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St. Phillip Neri – May 26

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

Phillip Neri (1515-1595) was born in Florence of a noble but impoverished family. He studied theology and philosophy and dedicated himself to apostolic works from his youth. Eventually he set aside his studies and founded a society to care for the sick and poor pilgrims in Rome.

An image of St. Phillip Neri

St. Phillip Neri

He was ordained a priest in 1551, and founded the Congregation of the Oratory, the Oratorians, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching. He was a great mystic, who received the gifts of prophecy and discernment of spirits. He could read the souls of penitents, and heard confessions by the hour. He was canonized some 25 years after his death along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis Xavier.

The religious crisis that took so many provinces from the Catholic Church deeply afflicted St. Phillip Neri. He suffered cruelly to see so many people being drowned in the waves of heresy. He attentively followed the maneuvers of Protestantism and planned a counter-attack against a Lutheran work of propaganda, the Magdeburg Centuries. This vast compilation was written to persuade readers that the Catholic Church had abandoned her early beliefs and practices. The multi-volume collection was filled with historical falsifications to “prove” its goal.

To counter this fabrication St. Phillip wanted a complete work of erudition to be written on the History of the Church from the time of Our Lord Jesus Christ up to his own time. He ordered the work to be done by Cesar Baronius, an Oratorian who would succeed him as Superior of the Oratory in 1593 and made a Cardinal in 1596.

Baronius alleged that he was unworthy and lacked the competence for such a great work; but St. Phillip was inflexible and ordered him under religious obedience to undertake the project. He spent close to 30 years to write it (1588–1607), covering the time up to the 12th century. This collection was called Ecclesiastical Annals. It was completed after his death.

The heresy felt the blow. The errors of the anti-Catholic Magdeburg Centuries became evident as the work of Baronius eclipsed it. The Ecclesiastical Annals contributed powerfully to stem the growing tide of Protestantism in Europe. From Baronius' work the Catholic Church emerged as she had always been, as the pillar of truth.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

St. Phillip Neri was a man with a universal Catholic sense. He was not just interested in realizing a personal work, which certainly was important – the foundation of the Congregation of the Oratory – but he had a general concern for the Catholic Church as a whole. He was personally offended by Protestants attacking the Church through a work that was meant to be monumental – the Magdeburg Centuries. Actually it was a monumental lie. The Protestants, as heretics who hated the Church, fabricated another history of the Church full of untruths and slanders, with the specific purpose of denigrating the good name of the Catholic Church and separating her from the faithful.

cardinal Cesar Baronius

Cardinal Cesar Baronius

These Protestants were from the same family of souls as the Pharisees, who produced false witnesses to condemn the Lamb of God. Analogously, in the beginning of the Church, groups of Jews moved by hatred against her spread many apocrypha documents – false gospels or epistles attributed to the Apostles – in order to confuse Catholics and induce them toward heresies. Until today, from time to time, the discussion of the apocrypha documents resurfaces trying to sabotage the Gospels.

Also after Protestantism, and in its wake, some authors of the Encyclopedia spread countless lies regarding the past of the Church. This in many ways was continued by Michelet in the 19th century. Today, these revolutionary authors lost credibility and their lies are universally recognized in scholarly milieus, even though they still influence badly those who do not have access to good historical sources. So, it was and still is a rule of the enemies to falsify history in order to slander Holy Mother Church.

When St. Phillip Neri saw the evil results that the Centuries of Magdeburg was having by favoring the spread of Protestantism, he decided to counter-attack. He chose the only way possible which was to make a gigantic work of erudition. A work using the best documents dating from the very beginning of the Church up to his own time, that would present the incontestable reality of the facts. To do this work he chose one of his most capable disciples, Baronius. After some hesitations Baronius dedicated some 30 years of his life to this job and the result was the Ecclesiastical Annals, one of the most serious works of all times. The work of Baronius stands forever as a point of reference for any serious historical study. His work pulverized the supposed “scientific” work of the Protestants who were left completely discredited.

Fr. A Lapide's commentary on the Gospels of Sts. Matthew and Mark

The Commentaries on the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark by Fr. A Lapide

The root of this work was St. Phillip Neri's amplitude of vision, his love of the Church, and his counter-revolutionary zeal.

An analogous work was made by Fr. Cornelius a Lapide from the Society of Jesus. He received an order to study all the interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures that existed, analyze them, refute the wrong ones, explain the good ones and give the best sources for each of them. Again, it was a counter-revolutionary work to destroy the pseudo-scientific Protestant interpretations which were polluting the atmosphere of piety and studies in the 16th and 17th centuries. Fr. Cornelius a Lapide wrote his monumental Commentaries to the Sacred Scriptures encompassing all its books from Genesis to the Apocalypse. To this date it is one of the most – if not the most – complete ensemble of Exegesis that the Catholic Church has. It is an everlasting source of erudition and piety for historians, preachers, and faithful in general.

Let us ask the great counter-revolutionary St. Phillip Neri to give us conditions to imitate him, hurting the Revolution at its head so that it can be completely destroyed and the Reign of Mary be established over its ruins.


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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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