The Four Pillars of the Oratory: Charity
In the previous article, we began exploring the four “pillars” of Oratorian life: PRAYER, CHARITY, HUMILITY, and JOY. This week, we will focus on the second pillar, charity.
For St. Philip, the exercise of charity was central to his discipleship of Jesus. His first apostolate was of charity and service. In particular, he developed a long association with the San Giacomo hospital, where the incurable and the destitute languished in squalor and loneliness. St. Philip, his friends and his penitents would care for their physical and spiritual needs. For the Holy Year of 1550, he helped to organize the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity, which ministered to the pilgrims who came to Rome for the jubilee. Throughout his adult life, St. Philip cared for the abandoned and the poor, and defended the marginalized and the persecuted. There are many stories attesting to his personal acts of charity towards widows, orphans, and prisoners.
Above all, for St. Philip, and for all Oratorians, charity means putting the Word into action, living the faith we profess. Loving people involves speaking about God and sharing the Gospel, and it also includes demonstrating God’s generous love through acts of practical charity. These are two sides of the same coin, and both are indispensible. Experiencing the suffering of others as our own, and assisting them without regard for our own comfort, as St. Philip did, becomes a powerful testimony of faith in action.
Within the Oratory, the exercise of fraternal charity brings serenity to the life of the community and fosters solidarity among its members. The mutual encouragement, exercise of mercy, and fraternal correction offered one to another, builds up the whole community. This charity, when lived well, serves as an inspiration to others and attracts others to the Oratorian life. It echoes the life of the early Christian community which so inspired St. Philip.
Next week, we will turn our attention to humility, the third pillar of Oratorian life.
Note: This article is part of our ongoing series on St. Philip Neri and the Oratory, in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip.
Please direct any questions or comments to Fr. Jeff.