Monday, November 11, 2002

St. Philip Post- Part Eleven
The Last Years

By the time he was an elderly man, Philip's reputation for sanctity had spread far and wide, despite the opposition he had faced at times and his endeavoring to keep his sanctity hidden by his sense of humor. High-ranking officials in the Vatican continued to go to the famous priest for Confession or advice. Attempts were made to give Philip various posts, from important canonries to a cardinal's hat, but he refused all of them. Philip had never had much interest in grand schemes or church politics. For him, day-to-day ministry was what was most important. Even in his last years, when he was often ill, he could still be seen walking the streets of Rome, encouraging people to holiness in their daily lives.

May 25, 1595, the Feast of Corpus Christi, seemed to be a typical day for the now aged priest, filled with many confessions, Mass, and many, many visitors. Several people who visited actually commented on how well Philip looked; yet he made several remarks that indicated that he would die very soon. In the early hours of the morning, May 26, 1595, Philip Neri, who had turned hundreds of people in all walks of life to God, went to his reward, surrounded by the community he loved.

After his death, Philip was laid out in his priestly vestments in the Chiesa Nuova. The funeral filled the church to overflowing, as a huge crowd, many of them people Philip had helped in various ways, tried to get in. The flowers around the body disappeared as people took them as relics. They were replaced, but soon the replacementswere gone as well. That evening, an autopsy was performed on Philip's body. The doctors found that the ribs over his heart had been bent back, as if they had been broken. This seems to have been fortunate, in that Philip's heart was found to be far larger than the norm, with the arteries from it about twice the normal size. The heart was so large that the doctors determined that if the ribs had been in place, Philip's heart would have been damaged when it beat against them.

The next day, Philip's body once again lay in the Chiesa Nuova. The church was filled with constant streams of people all day. In the evening, Philip was to have beenburied in a simple wooden coffin in the crypt of the Chiesa Nuova. However, many people, including several cardinals, objected to this, expecting a quick canonization. The coffin was instead placed over the first arch in the nave of the church. A special chapel was built for it to the left of the high altar, and this is where Philip's body has rested until this day.

St. Philip Neri Quotes:
"We must not be behind the time for doing good, for death will not be behind his time."
"In visiting the dying, we should not say many words to them, but rather help them by praying for them."
"We must die at last."
"Human language cannot express the beauty of a soul which dies in a state of grace."


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