Memorial of St. Philip Neri
1 Peter 1:18-25
Today, the Church recognizes the life and contributions of Saint Philip Neri. Not everyone is familiar with Philip Neri, but he is a special favorite of mine. First, he is the Patron Saint of Rome–one of my very favorite cities in the world. Secondly, he is a Patron Saint of pilgrims–at least for pilgrims to Rome.
During his lifetime, Philip Neri encouraged many individuals on their spiritual journeys and he set up "Oratories" to gather seekers and to provide them with spiritual direction, and opportunities for prayer and renewal. My favorite Philip Neri story is how he sought to counteract the temptations of Carnivale by gathering youth to set out on a pilgrimage to visit the Seven Churches of the city by foot. After walking many miles throughout the day, the young people were too tired by evening to indulge in the frivolity of Carnivale! But, he was not a complete kill-joy. Instead, he is also known to as the Patron Saint of joy and humor–qualities he exhibited in abundance. We can all use a Saint that makes us laugh! Appeal to St. Philip Neri if you need a smile or some lightness in your life.
Clearly, not all Catholics will have an opportunity to visit the Seven Churches of Rome in person. While a pilgrimage to Rome under the inspiration of St. Philip Neri may not be in your summer plans, it is possible to make a "virtual pilgrimage" by watching a wonderful video produced by Passionist Father Victor Hoagland entitled "Pilgrim Churches of Rome." (Order form @ crossplace.com/catalog-jan-2009.pdf) In an age of "staycations", we can still be active spiritual pilgrims–through reading, prayer, contemplative walks, and interesting audio visual aids. I highly recommend Fr. Victor’s production as an informative way to experience the richness of our Church history as told by this very insightful Passionists priest.
Finally, in the spirit of St. Philip Neri, consider organizing an "Oratory" of your own. Perhaps you might invite some friends and/or young people to gather in your home, retreat house or parish to talk about what they are experiencing on their spiritual journey. We have much to teach each other!
Pilgrim blessings to you and yours!!
Angela Howell is a retreatant and volunteer at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.