To the Very Rev. Provosts and to the Rev. Confreres of the Congregations of the Oratory; and to the Rev. Superiors of Institutes inspired by the Oratory.
QUINCENTENARY OF THE BIRTH OF ST PHILIP NERI
As well as being a duty of my office, it is with great joy of soul that I must draw your attention to the Jubilee Year of the Quincentenary of the birth of our holy Father St Philip Neri, which will open in the City on the 25th May, 2015, and close on the 26th May, 2016. It will be providential opportunity for a profound rediscovery of the singular figure of the Apostle of Rome. St John Paul II, during the Congresso Generale of the Holy Year of 2000, described St Philip as the bearer of a great heritage for the whole Church, and [the pope] hoped that “revisiting the sources of St Philip’s spirituality and of his entire work would inspire in each Congregation a renewed awareness of the validity and relevance of St Philip’s “missionary method”, and that this would make an important contribution to the task of the New Evangelisation. He said that path of St Philip constituted “a pastoral route that is always valid, because it is inscribed in the perennial Christian experience!” . During the Congresso Generale of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI, echoing his predecessor’s words, affirmed that “this method, which was employed by St Philip in his own time with great apostolic inventiveness, aids young people and adults to discover the beauty of divine love. Indeed, through St Philp’s mysterious presence Christ takes hold of us in order to make us His own and assimilate us to Himself. This is the marvel that energises the Christian mystery – a truth to be accepted in its entirety, without compromise, and avoiding any facile accommodation of the spirit of the world. Only thus is it possible to understand and transmit adequately to others the offer of freedom, charity and joy so dear to St Philip Neri, in accordance with the synthesis enshrined in the tradition of the Oratory: ‘in veritate liberi, in caritate servi, in omnibus læti”’.
In keeping with Philipine simplicity, the Quincentenary will be characterised by sober and dignified events, intended above all to encourage our Oratories and our life, which is often caught up in that whirlwind of activity so characteristic of our own times.
The Procura Generale, together with the Permanent Deputation, has already begun organising [these events] in collaboration with His Eminence the Card. Archbishop of Florence (being the diocese in which our Saint was born), as well as with the Italian Government Ministry for Culture, with the management of the Vallicelliana Library and with other bodies.
In collaboration with Dr Alberto Bianco, General Archivist of the Confederation, it is intended that a commemorative event be prepared for October, 2015, in Rome, which will include an international study symposium entitled “A modern saint: St Philip Neri (1515-1595) five hundred years after his birth”, made possible through the collaboration of the Vallicelliana Library and the Roman Oratory; it will also include an exhibition entitled “The development of an image and the birth of an iconography: St Philip Neri in the printed collections of the Archive of the Roman Oratory”. This exhibition will take place in the Borromini Refectory at the Vallicella, and it will feature the famous Guido Reni portrait of St Philip with the Madonna and Child, which is to undergo restoration.
Besides these initiatives, the Jubilee Year will witness solemn liturgical celebrations both at the Chiesa Nuova in Rome and in Florence, as well as concerts of instrumental and vocal music, the traditional Visit to the Seven Churches, and days of recollection for priests and laity.
In anticipation of these festive events, dearest brethren and friends, be assured of my prayers at the altar of St Philip in the Vallicella, and I bid you my fondest regards. I am sure that the Quincentenary of the birth of our holy Father will be a precious opportunity for contact with the real roots of the Oratorian experience to the benefit of our Congregations and in renewed commitment to heeding the admonition given by the venerable Cesare Baronius to the first Fathers of the Oratory, and to us who follow them: Attendite ad petram ubi excisi estis – look to the rock from which you have been hewn” (Is.51:1).
Rome, 30th November, 2014, First Sunday of Advent.
Very Rev. Mario A. Avilés, C.O. Procurator General