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A breath of fresh air

That would describe St. Philip Neri, the patron saint of joy, whose feast day this is. There are "better" paintings than this one of Philip, but he looks a bit daft in most of them. Here he looks friendly and fun.


I love St. Philip for several reasons. We belong to a parish of the Oratory, which he founded during the Renaissance as a spiritual haven of fellowship, prayer, learning and laughter. (Ours in 21st-century Brooklyn is all that, I am blessed to report.) Because I have suffered from depression, I treasure Philip's connection to joy. (His heart was said to radiate loving warmth, so that he is often depicted with collar open--making him also an unlikely but apt patron of the menopausal.)

But my friendship with Philip was cemented a year ago, when I visited Rome and the church he founded there, the Chiesa Nuova. I described my pilgrimage here last year; I realize now that I will revisit those hours all my life. Here is the altar and chalice Philip used at Mass; in later life he would go into ecstasies and even levitate, it was said. (Our parish has music beautiful enough for levitation, although too often my mind is on my to-do list and my worries.)


Philip chose trust in God over worrying. Reportedly, he would hang out on the church roof, looking over the rooftops of Rome. Penitents besieged him, however, since his wisdom and compassion as a confessor were legendary.  Once, when a depressed young man asked his advice, he bolted out into the streets, saying, "Run with me!" The simple genius of that...I love to picture them both, sweating and laughing, blocks away or down by the Tiber, the sad young man shaken out of his melancholy by the old priest with (as Chesterton said in defining sanity) tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.

To celebrate Philip's day, I think I will go take a walk. Maybe try a bit of a run!

Actual signature of St. Philip Neri

(With thanks to my fine cousin Joanne for reminding me of St. Philip's day today!)

Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 06:27PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | CommentsPost a Comment

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