Monday, August 25, 2014

St. Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri was born in Florence in 1515. He received an education from Dominican friars. He first worked for his uncle, but then followed the call to be a missionary. Although he was called to mission work, he did not know where he should go. He reportedly asked the pope if he should go to the West Indies or the East Indies. The pope replied, “Rome is your Indies.” Philip stayed in Rome, calling for people to have real encounters with Christ and live out their faith. He became known as the Apostle of Rome. 

On the eve of Pentecost in 1544, he was praying when a ball of fire appeared before him, entered through his mouth. He felt it settle in his heart. His heart remained swollen, and he experienced palpitations when under the influence of spiritual emotion. Because of this experience, he is sometimes depicted with a ball of fire.

In 1548, Philip founded a confraternity to minister to pilgrims and the sick in Rome. A few years later, he became a priest. In 1556, he founded the Oratory, which housed lectures, readings, prayers, hymns, and religious discussions. Part of the Oratory’s goal was to give young people a wholesome alternative to night life. At Carnival, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches to keep the young too busy and too tired to be tempted by the partying. 

What I like best about Philip’s story is that he felt called but didn’t know where to go or what to do. I feel like that sometimes—I want to make a difference, but I get stalled on the where and how. I also like that he witnessed in a Christian area. I imagine that it is difficult to mission to Christians because the nominally religious think they already know the faith so it can be harder to teach them the depth and beauty. A stay-at-home missionary has its own dangers and challenges.  

Philip died on May 25, 1595, the Feast of Corpus Christi that year. He is the patron of Rome (no small feat for Roman Catholic saints).

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