Oratorians around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip Neri. He was born in 1515 in Italy and founded the Congregation of the Oratory in 1575. The most famous Oratorian is Henry Cardinal Newman, convert and blessed. Our Sunday Visitor (July 12, 2015) has a nice article on St. Philip in the latest issue.
Oratorians live in community and under a Rule but are not religious, in that they do not profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live freely in a community but are free to leave at any time. This prompts the old saying that “true sons of St Philip are known at their burial.”
Each Oratory is independent, observing the way of life outlined by St. Philip . It was shortly before Pentecost, 1544, that Philip received the grace of his vocation as the founder of the Oratorians. The Holy Spirit filled his heart in so dramatic a fashion, while he was praying in the catacombs, that his rib cage was split around his heart. This was verified after his death.
St. Philip’s biography is a wonderful read because he did such unexpected things to bring people to God, using humor and the ridiculous to make his points. One man asked is he could wear a hair shirt and Philip said, yes, but wear it on the outside! Philip once shaved half of his beard off before an important event. Laughter is good medicine for the soul!
The work of the apostolate is prayer, preaching and the sacraments. For a wonderful and thorough overview of an oratory including historical references, visit the Toronto Oratory website. It lists the ten characteristics of the classical Oratorian vocation:
- Instituting a school of prayer
- Promoting spiritual direction and sacramental confession
- Extending the liturgical movement
- Cultivating Eucharistic devotion
- Fostering saving knowledge of the Holy Scriptures
- Keeping alive the lore of the saints
- Inculcating moral literacy
- Elaborating an “historical orthodoxy”
- Supporting cultural and intellectual endeavors
- Encouraging a graced encounter between clerics and the laity
- Assisting the revival of community and family life
- Carrying out the New Evangelization
Sounds like a plan for life for all!
“The great thing is to become saints.” St. Philip Neri