Prayer for the Intercession of
St. Philip Neri
May 28, 1995
Brother John Raymond
The year 1515 is noted for the birth of St. Philip Neri in
Florence, Italy. As a child he was very intelligent in his studies
and later would excel in philosophy and theology. He had a natural
gift for poetry and liked music. At eighteen, while living with his
rich merchant cousin, Philip had a mystical experience. He gave up
everything and set out for Rome. A Florentine there gave Philip the
attic in his house to live in. He was provided with the basic
necessities of life in return for tutoring two small boys. For
sixteen years Philip remained there leading a life of prayer and
penance. He was known to spend whole nights in prayer in the
catacombs of St. Sebastian, an early Church deacon martyr. On
Pentecost of 1544 Philip, who had been praying to the Holy Spirit in
this catacomb to fill him with the zeal of the early apostles, saw a
globe of fire enter his mouth that filled him with the love of God.
His heart beat violently. After this experience he found a swelling
over his heart the size of a man's fist. After his death it was
found that two of his false ribs had been forced outward. Also the
connection between the bone and the cartilage of the ribs had been
broken. Many times after this experience Philip would feel his heart
beating so wildly with the love of God that he would ask Him to
lessen it so that he would not die.
Philip began to attend to the sick in the hospitals. His abundant
fruits here began to attract attention and followers. Eventually
donations were given to him whereby he saved poor girls from
dishonor and assisted promising young people in their studies. In
1548 Philip united fifteen men into the confraternity of the Most
Holy Trinity. Their mission was to care for the poor pilgrims to
Rome and the sick.
In 1551 Philip was ordained to the priesthood. During his forty
years of priesthood he spent many hours every day in the
confessional and celebrated Holy Mass with great devotion. Sometimes
he conducted informal discussion in his room for those for whom he
desired a better way of life in his room. He had a merry character
and soon his room took on the nickname "Home of Christian Mirth." A
later biographer would call him "The Humorous Saint." The room
became too small to accommodate his growing disciples and followers.
By the years 1558 they had grown into several hundreds. A little
chapel was built onto a main church for his meetings. Philip named
it the Oratory. These meetings took on a set format: prayer,
conversation, discourses and singing. These talks drew eminent
intellectual laymen who learned about the interior life and gained a
deeper understanding of their Faith. These men spread this learning
to their surroundings. St. Philip had instituted a lay apostolate in
After reading the heroic missionary life of St. Francis Xavier
Philip desired to work in the missions. A holy Carthusian monk told
him that Rome was to be his missionary apostolate.
Philip gained his reputation of humor from his various practical
jokes. One time he shaved the beard on half his face, sat outside
the church and greeted the people as they went in.
Philip arranged public visits to the "Seven Churches of Rome"
during one of the days before Lent and during the Easter Season.
Soon these processions grew into the thousands, even the Pope joined
in. This became for centuries a favorite pilgrimage for both
citizens and visitors to Rome, even to this day.
Philip's reputation grew. He was a great preacher, he worked
miracles, read people's souls and did many charitable works. Coupled
to this was his loving and serene nature. He attracted many youths
and made use of them to inspire a new Christian spirit in Rome. All
this earned him the title "Apostle of Rome."
The Order Philip founded called the Congregation of the Oratory
continues to this day. Two years before his death Philip retired
from being Superior. During this time his ecstasies during Holy Mass
lasted so long that the altar boys left only to resume the Mass
several hours later. Once when someone left the church after
receiving Holy Communion Philip sent the altar boys after them with
lighted candles. This was to remind the person that they carried the
Real Presence of Jesus within them.
On May 25, 1595, Philip was told by a doctor that he looked
better than ever. He heard confessions all day saying before he
left, "Last of all, we must die." At midnight he had a severe
hemorrhage. He died at the age of eighty blessing some of his
disciples. His feast day is celebrated on May 26.
Heavenly Father, you gave us St. Philip Neri to be for us an
example of holy joy and mirth. We ask you as the great day of
Pentecost approaches to fill us with this joy of the Holy Spirit as
you did your faithful servant Philip Neri. Through his intercession,
may we conclude this Easter Season with a heart burning with love
for You. May the Holy Spirit so fill our heart and soul that You
become our only love and desire. Enkindle in us the zeal and burning
love of the disciples gathered into Upper Room on Pentecost Sunday.
Then we will glorify You through Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in
the power of the Holy Spirit before all the world. Amen.