Happy feast-day of Saint Philip Neri! A member of a noble Florentine family, Philip came to Rome in the 1530’s and humbly ministered to the poor and sick, as well as to prostitutes. Eventually he entered the seminary, and decided he wanted to work as a missionary in India.
Plenty of Romans objected to his plan to leave the city. After all (they said), Philip could already see that there was great need for a missionary right here in Rome! Abandoning his original goal, Father Philip stayed put, and founded the Priests of the Oratory in 1556. They were the originators of the religious musical genre that is known today as the oratorio, a sort of combination of concert opera and prayer. The Oratorians, as they became known, attracted untold thousands of Romans back to the Church–and in the process, they provided a much-needed wakeup call to the indifferent clergy of the diocese.
Philip Neri died on May 25, 1595, and was buried in the large parish church which he had constructed. After his canonization in the following century, the Oratorian Fathers constructed a fabulous chapel to hold his remains, which were discovered to be inexplicably incorrupt! We frequently take our clients to see his tomb; there are no signs and so it’s easy to miss if you visit on your own.
Today, the priests of the Oratory have flung open wide every door of their church, and are inviting everyone in Rome to join them in celebrating the life of this great saint. On this day, you can also visit the rooms next door, where St. Philip lived and died. The guides, who usually speak some English, will proudly show you many of the saint’s personal effects–including a surprising number of pairs of eyeglasses, for some reason (?)–and you’ll gain a better appreciation for the so-called “Apostle to the Romans.”