St. Philip Neri with the children of Rome he cared so much about and brought to the love of the Eucharistic Jesus. Picture from “Preferisco il Paradiso”, Italian TV movie with actor Gigi Proietti as St. Philip Neri.
As protector of the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage, we have chosen one of Rome’s most popular saints: St. Philip Neri (1515-1595), whose pastoral activity made such a mark that he became popularised as ‘Rome’s third apostle’—after St. Peter and St. Paul.
After coming to Rome from Florence, he led a life entirely devoted to evangelization. ‘Pippo Buono’ (Philip the good), as he was nicknamed, considered for a time travelling to India as a missionary in the recently-founded Society of Jesus. He then realised India was in Rome itself: in its very streets, populated with children left to themselves, beggars and pilgrims.
Philip was an enthusiastic and imaginative priest and his exemplary life—made of prayer, adoration and preaching—drew many souls to him, especially children. He was a living witness to the joy of being a Christian, frequently responding to taunting with good humour. He was also a great mystic as well as an ardent apostle for charity. He founded hospitals, schools and charitable institutions. He also edified the people of Rome with a multiplication of processions (such as the well-known ‘Visit of the Seven Pilgrim Churches’), pious exercises, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and solemn liturgical ceremonies.
Being contemporaneous with the Council of Trent, he contributed to reforming the clergy by founding the Congregation of the Oratory, which has since blossomed all over the world and which counted Blessed Henry Newman, in particular, among its members. The small oratory constituted by the original group that met around St. Philip gave the society its name.
In 1548, on the eve of the 1550 Jubilee, St. Philip founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims and Convalescents with the aim of welcoming and assisting pilgrims travelling to the See of Peter, particular poor ones. A few years before St. Philip’s death, the Confraternity decided to build a church for its own needs: the ‘Trinità dei Pellegrini’. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave permission for this church to become the seat of a personal parish for the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, entrusted to the priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Every year, this is the departure point of our pilgrimage.
What saint would be more appropriate than St. Philip Neri to welcome us to the papal city and guide us as we march to the Tomb of Peter to celebrate there the same mass that filled his heart with the love of God in such an extraordinary way?
Fr. Claude Barthe