St. Philip Neri has left us a 500-year legacy of joy. Register file photo

Philip Neri’s heritage of joy

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  • August 27, 2015

WOLFE ISLAND, Ont. - One of the highlights of my summer is “Seminarian Week” on Wolfe Island.

The Reitzel family of Waterloo has been spending summers on Wolfe Island for a century. In 1914, Eugene Reitzel married into the Greenwood clan, one of the great island families. David Reitzel, Eugene’s great-grandson, was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Hamilton last June, and has been inviting his fellow seminarians to join him for a few days each summer at the family cottage. This year there were more than a dozen of them, and the days of summer recreation, priestly fraternity, common prayer and a modicum of intellectual formation — the last bit is my happy task to provide — are valuable for the men themselves and for priestly vocations in general.

This year we were joined by Fr. Paul Pearson of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Toronto, and dean of St. Philip’s Seminary, which the Oratory operates for the teaching of Catholic philosophy to future priests. Fr. Pearson taught me when I was a student there nearly 20 years ago, and had taught most of the men who gathered. Deacon Reitzel too is a proud alumnus of St. Philip’s.

St. Philip Neri was born 500 years ago this summer in Florence. The fifth centenary of his birth has been an occasion for me to give thanks for the role St. Philip and the Oratory he founded have played in my priesthood. It was at the Toronto Oratory that I began my priestly formation and was offered what is likely the best philosophical foundation offered to seminarians in North America. It’s possible, I suppose, though not likely, to do theology well without a solid philosophical foundation. Today though, given the crises in human nature, in metaphysics, in law and in culture, a priest without a solid grasp of the Catholic philosophical tradition will have a very hard time effectively doing the work of the new evangelization.

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