Today, May 26th, is the feast day of St Philip Neri. This is the day that we thank God for the blessings he gave Philip during his earthly life, reflect on Philip’s holy life, and ask him to pray for us.
St Philip was born in the early 16th Century in Italy and, by all account, grew up as a pious and loving young boy. When he reached manhood he travelled to Rome and spent a number of years working as a tutor, while also ministering to many of the poor in the city. He was eventually ordained and garnered a reputation as a holy, joyous and unique priest. Two of his major ministries were caring for the impoverished throughout Rome and forming young men in the faith. This latter ministry eventually grew into his order, the Oratorians. Philip – regarded by many as a saint even during his life – died in 1595 and was declared a saint less than 30 years later.
I first encountered St Philip in 2010. In fact, he inspired my first serious thoughts about priesthood. I was at the Catholic Discipleship College and his feast day rolled around. Even though St Philip’s feast isn’t a major one in NZ, our priest decided to preach about his life and ministry in our Mass that day. I was captured; I felt some strange affinity to this man from the 16th Century, and was desperate to know more about him. So I asked our priest if he had any more info on St Philip and I was given an article: St Philip Neri and the Priesthood (which I was blessed enough to find online after losing my copy).
I’ve returned to that article a number of times since I answered the call of God to enter the Seminary. And each time, it fills me with the same… excitement I felt the first time I heard about St Philip. I encourage you to read it, because it’s not just for priests – it shows a joyous Gospel life, and a way to communicate the joy of Christ to others. Here’s a small quote:
An authentic Christian humanism, the humanism of the Gospel, was the foundation of Philip’s ministry of personal relationships. He understood that God effected conversions through the priest’s personal influence as friend, teacher, confessor, father and spiritual guide.
Let’s pray that our priests (and seminarians!) may be given the strength from God to be loving and holy friends, confessors, fathers and spiritual guides. Or rather, let us pray that they will recognise the great love God has for them and desire to share this through authentic relationships.