St. Philip Neri

Friends in Christ, today is the feast of St. Philip Neri.
Born in 1515, Philip was impulsive from the time he was a boy. But early on, he discovered the love of prayer. He often said, ‘Night was made for prayer.’  After dark he would go sometimes to churches, but most often to the catacombs of St. Sebastian, to pray.  
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Once he had an experience of God, and this inspired him to work at the hospital to help the most incurable people.
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Philip knew how weak all of us are, and so every morning he said this prayer: ‘Lord, beware of Philip, today he might betray you.’
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He studied to be a priest and was ordained at age 36. When he offered Mass, he would sometimes be lost in spiritual ecstasy. When his servers saw this, they knew it would be a while, so they would put out the candles, take a two hour break, and then returned to re-light the candles.  
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Young men often went to Philip to confession, but he realized that they needed more guidance in their daily lives. In the afternoons, he gathered them to discuss spiritual readings, and then stay for prayer in the evening. As this group grew, it eventually became the Congregation of the Oratory, known as the Oratorians.  
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Philip Neri was known to be unpredictable and humorous. He used many approaches to bring people to God.  One man came to the Oratory just to make fun of it. But Philip was patient with him, and eventually the man became a Domincan priest.
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On the other hand, when he once met a condemned criminal who refused to repent, he did not try gentle words. He grabbed the man by the collar and threw him to the ground. The criminal was so shocked that a priest would do that, that he repented on the spot.  
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But to Philip, humility was the most important virtue. He tried to teach others not to take themselves so seriously, because that is pride.  Some of his lessons were outlandish:  when a priest was very proud of his sermon, he ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so that people would think he had only one sermon – a lesson in humility.  
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One priest wanted to speak at their meetings about the subjects of hell and damnation. Philip commanded him instead, to speak of church history, which he did for 27 years and even wrote a book on history.
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To remain humble, Philip himself, would often wear ridiculous clothes or walk around with half his beard shaved off. When some people traveled from Poland to see this famous holy man Philip, to keep them from praising him, they found him wearing some giant shoes, a tiny hat, and reading a book of jokes.  
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St. Philip often said, I don’t want any sad people around my house. He could not stand two-faced people, and as for liars, he could not endure them for one moment.  
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St. Philip Neri teaches us two things: how essential prayer is in our life, and that we should be very natural and not take ourselves too seriously.

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