Monday, August 2, 2010

St. Philip Neri, Saint of Joy and Proper Diversity In a Difficult Time (b.1515 d.1595)

From The Roman Socrates by the French Oratorian, Fr. Louis Bouyer

He did not seem attracted by any of the more ancient Orders; though he was still friendly with the Dominicans who had brought him up, he was no more likely to join them than he was to yield to the invitation of the monks of Monte Cassino. Nor did he feel drawn to the Capuchins, though Felix of Cantalice was one of his dearest friends. He sent so many recruits to the Jesuits that Ignatius roguishly called him "The Society's Bell," calling others to enter while remaining outside himself.

Different Approaches

The rigorous methods of the saintly Spaniard, says Newman, had the same effect on this free Florentine as Saul's armor had on David. He preferred to go forth to meet the subtle attractions of the new Paganism armed only with the more powerful attractions of purity and truth.

It was not that he condemned any method, old or new; let those use them who made them; for his part, he could never adapt himself to them; he was too simple, too spontaneous, too direct, perhaps even too lively, to place any armor between himself and the world he planned to conquer. Though this involved the loss of many resources both in attack and defense, it did away with anything which might have hindered direct contact with the souls he sought; as it was, everyone could find immediate access to his mind and heart.

Going to the People in Neo-Pagan Times

His tactics were entirely spiritual and none could avoid his influence except by avoiding him altogether; and there he was, like another Socrates, with apparently nothing else to do but wander about the Roman streets joining in every kind of group quite freely, as ready to play quoits as to pass his time in any shop where customers, without any intention of buying anything, could talk indefinitely. Far from being put out by banter he soon earned a reputation for more than holding his own; his presence attracted the gossips and jokers who could be sure of entertainment in his company, the vague fear of being told the truth about themselves merely adding spice to the occasion.

Quips and Wit

This is not to imply that he hid his religion, but his very exhortations took the form of quips and his witticisms left a spark in the soul that did not die out easily. His shrewdness is shown by the fact that a teasing joke thrown out in passing often altered the whole course of someone's life.

The fact that a single word often helped a man to see himself as he was reveals his insight into the depths of the human soul. Some called him "The Electric-eel... for contact with him electrified the most drowsy consciences; they would be roused from their lethargy as though by a shock and drawn by a magnetic force to join that happy band which could go off on a pilgrimage as if to a party.

It should be particularly noted that Philip neither taught any special doctrine nor any special devotions. He gave no orders, and asked nothing except perhaps by some pleasantry, the sense of which might not at first be apparent, yet no one could live in his company for any length of time without changing of their own free will.

If ever he did intervene it was to moderate their fervor rather than to arouse it, and he would do this in his own inimitable way. When, for example, the somewhat ostentatious Tarugi asked if he could wear a hairshirt he was told "Certainly, as long as you wear it over your doublet...[SH: A doublet is "a man's snug-fitting buttoned jacket that was worn in Western Europe from the Middle Ages through to the mid-17th century!"]

No Other Yoke

This unusual apostolate, depending for its effect on personal influence alone, on simple friendship in which a soul's whole life may be transformed, is typical of the Oratorian method, in so far as the Oratorian has any method. "In the Oratory," says Bossuet, "liberty and duty go hand in hand; one obeys without subservience, one governs without orders; all authority is rooted in gentleness, while mutual respect is maintained without recourse to fear; love, without any other yoke, is able to subdue and even annihilate self-will...[Source: here]

St. Felix, left, and St. Philip Neri in the streets of Rome--->Another brief bio on the Saint

--->The Maxims of St. Philip Neri

--->Catholic Encyclopedia on Saint Neri. "From the first it was evident that Philip's career would run on no conventional lines..."

--->Follow this thread for more on joy and humor in the lives of the Saints

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