Sunday, January 12, 2014

Caritas Christi urget nos! - Reflections on Philipian Spirituality

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

The foundation stones upon which the Oratory is built are charity and humility.  Oratorians take no vows and are bound by no other obligation than love and genuine affection for the members of the community.  This failing, Philip wanted men to be free to leave the Congregation without being subject to sin.  Such understanding compels members to daily commit themselves to one another, mortify themselves in regards to their own judgments, and in humility to make every effort to be reconciled to one another in the face of tensions and difficulties.  It also lays upon each member the responsibility to the other’s perseverance; to sustain charity through every possible effort.   

Charity is the virtue that bonds fraternal union; the pillar that supports communal life, together with humility.

The eighth guideline which the Congregation of Rome gave to the nascent Congregation of St. Severino on June 20, 1594, said: “Each one must always remember that this Congregation must be founded on those principles that were so dear to our Lord, given to us through our Father Phillip when he founded the Congregation of Rome, which are humility and charity.  Profess these two virtues by putting them into practice rather than by words.  That blessed Father wanted these to be our fasting and penance, to be practiced in the place of so many other kinds of exercises that the Religious have in the Church of God.

Father Nicolo Gigli referred to charity saying: “This surpasses all the vows.”  

Such an approach was a reflection of the earliest Christian communities and meant to provide a simple but clear witness to love of Christ.  Oratorian stability, remaining in the same house and city for life, allowed for deep bonds to develop as well as to wear off the rough edges of self will and self love.

It was said of the first Christians: “See how they love one another."  Gallonio gave witness to the same thing when speaking about the first disciples.  “The Fathers lived under the same roof; they were but one heart and one soul, and they loved each other with a mutual and ardent love.

Thus, Oratorians have their own distinctive kind of asceticism:

In order to have a good family life in the community, Father Sozzini from Rome suggested: 

Love everyone from the heart, 

Forgive everyone, 

Speak well of everyone, 

Have true sympathy for all and pray daily to God for everyone, 

Do not say offending words, even with the intention of being clever, 

Beware of antipathies and moderate them with virtue, 

Be equally wary of fondness and particular friendships; yet to esteem each other from the heart is not against charity, and being close to those who are better is most helpful, 

Make sure that diversity of opinion does not degenerate into factions, 

Do not look for external works of charity if the internal ones at home are not first accomplished.

Such love fosters genuine fraternal correction; yet always tempered by humility.

The exercise of Fraternal Correction is very helpful to the growth of charity, fulfilling Jesus’ exhortation.  It provides a boost for good progress both in communal life and in spiritual growth.  But it must only be a work of charity, guided by the Holy Spirit, as our Holy Father said: “Before correcting anyone, let us reflect on ourselves.”

The Love of Christ compels us!  This is the truth to which the Oratorian and all those who have Philip as their patron cling.  It is by entering the Heart of Christ - losing ourselves in His love - that we find the strength and will to love others.  Christ must be the sole occupation of our minds and hearts and our truest desire.  Lacking this, we lose the ability to discern what is of lasting value and what is good and true.  We must be radically focused upon Christ.  

All St. Philip’s life is interwoven with the love of God and fraternal charity.  It was the power that sustained him.  “Caritas Christi urget nos.”  

To his niece, a nun, Philip wrote: “Let us concentrate intensely on His divine love and let us enter deeply into the wound in His side, into the living font of the wisdom of God made man, so as to drown ourselves in Him, and not be able to find again the road which leaves him.”

Philip said: “He who wants something other than Christ, does not know what he wants; he who seeks something other than Christ, does not know what he seeks; he who acts, and does not act for the sake of Christ, does not know what he is doing.”  Before committing any mortal sin, I would prefer to be torn to pieces and die a cruel death.”  The radical Christocentricism is a fundamental element of St. Philip’s Spirituality.

As you discern the vocation of Adoration, Reparation and Spiritual Motherhood, I pray that St. Philip  may be your special guide in the ways of love and direct you to the Heart of Christ in all things and in every way.