Clothing of Bernard Weir
On August 14, the Very Rev. Provost Paul Pearson clothed Br Bernard Weir in the habit of St Philip, and he thus began his noviciate at the Toronto Oratory.
Br Bernard was born in 1996 and grew up in Strathmore, Alberta. His love of the humanities began in high school and was cultivated at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, where he received a Bachelor’s in Catholic Studies. After completing a BA in Philosophy with a minor in Classics at Christendom College, Br. Bernard entered the MA/PhD program in Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. Over the course of his final year in DC, which he spent enacting his long-time hope of teaching philosophy, he came to see the Toronto Oratory as the answer to a decade of vocational questions. As it turns out, there is a community whose prayer finds its visible expression in rich parochial liturgy and which overflows into teaching. When not glaring at the unread books on his shelves, Br. Bernard enjoys playing (non-liturgical) folk music.
The following is the Father’s address on the occasion.
Clothing of Bernard Weir (August 14, 2022)
The life Saint Philip has entrusted to us and the principles he has laid down for us seem rather unusual to our secular world, and even to those in the Church. To these outsiders, the Oratory can be viewed as an anomaly, a charming one, but an anomaly nonetheless. But that shouldn’t be the case. What Saint Philip has given to us and to the Church as a whole is not a esoteric spirituality for a few odd people who can’t manage to fit in anywhere else—he is re-presenting to a struggling Church the essentials of Christian spirituality, a spirituality stripped of the accretions and customs that had gradually weighed it down and robbed it of its vitality. He was being innovative, and even radical, in the literal sense, by returning to the Apostolic roots of Christianity. Saint John Henry certainly saw this aspect of Saint Philip’s genius when, in the litany, he described Philip as a “man of primitive times.” Philip provided a fresh approach, and a fresh face, to the age-old reality of the Christian life.
Philip saw that, at the core of Christianity, was the simple and wholehearted gift of one’s life to Christ. He wasn’t asking his followers to do something in particular to merely to believe a list of teachings. He was asking for their whole selves. Philip saw, in the religious chaos of his own day, just how easy it was to throw oneself into a collection of activities and devotions, things that might be good in themselves, and to miss what was essential—the gift of oneself to Christ and to his Church. Being a Catholic is more than just solid teaching and good liturgy, no matter how important they are; it is something profoundly personal. The Church would only be revitalized and reevangelized by people who would take Christ’s message personally—and communicate that message personally to others. His solution to the chaos of the 16th century was something subtle and hidden—personal connection, speaking with others in person about the faith, gathering together for spiritual and human support, and, most importantly, offering the sacrament of confession.
Philip’s contemporaries, and even his followers, often misunderstood his insistence upon evangelization through personal connection. Church authorities viewed with suspicion his gathering of crowds around him for the exercises of the Oratory or for the pilgrimage of the Seven Churches. This lack of insight into Philip’s ways wasn’t restricted to those who didn’t know him well. As we heard recently in the life of Saint Philip we read in refectory, those close to the saint complained about how available he made himself to anyone who wanted to speak with him. “Father, do not make yourself so common,” they told him. They seemed to think that the system Saint Philip had devised would be enough to produce good and holy fruit, but Philip knew better. “He answered, ‘I tell you, those of my penitents, who have now got the most devotion, are just the ones I have gained to the Lord by being easily accessible, and ready even in the night to convert them….’” Spiritual transformation happened through personal connection, and that connection allowed that change to solidify and endure.
As we celebrate Logan’s clothing in the habit of Saint Philip and offering himself to Saint Philip’s way of life, we ask for him, and for ourselves, the gift of personal generosity, a willingness to pour ourselves out for others. This life of ours may be congenial and even relatively comfortable, but that is supposed to serve as the stable foundation for us to let go of our concerns about our needs and to focus heroically on those of others. He calls us to set aside our concern for our own comfort, protecting ourselves from others by own private projects or isolated activities. Our nidos aren’t intended to be places for us to hide from the demands of charity and the call of the apostolate. It should be a kind of restful and prayerful place preparing us to launch into a life of generosity. The people of God don’t merely need the truth—a good book could provide that. They need us. And we need them. No matter how uncomfortable these demands upon our time, privacy, and attention can be, they are the true path to our own holiness and the salvation of souls.
We know that Saint Philip won’t be satisfied with our activities, no matter how capable we are. He won’t be satisfied with our intellects, no matter how impressive they are. He asks for us, for our whole person—because that is what Christ asks, and that is what Christ gave. But he also calls us to give ourselves away because he believes Our Lord’s promise, that this gift of self is in fact the pathway for discovering our true happiness. Welcome, Brother Bernard, to this call to service, a call that God’s intends both for the good of the Church—but also, and just as importantly, for your own perfection and joy.