Wednesday, May 26, 1999
Wednesday, May 26:
Feast of Saint Philip Neri, Priest and Religious Founder
First Reading: Sirach 36: 1, 5-6, 10-17
Psalms: Psalm 79: 8-9, 11, 13 and Sirach 36: 16
Gospel Reading: Mark 10: 32-45
SAINT PHILIP NERI, PRIEST AND RELIGIOUS FOUNDER
Having a profound effect in the turbulent sixteenth century, Saint Philip Neri was born and reared in Florence, Italy on July 22, 1515. He received his education from the Dominicans of San Marco. Later, while emersed in secular commerce his travels took him to the famed Benedictine Monastery Monte Cassino where he drank in the spirituality set down by Saint Benedict...all this during the time England and much of Europe were bolting from Holy Mother Church. At the age of 18 Philip's business led him to Rome where three years later he met Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and enrolled at Sapienza University. Through the guidance of other holy men such as Saint Charles Borromeo and Saint Francis de Sales, Philip realized his vocation was not in the secular world. Thus he dropped out of the university to become a lay apostle, preaching in the streets and markets to the Roman populace all he had garnered from the conglomeration of religious orders he had been exposed to. Soon his fame spread and he became a confidant of the popes of the times. He founded the lay Confraternity of the Most Blessed Trinity in an effort to help pilgrims coming to Rome as well as promoting 40 hour Adoration, but realized he could be even more effective if he became a priest. Ordained in 1551 at the age of 36 he sought to form another religious organization called the Congregation of the Oratory which many of his followers joined. For a time however Pope Paul IV would not allow Philip to hear confessions because of false rumors and information forwarded to the Holy Father. Though this pained Philip greatly, he was totally obedient and his patience paid off in 1564 when he was totally absolved by Pope Pius IV and the Congregation was approved. It received papal approval by Pope Gregory XIII through encouragement by his predecessor Pope Saint Pius V. Philip was given the church of St. Mary of Vallicella as headquarters for the Congregation. Philip was one of the most popular and well beloved men in all of Rome and the people flocked to hear him and to call him their confessor. Philip spent countless hours, forsaking sleep, to hear confessions which, along with the Holy Eucharist and spiritual conferences to reinforce the teachings of the Church and love for all Christ bequeathed His children, he made the paramount mission of his Oratorians. He became known as the "Apostle of Rome" and was credited with miracles and prophecy. In 1593, because of ill health he resigned as superior general of the Oratorians but continued to minister to the people and counsel the popes, in this case Pope Clement VIII, by intervening to stop a potential dangerous conflict between Rome and France through his insistence that the French king Henry IV be absolved. Two years later Philip died peacefully on May 26 at the age of 80 having served His Lord well and venerated for the last half of his life by the people as a saint. This formality of canonization was accomplished in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.