The Four Pillars of the Oratory: Joy

Having looked in turn at PRAYER, CHARITY, and HUMILITY, we come this week to the last of the four pillars of Oratorian life - the crowning pillar which is JOY.

Many people are surprised to learn that there is a Patron Saint of Joy, and his name is Philip Neri! Above all, this is what St. Philip was known for. His temperament was naturally cheerful; even in his youth he was known as “Pippo Buono” or “good little Phil.” His sense of humor was legendary, but he was not silly. St. Philip’s joy surpassed that of someone who simply possesses a genial character, because his joy was entirely grounded in reality.

The reality on which St. Philip’s joy was based is the profound experience of the loving presence of God. Joy is truly a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it was the working of the Spirit in St. Philip’s life which allowed him to live his vocation with confidence and peace, enjoying his life of service to the Lord and drawing others to experience that same joy. The love of God sets us free and brings us a joy that transcends earthly happiness because it is a foretaste of heaven. This is what made St. Philip so attractive and such a successful evangelist to his contemporaries.

For Oratorians, the fruit of joy is experienced in the family life of the community, sharing together the daily experience of God’s steadfast love through the ups and downs of life and ministry. In our apostolic work, the joy of following Christ helps us to attract others to Him and to His Church.

As St. Philip himself said:
“Find delight in communal life and avoid all singularity, attend to purity of heart, because the Holy Spirit dwells in innocent and simple minds, and He is the teacher of prayer, putting us in a state of continuous peace and joy, which is the foretaste of heaven.”

Over the next two articles, our attention will turn to the two immutable characteristics of the Oratory: community life without vows, and the autonomy of each Oratorian house.

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.

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