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Saint Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri
  • Century: 16th Century
  • Patronage: Rome, United States Special Forces, Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Laughter, Humor
  • Feast Day: May 26th

St. Philip Neri was born Philip Romolo Neri, on July 21, 1515.  He was born in a family that was of nobility, and in the service of the State.   He was brought up in the faith and received his early teaching from the friars at San Marco, the famous Dominican Monastery in Florence.  At 18, he was sent to his uncle Romolo, a wealthy merchant at San Germano to assist him in his business.  It was the hope that he might inherit his uncle’s fortune.  He did gain Romolo’s confidence and affection, but soon after his working there he had a conversion.  He no longer cared for things of the world, and chose to relocate to Rom in 1533.  

After arriving in Rome, he became a tutor in the house of a Florentine aristocrat.  He began to pursue his own studies under the guidance of the Augustinians.  After three years of studies, he began to work among the sick and poor, which gained for him in later life, the title of, “Apostle of Rome”.  He also ministered to the prostitutes of the city.  In 1538, he began the work for which he became famous, traveling through the city seeking opportunities to lead people into conversion, through conversations with them, and leading them to consider topics that would get them to think of their faith.  In 1548, along with his confessor Fr. Persiano Rossa, they founded the  “Confraternity of the Santissima Trinita de’ Pellegrini e de’ Convalescenti”.  The primary object was to minister to the needs of the thousands of poor pilgrims who flocked to Rome, especially in years of Jubilee.  Also it was to relieve the patients discharged from hospitals that were still too weak for labor.  Members met for prayer at the Church of San Salvatore in Campo where the devotion of the Forty Hours of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was first introduced into Rome.  

On May 23, 1551 he was finally ordained a Priest.  He thought of going to India as a missionary, but was dissuaded by his friends who saw the abundant amount of work to be done in Rome.  He remained in Rome and settled down with some companions.  They began to meet in the evenings for prayers, hymns, and readings of Scripture, lectures, and discussions of religious topics.  Members of this newly formed society undertook various kinds of mission work throughout Rome, notably the preaching of sermons in different Churches every evening.  This was a completely new idea at his time.  He spent much of his time hearing confessions and effecting many conversions through these efforts. 

In 1564 the Florentines requested that he leave San Girolamo, to oversee their newly built church in Rome, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini.  He was reluctant at first, but by consent of Pope Pius IV he accepted, while retaining the charge of San Girolamo, where his exercises of the Oratory were kept up.  After taking this position, Philip Neri formally organized, under the permission of a Papal Bull dated July 15, 1575, a community of secular Priests called the Congregation of the Oratory.  Philip became the Superior of is congregation.  He was elected for a term of three years, but in 1587 was nominated Superior for life.  

Philip refrained from becoming involved in political matters but broke his rule in 1593.  He persuaded Pope Clement VIII to withdraw the excommunication laid on Henry IV of France.  He felt this may avert a civil war with the battle between the faithful and Calvinism.  Philip Neri continued in the government of the Oratory until his death.  He died late in the day on May 25, 1595.  It was the feast of Corpus Christi that year, and he had spent the day hearing confessions and receiving visitors.  About midnight he began hemorrhaging and the commendatory prayers were read over him.  He was asked to bless his spiritual sons before dying, and though he could no longer speak, he blessed them with the sign of the cross and died.  Pope Paul V beatified St. Philip Neri in 1615, and Gregory XV canonized him in 1622.  

Practical Take Away

Sr. Philip Neri was born on July 21, 1515, and was known as the “Apostle of Rome”.  He was an Italian Priest that was best known for founding a society of secular clergy called the, “Congregation of the Oratory”.  The primary object was to minister to the needs of the thousands of poor pilgrims who flocked to Rome, especially in years of Jubilee.  Also it was to relieve the patients discharged from hospitals that were still too weak for labor.  Members met for prayer at the Church of San Salvatore in Campo where the devotion of the Forty Hours of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was first introduced into Rome.  Members of this newly formed society undertook various kinds of mission work throughout Rome, notably the preaching of sermons in different Churches every evening.  This was a completely new idea at his time.  He spent much of his time hearing confessions and effecting many conversions through these efforts.