The Oratory of St John Vianney


Tu es sacerdos in aeternum Ps 110:4

St Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, was born in Florence, Italy, in the year 1515. He was the elder son of Francis Neri and Lucretia Soldi, both descendants of Tuscan families. Of amiable disposition throughout his youth, the young boy soon became known as Philip the Good - "the good Pippo," as he was called. In his early youth, he studied philosophy and later he took an extensive course in theology.

Together with fourteen companions, he established the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity for looking after pilgrims and convalescents. Its members met for Communion, prayer and other spiritual exercises in the Church of San Salvatore, and Philip himself introduced the idea of having exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at least once a month. At these devotions, Philip preached, though a layman, and succeeded in leading many souls to a life of perfection. In the year 1550, he transferred this Confraternity to the Church of the Holy Trinity, and erected a new hospital. His work, blessed by Almighty God, continued to flourish, and in 1551, he was ordained a priest at the age of thirty-six.

As a newly ordained priest, Philip continued his spiritual conferences to ever-increasing numbers, who came seeking his splendid guidance and help. In a short time, several priests and young ecclesiastics associated themselves with him and began to assist him with his conferences and in reading prayers and meditations to the people of the Church of the Holy Trinity. This small group soon became known as Oratorians, because at certain hours each day, they would gather the people together for prayer and meditation. Thus laid the foundation of a new religious society. In 1564, when Philip had formed his congregation into a regular community, he had several of his young ecclesiastics ordained to the holy priesthood. Among them was the famous Caesar Baronious, who later became one of the greatest historians of the church, a cardinal, and in 1745 was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XIV.

Although he did not have a strong constitution and was frequently attacked by fever, Saint Philip lived to be eighty years of age. In the year 1595, he was struck by an unusual violent fever and was confined to his bed for the entire month of April. Cardinal Caesar Baronius gave him Extreme Unction and Cardinal Frederick Borromeo, an intimate friend, brought him Holy Viaticum. Surrounded by many sorrowing members of his Congregation and consoled by their fervent prayers, "the good Pippo" gave his noble soul back to its Creator. It was shortly after midnight on May 26th, 1595.

Saint Philip was recognized as one of the best scholars of his age. He was noted also for his kindness and simplicity and was much sought after as a confessor. His sense of humor is of legendary fame. He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1615 and was canonized a saint by Pope Gregory XV in the year 1622.