Saturday, May 26, 2007

St Philip Neri

Today is the big Feast for Oratories around the world. For several weeks we have been anticipating this at Birmingham Oratory, with tapestries hanging around the church depicting stories from the Saint's life, and red banners hanging from the walls around the sanctuary. The church today was alight with candles everywhere; all the side altars were aglow, and large candle fittings were attached to the walls and decorated with flowers. The Shrine of St. Philip Neri, which is just next to the sanctuary, was decorated particularly well, and his reliquary was arranged beautifully just outside.

The Feast began yesterday evening with Solemn Vespers and Benediction. This was just fabulous. There were four cantors in copes with Fr Paul Chavasse as celebrant. We were all blessed with a relic of St. Philip; a particularly moving occasion which is also possible every Monday evening in the Shrine.

I had an early start today to serve Mass for Fr Tim, who preached an excellent homily at the High Mass. Hopefully he will reproduce it on his blog; an account of the wonderful gifts St Philip Neri displayed in his ministry, and the effect it had on those around him. Fr Tim called him the "President of the Saints' Club" which includes many other counter-reformation Saints, during a period of history when Rome itself was in need of these great souls. For this reason, Philip himself is known as 'Apostle of Rome'.

I am a Brother of the Little Oratory, which is a brotherhood founded by St Philip himself. He wanted to promote spirituality among laymen in the world, and gathered around him men of every class. Their spiritual meetings would consist of sermons and prayers, and eventually led to many members becoming ordained with Philip into the priesthood. But the Oratory is not a religious monastic community; it exists as a congregation led by the spirit of St Philip, of priests and laymen united by a common bond of charity. Through this we are inspired to devote our leisure to works of mercy and charity, and to serve God under St Philip's gentle guidance.

At Birmingham Oratory, the Brothers meet every Tuesday night under the spiritual guidance of our Father Prefect Philip Cleevely. We follow certain rules and spiritual exercises, which were adapted from those in use by Rome when Cardinal Newman established the Oratory in England. We also have evenings of recollection during Advent and Lent, and go on trips in the Summer. Most of the Brothers serve at High Mass and Vespers each Sunday, and are generally helpful and prominent in the Parish.

The Venerable Cesare Cardinal Baronio wrote the following prayer to St Philip Neri, which I try to say every day.
Look down from heaven, Holy Father, from the loftiness of that mountain to the lowliness of this valley; from that harbour of quietness and tranquillity, to this calamatious sea.

And now that the darkness of this world hinders no more those benignant eyes of thine from looking clearly into all things, look down and visit, O most diligent keeper, that vineyard which thy right hand planted with so much labour, anxiety, and peril.

To thee, then, we fly; from thee we seek for aid; to thee we give our whole selves unreservedly; thee we adopt for our patron and defender.

Undertake the cause of our salvation, protect thy clients; to thee we appeal as our leader, rule thine army fighting against the assaults of the devil; to thee, kindest of rulers, we give up the rudder of our lives, steer this little ship of thine, and, placed as thou art on high keep us off all the rocks of evil desires, and with thee for our pilot and our guide we may safely come to the port of eternal bliss. Amen.


  1. Great photos, Matt. Must have been a great celebration.

    What a wonderful privilege to hear Fr. Tim speak.

  2. Have painstakingly tagged Wendy after my tuition! See my blog for details..too lazy to type!

  3. what a marvellous celebration it was..full of faith hope and philip no doubt looks upon his oratory in brum with great affection and with many prayers...

  4. A belated happy feast day.

    fr paul harrison

  5. Wonderful

    Hope you had Pagnamus Nerio at your 1st Vespers - I love that piece of music. Makes me smile always.

  6. We had Pangamus Nerio by Sewell at Vespers & at the Mass. It makes me smile too, but the Oratory tradition must carry on.

  7. Is that smile or smirk? I'm confused!