Wednesday, November 06, 2002

St. Philip Post- Part Six
St. Philip and Humor

Perhaps what Philip is best known for in many circles is his sense of humor. Yet few people seem to understand the motivations behind many of his eccentricities.
These were twofold, yet intertwined. One reason was connected with Philip's intense and profoundly mystical prayer life. This led to him having difficulties in keeping himself from going into an ecstatic state, in which he was unaware of anything around him, whenever he celebrated Mass, read Scripture or the lives of the Saints, or even looked at certain crucifixes or other works of sacred art. Philip found that contact with the mundane, particularly the humorous, could help him 'keep his feet on the ground', so to speak. This led to such things as his reading of a book of funny stories before he began to celebrate Mass, to take the most famous example. Even this
measure sometimes failed to keep him from losing touch with his surroundings, and eventually he received permission to celebrate Mass privately, which, some noted, tended to take him hours.
The second, and more important, reason was Philip's fear of pride, either the various forms of secular pride that were rampant in Renaissance Rome or the more insidious spiritual pride which can ruin the life of any Christian. Here, humor was his tool for keeping this deadly poison from infecting his life, and the lives of the many people whose lives he influenced. As his reputation for holiness of life spread, he took pains to make himself, not respected or revered, but a figure of fun, thus discouraging people who wanted to 'canonize' him while he was still alive. How could a priest known for sometimes showing up in church with his cloak inside out, or for occasionally wearing a cushion on his head through the streets, be a saint? Thus, he surrounded the deep mysticism and burning charity within his heart with an exterior which drew the humble, the simple, and those who could laugh at themselves, while tending to repel those who cherished pride in rank, dignity or external 'holiness'.

St. Philip Neri Quotes:
"He who desires ecstasies and visions does not know what he is desiring."
"Let the young man look after the flesh, and the old man after avarice, and we shall all be saints together."
"The fruit we ought to get from prayer is to do what is pleasing to the Lord."
"The true way to advance in holy virtues, is to persevere in a holy cheerfulness."


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