St. Philip Neri is one of the best examples of someone who was seriously holy, but also extremely down-to-earth. His whole life “sparked joy” (thanks Marie Kondo!) and inspired people to be holy.
Good Little Phil
St. Philip Neri was born in Florence in 1515 and was always known as a cheerful kid. He was affectionately known as “good little Phil” (so cute!). As a young man, he had a vision and an encounter with God that changed his whole life. He moved to Rome and served as a tutor, while also spending much time in prayer and practicing fasting.
Soon after, he felt a call to the priesthood and began studying theology, but was so concerned with the faith of the Roman Christians (or lack thereof), that he gave up the thought of ordination and instead focused all of his energy on helping the poor and reviving the faith of the Romans. St. Philip had an extremely winsome personality and his charismatic presence brought out the best in people! He made friends and converts easily because of his great sense of humor (he was even friends with St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Charles Borromeo!)
A few years later he founded a society for laypeople to grow in their faith and to serve the poor together called the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. Awhile after that, he was finally ordained a priest and he founded the first Oratory, which was a community of people and priests, where encouragement, fellowship, and spiritual growth together were paramount (fun fact: this oratory and St. Philip Neri’s life, in general, inspired and encouraged the life and mission of St. John Bosco, who then founded his own oratories and raised up another saint, St. Dominic Savio; talk about a chain reaction!)
Like many of the best Priest-Saints, St. Philip spent hours in the confessional, reconciling people to God. St. Philip worked tirelessly to make the faith accessible to people by sharing it in every day conversations and listening, but refusing to influence them to become religious, take vows, and denounce property. He was always working to help reform the church, but do it with charity, joyfulness, and gentleness (he truly knew how to ‘win friends and influence people’).
St. Philip became friend and adviser to many high-ranking people, kings, and popes, but also to the poor while in Rome. He became a force in the counter-reformation, along with St. Teresa of Avila, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis Xavier, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Francis de Sales (can you say, best Avengers team ever??!). Many called him the “Third Apostle of Rome” and he is buried at the Chiesa Nuova in Rome.
You can read more about St. Philip Neri’s joyful and winsome personality, life, and witness here. You can also check out an episode highlight from Bishop Baron’s Word from Rome at St. Philip’s Oratory here.
Why a fox?
St. Philip Neri is frequently picture with a fox. The fox symbolizes his winsome and cunning personality, that captured almost everyone he met. He helped re-evangelize Rome and won over all different types of people, from the poor to kings and popes.
Who would be friends with St. Philip Neri?
- Citizens of Rome
- Naturally joyful people
- Converts from Protestantism
- US Special Forces (he is their patron!)
- People in RCIA
- Catholic celebrities (he had a lot of connections!)
Keep St. Philip Neri’s joyful spirit in mind every day by wearing his medal. Visit his page on our website here.