Goethe informs us (if we can read German; I have the English, but not at hand nor on the Net) that it is good that there are many saints, so that every man may find one appropriate to his humour – and then goes on to explain why he, Enlightenment Lutheran that he was, likes St Philip Neri (though he rather spoils his account by explaining away miracles and making one or two crudely anti-Catholic comments).
Guided, I trust, by the Holy Ghost, to Whom I hope to offer a pleasing devotion for all His undeserved blessings toward such a backslider as I am, for many years I too have greatly esteemed good St Philip, himself the peculiar instrument of the Spirit (given his holy but often extraordinary behaviour).
For any liking to read of his life (always a good idea, to read about saints – for their example may be catching), here is Dom Alban Butler's beautifully eighteenth century take on it. Snippets from the late great Louis Bouyer's The Roman Socrates are also on the Web. (The whole of Bacci's two volumes are available online here).
Many fine devotions concerning St Philip Neri are online, including sterling efforts by Newman – above all, the Litany to St Philip – and Faber (tho' the latter's hymns are frankly too treacly for my taste). Here I simply give the traditional collect for his feast, to indicate what qualities of his have been highlighted since his raising to the honours of the altars, alongside SS Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier and Isidore the Farmer, in 1622:
Deus, qui beatum Philippum, Confessorem tuum, sanctorum tuorum gloria sublimasti: concede propitius; ut cujus solemnitate [on other days: commemoratione] lætamur, ejus virtutum proficiamus exemplo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R/. Amen.
Thus, as the Church seeks to inculcate in us, her children, by the collect she has composed for Philip's feastday, we ought "profit by the example of his virtues" if we are truly to "rejoice in his commemoration": for as God has been pleased to exalt him to the glory of holiness, so it is his will for all of us ("this is the will of God: your sanctification" – I Thess. iv, 3a).
For this reason, to make some very little movement toward heaven by seeking to pray and so be strengthened for life's combat, some other men and myself at our usual place of worship have just started to come together each month or so as Fratres Oratorii (Brothers of the Oratory), after the example of St Philip and his sons the Oratorians, who gather for mental prayer and vocal prayer in common in the evenings.
God willing, the Fratres will pray together next on Monday the 10th of December at 6.30pm, at St John's Pro-Cathedral, Perth, Western Australia. Our chaplain and confessarius, Fr Michael Rowe, will lead the Litanies of the Saints to begin (for we ought accustom ourselves to hold converse with saints and angels, with the Holy Mother of God, and above all, with God Three-in-One), and conclude the half-hour of mental prayer (during the which he will be available to hear confessions) with simple Benediction (with the ciborium). Next year we hope to meet more regularly. (Of course, any men interested would be most welcome.)
Unfortunately, due to the late notice and absence of some of the fratres, there was only a small attendance on Monday the 10th of December; but Fr Rowe assures me that he will better advertise our next meeting in mid- to late January, by which time I for one will be back in Perth. I will post these details once he lets me know the chosen day and time.
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