Imagine being known for being the most humorous saint to ever live. St. Philip Neri currently holds this title. Born in Florence, Italy in 1515, Philip was a boy known for his cheerfulness and spontaneity. Once, with little thought, he jumped on a donkey’s back at a market. His actions startled the donkey and both of them crashed into a cellar with the boy beneath the donkey, scattered fruits about. Young Philip, however, was left unharmed. His father wasn’t financially well off so Philip went off to work under a businessman who was his cousin. During his time working, he discovered a fissure of a mountain and went there frequently for hours on end, praying and turning the place into a chapel. It was there, after many hours of prayer, that he decided to abandon his chase for success in the business world and devote his life entirely to God.
He went off into Rome and studied philosophy and theology until he felt that his studies interrupted his prayer time. At that notion, he left his studied and began to live as a hermit. Although praying constantly, it was at night that he would venture out into the streets, churches, and catacombs of St. Sebastiano for prayer. During one night of prayer, he experienced a sphere of light entering his mouth and descending to his heart. This event moved him and filled him with so much energy that he began working at the hospital of the incurables and began evangelizing to many different people.
Soon later, alongside other laymen, he formed a confraternity whose mission was to minister to poor pilgrims who came to Rome with no food or place to stay. After much persuasion from the confraternity’s spiritual director, Philip was ordained at the age of 36.
His priestly ministry consisted of a great love for the sacrament of reconciliation and humility. He established what later would be called the Congregation of the Oratory, a now pontifical society of priests and lay-brothers in community bound together by the bond of charity. He organized pilgrimages and made himself available to everyone whenever needed.
He died at the age of 80 years old and his feast day is May 26th. He is the patron saint of Rome, U.S. Special Forces, humor and joy.
Prayer through the intercession of St. Philip Neri:
St. Philip Neri, we take ourselves far too seriously most of the time. Help us to add humor to our perspective – remembering always that humor is a gift from God. Amen.
Information and photo from St. Philip Neri Catholic Parish and Catholic World Report