The Church’s liturgical calendar has us celebrating the 40th day following the Resurrection of Jesus. Ascension Thursday is a point in our Catholic faith and one that is re-affirmed in the Creed.
Also on today’s liturgical calendar of the Latin Church is the feast day of our father among the saints, Philip Neri. The USA has several Oratories.
St. Philip, also known affectionately as “Pippo buono,” or “good little Phil,” wanted to be a missionary, but found that his mission territory was the City of Rome in the early 1500s during the Counter Reformation. He was a contemporary of several saints and founders of religious order. Philip founded the Congregation of the Priests of the Oratory and died in 1595.
Neri was known for his good cheer and extraordinary sense of humor. He was ordained priest in 1551 and exercised his priesthood notably in the confessional and preaching. And this became the hallmark of the Congregation of the Oratory.
Moreover, Neri placed significant emphasis the role of the laity in the Church thus believing that holiness was attainable for the laity –not just for the professional Catholics –monks, nuns, priests. While other religious order had third order laity groups, e.g., the Franciscans, Dominicans, oblates, and the like, the laity connected to the Oratorians were not treated as a third order, but as a first order. The Oratory existed to serve the needs of the laity. In some ways, Neri’s missionary impulse for the city of Rome became the seeds of what we call today the Universal Call to Holiness (Cf. V2 and the Opus Dei).
St. Philip Neri held: “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and helps us to persevere. A servant of God ought always to be in good spirits. Charity and cheerfulness, or charity and humility, should be our motto.” From the perspective of St. Philip, joy and humility were indispensible from one another and essential for a healthy Christian life.