Saint Philip Neri

26th May

The Apostle of Rome. The Humorous Saint. This is how Saint Philip Neri is often referred to!

He was not born in Rome but he spent most of his life in Rome. He was born in Florence in 1515. He was brought up in a well-educated  Catholic middle-class family. As a boy he had a happy disposition, sometimes getting into some innocent scrape. When he was eighteen years old, his father sent him to an uncle in San Germano, to help out in the family business, hoping to be able to partake of the family wealth. However Philip had some form of spiritual conversion that led him to renounce all ambitions for wealth and property to continue with his life in serving Jesus Christ.

Philip set out for Rome, where for two years he was a home tutor for the sons of a Florentine family. He started to study for the priesthood but after three years he gave it up. At the time the inhabitants of Rome were no longer leading a Christian life. Philip set out to bring others to God, and in so doing became known as ‘The Apostle of Rome.’ He looked out for the destitute in the gutters and alleys of Rome, for the sick in hospitals bringing them food and gifts. He also led them back to the Faith in a singular way. He was always joyful and humorous, sharing a joke and laughter, building up their morale. Young people followed him attracted by his natural warmth, his cordiality and his love of God. From enjoyable discussions, fun, music and song, he would lead them to prayer and to Jesus Christ! He soon became a popular personality as he continued to evangelize wherever people gathered, with his holiness shining through his jovial attitudes. Away from the public eye he spent nights in prayer, even eating frugally. Eventually Philip continued with his studies for the priesthood and he was ordained priest when he continued with his mission mainly through the confessional.

It is believed that one night during deep meditation he had a mystical experience that affected his heart physically rendering his “heart inflamed with the love of God.” A physical transformation of his heart and his ribs was found out by doctors when his body was examined after his death. Saint Philip Neri founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of secular priests and laymen, who although not bound by vows, lived in a community, living up to the small sign Philip had put up: ‘ The House of Christian Mirth.’

The mission of St. Philip Neri is summed up in the statement ‘The Christian life is one of Joy.’ Over 400 years later, Pope Francis passed this message in his Apostolic Exhortation (a Church Document) The Joy of the Gospel, a message encouraging people to live the message of the Gospel with Joy, passing on the message to others saying that ‘the best way to evangelize is to smile!’
As parents and guardians, we can begin to instil the first ’seeds’ of evangelization in our children in a very simple way.

Lead them to acknowledge that Philip was able to transmit the Joy of the Gospel with a joyful smile, because of his immense love for Jesus and his conviction of His love for us. He wanted to spread this love to others.

  • discuss with them when and how they can make somebody else happy
  • with family members, with friends
  • by doing a kind deed, by giving an encouraging smile, a pat on the back, a squeeze of the hand, a mobile message (for the older ones) passing on the message ‘Jesus loves you.’

Consider cutting out a heart-shaped symbol, colour it, decorate it. Write on it ‘ I LOVE JESUS. JESUS LOVES ME AND YOU’ The outstanding characteristic of St.Philip Neri was his sense of humour. Pope Francis said that a sense of humour ‘ is a human attribute, but it’s the closest to God’s grace.’

  • A sense of humour is a quality that can be developed. When children are encouraged to share humour, they will be able to handle hurdles of childhood and to develop emotionally and socially.
  • Laugh with your children! Point out the difference between ‘laughing at somebody’ and ‘laughing with somebody.’
  • Give the message, when opportunities arise, that when we make a mistake, we need to laugh at ourselves and move on. Let’s not make big issues over little mishaps.
  • Let us put a smile on their face every day! Share jokes, silly stories, funny games, play charades! 

For Family Prayer Time You may consider a special time with soft background music and lead the children to express their thoughts starting with:
Thank you Jesus for loving me even when ______ I love you Jesus ______. I am happy Jesus, because today I made ______ happy.

Sing: I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy (Down in my heart)

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.