Did you know the Church has a Patron Saint of Joy? He's St. Philip Neri. Today is his feast day.

Friends from our parish invited me to attend a Mass tonight at  7 o'clock to celebrate. We joined dozens of worshippers at the New Brunswick Oratory of St. Philip Neri, including five Oratorian priests, one Oratorian brother, and 14 secular Oratorians.

Beautiful and unexpected (and new!) to me was that the community tonight admitted six freshly minted Secular Oratorians. We Catholics are accustomed to praying for vocations; how stunning to see the those prayers come to fruition.

Who are the Oratorians?  "The Oratory believes that heaven is other people. In the spirit of prayer alone, and prayer in community, we come to share and encourage each other in our sacramental lives. As Oratory, we meet all peoples, all experiences and in return our understanding of God is widened and deepened. " Perhaps the best known Oratorian is Blessed John Henry Newman.

Also by Fr. Kevin
Who was St. Philip Neri? At this late hour, I can't do justice to the beauty of his life. He was born in Florence in 1515. A devout priest, he refused to take anything too seriously, except for Christ. He was funny and charming and spontaneous. The only rule of his order is "Sola Caritas," or "Love Alone."

So much moved me tonight: the sound of the harp and trombones, the chanting, the laughter, the earnest faith of the Oratorians and their secular companions; the celebrant joking before Mass began about having to wear three layers of polyester; the church bells ringing into the night at the Mass's end.

Tonight was sticky hot and the church had opened the stained glass windows to let a breeze in. All during Mass, as I looked at the altar, I could see commuter trains transporting workers home. These sights and sounds made me realize how our lives are just like this; we take time to worship in the middle of the busyness of our lives.

When I got home, I did a little googling about St. Philip Neri.  I discovered St. Philip Neri had thought something similar. “Right in the middle of the crowd, we can be on the way to perfection.”

Update: Elizabeth Scalia on St. Philip Neri