Patron of the day – Saint Philip Neri

Friday 26 May 2023 (08:02)

Today in the church we remember the saint. Philip of Nyeri.

Philip was born in Florence on July 21, 1515 to Francesco and Lucretia Musciano. He was baptized with the names Philip Romulus.

After the premature death of his mother and older brother, when his father’s financial conditions deteriorated greatly, Philip went to his childless uncle in San Germano (today the city of Cassino) near Monte Cassino to take his place as a merchant and inherit a large fortune from him. He was 17 years old at the time. During his stay with his uncle, he often visited the Benedictine monastery, whose spiritual director was Eusebius of Ebola. Then he adopted the Benedictine motto: Nihil amori Christi praeponere (Do nothing more than the love of Christ).
Soon Philip abandoned the favorable opportunity to make a career and fortune and went to Gaeta. After a short sojourn in this city, he directed his steps to Rome, where he was to remain until the end of his life—that is, for more than 60 years (1534-1595).
There he began his philosophical and theological studies. At the same time, he was a tutor to two boys in the house of a wealthy Florentine, thanks to which he was provided with money. He lived a life of prayer and mortification. In his spare time he visited churches, temples and monuments in the Eternal City. When in 1544 on the day of Pentecost he found himself in the catacombs of St. Sebastian, the favorite place of his expeditions, fell into ecstatic delight: he felt two ribs on his side with a mysterious hand, and his heart, like a ball of fire, threatened to burst his chest. At that time, Philip founded a religious association called “The Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity” to serve pilgrims and the sick. He saw how often these great crowds needed spiritual and material help. The year was 1548. By this service he was called the “Apostle of Rome.”
The turning point in Philip’s life was 1551, when he was ordained to the priesthood at the insistence of his confessor. He was already 36 years old. But as a priest, he had to be assigned to a church. So he lived in St. Jerome della Carretta in the center of Rome. Here the great work of his apostolic, rhetorical heart matured. It was born out of Philip’s concern about the level of religious knowledge of the Penitents, which was very low at that time.

In 1564 the Florentines presented their church to St. street. John. It was here that his spiritual children, later called Oratorians or Filipinos, stayed with him. They lived a common life, but were not bound by any covenants. This freedom has remained a defining characteristic of the preachers’ followers to this day. Philip knew how to take care of his spiritual children not only in religious and spiritual matters, but also in science and culture. Concerts and lectures on art, archeology and history were held in his house. The year 1565 is assumed to be the founding date of the Preachers, and Pope Gregory XIII approved them already in 1575. However, Philip wrote the canon of the new Congregation only in 1583, based on many years of experience and practice. It was not until 1942 that the Holy See consolidated all the institutions into one common, yet very loose being.
Opponents of Philip’s actions soon emerged. They accused him of adopting a “modernity” dangerous to religion. It got to the point that the militant Pope Paul IV (+ 1559) banned his activities for a certain period of time. The Roman Curia even denied him the right to hear confessions, which amounted to a penalty of suspension. Later popes, however, gave him understanding again and overturned this prohibition.
Philip Neary was an advisor to popes and spiritual director to many dignitaries. He was one of the happiest saints. Tired of work, he died at the hands of his spiritual sons on 26 May 1595, the night of Corpus Christi. The time of his death was supposed to be announced earlier. He was buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria Chiesa Nuova in Rome. Belief in the sanctity of the priest was so widespread that, although in those days more and more stringent requirements were introduced to canonizations, the canonization of the servant of God took place already 15 years after his death. It was performed on 11 May 1610 by Pope Paul V. Twelve years later it was canonized by Pope Gregory XV (12 March 1622).

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