Friday, January 10, 2014

Reflections on Philipian Spirituality - Part One: Simple, Pure, and Soundly Evangelical

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

It seems appropriate as you discern becoming a Daughter of St. Philip Neri to reflect upon the spirituality of your patron in order that all you take up for the love of God might be shaped and guided by your holy father’s hand.  As one who has been blessed to be counted among one of his sons, though unworthy of the name, I will attempt to share some thoughts with you on Philipian spirituality in light of the document Spiritual Path published by the General Congress of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, held in Rome in October of 1994 - in particular Chapter IV which addresses the finer points of St. Philip’s spirituality.  I will offer you a selection from the text and my commentary will be in italicized print.

St. Philip’s spirituality is simple, pure, and soundly evangelical.

The descriptor that perhaps stands out the most in this statement is “soundly evangelical.”  It indicates that Philip’s spirituality is rooted in the gospels and a reflection of the life of the early Christians.  St. Philip is often called “Man of Primitive Times” precisely for this reason; that his spirituality was pure and simple, in that it was free of the accretions of time and excessive affectivity and sought simply to live in accord with the mind and teachings of Christ.  

St. Augustine said: “Love and do what you will.”  It is in the light of these words that we must see both freedom and the need to practice virtue.  It is the love of God in which our goals, our development, our true happiness, and our complete freedom are realized.  True love of God and of our neighbor brings with it the responsibility to live according to his commandments.  If someone truly loves God, nothing is more desirable than what He commands us to do.

Love and Freedom: Philip understood that love and desire for God shapes all things.  If that love has primacy then it will guide us along the path that God intends and, with confidence born of the Spirit, we will freely and without anxiety pursue our goals and personal development.  There need be no conflict between our desires and those of God so long as they are perfected by love.  Such love will engender only willing obedience to all that God commands in all things and everywhere.