Today is the feast day of a darling man, Philip Neri, a well-to-do young man from Florence the home of Dante, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Raphael and Michelangelo.
After he had received a good education in the Scriptures and the Arts, Philip at eighteen was sent to Naples to take over a family trading concern. Then, after two years of delving into business matters, Philip obtained his family’s permission for him to settle in Rome for a few years. While supporting himself as a tutor of wealthy children from Florentine families, Philip dug deeply into the current Catholic Philosophy and theology studies. Those were the years when the Council of Trent was getting underway
With his studies complete, Philip took to the streets of Rome, making friendly inquiries everywhere as to how people treasured their relationship with the Father and with Jesus.
He used his wealthy contacts to obtain food, shelter and work for girls who had been left to selling themselves. While acting as a father to them, he was becoming a mentor to Rome’s student population. Young men, charmed with his willingness to discuss any topic that interested or bothered them, brought him to the halls that they found empty at night.
The priests of Rome, finding him a great ally in their youth work, persuaded Philip to accept ordination to the priesthood, and they deeded a house of prayer, an oratory, over to Philip and his young men.
Their gatherings came to be recognized as a distinct religious establishment known as the Oratorians. They are with the church still, small groups of men who work with peoples’ needs, while coming together to share what they are studying.