Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother!
On Monday May 26th the Church kept the liturgical commemoration of St. Philip Neri. Interestingly, it was kept on the same day as Memorial Day (observed) when we pray for our soldiers. St. Philip who died on May 26, 1595, was indeed a soldier also. He was a soldier in the never ending battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. And his weapon in this war was penance.
St. Philip died on a Wednesday evening in Rome, the Vigil of Corpus Christi. Had he lived until Saturday of that week he would have attained the great age of 90. And all but the first eighteen years of that long life were spent in the City of Rome. Although a Florentine by birth, he is called the Apostle of Rome, the City he had vowed never to leave.
It is said of the Emperor Augustus that he found Rome made of brick and left it marble. The same could be said of St. Philip in the spiritual sense. For he found a decadent Rome far from God and converted it into a paradise. He did so not with brick and mortar but with kindness and humility. He was called in his own life time Pippo Buono, Phil the Good.
Philip arrived in Rome at the age of 18 and was ordained a priest in the Church of St. Bartholomew at the age of 36, eighteen years after his arrival in the City. On the eve of his first Pentecost in Rome he prayed at the catacombs of St. Sebastian for the entire night. During the night a visible flame descended and entered into his body. Throughout his whole life that flame burned within him – the flame of charity. To be in his presence was to feel a warmth and goodness.
When the Prince Paolo Massimo died at the age of 12 on March 16, 1588, Philip raised him from the dead by simply touching the child. To this day, the Massimo family opens their home every March 16th and invites the poor to dine with them. Any priest may enter the chapel and say Mass there.
Philip was three times asked to accept the dignity of being a bishop, and three times refused in humility. He eschewed all civil and Church honors. When one of his early followers Cesario Baronio received his doctorate in canon law (the J.C.D.) Philip made him tear up the diploma and with it line the bed of the many cats who came to the Church of San Giralomo della Carità. Thus did he teach Baronio of the vanity of worldly learning and the enduring treasure of humility.
Philip founded the Oratory, a religious congregation in the Church. The great Cardinal Newman was an Oratorian and there is an Oratory at the Church of St. Boniface in Brooklyn. Philip used music to evangelize the young people of Rome and the musical form that he founded is called the oratorio.
Philip’s devotion while celebrating Holy Mass was so great that he would often go into a trance and be unable to continue for several hours. The little altar server would extinguish the candles and go for something to eat and then return to the Mass. Soon Philip began to levitate during Mass and the Pope forbade him to offer Mass in public. The pope prudently, if not understatedly, said that it would be distracting to the faithful at Mass.
Philip never trusted himself and each day prayed to God: Beware, O Lord, for today Philip will betray you unless you help him!
St. Philip’s picture and relic are in our Daily Mass Chapel. May St. Philip ever guide and protect us. From heaven he asks the question he always did on earth: When shall we have a mind to begin to do good?PENTECOST: Next Sunday June 8th is Pentecost Sunday. It is the end of the great 50 days of Easter. From Ascension Thursday until Pentecost Sunday we should keep the Novena to the Holy Spirit, begging the Holy Spirit to come into our souls. Next Sunday seven adults will be confirmed at the 11.00am Mass. Of the seven one will be received into the Catholic Church and one will be baptized as well as confirmed. May God bless them as we see this wonderful renewal in our parish. I am grateful to Sachi and Jesmel B. who have prepared them and who coordinate the RCIA at St. Paul’s.
MASS MANNERS: It is a joy for the priests to stand at the door of the Church and greet the parishioners. Often some are ill and wish a blessing or some wish an article to be blessed. The time after Mass is not normally the time to do important business since very often the priest is offering the next Mass. One does not ask the priest at 9:29, Do you have a minute? (He doesn’t). It is not generally the time to ask questions. Many of the questions begin with, Why don’t you…When will you…Are you going to do… These are questions to which there is no answer. I often jokingly remark that I know the answer to only one question, how can I make a good confession?
We are very grateful to a family in our parish who wish to remain anonymous who have donated our lovely new Hymn Boards. They will be invaluable for us in signing the praises of God. They will be most helpful when our choir begins under the direction of Gary Ducoing. Gary will speak to us within the next few weeks about the choir beginning once again at St. Paul’s.
May God bless and reward all of you.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda