THE LIFE OF ST. PHILIP NERI,

APOSTLE OF ROME

BY FATHER BACCI


PREFACE TO THE VENETIAN EDITION OF 1794

 

La Vita di S. Filippo Neri, scritta da P. PIETRO GIACOMO BACCI, illustrata ed accresciuta da un Prete della Congregazione di Venezia. 
[P. BIASUZZI.] Fol., Venezia, 1794

Gentle Reader, being anxious to reproduce the Book of the Life of St. Philip Neri, Founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, in order to promote the glory of the Saint, and your devotion towards him, I thought it would be an arduous and useless undertaking, if after so many celebrated authors who have written the Life and sung the praises of this Holy Man, I tried to compose one, that might be called entirely new. The chief difficulty for me was to choose, among the various writers, the one most apt to help me in the task I had undertaken. The first to collect the admirable acts of St. Philip was F. Antonio Gallonio, a priest of his Congregation and trusted disciple, who five years after the happy death of the Saint, published in 1600 his life in Rome, under the form of annals. This life was written in Latin, with wonderful exactness, the main facts having been witnessed by the author himself, and for the rest relying on the sworn depositions of about three hundred persons. In the following year the same book was published in Rome, in the vernacular, with some additions ; and both editions were later reproduced: the first by itself at Mayence, and in the great work of the Bollandists (Acta SS. Mail, tom. vii. pp. 463-524), and the second at Naples and Benevento.

To the work of Gallonio, succeeded the one of Father Pietro Giacomo Bacci of the Roman Oratory, who minutely examined the Processes instituted for the canonization of the Saint, on which his work is entirely based. It was printed in the year 1622 by the Congregation, and dedicated to the Sovereign Pontiff Gregory XV. Don Gaetano Volpi, in his Apologia per la Vita di S. Filippo Neri, p. 44, printed at Padua in 1740, deplores that this dedication, placed in the first edition of Bacci, was omitted in the following ones through lack of good taste, and he has it printed again in full, and in order that such a document should not be wanting in the present edition, I thought it well to insert it here:

"To His Holiness Pope Gregory XV., the Congregation of the Oratory;

"Being on the point of publishing, for the spiritual profit and consolation of many, the Life of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, based on facts gathered in the Processes instituted for his Canonization, there is every reason for this work to appear under the august protection of your Holiness. Besides all the trouble taken by your Holiness, whilst auditor of the Rota in order to start this Process, it is You who related the facts to Paul V. of glorious memory, thus inducing him to declare Philip among the Blessed, and to grant many favours, lately extended and increased by your Holiness, confiding them besides to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, so that the canonization might be proceeded with. We therefore pray You kindly to accept this little testimony of our deep devotion, hoping, through God our Lord, that You who began this work, will shortly bring it to the end, which we all desire. Prostrate before You, we humbly kiss Your most holy feet."

The book of Bacci was received with universal approval, as is attested by the numerous editions that appeared in various towns of Italy, in the short space of some twenty years; and it is to be noted that six of these impressions were revised by the author himself, adding something new, or correcting any trifling mistakes which might have escaped his notice, as he was always continuing to read and study the Processes. Don Gaetano Volpi page 43 of his Apologia quoted above shows in what esteem he held Bacci's work: "Such a life, written with so much simplicity, historical dignity and straightforwardness, was often praised and set as an excellent model and example to be followed by all writers of the Lives of the Saints, by the well-known Abate Domenico Lazzarini, formerly Professor of the University of Padua."

Bacci, not satisfied with all this, which however was much in honour of his Holy Father, brought out in Rome, in 1645, an abridged edition of this same Life in Latin, which, however, after his death in 1656 was not reprinted, but many more a little later on were published in the Italian and in other European languages. In addition to these translations, the epitome of the Life, written by F. Gallonio, was first made by a certain Valentino Lenchzio, and published at Mayence in 1603; a second one was published anonymously at Venice in 1611, and finally a third one, by Mgr. Agostino Barbosa in 1621.

The following authors wrote also summaries of St. Philip s life and works: Mgr. Andre de Saussay, Bishop of Toul, who having annotated the Pope's bull for the canonization of the Saint, added it to his little work, published under the title: Epitome Vitae S. Philippi Nerii cum Bulla ejus Canonizationis, notis didacticis, selectis observationibus illustrata. Don Giuseppe Ramirez of Valencia with immense labour composed his epitome entirely with words drawn from the Holy Scriptures, entitling it: Via lactea, seu Vita candidissimati. Philippi Nerii. Don Giovanni Marangoni entitled his work: Ristretto della Vita, ed opere del S. Philippo Neri in San Girolamo della Carita. Mgr. Pompeo Surnelli, Bishop of Biseglia, in his Specchio del Clero Secolare; the erudite Don Giuseppe Maria Brocchi, in his Vite de Santi e Beati Fiorentini; Giovanni Forti of the Congregation of the Oratory at Macerata, Niccolo Muchirelli, and others, about twenty at least, whose names I omit for the sake of brevity. I must, however, point out, that besides the above - named epitomes all written in prose, there are three in Italian verse, in the form of short poems, written, the one by Giovanni Jacopo Ricci, the other by F. Antonio Glielmo, of the Congregation of the Oratory of Naples, and the other by Ignazio Bussoni. The following authors wrote about the Saint's acts more or less diffusedly. F. Ludovicus Beltran Marco, of the Order of Preachers, wrote in Castilian, F. Antonio Vasquez, of the Clerks Minor, and a certain Miguel Antonio Francis de Urrotigoyti in Spanish; F. Herbertus Rosweyd, of the Society of Jesus, in Flemish; and F. Girolamo Bernabei, of the Congregation of the Oratory, in Latin; which latter life has been reproduced by the Bollandists on the 26th May after the one of F. Gallonio. The learned F. Daniel Papebroch, S.J., a continuator of the Bollandists, in his introductory commentary De S. Philippo Nerio says that, to the Life written by F. Gallonio, a disciple of the Saint, he wished to add a rather long supplement, drawn from the one written by F. Bacci, both in Italian and Latin, as well as from the Processes. But F. Leandro Colloredo, at that time a priest of the Congregation of the Oratory at Rome, and later a Cardinal of the Holy Church, sent him all these writings on the part of the above-named Congregation, together with a new Life of the Saint written in Latin by F. Girolamo Bernabei, of the Roman Oratory, founded on the Processes, in order that his work might be inserted in the Acta Sanctorum, being desirous of meeting the wishes of F. Papebroch, who was well known to him, and held by him in high esteem. It is a pleasure to me to repeat the very words of F. Papebroch on this subject which are to be found in Sect. 6 of the above-mentioned commentary: Talem ergo vitam (nempe a Bernabeo conscriptam) tantoque cum affectu praeparatam, et communicatam nobis, nefas duxi vel unico verbo truncare, sed totam huic operi inserendam putavi. Superfluum etiam censui, post ejus modi Scriptoris tarn accurati laborem, scrupulosius evolvere Processuum huc pariter missorum 
volumina: quid enim isthic a me sperarem inveniendum, quod ille non curaverit adnotare? The devotion to the Saint, becoming more and more intense, in 1670 a twelfth edition was published in Rome of the Italian Life of Bacci under the direction of F. Master Giacomo Ricci of the Order of Preachers, who spared no trouble to bring it to the highest degree of perfection, as is shown in the letter of dedication, to the Fathers of the Congregation of the Oratory, August 20, 1670: "I made bold to beg the Very Reverend F. Mariano Sozzini, who was at the time Superior, to be allowed to examine and read the Processes of the canonization, and the Congregation most graciously acceded to my request. I very diligently read and studied all I found there, and took advantage of certain details, besides those already published by the Rev. F. Giacomo Bacci in his Life, which are very copious and valuable on account of the spirit of God which pervades them, and which I here transmit to you," etc., enriching it, moreover, with brief Lives of some of the Saint's companions. But although it cannot be denied that he has too liberally laid hands on F. Bacci's work, correcting, changing, adding to, and, indeed, not always happily, his work not only reached the fourth edition, towards the end of the century in which it was published, but is still the most popular among devotees of St. Philip, notwithstanding two new and very detailed Lives written in Italian. One of these, by F. Marciano of the Oratory of Naples, published in 1693, and the other, by F. Sonzonio of the Oratory of Venice, which appeared there in 1727. The Life of St. Philip Neri, published by F. Marciano, which is drawn, as he says, from all those that wrote before him on this subject, forms the second book of the first volume of his Memorie Historiche della Congregazione dell' Oratorio. The Life written by F. Sonzonio was six years later 
followed by a second edition, published in Padua, with additions, and an Index and a Bibliography of over eighty works, from which he affirms all the materials for his work were taken.

The writers of the Life of St. Philip being therefore so numerous, I endeavoured from the beginning to study attentively which of them it would be best to follow, so as to offer you more promptly and accurately the result of my work. It might seem that F. Sonzonio's work, being the most recent, should be the best, but, in truth, the sources from which he derives the greatest part of it do not always appear reliable, facts are often repeated, and his style is so high-flown as to become wearisome. With regard to F. Marciano, the bad taste so prevalent in literature in his time is so evident that I speedily arrived at the conclusion to leave that part of the Memorie Historiche in the obscurity in which it has been lying ever since the first edition appeared. In the work of Bernabei none of the qualities required in history are wanting, that is to say, clearness, precision, and truth; but being written in Latin, I decided to leave it on one side, not wishing to offer you a translation but an original work in the vernacular, now and then making use of it. For the same reason I was not satisfied with the Lives written by Vasquez, Ludovicus Beltran, Rosweyd, and Urrotigoyti. I had therefore to choose between two Lives only, written in Italian, by Gallonio and Bacci. On comparing them, however, I soon found out that, whilst Gallonio writes with remarkable exactness, nevertheless, for two powerful reasons, his work was inferior to that of Bacci. The first is, that his method of writing the Life of the Saint under the form of annals would not have satisfied the very numerous readers who, while desirous of reading virtuous actions of the Saints, like to have them all gathered up together, framed, as it were, in a clear and finished picture, and not to have to pick them out here and there, as if in a picture roughly outlined. The other is, that as Gallonio wrote, as I have already stated, in 1600, many circumstances of great importance are not to be found in his Life, and have been only revealed in the Processes that took place later. As I therefore found in Bacci's work all that can satisfy the devotion of the reader, it appeared to me that this was the Life I sought, merely adding to it what has been discovered since 1646, the date of its original publication, up to our own time, so as to make it as far as is possible perfect in every sense. F. Master Giacomo Ricci, of the Order of Preachers, a very learned man, and devoted to the Saint, was also desirous of publishing as perfect a Life as possible, but I must own that whoever examines it impartially will soon perceive that his additions are often out of place or quite superfluous, being frequently repetitions of what is to be found in Bacci, for the most part written hurriedly, and hence not submitted to the critical spirit which should be an integral part of all such undertakings. Nevertheless, all devotees of St. Philip must feel grateful to him, as his work, though not faultless, has given rise to new studies and comparisons, as in my case, enabling me thus to otter you the present Life, which will be more exact, and bring into greater veneration the holy Father. I must also own my deep obligations to this writer, who has helped me to approach, although I never can hope to reach it, the perfection to be aimed at. You will therefore find in this work, besides the text of F. Bacci, the most notable illustrations and additions that are scattered in other authors, many other details most worthy of notice that I succeeded in extracting from authentic documents kept in the Florentine archives, and in those of Rome. In stating these facts I have endeavoured, without altering them, as Ricci has done at times, to preserve throughout the simplicity of diction in Bacci's Life in use at that epoch, and which to me appears adapted to a book of devotion of this kind. We have now, I think, said enough concerning this new edition of the Life of St. Philip. 

With regard to the Letters placed by me at the end of this Life, I should say that they were all published in 1737 in Florence by Doctor Anton Maria Biscioni in his Raccolta di Lettere di Santi e Beati Fiorentini; and I have been able myself, after much research, to add as many more, which I have transcribed from the authentic originals. It is certain that St. Philip wrote many more letters than those placed here, as is attested by the book itself of his Life, in which are found fragments of others, the originals of which will probably be discovered in the course of time. There were, in some of them, words either faded through time or impossible to be deciphered owing to the numerous erasures made by the Saint himself, which were replaced by the copyist with dots [. . . .]. I have not judged it right to endeavour to supply the missing words, as I wish you to be assured that all I offer is really the Saint's. You will, in reading them, remark a certain difference in style among them, but this must not lead you to suspect they do not all come from St. Philip. This difference arises from the fact that the Saint did not always write them with his own hand, at times dictating word by word, at others suggesting briefly to Gallonio or some one else what the contents of the letter should be. When written he used to read through the letter, making the necessary corrections, as can be ascertained in some authentic copies, but with regard to style, all he asked was that his sentiments should be well expressed.

Be therefore kind enough to accept the book I offer you, such as it is, and thus encourage me to publish the lives of the most illustrious sons of St. Philip, who flourished at all times in the Congregations of the Oratory. These lives, collected from many sources, I am now endeavouring to put together for the spiritual benefit of all. May it please God that the perusal of this book, devoutly undertaken and attentively continued, may bring forth in your mind the same admirable fruit which in former times the Life and Letters of the holy Father produced in such abundance.


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