Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saint of the day: Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri was born in Florence, Italy, in 1515. As a child, his nickname was "Good little Phil." He was always so jolly and friendly that everyone he met loved him. Philip went to Rome as a teenager, studied theology and philosophy for three years and was a good student. Above all, Philip was a very active Christian who lived simply and worked hard. But he also did much good for the people around him. He helped poor children and donated his time to the sick. He was a friend to people who were troubled and lonely. In fact, Philip reached out to everybody he could for the love of Jesus.

Philip helped start an organization of lay people to take care of needy pilgrims. That ministry gradually continued as a famous Roman hospital. The priest who guided him realized that Philip was doing so much to help the Christians of Rome become fervent again. But it became obvious when Philip was thirty-six that he had the call to be a priest. It was then that he began his most wonderful ministry for others. He started to hear confessions. He was available for the sacrament of Reconciliation for several hours every day. The lines of people who came to him grew longer. But Father Philip was never in a hurry. He never ran out of patience and gentleness.

People began to notice that he could read their minds at times. He could, in some circumstances, foretell the future. The Lord even worked miracles through him. But all Philip wanted to do was bring Jesus to the people. To avoid their admiration, he acted silly once in a while. He wanted people to laugh and forget that they thought he was holy.

St. Philip was making a difference, though. Because of him, the whole city of Rome was becoming better. Once he started to think about being a missionary to far-off lands. He was very impressed by the life of St. Francis Xavier, who had died in 1552 at the gate of China. Philip had just been one year a priest at the time of St. Xavier's death. Should he leave Rome and volunteer for the missions? A holy Cistercian monk told him "Rome is to be your mission land." After that, Father Philip was at peace.

St. Philip spent the last five years of his life offering the sacrament of Reconciliation to the people. He died at the age of eighty in 1595. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.

How can we become more cheerful and generous? Isn't that what we all really want to be?

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