Saint Philip Neri: Apostle Of Rome And Founder Of The Congregation Of The Oratory
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Saint Philip Neri: Apostle of Rome by Fr. V. J. Matthews
"Rome is to be your Indies." With these words from a saintly monk, St. Philip Neri (1515-1595) was given his vocation-not to the far-off missions, but to the City of Rome. At the beginning of the 16th century, Rome was corrupt and lukewarm, and the people lived in a state of spiritual laxity. But by the end of the century, Rome was a different city, largely because of one man – St. Philip Neri.
At the age of 29, while praying most earnestly for the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, Philip had an extraordinary experience of divine love, and from that time on there began a palpitation of his heart which lasted the rest of his life. At times it became so violent that it shook his chair, his bed, or even his whole room. Ever after, he also felt a sense of burning heat in the region of his heart and throat, so that he was always trying to keep cool by opening windows and unbuttoning his cassock. After his death, his heart was found to be so enlarged that the two ribs over his heart were broken and arched outwards-they had been thus for 50 years!
Fired with the love of God, Philip converted and sanctified innumerable souls by preaching in the marketplaces, by hearing confessions and directing souls, by counseling bishops and popes, by caring for the sick in the primitive hospitals of the day, by ministering to needy pilgrims and by performing miracles-he even raised a young boy from the dead – as well as by going to search out wayward souls who did not recognize their own spiritual need. Thus it was that he earned the title "The Apostle of Rome."
Philip was the day's greatest practical joker, but always with a point to be learned. The distinctive mark of his apostolate was cheerfulness: "I will have no melancholy, no low spirits in my house" he used to say. Everyone was captivated by his supernatural charm, and during his lifetime all Rome venerated him as a saint, consulted him as an oracle, and almost ceased to wonder at his miracles. By all that he did to sanctify Rome, St. Philip Neri exerted an incalculable influence for good upon the Universal Church, which owes him – even to our own time – a debt of unimaginable magnitude.
Imprimatur: Joseph Butt, Vicar General of Westminster, 7/19/1934