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Saint Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri was born in Florence in 1515 and was educated by the Dominican friars. In his late teens, he was sent to live with an uncle at San Germano near the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, where he was meant to become heir to his uncle’s business. He would often go to the Benedictine Abbey and here gained a deep love for the liturgy and the wisdom of the desert fathers. His heart, being unsatisfied with running his uncle’s business, and instead wanting to pursue the things of God, he left San Germano for Rome at the age of eighteen.

Once in Rome, Philip lived as a layman for twenty years or so. He was given room and board with a family in exchange for tutoring the children. This gave him much free time for prayer and study about God, attending lectures in theology by the Augustinians. He was want to go and pray at the catacombs of St Sebastian, and on the Feast of Pentecost in 1544, the Holy Spirit descended on him as a ball of fire and lodged in his heart. From this time onwards, Philip always felt his heart to be filled with great heat.

While a layman, Philip would go about Rome encouraging people to raise their minds and hearts to God. He helped popularise the 40 Hours Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He organised many works of charity such as caring for the sick and pilgrims who came to Rome. In his humility, he did not seek to be ordained, but in obedience, he submitted to his confessor’s wishes and was ordained at the age of thirty-six.

St Philip began to hold informal discourses on the things of God, originally taking place in his room, now being moved to daily sermons given in a small chapel built for the purpose. This chapel, called an Oratory, would come to give the name to the community, who under St Philip, would give themselves to this apostolate. By 1575, these afternoon exercises featured four talks on different topics such as theology, the lives of the Saints, and Church History, and these would be interspersed with music.

Philip thought it was important that these sermons be given a colloquial and familiar style so that people, whether educated or uneducated, could understand them, and profit spiritually from them. They were attended by cardinals, nobles, tradesmen, and even those beyond what was considered respectable society. Many of these same people frequented the Oratory for regular Confession. He counselled his penitents to put their faith into practice by visiting the sick and helping the poor.

At this time in Rome, the yearly carnivals had become events of sinful excess. To keep people away from the carnival, he started the Seven Church Pilgrimage, which went to Rome’s most renowned churches. He would also take large numbers of people to just outside of Rome to enjoy picnics, spiritual discourses, and music. He would often have simple hymns and songs composed that were easy for people to sing along with.

St Philip knew that humility was necessary for sanctity, and the best kind of mortification to acquire this virtue was the mortification of the will rather than external kinds of penances such as hair shirts. St Philip would then encourage the kind of mortifications that help us think less of ourselves, such as having one of his penitents, Tarugi, carry around the streets of Rome, Capriccio, a very large dog. Or on another occasion, instructing others to wear a hairshirt over their clothes rather than under them. He also could be found making a fool of himself, such as going up to a Swiss Guard and stroking his beard!

Even though St Philip tried to hide his sanctity, stories of his holiness began to spread throughout Rome. He was known for his great wisdom and insight. St Philip was associated with many miracles throughout his life.

Philip died in 1595, and in recognition of his known sanctity, he was canonised shortly after in 1622.


Novena to St Philip Neri

To be recited from 16 May

O holy St Philip, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart transform our lives and bring us peace.


Saint Joseph Vaz

Saint Joseph Vaz

Saint Joseph Vaz was born in Goa, India, in 1651 to devout parents who had converted to the Catholic faith. At that time, Goa was a colony of Portugal allowing the Catholic faith to spread. At the age of 25 Joseph was ordained a priest, and after some time he became associated with a group of priests and suggested they start an Oratory of St Philip Neri.

St Philip himself had desired to become a missionary to the Indies, and while St Philip’s Indies was to be Rome, his desire would be fulfilled by these spiritual sons.

The zeal St Joseph Vaz had for souls filled him with a deep concern for the people of Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka). Ceylon was a Dutch colony at the time, and the authorities were Calvinistic and sought to stamp out Catholicism from the island. There had not been a Catholic priest there for some years.

Feeling this call to mission, Joseph made his way to Ceylon where he ministered to the Catholics and won many converts for God. Always hot on his heals were the Dutch Calvinist authorities, but he would evade them by disguising himself as a beggar. He was so successful that many people believed he was under a special protection from God.

Joseph Vaz still needed a safe base from which to work in Ceylon. At that time, there was an independent state in the middle of the island only nominally under the Dutch, this was the Kingdom of Kandy. Joseph Vaz entered this kingdom but was arrested as a potential spy.

At that time a great drought was affecting the kingdom, and the king, a Buddhist, had his pagan priests pray for rain to no avail. The King heard of this Holy Man, Joseph Vaz, in prison, so he asked him to pray to his God for rain. Joseph built an altar, and before the people prayed for rain. Low and behold, clouds darkened the sky and torrential rain came soaking everyone except Joseph and his altar. From this moment the King of Kandy placed Joseph under his special protection and allowed him to go throughout the land.

Eventually Joseph was joined by some other priests, and together they were involved in the building of many churches and winning over 100’000 souls for God.

As time went on, Joseph realised the time of his death was approaching. He retired to a quieter life of prayer to prepare himself, and he died peacefully on 16 January 1711 in the presence of his community, bidding them “Always live according to God’s inspiration.”

He was beatified in Sri Lanka by Pope John Paul II on 21st June 1995, and was canonized there by Pope Francis on Wednesday 14th January 2015.


O God, who granted your Church to shed light throughout the lands of Asia through the ministry and example of your priest, Blessed Joseph, look upon your people, who were instructed by him with the Word of God, and nourished with the heavenly Sacrament, and grant that through his intercession our faith may flourish more and more, and we be made faithful witnesses to your Gospel. Through Christ our Lord.

Saint Luigi Scrosoppi

St Luigi was ordained in 1827 in Udine, Italy, where he helped manage an orphanage. He joined the Udine Oratory in 1846 where he continued his work with the poor and destitute opening a school and home for deaf-mute girls. He taught them sewing, embroidery, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Passing on his knowledge, he also passed on all his material possessions to support them, and would then go begging to support himself the girls.

In 1866 the Italian Army invaded Udine, and due to anti-clerical laws the Udine Oratory was suppressed. But he continued to live as a faithful son of St Philip Neri. He continued to sign his letters as Fr Luigi of the Oratory and left instructions that on his grave the words “priest of the Oratory” should appear. He devoted himself to taking care of the Sisters of Providence, an order whose foundation he was involved in, and they continued to take care of orphans.

Towards the end of his life he had to give up all activity due to ill health, and after a long illness he died in 1884. During his life he lived by the moto “work, suffer, and be silent.” He was a man of deep prayer and wisdom, known for his intolerance of vanity, but also for his humility asking for forgiveness from anyone, no matter, their station, with those to whom he lost his temper. He encouraged the sisters to see Christ in the poor and suffering. He was completely indifferent to worldly reputation and honours and was known for his joy. His dying words to the Sisters were “Charity! Charity!… Save souls, and save them with charity.”

In 1996, Peter Shitima, a student of the Oudtshoorn Oratory in Zambia, was dying from AIDS. One witness said “He could scarcely lift his legs, and had developed a serious case of peripheral neuritis. He could not stay in bed without help. He was a terminal AIDS patient and nothing could be done.” His parish began to pray with him through the intercession of Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi, then on 9 October, Peter Shitima had a dream of Blessed Luigi, then woke up feeling much better. The doctors involved in the case had no explanation, Peter Shitima was cured. The miracle was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in 2000, the decree stating the miracle was the “rapid, complete and lasting healing of Peter Shungu Shitima by polyineuritis and cachexia in positive HIV subject.” This led to Saint Luigi’s canonisation in 2001. Fr Peter Shitima is now a priest in South Africa.

St Luigi reminds us of the importance of charity over and above material possessions, he reminds us to find Christ in the poor and suffering, and to be Christ to them.

O God, since you have inflamed the heart of your priest, Saint Luigi, so that he might be an example of genuine charity towards those who suffer, grant to us that, with the help of his intercession, we may love our brethren with sincere hearts, and daily seek the kingdom of God and his justice. Through Christ our Lord.
Saint Joseph Vaz
Saint John Henry Newman

Saint John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman was from an ordinary Anglican family and born during an intellectual revolution that set to oppose science and reason against faith and religion.

While a youth, Newman found a deep and strong evangelical faith, but importantly a knowledge of God that never left him. He entered Trinity College at the age of sixteen where he studied classics, theology, philosophy and some of the newer sciences such as geology.

He was elected a Fellow at Oriel College and was appointed a pastor as Vicar of St Mary’s, a role he had for 15 years. During this time the Oxford Movement began. This movement, made of Anglican intellectuals, began to explore ancient Catholicism and promoted the idea that since the Church was founded by the Apostles, and Bishops transmitted the teachings handed on to them from the Apostles, the state has no right to interfere in Church matters. This movement led Newman even deeper into reading the Early Church Fathers.

During this time Newman became known as one of the greatest preachers in the country and many people came from far and wide to hear his sermons.

Continuing to read the Early Church Fathers, Newman and his friends came to realise that the doctrinal position of the Anglican Church resembled some of the early heretical movements opposed to true Christian teaching. They came to realise the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Christ.

Newman was received into the Catholic Church on the 8 October 1845, falling at the feet of Blessed Dominic Barberi and making his Confession. His conversion to the Catholic Church had huge consequences for his life. He was now rejected by the establishment, lost friends, and was ostracised by his family.

Newman and his friends formed a small monastic like community before being sent to Rome to complete studies for the priesthood and be ordained. While in Rome, St John Henry Newman came across the Oratory of St Philip Neri and determined to start an Oratory in England.

As an Oratorian, Newman spent his time in pastoral work, preaching, and teaching. He continued to write and became well known for showing once again the union between reason and faith. Newman continued to live a good quiet Oratorian life, when to the surprise of himself and many others, Pope Leo XIII made him a Cardinal, giving him special permission to remain living at the Birmingham Oratory. Newman continued his work and died in 1890. When his body was taken to the place of burial, he was followed by thousands of Birmingham poor.

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through Christ our Lord.


A Prayer of St John Henry Newman

- God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

Blessed Salvio Huix-Miralpeix

Bl Salvio Huix-Miralpeix, along with some fellow Spanish Oratorian priests, are the first Oratorians to receive the crown of martyrdom. They were martyred during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Bl Salvio is one of 522 martyrs who were beatified in 2013 who were among thousands of Catholics who were killed during the Civil War.

Salvio was born in 1877 into a very devout and faithful family who together attended daily Mass, prayed the Rosary daily, and made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps it was this devotion, encouraged by his parents, which inspired in Salvio a call to the priesthood as he announced he was going to join the minor seminary entering at 10 years old. He was ordained a priest at the age of 26 and served as a curate in country parishes, but he found a growing desire to be around more people to help them to grow in holiness. The Oratorian life seemed like the perfect life for him, and he entered the Vic Oratory in Spain in 1907, now 30 years of age.

The Fathers and Brothers of the Vic Oratory were no slackers, perhaps it was this zeal fed at the Oratory, which would carry over to the zeal we would see in Bl Salvio’s martyrdom. The community rose at 4:30 am every day, and 4:00 am on Feast days, starting their day with that all-important half an hour of mental prayer, beginning their day communing with the Lord in the interior of their hearts. After their mental prayer, the fathers would hear confessions, offer their Masses, and then often go back to the confessional in the afternoon.

From this life of prayer flowed the apostolic works of the Vic Oratory. There were many groups associated with these works such as the Brothers of the Little Oratory, groups for young people, teaching catechism to children, and visiting the sick. Bl Salvio had a great concern that married men didn’t seem as involved in the Church as other groups, so he founded a confraternity for married men under the patronage of St Joseph. Bl Salvio could often be found leading these and other young men in corporal works of mercy by attending to the material and physical needs of the sick. When he wasn’t in the confessional or teaching, he could be found tending to the sick himself, whether it be helping to bathe them or changing their bed linen.

By 1927, Fr Salvio had become the provost of the Oratory, but in his sadness but submission to God’s will, he was asked to become a Bishop, meaning he had to leave the Congregation. Yet he always remained a spiritual son of St Philip. As a Bishop, he bravely resisted and fought against the anti-Catholic republican regime that took over Spain in 1931. The regime suppressed religious orders, looted and burned convents, closed religious run schools, and forbade the practice of religion such as Catholic burials. He publically denounced these actions in his 1932 pastoral letter likening the regime to barking dogs and grunting pigs.

Civil War eventually broke out again, and many Catholic priests, religious and bishops were cruelly martyred. One of his 15-year-old seminarians was given a mock trial, publicly stripped, beaten, and nailed to a beam where he died. One of the many thousands of Catholics who would be killed for their faith by the atheistic republican regime.

Eventually, after burning the Cathderal, they came for Bishop Salvio in 1936. For a short time he successfully hid, but fearing for the safety of those looking after him, he turned himself in to the police at a republican blockade announcing: “I am Bishop of Lerida and I place myself under your protection.” This trust would quckly be betrayed, and he was promptly imprisoned with several other ecclesiastics and laymen. Continuing his pastoral zeal amidst the trials of unjust imprisonment, he said Mass for them after sacred vessels had been smuggled in, and heard their confessions.

About two weeks after being imprisoned, early one morning in August, he and twenty of his fellow prisoners, were told they were to be transported for trial. Just outside the city, the transport trucks stopped at the cemetery. Knowing they were about to be executed the group asked their Bishop for his blessing. He blessed them, saying, ‘Be brave, for within the hour we shall be reunited in the presence of the Lord.’ The Bishop led them in reciting the Creed together, and then they were forced to dig their graves. Attempting to undermine the faith of the people, the militia told the Bishop he would be spared if he renounced the faith. He refused, but he did have one request. He asked to die last so he could bless each person as they were killed, and surprisingly this request was granted. While blessing each one, one of the militiamen objected, shooting the Bishop through his right arm. In pain but undeterred, the Bishop refused to stop, and he continued to bless them with his left hand instead. Now left alone with none but his persecutors and Christ by his side, the good Bishop was placed in the line of fire and martyred.

May the life of our martyr Bl Salvio Huix-Miralpeix inspire us with that same zeal and love of God so powerfully witnessed in his martyrdom, so that we too may receive the grace of giving all we have to Christ for love of him.


Almighty and eternal God, who in your goodness bestowed on the bishop and martyr Salvio Huix the gift of pastoral charity even to the point of shedding of his blood for Christ and his Church, bestow on us also the grace to work faithfully in your vineyard and to experience his intercession in this life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sources: Life of Blessed Salvio from the Oxford Oratory and the Toronto Oratory, and “Blessed Salvi Huix Miralpeix” at CatholicSaints.Info.

Blessed Salvio Huix-Miralpeix
Blessed Sebastian Valfre

Blessed Sebastian Valfrè

Blessed Sebastian Valfre is a wonderful saint for all people to turn to. Two aspects of his life, in particular, recommend themselves to us. First, he was one who knew the cross of interior suffering and teaches us how to bear it. Second, despite these sufferings, he persevered with courage and patience, becoming a saint by the pursuit of his daily duties, viewing all his activities in light of being a servant of God.

B Sebastian began his lesson in courage and perseverance from a young age. He grew up in a poor farming family when he began to experience a call to the priesthood. His parents were reluctant to let him go, but eventually, they permitted him to go. Through his studies, he had to support himself, often staying up late into the night copying books as a source of income.

In 1651 he joined the Turin Oratory which had been in decline with one rather eccentric living member left. He was nevertheless ordained the following year, and by his efforts, helped to revive and restore the work of the Turin Oratory. He mainly concerned himself with hearing confessions, teaching catechism, and helping the poor, sick, and prisoners.

At first, B Sebastian was reluctant to hear Confessions due to the need to give spiritual advice to penitents. He was greatly aware of his shortcomings. Who was he to come before others to teach and administer the sacraments, but yet be one filled with so much interior poverty?

While on the outside, others saw nothing but peace in the eyes of B Sebastian, and he was so well known for his joy, interiorly he struggled with repugnance and anguish. He greatly feared the judgement of God and experienced much spiritual dryness. He struggled to say a single Hail Mary without needing to fight against distractions, and he often experienced great anxiety over his salvation. So how did he become a saint with these struggles?

B Sebastian saw that these fears were his cross, and that to carry this cross was his path to holiness. He realised that suffering is not an obstacle to serving God, but rather a pathway to holiness that can only be obtained by perseverance. For in great suffering, we have none to turn to but God alone. Sebastian taught that when we come to the end of our lives we will not regret that we have suffered, but regret that we suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly. For suffering well, is the beginning of overcoming ourself.

All through these trials, B Sebastian continued to serve God, seeking to crush his fears under his feet. He persevered in the pursuit of his duties, so many of which he found so difficult and painful. Yet through this means God was to grant him many graces bearing much spiritual fruit.

Grant us, we beseech you, O Lord, that, as you did wonderfully raise your priest Blessed Sebastian, for the salvation of many, so we may persevere in your love, for the sake of helping souls. Through Christ our Lord.
A Prayer of St John Henry Newman

- God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

Brisbane Oratory in Formation John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_Millais
First Class Relics of St Philip Neri and Bl John Henry Newman