Today is the feast of St Philip Neri, one of my favourite saints. Psallite Sapienter has actually been running a lovely series of extracts on him by Fr Faber for each day of the novena to him, and they are definitely worth a read.
My initial introduction to the saint was through the Brompton Oratory in London, and I still treasure the Catholic Truth Society pamphlet on his life by Fr Raleigh Addington that I picked up there some years ago (though I do have a couple of longer books about him now!). It rather glosses over some of the difficult patches in the saint's life, but still conveys the essence of his sanctity.
His attraction for me has always been first and foremost his Eucharistic devotion - he introduced the Forty Hours Devotion to Rome, secondly the emphasis he placed on music in his foundation of the Oratory, and thirdly his sense of humour and evident joy in life. The composers Palestrina, Anerio and Victoria were all associated with him. The story that made the deepest impression on my youthful mind about him though is this, from the CTS booklet:
"During his last years Philip was given permission to say Mass in a little chapel next to his room. When he came to the 'Domine non sum dignus', those in the chapel withdrew, the server put out the candles and lighted a lamp and went out leaving the Saint alone with God. After two hours he would come back and knock on the door. If the Saint answered he came in, lighted the candles, and Philip finished the Mass in the usual way."
There are some wonderful prayers to St Philip for each day of the week that you can find here (*link updated).
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