The Daughters of St. Philip Neri
The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life.
Given this tradition, one can easily see why the early Christians adapted it to symbolize our Lord, Jesus Christ. The pelican symbolizes Jesus our Redeemer who gave His life for our redemption and the atonement He made through His passion and death. We were dead to sin and have found new life through the Blood of Christ. Moreover, Jesus continues to feed us with His body and blood in the holy Eucharist.
The Call to Spiritual Motherhood for Priests
The crisis that in recent years has so shaken the Church, wounded so many of her children, and burdened the hearts of priests with sorrow and uncertainty, requires a powerful spiritual antidote. Our Lord is calling Spiritual Mothers of priests to tarry in His presence. He invites them to abide in the radiance of His Eucharistic Face, close to His Heart. There they will assist priests in recovering the joy of their youth and the certainty of being loved by Christ with an everlasting love.
When Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, published the document Adoration, Reparation and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests in 2007, appealed to all the bishops throughout the world to foster this "vocation within a vocation," and asked for chapels of Perpetual Adoration to be established in every Diocese, his requests went largely unnoticed or were met with indifference. Few understood or believed that a Church immersed in the mire of scandal and a priesthood wounded beyond recognition could benefit from something often dismissed as the piety of a bygone age. Yet, among those souls sensitive to the sufferings of the Church and the Heart of their Beloved, so deeply pierced with sorrow over His gift scorned and the charge of the care of His flock neglected, there has arisen a passionate desire to offer their hearts and their love in reparation. Their one desire is to console Christ, to remain with Him, and to nourish His "other selves", His priests, through the sacrifice of prayer and penance.
The Spirituality of the Daughters of St. Philip Neri
W. H. Auden once wrote, "In the deserts of the heart, Let the healing fountain start." The spirituality of the Daughters of St. Philip Neri is rooted in the desire to bring healing to the priesthood, to embrace a spiritual motherhood; as it were, to apply a healing salve of prayer and sacrifice to those wounds and nurture it back to life by cradling it within their hearts quietly before Life Himself in the Eucharist. Healing through prayer – Reparation through Adoration, shapes the contours of their spiritual life.
A Daughter consecrates herself to Christ for this purpose. Wherever she lives and in whatever state she finds herself. Such a consecration is not the sole privilege of the religious, as is often thought to be the case. For it is her right - indeed it is what she has become by virtue of her baptism - a child of God; still more - - a Bride of the Heavenly Bridegroom. A life, a heart consecrated to Christ - a heart that weeps for its own sins and the sins of priests, a heart that adores the Beloved, is a prophetic presence in the world, even though a word may never be spoken. A Church formed by the world can endlessly labor under the illusion that such fatal wounds can be healed through psychology or education; the nonsense that redemption comes in any other form than the Cross or that healing comes through any other means than selfless love. A Daughter’s life of Adoration must overcome the idolatry of the self that so offends God. Likewise, she must stand before the precipice of despair that so often envelopes the hearts of priests, sickened as if by the plague of the mockery of the priesthood that she holds so dear.
How is this healing of the priesthood accomplished? First by letting God heal her own heart. A Daughter must allow herself to spend many hours before Christ, placing nothing between herself and Him. She is to simply let herself be gazed upon. It is here that she will find her true dignity and it is here that the dignity of the priesthood will be restored. Only when priests once again see themselves through the eyes of Christ the High Priest, perfect and beautiful in His love, will they rediscover the holiness to which they are called. The darkness of the world's judgment and the tortured and troubled face of the priesthood will be replaced by the face of Christ. Once A Daughter recognize the Eucharistic Face of Christ she will help others to see the beauty of the priesthood anew.
A Daughter must also lead the new revolution of our day - the exodus from the bondage to the self to the freedom of the true worship of God; from the vile destruction and perversion of sin to the desire for the perfection of virtue and the heights of love. It is a revolution that must be led by example; by fulfilling the first duty of the human heart to God the Creator. This is the radical remedy against the idolatry of the past and the present. In the quiet of the chapel, with hearts fixed silently upon the Eucharistic Face of Christ, lies the source of true spiritual revolution and the restoration of the priesthood.
Loving Pledge Made in the Spirit of
St. Philip Neri
One may join the DSPN one year after having become a Secular Oratorian. Therefore, membership is a deeply personal reality and begins first by sharing in the life of the Fathers and Brothers of the Oratory, participating in their ministry and worship, engaging opportunities for growth and formation in faith and holiness, and seeking to embrace with other Secular Oratorians the spirit of St. Philip Neri. During this time, one meets regularly with the Prefect of the DSPN, studies and reflects upon the writings that shape its spirituality and above all fosters a deep love and abiding commitment to Eucharistic Adoration.
Upon joining, and once a year thereafter, a Daughter pledges to make daily one continuous hour of Eucharistic Adoration. She renews this pledge every May on the date most convenient for her, especially on the days leading up to the feast of St. Philip Neri. A Daughter may renew her pledge privately in the presence of one witness; or together with the other members of the DSPN. There is no vow taken or obligation made binding under pain of sin. It is bond of charity freely made and, though a serious engagement, a commitment nonetheless freely set aside if no longer desired or able to be fulfilled.
As a Daughter of St. Philip Neri one must have a heart moved by grace and, inflamed by its salutary persuasion, be drawn to seek daily to adore the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Freely she must let Love bring her before the Blessed Sacrament to console the Heart that once and ever cries: “Could you not watch one hour with me”; offering her hour of Adoration to the One who awaits her, either concealed in the tabernacle or solemnly exposed in the monstrance.
In times of sickness, when prevented from fulfilling her heart’s desire and love’s pledge, the offering of her weakness and suffering, in union with the immolation of the Lamb, is itself an act of adoration, reparation, and fruitful intercession for her spiritual sons.