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We continue during this 500th anniversary of St. Philip Neri's birth to consider his life and teachings.  In the most gentle and thoughtful fashion, Philip sought to revitalize the faith of Catholics that had grown slack from neglect and from lack of guidance.  He had the capacity to present the fullness of the spiritual traditions of the Church in the most appealing manner.  Rooted in experience and common sense, Philip's teaching was both accessible and practical.  

Such is the topic at hand: Perseverance.  Having begun the spiritual life or even appearing to have made great strides is of little consequence.  The important thing is to persevere to the end of one's life.  This means to be measured in one's thinking and action, making use of discretion and understanding that spiritual development and growth does not take place in a day.  It is a great labor we undertake and those lacking wisdom and prudence will often quit the course.  

Beyond this, the path must not be taken alone but rather with a trusted guide and Confessor.  The most important of these guides who nurtures us and educates us in the mysteries of the faith is Mary, the Mother of God.  

Our food for the journey must be the grace of the Sacraments, in particular frequent confession and daily Mass whenever there is no impediment to such discipline.  

While never relinquishing our resolutions, Philip counsels moderation in the spiritual disciplines we take upon ourselves; always sure never to overestimate our strength.  It is better to attend to those practices well tried and that will bear fruit for us in time. 

Finally, it is love of the virtues pursued that bring us to the desired end.  We must hold on in the struggle and in the midst of failures; not seeking consolation for ourselves but rather to please God who alone can bring us to a happy end.

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Last night the School of St. Philip Neri enjoyed a wonderful evening together as we discussed Philip's counsel on the preparation for and reception of Holy Communion.  Once again Philip proved to be a wise teacher and guide and we found ourselves greatly challenged to approach the altar with humility and awe and to seek to shape a life that is truly Eucharistic centered.  Below is the podcast of the event and the text we considered from "The School of St. Philip Neri" translated by Fr. Faber.

The following Lessons, of which today’s post is the second, are chiefly addressed to those Christians who, having well studied the life and virtues of the glorious Father St. Philip Neri, are eager to feel a strong devotion to him, and to adopt him as their advocate and intercessor with God, in all their spiritual and temporal necessities. It is my hope to explore these Lessons in depth in the years to come with the Secular Oratorians of Pittsburgh in order that we might all come to know St. Philip more personally and see the beauty of his spirituality and his love for God.

Saint Philip Neri, like all the great priest-saints, was so devoted to confession (as described in the first Lesson) precisely because of his love for the Holy Eucharist. He wanted everyone to love Christ as he deserves to be loved and to receive him worthily and fruitfully. Everything he did, from preaching, catechesis, and his work with youth to confession and spiritual direction, had one end — to lead people to union with Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Furthermore, Saint Philip knew and taught that charity in all its manifestations flows directly from the Eucharist and leads the Christian back to a more perfect offering of the sacrifice. In other words, for Philip the Eucharist, in a sense, was perpetuated in time and manifested its fruitfulness whenever his penitents visited the sick or helped the poor. Saint Philip teaches us that the spiritual life is one and that the Eucharist is the integrating center of everything that a person does.

In a time when the Eucharist is received indiscriminately and often without preparation or with a response of gratitude and increased spiritual fervor, St. Philip remains a wonderful guide.

We cannot adequately speak of the wonderful effects of which Holy Communion produces in those who frequently and worthily communicate. They may be tasted, but never expressed. Let us taste, and see how sweet is the Bread of Angels. It will stimulate us to know, that through the frequent participation of this Most Divine Sacrament, many penitents of our holy Father became men of holy life and the highest perfection. Our holy Father himself refers to this in his letter addressed to Madonna Fiore: “I desire that you may flourish, that is, that the flower (a play on her name) may produce good fruit, the fruit of humility, the fruit of patience, the fruit of all virtues, and that you should be the abode and receptacle of all virtues, as frequent communicants are wont to be.” The holy Master, therefore, wished that not only the Priests, but also the lay-brothers, should frequently receive this Most Holy Sacrament, following his own practice as a layman, which was to communicate every morning. On becoming a Priest, he offered Mass daily, and even when ill, he communicated every morning.

The same rule respecting time cannot be given to all as it depends on the pleasure of the Confessor. Some penitents of the holy Father communicated every eight days, many on every Festival, others three times a week, and some, though few, every day.

When any one is about to communicate, let him ask permission of his Confessor and tell him some days before. St. Philip wished that penitents should do this three or four days become Communion; and he also said, that no one should communicate without the permission of his Confessor, since, frequently to communicate out of our own heads, might occasion great temptations which could not always be resisted.

We must approach this holy banquet with great desire, and always with some particular motive of devotion, not from custom or routine, according to the intention of St. Philip, who, when his spiritual children asked permission to communicate, “Sitientes, Sitientes, venire ad aquas.” He wished that they should first acquire the thirst, and then approach the Fountain of Eternal Life.

Although no preparation for Communion can ever be called sufficient, we must nevertheless take care never to approach this Holy Bread negligently, or through habit, but use all possible preparation. Some penitents of the hoy Master went with the Saint on Saturday nights, and on the Vigil of Festivals, either to the Church of the Dominicans, or that of the Capuchins, where they assisted in Choir with the Friars at Matins, spending the whole night, as the Sacred Legend says, in preparation for Holy Communion on the morrow.

The holy Master says, that whoever goes to Holy Communion should follow the spirit which he had in prayer, and not seek for new meditations. he should also prepare for more temptations than usual, for the Lord will not suffer him to remain idle. In the act of receiving the Most Holy Sacrament, let him imitate the holy Master, who, when about to communicate, said with all affection, “O Lord, I protest that I am good for nothing but to do evil;” and when receiving the Holy Viaticum, he repeated “Domine, no sum dignus,” with extreme devotion, saying, “O my Lord, I am not worthy, neither was I ever worthy. I have never done any good.” The holy Master exhorts us to ask in Communion a remedy for that vice to which we are most inclined. After Holy Communion, He exhorts us to preserve a devout remembrance of the great favor which we have received in being made partakers of the Heavenly Food, and show ourselves reverently grateful to the Divine Goodness. So much did the holy Father insist on this, that when his spiritual children communicated, he made them perform some additional act of devotion for some days after, that they might derive fruit from the Sacrament, such as to recite the Pater and Ave with extended arms, or some little chaplet of these prayers, which he himself taught (of which we shall speak in the Lesson on devotion), or other similar things. On a Communion-day, we must try to perform some extra work of piety, since St. Philip, having communicated his spiritual children, sent them to different hospitals to visit and serve the sick, respecting which visits and service, instruction will be given in another Lesson of this Book.

The School of Saint Philip Neri by Giuseppe Crispino
This major work by F Giuseppe Crispino, a Neapolitan secular priest of the 17th century, covering all aspects of Oratorian spirituality and life, was originally translated by Fr Faber in 1850.

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