A Novena to A Saint Who Saw with Eyes of Faith

Today, May 17, marks the beginning of a novena to St. Philip Neri (feast day: May 26)  

Mentioned often on this blog, St. Philip is a great example to we Washingtonians.

•He was a master of purity, which is to say, he saw the world as God sees it… he saw through eyes of faith.

•He’s also a saint of the city.  Paralleling the experience of so many here in DC, St. Philip left his native of Florence arriving in Rome as a young adult.  There he would carry out God’s call.

•Philip experienced what many DC young adults do as the heady dreams of youth matured into a more stable routine marked by discipline, ultimately bearing great fruit.  On several occasions he tried to leave Rome to do the exciting work of evangelization and martyrdom in India.  Each time something stopped him until finally St. John the Baptist appeared to him and told him, “Rome will be your India.”  What seemed less exciting at first ultimately changed the face of the Church as Philip brought thousands to deeper conversion by his ministry.

• Philip was an artist using all the cultural resources of his time to connect with Chirst and to connect others with Christ.  His disciples often gathered for evenings of music, poetry, theater, and rhetoric.

In these and many other ways, St. Philip can be a guide to us as we navigate urban life.

On this first day of his novena, Bl. John Henry Newman recommends we meditate on Philip’s humility

To that end I offer up just two points for meditation based on St. Philip’s litany.  He is called, lux sanctae laetitiae (light of holy joy), and exemplar simplicitatis (example of simplicity).

Holy Joy – What kind of joy are we to have in the midst of humility?  A childlike joy.  Philip often appeared like a clown in order to shun the esteem of the Roman elites.  His acts of faith and penance, his unassuming dress, even the jokes he told kept him grounded, humble.  They also brought joy to all around him.  Eschewing the life of high society he loved to laugh over simple joys with friends… and often brought the nobility to renewed joy by inviting them into his circle of the common man.   “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3)

Simplicity – A great temptation in Washington is to become “big-picture obsessed.”  Problems seem complex.  The arc of a career may not seem to be going exactly where one hopes.  Relationships may not mature as we hope, making us question, “Will I ever find that right person?”  All of these are good questions/issues to wrestle with.  BUT, they should never halt our forward motion or lead us to despair!  Too often they do.  Holy simplicity draws its life from the little-picture of daily life.  Maybe my career isn’t where I’d like it to be… Fine, but I can still serve another today, here and now.  Maybe I haven’t found Mr./Ms. Right but that big picture issue doesn’t have to stop me from loving my neighbors, my friends today, here and now.  The big-picture issues do set our overall direction, but they don’t generally satisfy us day-to-day.  Drawing nourishment from the small-picture is something we can all do between then great decisions.  This becomes the bread and butter of daily existence, the building blocks of our heavenly home. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and HE will lift you up.” (Jas. 4:10)

Ascension: Jesus’ pilgrimage to the Father

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The cathedral tower of Santiago

For the last week I’ve been on a walking pilgrimage with a group of parishioners.  We’ve been treking through Galicia (northwestern Spain) to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.  In the midst of our journey, our longest day (20mi) actually, we observed the Ascension of the Lord.

Meditating on this mystery during the “mini-season” of Ascension-tide, it strikes me that Jesus bodily journey back to the right hand of the Father is his own pilgrimage.  Arriving at the Cathedral yesterday, our pilgrim group presented to the Father our aches, pains, joys, frustrations… Everything we have been throughout this journey.  Rising up to heaven Jesus presents to the Father his wounded hands and feet… still pierced by nail marks.  That the Father was pleased with the Son’s sacrifice gives me confidence that he will be pleased with ours presented in union with Christ.

Most people will never have the opportunity to make a formal walking pilgrimage… But that’s ok: the experience of the Camino de Santiago is the exception… A highlight that points us back to the norm of daily Christian life.  THAT’s the real pilgrimage.  If you can look at it with eyes of faith, you can bring your sacrifices to the altar every Sunday until, like Jesus, you one day present those same sacrifices to the Father in heaven yourself.  Buen Camino!

Solidarity with the homeless

As I type, I’m on pilgrimage in Spain with a group of parishioners.  It’s been Ana amazing experience this far. We’ve seen inspiring natural beauty, marveled at cultural treasures… And most of all we’ve prayed offering our days’ challenges, joys, and quiet times to Jesus for a long list of prayer intentions from home.

As I type it’s also 315am… No it’s not the jet lag.  Arriving in the city of Betanzos we encountered another traveler in the hostel.  He struck me as odd right off the bat.  From my experiences with the homeless at home – if I had to guess – I’d say this gentleman isn’t well.  Not dangerous necessarily, but certainly not well.  He’s sleeping upstairs in the dorm… Snoring like a buzz saw and making some very discomforting noises bedsides.

As I type il trying to look at this with eyes of pilgrim faith.  For me this will be a challenge on tomorrow’s 20 mile trek to the next pilgrim refuge… But that’s all it is, a temporary discomfort eased by my friends and over when I get to my hotel in Santiago in a few days.  But  what about the homeless of DC?

As I type hundreds of men women and children struggle to sleep in our city in situations that ARE dangerous… That are kore than an inconvenience… They are a way of daily life!  My foreign neighbor in the next bunk has a snore and an odor that are keeping me up for one night… What’s it like to live like that 24-7?  It’s no joke.  I’m not being facetious in any way.

As I stay up (I’ve given up on real sleep at this point), I offer this night to God in solidarity with the homeless of Washington.  I beg the Lord who loves us all to see this movement in my own heart and relieve the suffering of one of my neighbors in DC.