Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 26/05/2011


Today (26 May 2011) is the feastday of St Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorians to which our very own Blessed John Henry Newman belonged. It would, therefore, be quite nice to remember something of this great saint whose music gatherings gave us the word ‘oratorio’ and whose charitable works were legend.Over the recent weeks, the British media has been full to the brim about things they were not allowed to say. The courts had banned reporting on activities by celebrities and others in the public eye and in one, now infamous case, while the papers stuck to (with the exception of a Scottish Sunday paper) many in the ‘twittersphere’ and people on the terraces gleefully named the footballer concerned.

The public image that the footballer had sought to protect with the injunction was arguably worsened through his attempts to avoid comment. The arguments for freedom of the press and for privacy have been well rehearsed elsewhere so I shall confine myself to the story I promised earlier.

St Philip Neri was renowned, amongst other things, as a confessor. One day a well-heeled lady came to him and confessed that she had been gossiping (like most of us, she’d likely done and confessed the same thing again and again). St Philip, before he gave her absolution, told her to buy a chicken from the market and scatter its feathers throughout Rome – a humbling experience for this lady of high standing whose servants would ordinarily have gone to the market. On returning to St Philip, the lady said that she had done as he had asked but again St Philip refused absolution, this time until she had collected in all the feathers.

The moral of this story, of course, is that our words and actions can have a great effect and that once something is said it is so hard to take it back. What is it people say… discretion is the better part of valour?

PS For those of you wondering about our new arrival (see blog entry ‘Our very own advent‘), she is a girl called Anna – a name which means God’s grace.


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