Category Archives: Oratorian saints and blesseds

Saint Philip Neri

St Philip Neri.jpg

O God, who never cease to bestow the glory of holiness on the faithful servants you raise up for yourself, graciously grant that the Holy Spirit may kindle in us that fire with which he wonderfully filled the heart of Saint Philip Neri.

Let’s remember the Congregation of the Oratory and the loyal sons of Saint Philip Neri. I am thinking particularly thinking of the Oratories found in Brooklyn (NY), Sparkill (NY), and the new Oratories in Lewiston (ME), Cincinnati (OH) and St Louis (MO).

The life of Saint Philip Neri was known as one of joy. The Apostle to Rome was a provocative witness to holiness and the happiness that results in being close to the Lord.

A sermon by Saint Augustine, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” talks about joy and therefore an apt meditation on Neri.

The Apostle tells us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. Whoever wishes to be a friend of this world, says Scripture, will be reckoned an enemy of God. As a man cannot serve two masters, so one cannot rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.

Let joy in the Lord prevail, then, until joy in the world is no more. Let joy in the Lord go on increasing; let joy in the world go on decreasing until it is no more. This is said, not because we are not to rejoice while we are in this world, but in order that, even while we are still in this world, we may already rejoice in the Lord.

You may object: I am in the world; if I rejoice I certainly rejoice where I am. What is this? Do you mean that because you are in the world you are not in the Lord? Listen again to the Apostle, speaking now to the Athenians: in the Acts of the Apostles he says this is of God and the Lord our creator: In him we live and move and have our being. If he is everywhere, where is he not? Surely this was what he was exhorting us to realize. The Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything.

This is a great truth, that he ascended above all the heavens, yet is near to those on earth. Who is this stranger and neighbor if not the one who became our neighbor out of compassion?

The man lying on the road, left half-dead by robbers, the man treated with contempt by the priest and the levite who passed by, the man approached by the passing Samaritan to take care of him and help him, that man is the whole human race. When the immortal one, the holy one, was far removed from us because we were mortal and sinners, he came down to us, so that he, the stranger, might become our neighbor.

He did not treat us as our sins deserved. For we are now sons of God. How do we show this? The only Son of God died for us, so that he might not remain alone. He who died as the only Son did not want to remain as the only Son. For the only Son of God made many sons of God. he bought brothers for himself by his blood; he made them welcome by being rejected; he ransomed them by being sold; he honored them by being dishonored; he gave them life by being put to death.

So, brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world. That is, rejoice in the truth, not in wickedness; rejoice in the hope of eternity, not in the fading flower of vanity. That is the way to rejoice. Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything.e in the hope of eternity, not in the fading flower of vanity. That is the way to rejoice. Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything.

Blessed Sebastian Valfre

Blessed Sebastian Valfre CO.jpg

The Cross received the living Jesus and gave Him back to us dead; the Shroud received the dead Jesus and restored Him to us alive. (Blessed Sebastian speaking of the Shroud of Turin)

The Congregation of the Oratory and devoted faithful liturgically recall Blessed Sebastian Valfre, C.O. (1629-1710), a priest of the Oratory.

Unless you are plugged into the life of the Oratorians, such as the fine men at the Brooklyn Oratory, the New Brunswich, NJ Oratory, or the New York Oratory, Blessed Sebastian Valfre (1629-1710) of the Turin Oratory, is not well known. He was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1834.

Father Sebastian Valfre is remembered for a number of things: he produced a popular Catechism and introduced the Quarant’Ore (the 40 Hours devotion to the Eucharist) to Turin; he cared for the poor and needy; he was a  Spiritual Director to the Piedmontese Royal Family (he tutored the young Victor Amadeus II); he had a great love for the Holy Shroud of Turin and was involved in the foundation of Rome’s Accademia (where diplomats are trained); the feast of the Sacred Heart was first celebrated in Turin for the first time Father Sebastian in 1694.

When Father Sebastian died and his body was laid out in the church, Turin’s citizens wanted to say goodbye to the priest who walked with them through all the joys and difficulties in life for sixty years. Father Sebastian’s legacy was the extroversion of the faith preached by Christ for the dignity of all people: the witness of Christian charity knew no boundaries.

Today, the most important aspect we take away from Sebastian Valfre is the example he gave as a man of prayer and contemplation from which he drew his mission for preaching rooted in his education and authentic spiritual formation.

Saint Francis de Sales

DeSales.jpgO God, who for the salvation of souls willed that the Bishop Saint Francis de Sales become all things to all, graciously grant that, following his example, we may always display the gentleness of your charity in the service of our neighbor.

We honor the gentle giant, pastor of souls, spiritual father of many, author, and Doctor of the Church, Francis de Sales (1567-1622). A brilliant student, he was ordained a priest despite his father’s desires. Francis was a provost of an Oratorian community and later bishop of Geneva and founder. His writings and approach to religious inspired many new forms of religious life.
His Introduction to the Devout Life, first published in 1609, is well known and cherished, reliable, honest, accessible, humane, and a Christian classic. His doctrine is called celestial in that it points a perfect way for ordinary people to enter into communion with God without having to flee the world. You don’t have to be a monk of nun to have a spiritual life!
Saint Francis is the patron saint of journalists, writers, and now social communications for the Church.

Saint Luigi Scrosoppi

The life and works of the members of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri –the Oratorians– is not well known in the USA. There are 8 established Oratories in the USA (and several in formation) but they are generally small communities of priests and brothers with a group of laity who follow in the spirituality of the Oratory. The famous Oratorian at this time, beside Saint Philip, is Blessed John Henry Newman.

Though in Italian (an I hope this changes soon because the world is more than Italian speakers) the website of the Congregation of the Oratory is worth visiting.St Luigi Scrosoppi.jpg

Today, on the Oratorian liturgical ordo, we would recall Saint Luigi Scrosoppi (1804-84). Saint Luigi was an apostle for the good of the poor. By his life and clear witness he taught that we as Christians need to follow closely the mandate of sacred Scripture that care of the poor, the orphan, the widow, and sick are not optional parts of of Christian living; the Eucharist and attentive social concern go hand-in-hand. Clericalism has not place in the Church.
A brief biography of Saint Luigi Scrosoppi may be read here.
Two particular intentions we ought to ask Saint Luigi to beg God for:
  1. the grace of being a Good Shepherd for the newly ordained bishop of the Diocese of Iverea (Italy), the Most Reverend Edoardo Aldo Cerrato; until recently he was the Procurtaor General of the Oratorians;
  2. the grace of being the Good Shepherd for the newly elected Procurator General of the Oratorians, Father Mario Avilés, CO; until recently, Father Mario has been the director of the Oratorian Schools in Pharr, Texas.
On both men may God bestow rich blessings.

Saint Philip Neri

St Philip Neri Brooklyn Oratory.jpgFather, you continually raise up your faithful to the glory of holiness. In your love kindle in us the fire of the Holy Spirit who so filled the heart of Philip Neri.

In so many ways Saint Philip Neri is a saint, a witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in this world. This fact is borne in the activity of his life for the salvation of souls. He was a close friend of the Benedictines, Dominicans, and the Jesuits. A well-sought after confessor and preacher, he drew the keen attention of Popes, bishops and saints. Who can’t relate to a man who had a keen sense of humor, a love for all people, especially the youth, and a miracle-worker. The Church has named Saint Philip one of the patrons of Rome.

My love for Philip Neri leads me to hope that Connecticut, preferably New Haven, will see an Oratory in the future.

Among other things today, I watched the 2010 film “Saint Philip Neri: I Prefer Heaven,” with Gigi Proietti, Adriano Braidotti, Francesco Salvi, and Roberto Citran. The director is the wonderful Giacomo Campiotti whom I met last fall in NYC while he was stateside promoting another film of his.

A brief biography of Saint Philip Neri.

Saint Philip Neri, one of the glories of Florence, was born of an illustrious Christian family in that city of Tuscany, in 1515. His parents lived in the fear of God and the observance of His commandments, and raised their son to be obedient and respectful. Already when he was five years old, he was called good little Philip. He lost his mother while still very young, and it seemed he should have died himself when he was about eight or nine years old. He fell, along with a horse, onto a pavement from a certain height. Though the horse landed on top of him, he was entirely uninjured. He attributed his preservation to a special intervention of God, destined to permit him to dedicate his life to the service of God.

He fled from a prospective inheritance to Rome, where he desired to study, and there undertook to tutor the two sons of a nobleman who offered him refuge. He led so edifying a life that word of it reached Florence, and his sister commented that she had never doubted he would become a great Saint. He studied philosophy and theology, and after a short time seemed to need to study no longer, so clear were the truths of God in his mind. He always kept the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas near him for consultation; this and the Holy Bible were his only books.

Saint Philip seemed surrounded by a celestial splendor, the effect of his angelic purity, which he never lost in spite of the many dangers that surrounded him; he came victorious from every combat, through prayer, tears and confidence in God. He often visited the hospitals to serve the sick and assist the poor. At night he would go to the cemetery of Saint Callixtus, where he prayed near the tombs of the martyrs.

He attracted a number of companions who desired to perform these devotions with him. He loved young boys most of all; he wanted to warn them against the world’s seductions and conserve their virtue in all its freshness. He would wait for them and talk to them after their classes; and many whom his examples impressed consecrated themselves to God. Assisted by his excellent confessor, he founded a Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity for the relief of the poor, convalescents, and pilgrims who had no place of refuge. He gave lodging to many in the great jubilee year of 1550, even receiving several complete families in the houses he had obtained.

At the age of 36 he was not yet a priest, and his confessor commanded him under obedience to receive Holy Orders, which he did in the same year of 1551. He joined a society of priests and heard many confessions. Saint Ignatius of Loyola called him Philip the Bell, saying he was like a parish church bell, calling everyone to church, but remaining in his tower — this because he determined so many souls to enter into religion, without doing so himself. He himself was about to follow Saint Francis Xavier’s renowned examples, by going to India with twenty young companions, but was advised by an interior voice to consult a saintly priest. He was then told that the will of God was that he live in the city of Rome as in a desert.

The famous Society of Saint Philip, called The Oratory, began when a group of good priests joined him in giving instructions and conferences and presiding prayers; for them he drew up some rules which were soon approved. He became renowned all over Italy for the instances of bilocation which were duly verified during his lifetime. Many holy servants of God were formed in the Oratory, a society of studious priests, made ready by ten years of preparation in the common life for a service founded on sacerdotal perfection. Saint Philip died peacefully in 1595 on the Feast of Corpus Christi at the age of 80, having been ill for only one day. He bears the noble titles of Patron of Works of Youth, and Apostle of Rome.

[Source: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 5.]

***The image is from the Oratorians of the St Boniface Oratory, Brooklyn, NY.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory