NERI, St. Philip

Canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, St. Philip Neri was venerated in his lifetime on account of his ministry through the confessional and his role in cofounding the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims and Conva­lescents (1548) and founding the Congregation of the Oratory (c. 1564). The former order, as its name indicates, focused on ministry to the poor and often-indigent pilgrims who arrived in Rome.
Born into a Florentine merchant family, the youngest child of Francesco Neri and Lucrezia Soldi, he moved to Rome in 1533 to study and teach philosophy, giving away his books three years later in order to devote himself to austere spiritual discipline, primarily prayer, in the Catacombs of St. Sebastiano on the Appian Way. In 1544 he experienced his heart becoming enlarged, a mystical experience often compared to the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. In 1551, after having been ordained priest, he lived with a community of priests in San Girolamo, where the repute of his confessional spread and he cultivated the practice of prayer. Out of these communal practices emerged the Congregation of the Oratory, which was recognized by Pope Gregory XIII in 1574. His fame grew to such an extent that he was nicknamed the "Apostle of Rome," and popes and kings sought his advice. He acted as intermediary in the conflict between the pope and France by persuading Pope Clement VIII in 1593 to withdraw the excommunication of Henri IV. The Oratory, named for its em­phasis on prayer, spread rapidly among clergy in Italy and France, including among its members Cardinal Pierre de Berulle, Nicholas Malebranche, and the famous preacher Jean-Baptiste Massilon.
M. Trevor, Apostle of Rome: A Life of Philip Neri, 1515-1595, 1966.
P. Turks, Philip Neri: The Fire of Joy, 1995.
Iain S. Maclean

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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