The Memorial of St. Philip Neri is on Friday, 26 May. St. Philip was a member of one of the greatest canonization classes in the history of the Church. Canonized with him on 12 March, 1622 were St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Isidore. St. Isidore was a twelfth century farmer; but the other four, in some way, were major figures in the Catholic counter reformation of the sixteenth century. St. Teresa reformed the Carmelites, St. Ignatius founded the Jesuits, St. Francis Xavier was a missionary in the Far East. St. Philip stayed home.
Home was Florence; but prompted by the decline in morals and the lack of a spiritual focus in the Eternal City, St. Philip, a layman, moved to Rome and viewed the city, and its inhabitants as his field hospital, his Church. He lived in extreme material poverty as a means to atone, and to prepare for the extreme spiritual and moral poverty he was about to encounter.
St. Philip’s encounters were through his prompting. He would engage in conversations with people he met in the streets eventually discussing the role of religion in their life. St. Philip began to attract a following. Soon he would lead walking tours through the city of Rome discussing spiritual topics of interest as they traversed the city. After St. Philip’s ordination to the priesthood, these walking tours would lead to more sedentary gatherings where both clergy and laity would meet together for prayer and spiritual conversation. Thus the model for the Oratorians – the religious community founded by St. Philip Neri – was born.
Our parish is currently involved with the Next Generation Parish initiative. The work of the Envisioning Team will be completed by the end of this month and we will soon embark on the Implementation Phase of the Initiative. All of our work has been possible because of your thoughtful observations about life at Our Lady of Peace Parish as we venture into our second century.
One of your suggestions was the ability to gather occasionally for small group discussions. This suggestion reminded me of the pastoral ministry of St. Philip Neri. With that in mind I would like to begin firepit discussions. These discussions will serve no dogmatic purpose in the universal church, nor will they influence the next papal conclave, but hopefully they will serve to answer the dogmatic, spiritual, pastoral, or liturgical questions that are on your mind. Hopefully they will influence your perspective on your faith. Hopefully the “Swarth-s’mores” and the “Milmont Meltaways” that come from the fire will be delicious.
My goal is to offer these monthly at both of our campuses, on a rotating basis. This along with Rosary Walks (The “Blue” Route – sorry, couldn’t resist it), and house visitations and blessings will give us a deeper comprehension and appreciation of the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love of God. More information will follow when the logistics are worked out. Firepit and summer do not seem to belong in the same sentence. I know that I am a happy snowman but… we shall see. Stay tuned. I close with a prayer to St. Philip.
O Holy St. Philip Neri, Patron of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.