Feast of St Philip Neri
St Philip was born in 1515 just before the Reformation. His sanctity was one of great joy and happiness and as such others were attracted to him. He worked in Rome with the poor, especially young men, and founded an Oratory from which a religious order grew, the Oratorians. This order is known to Catholics of the British Isles because it is the order to which Cardinal Henry Newman belonged.
The readings for today reflect something of the character of St Philip. The first reading is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians and speaks of the joy of those who live in the Lord. The reading states this principle simply and directly:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Having come out of the season of Easter, we who profess Jesus, have come to understand the great joy of being Christian. There is no death for us, physical death is merely the passage to another life; God is in control of everything, divine providence is at work in the world and all we have to do is to fall into line with what the Lord desires for us.
The response to the Psalm that is used today also reflects this belief in the providence of God: “I will bless the Lord at all times,” not just when things are going well.
This is the spirit of St Philip Neri, a spirit of joy and trust in the Lord. Such a spirit is valid for all times and in all places, today as much as in the 1500s.