Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest

(Acts 15:7-21; John 15:9-11)

Although no one should describe Jesus as happy-go-lucky, the gospels do portray him as enjoying food and drink as well as conversations with people. Simply put, he was a person of a wide range of sympathies who could, in the words of St. Paul, “rejoice with those who rejoiced and weep with those who weep.” In today’s gospel we hear him promise his disciples that their joy will be complete. Today also the Church honors a saint who emulated Jesus’ sympathy.

Philip Neri became a missionary to, of all places, Rome, Italy. He arrived in the city around 1533 after it had been plundered by the German and Spanish armies. At the time the Church was controlled more by the leading families of the day than by men renowned for sanctity and prudence. Through personal holiness, study, and a penchant to engage people in conversation, Philip played a significant part in restoring the spirit of the city and proper order to the Church. He founded a unique congregation, the Oratorians, dedicated to giving space for spiritual guidance and discussion. He was famous for his sense of humor and looked for disciples who were patently happy.