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Quotes from the Apostle of Joy, St. Philip Neri, on his feast day

St. Philp Neri in art
St. Philp Neri in art
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The feast day of St. Philip Neri is celebrated on May 26. He is known as the Apostle of Joy because of his cheerful nature. St. Philip was born in Florence, Italy in 1515. After having a conversion experience when he was 18, his life changed radically. He went to Rome with no plan, totally trusting in God's guidance.

St. Philip Neri
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For two years, he was a tutor for small boys. Eventually he took courses in philosophy and theology at the Sapienza and at St. Augustine's Monastery. After three years he quite suddenly sold his books and began a mission to the people of Rome. He engaged in conversations with people on the street corners, often asking, "Well brothers, when shall we begin to do good?" He served the sick in the hospitals and prayed for them in the churches. His favorite place of prayer was at the Catacomb of St. Sebastian.

St. Philip had a special devotion to the third person in the Trinity. He prayed daily to the Holy Spirit. At night he was called to solitude and prayer. Ten years after beginning his ministry, with the help of his confessor, Father Rossa, a confraternity of laymen began meeting to pray together. He encouraged the devotion of the Forty Hours. Father Rossa finally convinced him that he should become a priest. He was ordained in 1551. The Congregation of the Priests of the Oratory was founded several years later by St. Philip. They had simple rules. They shared a common table and performed spiritual exercises together. They were not bound by any vows.

St. Philip died from a hemorrhage on the Feast of Corpus Christi after hearing confessions.

Many of the following short sayings of St. Philip Neri are still remembered today.

Do not grieve over temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temptation as an invitation to grow in a particular virtue and promise God that you will be successful, if only you stand fast.

Let us strive for purity of heart for the Holy Spirt dwells in candid and simple minds.

Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you.

There is no purgatory in this world. Nothing but heaven or hell.

Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.

Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always be in good spirits.

Watch me, O Lord, this day, for abandoned to myself, I shall surely betray thee.

My children, if you desire perseverance, be devout to our Blessed Lady.

It is an old custom with the servants of God always to have some little prayers ready, and to be darting them up to heaven frequently during the day lifting our minds to God out of the filth of this world. He who adopts this plan will get great fruit with little pains.

We are not saints yet, but we too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment as the all-wise God sees us.

Never say "What great things the Saints do", but "What great things God does in His Saints." Cast yourself in the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.

Believe me, there is no more powerful means to obtain God's grace than to employ the intercessions of the Holy Virgin.

The true way to advance in holy virtues is to persevere in a holy cheerfulness.

The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy.

Excessive sadness seldom springs from any other source than pride.

If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a crucifix, and think that Christ shed His Blood for him, and not only forgave his enemies, but prayed the Eternal Father forgive them also.

The fruit we ought to get from prayer is to do what is pleasing to the Lord.

He who runs away from one cross, will meet a bigger one on his road.

The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last.

The devil, who is a most haughty spirit, is never more completely mastered than by humility of heart and a simple clear undisguised manifestation of our sins and temptations to our confessor. Christ died for sinners; we must take heart therefore, and hope that paradise will be ours provided only we repent of our sins, and do good.

He who continues in anger, strife, and a bitter spirit, has a taste of hell.

Humility is the true guardian of chastity.

If you wish to go to extremes, let it be in sweetness, patience, humility and charity.