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The Catholic Defender: Saint Philip Neri’s Story

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, The Lord has always raised great faithful saints despite the background of each time. Living today, people can identify with corruption among clergy.

Matthew 13: 24-30 Jesus gives this parable:

He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.

When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.

Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Growing up with a modest foundation Philip Neri had great potential for the business world, but that was not where his passion would take him. He developed a great interest in learning more about Jesus and the Catholic faith. Instead of the businessman he had been groomed to become, He found himself moving to Rome devoting his life in the pursuit of God. He then tried philosophy which didn't satisfy his yearning to know God more. Even his study of theology did not led him anywhere. He maximized his time in prayer and became active as a layperson. His apostolate would be driven to reach out as a missionary. Seeing the problems of his time, he strove to be a problem solver, not to be part of the problem.

At an early age, Philip abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence, and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate.

Matthew 13: 36-43 Jesus gives His explanation of the Parable of the Weeds.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,

the field is the world,* the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one,

and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,* and the harvesters are angels.

Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom* all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.

They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

St. Philip Neri was one of those guys who could speak with anyone who would listen. In the aftermath of the Great Council of Trent, like all important matters facing the Church, the winds were blowing throughout causing much confusion. Having friends joining him from beggars to cardinals. St. Philip Neri would become one of the Lord's great seed planters. He was a great leader that many would follow to the ends of the earth. I've had some of those kind of leaders myself, I try to be like that myself. St. Philip Neri was a great organizer forming prayer groups that would discuss how to help the Church reach the poor.

It wasn't long before his talent and passion would be seen. Several of his friends would themselves become priests forming a community.

St. Philip Neri had a good sense of humor which often flowed well with the seriousness of the discussions. He loved music,

Finally, at the urging of his parish priest, St. Philip Neri was ordained a Catholic priest. People came from miles around to go to Confession having St. Philip Neri give his unique council.

St. Philip Neri would become instrumental bringing back many to the Catholic Faith. The Counter-Reformation saw him for real, his personal holiness was seen by all. What a great example he gave at the time when it seemed the bad seed was winning the day.

After spending a day hearing confessions and receiving visitors, Philip Neri suffered a hemorrhage and died on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1595. He was beatified in 1615 and canonized in 1622. Three centuries later, Cardinal John Henry Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory in London.


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