|St. Philip Neri|
This past Wednesday, on December 10th, my dearest mother, passed into Eternal Life. Please pray for the repose of her soul. Near four in the morning, in a manner that we had not foreseen, but had been in the plan of God, my mother's passion ceased. During her last minutes of life on this earth, we prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.
I called The Toronto Oratory, and within minutes, a true priest of Jesus Christ, an alter Christus, a loyal son of St. Philip, was at our home in cassock, reciting prayers over my mother's mortal remains. This provided us with enormous consolation. It is impossible to express in words the touching meaning of this priestly visit.
On her journey, through her years of illness, she was spiritually cared for by the Fathers of the Oratory, who, in doing so, reflected the importance of priestly ministry to the faithful as pastors of souls, so central to the priestly life of St. Philip and Cardinal Newman.
The Fathers of the Oratory, towards my mother, reflected that pastoral beauty that Pope Benedict XVI identified as the nexus of Cardinal Newman's priestly ministry:
|Cardinal Newman, a priest of the Gospel|
While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have consoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you”(“Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here
I recall, on one occasion, when my mother was to receive Holy Communion, and was asleep and would not awaken, one of the fathers calmly recited several Hail Marys until she awoke and communicated. In her last days, she was blessed to receive Our Blessed Lord as a small particle. He dwelt on her tongue tenderly - as only Our Lord can - placed there, with love, by a son of St. Philip.
The finger of God is a long one, touching and connecting centuries and peoples mysteriously. So it was with my mother. St. Philip, responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, took the priesthood, became the second "Apostle of Rome", and created the unique "Oratory". His apostolate led to many conversions. But the finger of God ensured that his work would live on after his passing into glory; St. Francis de Sales and others would follow his example. In England, brought into the Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Anglican convert, John Henry Newman would create the Birmingham Oratory, with the gradual extension of Oratories throughout the English speaking world. Thus, by the Grace of God, the Oratory in Canada was born, first in Montreal and then in God's good time, moving to Toronto. And so, the finger of God touched my mother through St. Philip's sons...
My mother has a long connection with the Oratory. She loved her priests. Please pray for them, please pray for The Toronto Oratory.
St. Philip, choicest of priests, pray for us.
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.
Blessed Dominic Barberi, pray for us.