Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feast of Corpus Christi - 6th Day of the Novena to St Philip Neri

Corpus Christi, 1595, was the last day of St Philip's life. He had recently regained the strength to say Mass, and few suspected that his life had reached its eventide. In the morning, he said Mass with extraordinary fervour, as though singing rather than saying the words, and spent the rest of the day in spiritual conversations, in the reciting of the Office, and in the hearing of confessions. And early the next morning, he died. From Fr Faber:


While all saints do all the good they can find to do, each has a sphere peculiarly his own, a work which peculiarly belongs to him, and by which more especially all after ages will know him in the Church. Now what was St. Philip’s sphere?
I. The spheres of saints.
1. There are aggressive saints like St. Ignatius: there are also inventive saints.
2. There are revolutionary saints like St. Francis.
3. Historical saints like St. Athanasius — raised up to save an epoch.
4. There are reforming saints like St. Charles [Borromeo].
5. There are saints who perfume the Church like sufferers and contemplatives.
6. How St. Philip had an element of all these saints in him.
II. His choice of a sphere.
1. He was not allowed a foreign missionary field.
2. He sent many into religion, but did not enter it himself.
3. His associations and instincts were all for primitive times; not for mediæval saints, who would hardly allow salvation out of the cloister; nor for modern ideas, which refused perfection out of convents.
4. St. Philip took the world; took pity on it, and taught that men and women might live in the world, and be as perfect as the highest saints.
III. How he exemplified this.
1. In his dislike of change — home is not the world, as convent people say it is.
2. In his stress laid on the heart — so like a thorough Scriptural saint!
3. In founding his Congregation for the help of those in the world.
4. In his wideness of spirit admitting all varieties and even opposites of goodness.
5. In his choice of great cities for his sons to work in.
IV. His peculiar attraction.
I observe that those who have a devotion to him mostly have an enthusiastic devotion. Yet they can hardly say on what it rests: it is rather some nameless attraction than any specific grace or sweetness. Also it is not to his work, or to his grace, but to himself — it is not to anything of St. Philip’s but to St. Philip. This nameless attraction is fitted for a sphere consisting of such diversified materials. It is justly called an attraction, an instinct, a spell: — it draws us to him, quietly moulds us — quietly heats us — quietly changes us — quietly makes us all for God. I have often wondered what precisely it is, this nameless charm, but I do not know. We feel it — and are silent, and our heart fills with it, and we are happy in being his children and at his feet: — and somehow all he does for us, and all he does in us, and all he makes us do, and all the liberty he gives us, and his loving of us, and his frightening of us — all somehow brings us round to God!

[Faber, Frederick William. Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects. Volume 1. “Mysteries and Festivals.” 3rd ed. London: Burns & Oates, n.d. [post 1866], pp. 371-3]

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