May - St Philip Neri
There is a rhyme that says ‘April showers turn into May flowers.’ May is a gentle month, known as Mary’s month. Mary, who was meek and humble of heart. So, it’s time for a gentle and meek saint. St Philip Neri.
St Philip Neri was born in Florence, Italy in 1515. As a child he was nicknamed ‘Good Little Phil’ and this is what he was. He was always happy and cheerful, making friends with everyone he met.
Philip began life with a very worldly outlook, he wanted money and lots of it. As a young man he went to stay with a rich uncle, hoping to win the uncle’s heart so that he would leave him all his money and possessions in his will. Slowly Philip gained his uncles affection and trust, but Philip begun to really love his uncle. He realised that love is worth much more than money and had such a great conversion that he left his uncle out of fear that his uncle would indeed give him the money and fortune he had always sought.
He travelled to Rome and begun teaching some rich young children their ABC’s and 123’s. It was while he was in this job that one day he came across a small boy, he was dirty and dusty and seemed to be very hungry, but the most interesting thing about this small child was that he seemed interested in learning what Philip was teaching the other children. Philip followed the little boy and discovered that this little boy was homeless he was sleeping on the streets. Philip decided then and there that he would change this.
So as well and teaching the rich children he turned his attention to teaching the street children and providing them with hot meals to aid them in their learning. Philip knew that he had to do something to get them off the streets. So he rented an oratory where the children could sleep, eat, work and play as they wished. This didn’t make Philip very popular with the noble families of Rome nor with the church. Philip would teach and care for all the children, he made no distinction between them, rich or poor they were all cared for as children of God.
After Philip was ordained a priest he ministered to the people who lived on the streets, hearing their confessions and in the name of Jesus forgiving them their sins. Philip became such a holy man that he did strange and wonderful things without meaning to and Jesus healed many people through the touch of Philip’s hands.
When in prayer he would often be called upon to leave the chapel to tend to those in need. He would say ‘we must leave Christ, for Christ.’ He knew in leaving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament he would find Jesus in the people.
Philip founded the Oratorians, they are priests and lay brothers living, working and studying together in community.
They teach others about the life of a Christian and how to live a holy life dedicated to Jesus. Philip was known for his joy and wit and said ‘a joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.’ He was personable and was easy to talk to, he never spoke down to others. The people of the streets felt understood by this saint.
On the 25th of May 1595 he went to heaven blessing his spiritual sons of the Oratory with the sign of the cross.
St Philip Neri is the patron saint of laughter, humour and joy.
St Philip, you saw the need of those around you and you ministered to them with joy. Help us to do all that we are asked to do with the same joy.