Saturday, November 09, 2002

St. Philip Post- Part Nine
Santa Maria in Vallicella

This incident helped Philip see just how vulnerable the ministry of the Oratory was. At San Giovanni, one man had kept the entire ministry from being destroyed, while at San Girolamo they were dependant on the goodwill of the confraternity. Without having a church and a house of their own, the work of the Oratory could be stopped by the whims of outsiders. Also, the numbers of young men who wanted to follow Philip's way of life in community was growing, and it was decided that having a permanent place of their own was a necessity. After the community had looked into several possibilities, the Holy Father suggested that they take over the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella. It was located near the crowded center of Rome, and particularly close to the Papal Court. As many members of the Court, including a great many Cardinals, were now coming to Philip for advice and sometimes for Confession, the Pope believed having Philip in close proximity would be a good thing.
Unfortunately, Santa Maria in Vallicella was a tiny, dilapidated church, and it was decided that it should be torn down and replaced. This was done and construction on the new Santa Maria in Vallicella was begun in1575. While the first Mass was offered in February of 1577, construction on parts of the church continued until after Philip's death. Since it was replacing the former building, it became known as the 'New Church' or 'Chiesa Nuova'. The church is still generally called the Chiesa Nuova,even though it is now over 400 years old.
At the same time, the community was canonically recognized. After the Chiesa Nuova was available for Mass, members moved into various houses in the area. The first official assembly of the Congregation of the Oratory took place March 15, 1577, in the church itself. On May 8, 1577, Philip was officially elected "Provost", or superior, of the community. From the beginning, the crucial feature of having all the members vote on important matters was present. There were still problems. The Oratory had some trouble keeping vocations, partly because of a lack of housing. Another problem was that while the rest of the community had settled in around the new church, Philip was reluctant to leave San Girolamo, where he had lived for so long. It took six years and an order from the Holy Father to get Philip to move, and he continued to visit San Girolamo until he died.

St. Philip Neri Quotes:
"Let young men be cheerful, and indulge in the recreations proper to their age, provided they keep out of the way of sin."
"Nothing is more dangerous for beginners in the spiritual life than to want to play the master, and to guide and convert
"There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer."
"If God be with us, then there is no one else left to fear."


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