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A Heart with Room: Weekly Message for 05-26-2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Neri, who had a very special relationship with God that included an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit, like the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we’ll be celebrating in a few days on Pentecost Sunday. St. Philip Neri is a great example of magnanimity of heart. What is magnanimity of heart? Having a heart with room for others. Magnanimity starts but putting yourself whole-heartedly into whatever you do.
At eighteen St. Philip was sent to San Germano to live with a childless relative who would teach him his trade and make Philip his heir. Philip would often pray at a little Benedictine mountain chapel, and while there experienced what he described as a “conversion.” He left for Rome without money or a plan and settled in the attic of a customs official who gave him room and board in exchange for tutoring his children. After a couple of years of tutoring and praying he resolved to live for God and finished degrees in philosophy and theology before concluding his tutoring to dedicate himself to the people of Rome. As a layman he just started going out into the streets, meeting people, seeing where they were at spiritually, engaging them in conversation, and trying, little by little, to lead them to a life in union with God.
I had the grace of saying Mass once in the catacombs of St. Sebastian at the altar of a small, roughhewn chapel where St. Philip Neri used to pray. He was praying there on the eve of Pentecost of 1544 when a globe of fire appeared and entered his mouth, then he felt his heart dilate and had such an overwhelming experience of the love of God that he collapsed, saying, “Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more!” He discovered swelling over his heart afterward that never subsided and caused him no pain. Upon his death, doctors discovered that his heart had physically dilated, and two of his ribs had broken to make room. After this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he had heart palpitations whenever he did anything spiritual.
He helped found a confraternity that took care of pilgrims and the sick, and eventually founded the Oratorians. His friends started urging him to become a priest, and he was ordained in 1551, at the age of thirty-six. His care for others then extended to the confessional, where he counseled and helped many souls. He also had a sense of humor combined with a knack for proscribing penances that hit people right in their pride. When a pious young man asked him about wearing a hair shirt (a penitential practice where the shirt would be worn underneath your clothing, causing constant itching), St. Philip approved, but on the condition that the shirt be worn on the outside. The young man became known around Rome as “Berto of the hair shirt.”
The secret of St. Philip Neri’s love for souls was the love he had for Our Lord. He promoted the Forty Hours devotion of Eucharistic Adoration, and when Holy Communion was brought to him on his death bed, he said, “Behold my Love, my Love! He comes, the only delight of my soul. Give me my Love quickly.” As he prepared to receive the Eucharist he said, “I was never worthy to be fed with thy body; nor have I ever done any good at all.” He lived his life for God to the end.
A heart that makes room for God soon makes room for others. St. Philip Neri may have done so from a young age, but it is never too late to start making room for God and others. He helped many souls to start living for God, and his example and intercession will help us do it too. The Holy Spirit, as St. Paul taught us, pours the love of God into our hearts (see Romans 5:5) so that it spurs us to love others too out of love for Our Lord.
May the Holy Spirit pour the love of God into your heart this Pentecost and give you a heart with plenty of room for the Lord and for others.