Philip Neri is known as the patron saint of mirth and joy. What a way to be remembered! When he walked into a room, a ray of Christ’s light came with Him. People felt at ease when he was there, and were able to be fully themselves. His joy and goodness was so contagious it caused even rowdy children or hateful people to become joyful and gentle in his midst. But he wasn’t a clown, he lived a transformative life. He was known for breaking through pretenses and asking simple gentle questions that changed peoples lives. He could let anyone to see the good in their lives.
He was also incredibly devout and a mystic. One day before Pentecost, he begged God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He repeatedly asked God for each of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to fill his heart to the brim. He saw a fire of divine love descend from above and enter his heart. The fire burned without any pain and caused a love of such intensity that he fell to the ground in ecstasy, saying, "Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more.” When he became fully conscious again, he found his heart nearly swelling out of his chest and beating very powerfully.
Four effects of this experience remained with him for life. He experienced excessive heat from within his chest for the rest of his life. Many of his friends said being with him was like sitting next to a fire. He experienced trembling. So much sometimes the whole room shook while he prayed. He also experienced healing from the love of Christ being within him. People who visited him with illness or anxiety would place their hands on his heart and be healed. After Philip died, the doctors of the autopsy said his rib cage had arched physically outwards to contain his heart. He also experienced swelling of his body- especially when others were praying for gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts literally swelled up within him.
God desires to do radical things within our hearts. He desires to place his divine love within us. Maybe we won’t shake a room from receiving this kind of love, but we are invited to be fully us. How is God calling you to be joyful today? How is he calling you to receive His divine love within you?
More about Philip Neri...
"Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy: the whole post-Renaissance malaise.
At an early age, Philip abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence, and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate.
As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially, they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome.
At the urging of his confessor, Philip was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor himself, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions, and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way.
Some of Philip’s followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns!
Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.
After spending a day hearing confessions and receiving visitors, Philip Neri suffered a hemorrhage and died on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1595. He was beatified in 1615 and canonized in 1622. Three centuries later, Cardinal John Henry Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory in London.
Many people wrongly feel that such an attractive and jocular personality as Philip’s cannot be combined with an intense spirituality. Philip’s life melts our rigid, narrow views of piety. His approach to sanctity was truly catholic, all-embracing, and accompanied by a good laugh. Philip always wanted his followers to become not less but more human through their striving for holiness." Take from Franciscan Media