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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Wednesday, May 26, 2004  

The Virgin Appearing to St Philip Neri ~ Piazzetta

Had you gone to Mass at the Brompton Oratory in London last night or today to observe the Feast of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorians, here is what you would have heard:

Our Holy Father S Philip (Neri)

Tuesday 25th May 2004 (Eve of the Feast)

5.30pm Solemn 1st Vespers & Benediction
Pangamus Nerio Sewell.
Magnificat Primi Toni à 8 Palestrina.
Hic vir despiciens mundum Victoria.
Entrée pontificale Bossi.

Wednesday 26th May 2004

6.00 pm Solemn Latin Mass
Theresienmesse Haydn.
Pangamus Nerio Wingham.
Ave verum corpus Mozart.
Concerto in C: third movement Vivaldi arr. Bach

Smells and bells are the order of the day, being a specialty of the Oratorians. The praises of their Brompton Oratory have been sung (from afar) at this site previously.

The Oxford Oratory featured in Inspector Morse and on the BBC offers a comprehensive selection of Oratorian links, including to Cardinal Newman's Birmingham Oratory and to the Chiesa Nuova in Rome.

In the spirit of the day, listen to Real Audio of Kyrie and O Sacrum Convivium by St. Philip Neri's friend Palestrina (via Nimbus Records), and sample a page of Palestrina files at Vitaminic.

FC Ziegler Co. has you covered on bells and smells as supplier of the "popular Ziegler Charcoal Tongs and Censer Trivet." (A "censor trivet" would be something else entirely.) For incense, I might lean toward the "ubiquitous Pontifical" by Will & Baumer, but other lines that catch the eye include Kaufer Co.'s Russian Lump and Frankincense & Myrrh Blend, and Trinity Brand, with a "nice selection of Non-Chocking aromas."

Meantime, the Liturgical Customary of the Newman-friendly Anglo-Catholics at the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill offers thurifers useful advice on hot-coal safety, choosing the right weight thurible, and when and when not to execute a full 360-degree swing.

More on St. Philip Neri:

He was known as the "jovial priest" and…was constantly telling his flock: "Be good - if you can!"

He considered humility to be extremely important and required his followers to undergo humiliating experiences to develop this virtue. He once told a young man to walk through the city with a fox's tail attached to his rear; the young man refused and was in turn refused admission to Neri's congregation.

During mass the saint frequently fell into an uncontrollable state of ecstasy. He often prayed all night long in the Catacombs of St. Sebastian. He was reputed to be able to predict the future and several witnesses testified to having seen him levitate. He was endowed with great charisma and attracted not only people but also animals: it is said that a dog once left its owner to follow him.

* * *

He used, even in old age, to spend many hours in the confessional, bringing pardon and peace to all who came to him: his penances were perfectly suited to the needs of his penitents, and never harsher than they could bear. He was always available to those in need, and used to say that the porter's bell was to him like the voice of God. He saw what others might regard as these distractions from prayer as 'leaving Christ for Christ'. Above all, perhaps, he is known for his joy in the service of Christ: the attractive character of the 'Saint of Joy' brought people flocking to him, and through him to a renewed vigour in faith. His practical jokes and eccentricities were many: whether he was sending the future Cardinal Baronius to taste countless different wines before buying the smallest amount possible of one, organising a procession of noblemen carrying pots and pans through the streets to the Chiesa Nuova, or shaving off half his beard, his aim was simple: to change Rome for the better, to draw everyone he could closer to Christ, to allow others to share in something of that joy which he himself experienced. (Oxford Oratory)

* * *

“He lived in an age as traitorous to the interests of Catholicism as any that preceded it…and he perceived that the mischief was to be met …by means of the great counter-fascination of purity and truth.” (Cardinal Newman on St. Philip Neri, cited by St. Philip Neri House)

* * *

Already when he was five years old, he was called 'good little Philip.' He lost his mother while still very young, and it seemed he should have died himself when he was about eight or nine years old. He fell, along with a horse, onto a pavement from a certain height. Though the horse landed on top of him, he was entirely uninjured. He attributed his preservation to a special intervention of God…

He became renowned all over Italy for the instances of bilocation which were duly verified during his lifetime.
(Lives of the Saints)

* * *

Because of the fact that St. Philip would often go into ecstasy and begin to levitate while celebrating the Holy Mass he would often have to rush through the mass grasping on to the altar to anchor himself in order to not draw too much undue attention to himself while he was offering mass. Many times to avoid this totally and to truly enter into the mystical experiences he would often say mass in a private chapel at the Chiesa Nuova. Since his mass would often last several hours, his acolyte would sit outside of the chapel door and St. Philip would ring a bell to let him know that his services were needed. One day the bell rang, and entered to find marks of St. Philip’s teeth embedded into the silver of the chalice with which he was celebrating mass. It seems that while he was speaking over the chalice, saying the words of consecration, he went into a deep ecstasy and forcefully bit the metal lip of the chalice leaving a set of teeth marks. The chalice with the teeth marks is still able to be viewed today in that same chapel. (Fr. Sibley)

* * *

Each year on 16 March, a special Mass is said in the chapel of Palazzo Massimi in Rome. This particular Mass can be said nowhere else. All day long, streams of visitors come to the chapel, and priests queue up to offer Mass there. It commemorates the 1583 miracle by which St Filippo Neri raised young Paolo Massimo from the dead. Fr. Tucker

(Hat tip to Thos Fitzpatrick for remembering the day)


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