PHILIP NERI (1515–95), the ‘Apostle of Rome’. Son of a Florentine notary, he was educated by the Dominicans of San Marco and later became a business apprentice. Resolving to give himself entirely to God, he went to Rome in 1533. Here he undertook the education of the two sons of a Florentine countryman, leading at the same time a very austere life. In 1535 he began to study philosophy and theology, but after three years sold his books and gave himself up to works of charity and instruction, spending the nights in prayer, mostly in the catacomb of San Sebastiano on the Appian Way. Here he experienced in 1544 the ecstasy which is believed to have miraculously enlarged his heart.
In 1548 he became the co-founder of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity for the care of pilgrims and convalescents which, in the year of the Jubilee, 1575, assisted 145,000 pilgrims.
In 1551, after being ordained, he went to live in a community of priests at San Girolamo, where his confessional soon became the centre of his apostolate and where he held spiritual conferences for men and boys often combined with visits to the Seven Churches.
From these activities, which attracted more and more priests to the community, sprang the Congregation of the Oratory , probably so called from the room at San Girolamo where the meetings were held. By 1575, when the Oratory was finally approved by Gregory XIII, Philip Neri had become the most popular figure in Rome. His advice and direction were sought by Popes and cardinals no less than by the common people, and in 1593 he prevented a serious conflict between France and the Holy See by insisting on the absolution of Henry IV.
His chief characteristics were his gentleness and gaiety. Venerated as a saint during his lifetime, he was canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. Feast day, 26 May.
Il primo processo per San Filippo
Neri, ed. G. Incisa della Rocchetta and N. Vian, with the collaboration of C.
Gasbarri (ST 191, 196, 205, 224; 1957–63). The Canonization Process supplied the
main material for the first and fundamental Life, written in Lat., by A.
Gallonio, Cong. Orat. (Rome, 1600; repr. in AASS, Mai. 6 (1688), pp. 463–524).
An Ital. tr., said to be clearer and more complete, pub. Rome, 1601. Other early
Lives by P. J. Bacci, Cong. Orat. (Rome, 1622; ed. G. F. Ricci, 1678; Eng. tr.,
Paris, 1659; Eng. tr. of edn. of 1837 by F. W. Faber (Saints and Servants of
God, 2 vols., 1847); new edn. of Eng. tr. by F. I. Antrobus, Cong. Orat. (2
vols., 1902) ), G. Crispino (Naples, 1675; Eng. tr. of last part by F. W. Faber,
1850) and J. Bernabei, Cong. Orat., pr. in AASS, loc. cit., pp. 524–649. The
most important modern works are those by L. Poncelle and L. Bordet (Paris, 1929;
Eng. tr., 1932) and A. Cistellini (3 vols., Brescia, 1989). More popular
accounts incl. [L.] M. Trevor, Apostle of Rome: A Life of Philip Neri 1515–1595
(1966), with bibl., and P. Türks, Cong. Orat., Philipp Neri oder das Feuer der
Freude (1986; Eng. tr., Edinburgh, 1995). Study by D. Fenlon (in preparation).
C. Gasbarri, Cong. Orat., in Bibliotheca Sanctorum, 5 (Rome, 1964), cols.
760–99, s.v. ‘Filippo Neri’. See also bibl. to ORATORIANS (1).
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