Saint Philip Neri was born in Florence, Italy, in the year 1515. He was the
oldest son of Francis Neri and Lucretia Soldi, both descendants of Tuscan
families. He was kind hearted as a kid and soon became known as Philip the
Good - "the good Pippo." As a child, he studied philosophy and later he took
a comprehensive course in theology. With fourteen companions, he created
the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity for looking after pilgrims and
convalescents. The 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, even though he had not yet become a
priest. In 1550, he transferred this Confraternity to the Church of the Holy
Trinity, and built a new hospital. His work continued 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 guidance and help. In a short
time, several priests and young clergymen associated themselves with him.
They began to aid 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 an Oratory, because at certain hours each day,
they would gather the people together for prayer and meditation. Therefore
they 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 clergy men ordained to the priesthood.
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 game him Extreme Unction and
Cardinal Frederick Borromeo, an intimate friend, brought him Holy Viaticum.
His entire congregation accompanied him on his deathbed. It was shortly
after midnight on May 26th, 1595 that he passed away.
Saint Philip was noted also for his kindness and simplicity and was much
sought after as a confessor. His sense of humor was note worthy. He was
beautified by Pope Paul V in 1615 and was canonized a saint by Pope Gregory
XV in the year 1622.
After Philip's death it was discovered that two of his ribs were broken and
had formed an arch, enlarging the normal space for the heart. His body rests
in the Chiesa Nuova where it remains miraculously incorrupt. He is
celebrated on May 26th. It was here that a series of mystical experiences
occurred to him.
One evening, while fervently praying, a globe of fire appeared in front
of him. It entered his mouth and a moment afterwards he felt his chest
Instantly he was filled with such paroxysms of divine love that he rolled
upon the ground yelling, "Enough, Lord, I can bear no more!"
When he rose and was more composed, he discovered a swelling as big as a
man's fist in the region of his heart. This swelling remained with him for
the rest of his life and, at times, the emotional passion that it caused was
so strong it forced him to bare his breast to relieve the heat it created.
In those moments he prayed that God would lessen his blessings before he
died of excess love. His face would shine with a mysterious light and often
he was transfixed in heavenly bliss and unable to lower his arms.
Occasionally in these fits he was seen lifted off the ground, his body
weightless. Not only did his face shine with light, but real sparks of fire
flew from his eyes. All of these were miracles used for his canonization.
The Oratory is a non-monastic house of prayer where people are gathered in
offer to better learn scriptures and offer meditation and prayer. This is
the type of life...
Bibliography: 1. Bowden, Henry Warner. Dictionary of American Religious Biography.
Greenwood Press, Westport, 1977.
2. Butler, Alban. Butler 's Lives of the Saints. Harper and Row, San
3. Carlson, John, Ed. The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary.
Hawthorn Books, New York, 1960.
4. Foley, Leonard, Ed. Saint of the Day. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1974.
5. World Book Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises, Chic
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