Today we honor Phillip Neri, a likable saint. Born in Florence in 1515, his mother was of the nobility, his father a successful merchant. After doing college courses with the Dominicans of Florence, Phillip at eighteen was apprenticed to an uncle, a prosperous merchant in Naples. After doing well at that for three years, he obtained permission to study on his own in Rome.
While studying Theology and the Bible, Philip took to walking here and there through Rome. Like Socrates of old, he tied people down to explaining what they lived for. He drew on his merchant connections for taking women out of prostitution, setting them up with work they could live by.
Becoming a companion to all the young men studying Rome, Phillip came to be highly valued by the pastors of Rome’s parishes. While they were uplifted by seeing him in deep contemplation of the Trinity, he fought against people seeing him as a saint. To lower their high esteem for him, he began carrying a monkey on his shoulder.
With many young men becoming his companions in studying and in helping the needy, the priests of Rome bought an abandoned hall for them. That place came to be known as the Oratory, and his companions came to be called Oraorians.