Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Today's Memorial: St. Philip Neri

Today's saint, St. Philip Neri, is known for his cheerfulness. He was no clown and, in fact, he clearly stated that "It is very necessary to be cheerful, but we must not on that account give in to a buffooning spirit." St. Philip understood that cheerfulness is a powerful magnet that draws others to our Lord. St. Paul advises us that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7) -- and so does everyone else.

St. Philip also realized that cheerfulness strengthens and uplifts the heart and soul -- those of others as well as our own. We learn from Proverbs that the cheerful heart has a continual feast (15:15) and a cheerful glance brings joy to the heart (15:30). If we're always brooding over or complaining about our trials and tribulations, the unfairness and vicissitudes of life, the weather or our ailments or the sorry state of affairs today in our government/country/church/world (did I leave anything out?), we'll have nothing to feast on or to share except our own misery, anger and bitterness. And God won't be too happy with us, either, for, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book Life Together that “God cannot endure that unfestive, mirthless attitude of ours in which we eat our bread in sorrow with pretentious, busy, haste, or even with shame.”

A scowl puts down, but a smile lifts up. The choice is mine. And cheerfulness is a choice, I believe, rather than a matter of having a happy-go-lucky personality or getting things to go my way or achieving the impossible dream. In choosing to be cheerful, I choose to believe in Jesus Christ and His word to me, that gracious Word of His that has the power to build me up (Acts 20:32). That Word which assures me that "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33) and "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10) and "These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn 15:11). St. Philip Neri was known to spend many long hours with our Lord in prayer, as did all the saints. It was there that he discovered over and over again that the joy of the Lord was his strength (Neh 8:10), and so will I.

As always, the Web is full of good articles about today's saint. For starters, have a look-see at Catholic Online, EWTN, American Catholic, Secular Oratory, Catholic Culture, and Roman Miscellany. Best of all is the online book translated by Fr. Frederick William Faber, the British hymn writer and theologian, called The Maxims and Sayings of St. Philip Neri. One of the surest ways of getting to know the saints is by reading and reflecting upon their own words, and here we find a succulent morsel from St. Philip Neri for each day of the year. Let the feast begin! And may our hearts be merry!
Dear St. Philip Neri, with you may I be of good cheer and rejoice in the Lord always. And help me, please, not to take myself too seriously! Amen! Alleluia!

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