About Saint Philip Neri:
Philip Neeri was born in Florence on July 21, 1515, one of four children to a lawyer named Francesco Neri. By all accounts he was a cheerful and obedient child. He was educated by Dominican friars and then, at age 18, went to Cassino to assist his wealthy uncle in business, hoping to be his heir. That plan was derailed when, soon after his arrival, he experienced a mystical vision, which he eventually spoke of as his Christian conversion. This event was an encounter with the Lord and it dramatically changed his life.
He soon lost interest in owning property or participating in business. He felt a call from the Holy Spirit to radically live for and serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. So, Philip set out for Rome. Once in Rome, Philip was the live-in tutor for a fellow Florentine’s sons. Under Philip’s guidance, the two boys improved in all aspects of life and faith, proving Philip’s special talent with human relationships and in bringing out the best in people.
During his first two years in Rome, Philip spent his time in a solitary life. He also dedicated a lot of time to prayer. He ate very small meals of bread, water and a few vegetables, practicing an ascetical life.
He began talking to people on street corners and in public squares. He encouraged groups of people to gather for discussions, studies, prayer and the enjoyment of music. Philip would lead his followers to hospitals to wait on the sick or to the Church, to pray to and encounter Jesus Christ. While still a layman, Neri noticed many people had lost sight of the joy of the Gospel, and therefore started leading “walks” to important churches in Rome. One well-known tradition Neri began is the Seven Churches Pilgrimage.
In 1544, on the eve of Pentecost, Philip saw what appeared to be a globe of fire. It is said the fire entered his mouth, causing Philip to feel his heart dilate. Philip was filled with such paroxysms of divine love that caused him to scream out, “Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more.” Philip then discovered a swelling over his heart, though it caused him no pain.
In 1548, with the help of his confessor, Father Persiano Rossa, Philip founded a confraternity for poor laymen to meet for spiritual exercises and service of the poor, the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity.
Philip’s appealing nature won him over friends from all societal levels, including that of Ignatius of Loyola, Pius V and Charles Borromeo. By the age of 34 he had accomplished much, but his confessor was determined that his work would be more effective as a priest. Philip was ordained to the diaconate and then to the priesthood on May 23, 1551.
From there, Philip went to live with Father Rossa and other priests at San Girolamo della carita (St Jerome of Charity) and carried on his mission, but mostly through the confessional….. often from sun-up until sun-down.
A large room was built above the church of San Girolamo to tend to Philip’s growing number of pilgrims and other priests were called on to assist him. Philip and the priests were soon called the “Oratorians,” because they would ring a bell to call the faithful in their “oratory.” A result of this was the creation of the Congregation of the Priests of the Oratory, which was given approval by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575 . Philip’s rule for the members of the congregation was simple – share a common table and to perform spiritual exercises. He did not require his followers to take a lifetime vow and he did not require them to denounce their property.
We celebrate the Feast of Saint Phillip Neri on May 26.
About the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome:
Note that the Church is also called Chiesa Nuova, where Saint Philip Neri spent the final twelve years of his life. Saint Philip Neri is buried in the Blessed Sacrament chapel here.
Although the tomb of Saint Philip Neri is one of the main attractions, this 16th century the church has a beautiful Baroque interior with magnificent paintings from the 17th century and is certainly worth a visit.
Finding the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome:
The church (also called Chiesa Nuova) is a fairly short walk from the famous Piazza Navona.
Address: Via del Governo Vecchio, 134, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Tel: +39 06 687 5289
Click here for the official website of the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome.