CTS Great Saint Series: Phillip Neri

This booklet gives an introduction to the life and work of Philip Neri, using a framework of phrases created by John Henry Newman to characterise the sixteenth century saint.

Founder of the Oratory system and inspirer of generations, Philip had a great gift of prayer, spending hours absorbed in the love of God. Inspired by prayer, he was able to communicate that love to others. Whilst he applied himself to the study of theology, philosophy and the standard works of Christian doctrine, it is believed that he possessed an instinctive appreciation of the truth about faith and morals inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In Rome, Philip was not only an inspiration to ordinary citizens, bishops and cardinals, but counsellor of Popes such as Clement VIII. As well as his example of devotion to God, Philip drew people toward him through his informality and independence. He delighted in lightening solemn occasions with laughter or comic behaviour. He particularly wanted to divert people from making him the object of reverence and could be quite brusque when faced with hero-worship.

Philip came late to the priesthood and proceeded to devote much time to daily Masses, confessions and an easy familiar style of preaching. He led by being an example of simplicity, speaking very simply about the love of God and seemed to radiate joy. At the end of his life he was to tell his confident Pietro Consolini about an experience he had in 1544. At Pentecost, whilst in prayer he became aware of the Holy Spirit burning in his heart, an intense spiritual awareness of the love of God. Not only a man of prayer, Philip was active in organising works of charity. He and his followers were particularly involved in working at the squalid hospitals of Rome.

Whilst never intending to found an institute, Philip's concern for spreading the Word of God resulted in the Oratory due to the popularity of the meetings he held with the youth of Rome. Through his simple and winning ways Philip was able to win the confidence and inspire the repentance of diverse people. In his lifetime and through his followers across many generations, he was and remains an inspiration for the profound love of prayer and for an uncompromising determination to put God before the values of this world.

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