By a C.H. Reporter A large congregation attended High Mass at Brompton Oratory on Tuesday. May 26, and the evening devotions, in honour of St. Philip Neri.
I felt a peculiar pride when I stepped the other morning into the Oratory. Sacristans were putting the final touches to the altar of St. Philip Neri, setting the ware effigy upon its cushion beneath. You see, he is a patron of mine; and Tuesday, May 26, was his feast day.
The Oratory is London's lasting memorial to St. Philip; and the mural painting to the left of the High altar depicts a scene that brings him across four centuries very close to us. We watch him as he pauses on one of the bridges that span the Tiber in that famous meeting with the students of the English College in Rome. Seeing in a vision the martyr's crown that awaited some of these aspirant priests on their return to the England of Henry VIII, he salutes them: " Hail, flowers of the Martyrs." Such a tribute from one who was beginning to be known as " The Apostle of Rome," is a first link that cannot lightly be lost.
Three hundred years went by. Meanwhile the Little Oratory, its exercises and the name of Philip Neri had taken root in all Europe. They fitted the soul-needs of the ordinary man of that day—and of many other days to come. Priests and laymen, according to the wish of Neri, were meeting together for common prayer and devotions. And occasionally, when a group of Oratory priests disappeared in any place it was found that the laymen still kept together in the spirit and practice of the Oratory devotions.
In 1848 John Henry Newman returned from Rome to England. He
had seen in the Oratory foundation a form of devotion that might play an important part in the conversion of his country. And that year the Oratory was set up in Birmingham. In 1849, the London Oratory was founded by Fr. Faber.
I let my mind meander off into the rambling kind of meditation that never can find its entire way into print. But the thought did come to me that Philip Nerd and his practical spirit of prayer is still more indispensable to us to-day. The Apostle of Rome has found his way to England, to an England to-day shrieking for Catholic Action. The Oratory is not A form of Catholic Action. As a system of solid devotion, however, it is powerful stimulant to Catholic Action. There is nothing gloomy or forbidding about it: it is simple and cheerful—almost free and easy. It is holiness brought attractively to the layman's level, most suitable to a layman's age. It is the natural charm and virtue of St. given a new dynamism by his fire and spirit, that make Catholic Action really active, and wholly Catholic. It is, I think, men of this gigantic spiritual build that we need among " these dark Satanic mills," so that England may yet be God's land.