Vatican City, 26 May 2015 (VIS) – This year marks the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Philip Neri (Florence, 25 July 1515 – Rome 26 May 1595), known as the “apostle of Rome” and founder of the Congregation of the Oratory that, as Pope Francis writes in a letter addressed to the procurator general Fr. Mario Alberto Aviles, is characterised by “an intense and joyful spiritual life: prayer, listening and conversation on the Word of God, preparation to receive the sacraments in a dignified way, formation for Christian life through the history of the saints and the Church, and works of charity for the benefit of the poorest”.
The Holy Father, joining with those who commemorate the figure and the work of this saint, who spent sixty years of his life in Rome, remarks that thanks to the apostolate of St. Philip, commitment to saving souls “was restored as a priority in the Church's activity, and it was newly understood that pastors must stay with their people to guide them and sustain them in their faith. Philip was a guide for many people, announcing the Gospel and dispensing the Sacraments. In particular, he dedicated himself with great passion to the ministry of Confession, up to the evening of his last day on earth. His concern was that of constantly following the spiritual growth of his disciples, accompanying them in the bitterness of life and opening up to Christian hope. … His spiritual paternity shines through all his work, characterised by trust in people, by his rejection of gloomy and sombre tones, by his spirit of festivity and joy, by his conviction that grace does not restrain nature but instead heals, strengthens and perfects it”.
The Apostle of Rome also remains as “a shining model of the permanent mission of the Church in the world. The perspective of his approach to others, bearing witness to all the love and mercy of the Lord, can constitute a valid example for bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful. From the very first years of his presence in Rome, he undertook an apostolate of personal relations and friendship, as the ideal route to opening up to the encounter with Jesus and the Gospel. … He loved spontaneity, shunned artifice, chose the most enjoyable methods to educate in Christian virtues, and at the same time offered a healthy discipline that implied the exercise of will to welcome Christ in the fabric of one's life. His profound conviction was that the path to sanctity was based on the grace of an encounter with the Lord, accessible to any person … who welcomes him with the wonder of children”.
“The permanent state of mission of the Church requires that you, the spiritual children of St. Philip Neri, do not settle for a mediocre life; on the contrary, in the school of your Founder you are called upon to be men of prayer and witness to draw people to Christ”, concludes the Pope. “In our times, especially in the world of the young who were so dear to Fr. Philip, there is a great need for people who pray and who know how to teach others to pray”.