You know those spontaneous class clown type kids who always acted first and then asked questions later, either in the principal’s office, the school nurse’s office or even the emergency room? Well, Saint Philip Neri may well have been one of those kids had he not been meant for more saintly things in later life.
What do we mean? When he was about eight years old and sitting in a courtyard, he thought it would be a good idea to climb onto a donkey that was weighed down with a load of fruit.
What could happen? Right?
Apparently, the donkey wasn’t “all in” on little Phil’s decision. It got rattled and, within a moment, a rolling mass of donkey, fruit and boy was tumbling into a nearby cellar.
Philip’s parents heard the commotion and raced toward the scene expecting to find their son dead—which they didn’t. There wasn’t a scratch on him, apparently. Whether the same can be said of the donkey, we don’t know. Apparently, when Mr. Neri was heard saying, “The jackass survived,” he was not referring to the donkey.
An eye for fun and a flair for the unexpected would be a hallmark of Philip Neri’s personality throughout his life and his ministry in the church. Like the time he helped young people avoid the excesses and temptations of Carnival time with a twelve mile walking pilgrimage; by the time the group returned, everyone was to tired for Carnival.
Or the time one of the guy’s in Philip’s orbit was judged to serious by the future saint; he was made to sing the Misère at a wedding breakfast (he also went on to become a cardinal).
Or the time a guy requested to wear a hair shirt, only to be told by Philip that he could, but only if he wore it OUTSIDE his clothes; he got an extra lesson in humility from having people point him out and give him grief about it.
Philip wasn’t above having a laugh at his own expense, either. It’s said he would sometimes wear bizarre clothes, just because or go around with half of his beard shaved off. Apparently he also made sure that some admiring visitors saw him having a priest read to him for a book of jokes. Not taking oneself too seriously was quite the hallmark of St. Philip’s philosophy.
Looking at St. Philip’s life, we’ve decided that it was a very good thing he lived in the 1500s. If he were around today, he may very well be spending way too much time commenting on Eye of the Tiber, cruising around on catholicmemes.com, and…hmmm, catholicmemes.com.
BREAK TIME! No, wait. Better excuse! We had a recent vision of St. Philip Neri in which he pointed us toward five of his favorite Catholic memes:
Okay. So we made up the whole vision thing, but we bet St. Philip would have loved those memes.
Our personally favorite thing about St. Philip Neri was the fact that he found a place for humor in serving the Kingdom of God. In a sense, he paved the way for people like Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Father Benedict Groeschel and the one and only Mother Angelica—evangelists who never shied away from a chance to make their “evangelees” laugh…people who have done a lot of good for the Lord with a chuckle or two.
St. Philip Neri, pray for us. And tell the one about the hair shirt guy again!
(Special thanks to catholic.org and catholicmemes.com)
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