When I spent a lot of time hanging around the Toronto Oratory, lo! these ten years ago, I was always hearing from the good fathers about St. Philip Neri, his spiritual approach and his programme of the spiritual life. Five years of weekly spiritual direction later, and I can say that I at least remember a great deal of that Oratorian way of thinking.

At this time of year, all over the Internet, and especially on blogs and on Facebook, I see people talking about their intentions for Lent, and I recall the many times I was cautioned by an Oratorian, “Don’t lose the merit.

This was one of the many little expressions that went to form a way of thinking about spirituality that I came to take for granted. It meant, simply, “Don’t talk about your interior life, or you will defeat the very purpose of your good works.” You will undo in your soul the work you are trying to accomplish. Keep your inner life — including your ascetical works — private. As private as the day-to-day intimacies of a marriage. As Gandalf said about the Ring of Power, “Keep it secret; keep it safe.”  Continue Reading