Wednesday 24 April 2024

The Patronage of Saint Philip Neri

This Saturday we commemorate St Philip’s Patronage of this very Oratory. It is not just a ceremonial observance, but a profound recognition of the influence and care of our beloved Holy Father over the lives of the Fathers of the Oratory and the souls they shepherd.

Saints are set apart for a sacred office of dedication to God’s service. St Philip is entrusted with the continuous care of the souls here as the patron of the Congregation of the Oratory. On this feast, then, we are reminded of his gentle role as our Holy Father, and the special place he holds in our lives. He is our protector and advocate. He is our intercessor, speaking on our behalf to the Lord. He is someone who guides us now as once he guided the people of Renaissance Rome.

It might have been the Saint’s exceeding joy, humour and approachability that initially attracted the attention of the people of his city, but it was certainly his deep faith and love for our Lord that inspired people to love our God as St Philip loved him. It is this same deep faith and love that makes him our spiritual father, always willing to intercede for us.

But the idea of patronage also encompasses inspiration. St Philip’s commitment to Rome is the perfect example of the commitment of this Congregation to the people of Oxford. The Oratory Fathers strive to emulate the joyful disposition and humour of St Philip, aiming always to approach the love of God with a light heart and spreading that same joy and example of sanctity to others. This sanctity of St Philip is not one only characterised by miracles or his Counter-Reformation work to keep our Catholic faith alive. It is firstly characterised by our patron’s genuine humanity and humility. By being available, approachable and interested in human nature, St Philip transformed ordinary encounters into moments of spiritual joy and closeness to God.

We should invite him to guide us with his love away from sin and temptation; to be not only the patron of our Oratory, but of our whole lives, unreservedly; to be the one we seek for aid; to be the one who guides us to eternal bliss.

As we celebrate the feast of the Patronage of St Philip, let us recommit ourselves to living out his virtues, especially of joy, humility, and love. May his intercession continue to guide us to Heaven as he inspires us on Earth. And may his Oratory remain a beacon of faith, fellowship, and service to all, as St Philip intended.