Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ Message for the Fifth Centenary of Saint Philip Neri’s birth.
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To the Reverend Father Mario Alberto Aviles, c.o., Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.
The fifth centenary of the birth of Saint Philip Neri, born in Florence on July 21, 1515, offers me the happy occasion to unite myself spiritually to the entire Confederation of the Oratory, to remember him who lived for sixty years in the city, deserving the nickname of “Apostle of Rome.” His existential journey was profoundly marked by his relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and by the commitment to direct to Him the souls entrusted to his spiritual care. At the point of death he recommended: Whoever seeks other than Christ, does not know what he wants; whoever seeks other than Christ, does not know what he asks.” The Oratory was born from this fervid experience of communion with the Lord Jesus, an ecclesial reality characterized by an intense and joyful spiritual life,” prayer, listening and conversation on the Word of God, preparation to receive worthily the Sacraments, formation to Christian life through the history of Saints and of the Church, works of charity in favor of the poorest. Thanks also to Saint Philip’s apostolate, the commitment for the salvation of souls became a priority in the action of the Church; it was understood again that Pastors must be with the people to guide them and support them in the faith. Philip was a guide to many, proclaiming the Gospel and dispensing the Sacraments. He dedicated himself in particular, with great passion to the ministry of Confession, up to the evening of his last earthly day. His preoccupation was to follow constantly the spiritual growth of his disciples, supporting them in the harshness of life and opening them to Christian hope. His mission of “chaser of souls” was certainly favored by the singular attraction of his person, marked by human warmth, joy, meekness and gentleness. These peculiarities of his found their origin in his ardent experience of Christ and in the action of the Divine Spirit that had dilated his heart.
In his formative method, Father Philip made use of the fruitfulness of contrasts: enamoured with intimate and solitary prayer, in the Oratory he taught to pray in fraternal communion; intensely ascetic as well as corporal in his penance, he proposed the commitment of interior mortification marked by joy and the serenity of play; passionate herald of the Word of God, he was a preacher so sparing of words to the point of reducing himself to a few phrases when he was overcome by emotion. This was the secret that made him a genuine father and teacher of souls. His spiritual paternity shone through all his action, characterized by trust in persons, shunning dull and stern tones, with a spirit of festiveness and joy, and the conviction that grace does not do away with nature but heals, strengthens and perfects it.
Moreover, Saint Philip Neri remains a luminous model of the Church’s permanent mission in the world. The perspective of his approach to his neighbor, to 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 first years of his presence in Rome, he exercised an apostolate of personal relation and friendship, as a privileged way to open to the encounter with Jesus and the Gospel. So attests his biographer: “He approached one at a time now this one, now that one and all soon became his friends.
“He loved spontaneity, he shunned artificiality, he chose the most amusing means to educate in the Christian virtues, while proposing at the same time a healthy discipline that implies the exercise of the will to receive Christ in the concreteness of one’s life. His profound conviction was that the path of holiness is founded on the grace of an encounter — that with the Lord – accessible to any person, of any state or condition, who receives Him with the wonder of children.
The Church’s state of permanent mission requires of you, spiritual sons of Saint Philip Neri, not to be content with a mediocre life; on the contrary, in the school of your Founder you are called to be men of prayer and witness to attract persons to Christ. In our days, especially in the world of young people, so dear to Father Philip, there is great need of persons that pray and are able to teach to pray. With his “most intense affection for the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, without which he could not live” – as a witness declared in the process of Canonization – he teaches us that the Eucharist celebrated, adored and lived is the source from which to draw to speak to men’s heart. In fact, “with Jesus Christ joy is always born and reborn” (Evangelii gaudium, 1). May this joy, characteristic of the Oratorian spirit, always be the underlying atmosphere of your Community and your apostolate.
Saint Philip addressed Our Lady affectionately with the invocation “Virgin Mother, Mother Virgin,” convinced that these two titles say the essential of Mary. May she accompany you in your path of ever stronger adherence to Christ and in the commitment of an ever truer zeal in witnessing and preaching the Gospel. While I ask you to pray for me and for my ministry, I accompany these reflections with a special Apostolic Blessings, which I impart from my heart to all the members of the Oratorian Congregations, to the laity of the secular Oratories and to all those who are associated to your Spiritual Family.
From the Vatican, May 26, 2015[Translation by ZENIT]