Skip to main content

Saint Phillip Neri and Joyful Piety

saint-phillip-neri-and-joyful-piety

“Try to laugh a lot, because life is funny, and everybody today is too serious. The only tragedy in the world my friend is sin.”~ Mother Angelica

Today our Church celebrates a beloved figure and a personal favorite of mine, Saint Phillip Neri. Known among other things as the Patron Saint of joy and humor, last year on his Feast Day I opined that perhaps humor was the 8th Gift of the Holy Spirit https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Humor-the-8th-Gift-of-the-Holy-Spirit.

The great actress Audrey Hepburn would often say “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.” The great actress Audrey Hepburn would often say “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.” Bob Hope, a man who was remarkably generous in sharing his rapier wit and comedic prowess with the soldiers and sailors stationed overseas, said “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.” Milton Berle called laughter “an instant vacation.”

Regardless, Saint Phillip Neri certainly does away with the false premise that one who possess a jovial and effervescent personality cannot pursue a life of holiness and sanctity. In fact his life invites us to revisit our preconceived notions pertaining to piety. In Matthew 10:22, Jesus warns his followers that “You will be hated by all because of My name.” But perhaps we need to reflect honestly on the source of our detractors‘ hatred relative to Jesus and our evangelical approach. Are we hated not because of Jesus but instead because of the joyless and ultimately ineffective way that we tell others about him?

Joyless Catholics are one of Satan’s greatest instruments. They bring no one to Christ. They spread confusion because their demeanor, disposition and actions run counter to the Gospel Message. They are, by and large, exhausting to be around. A joyless Catholic is, quite frankly, a contradiction. Saint Phillip Neri’s approach to sanctity was truly Catholic. He was all-embracing and always wanted his followers to become not less but more human through their striving for holiness. Occasionally he would couple this pursuit of holiness with a good laugh.

That Saint Phillip Neri’s Feast Day would be celebrated during the Easter Season could not be more appropriate. The prevailing central theme of Eastertide is joy. Through Christ's victory over sin and death, we have been brought into the divine life. Our response to this indescribable gift can only be joy.

The prolific poet e.e. cummings once said that “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” The world cannot offer lasting comfort. But Jesus offers us the consolation of the Resurrection, the consolation that lasts forever. So as we complete our journey home to God’s Kingdom, remember to be joyful and to laugh a litttle bit along the way. For as sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we should not squander a single opportunity to joyfully proclaim the Resurrected Jesus.

Scroll to Continue

I leave you with a quote from Saint Phillip Neri, a recommendation if you will, one which he believed would greatly enhance one’s prayer life while allowing one to focus on the supernatural, that which is lasting and ever so poignant with regard to our eternal salvation. He said “The best preparation for prayer is to read the lives of the Saints. Not from mere curiosity, but quietly and with recollection a little bit at a time and to pause whenever you feel your heart touched with devotion.” Do so with a cheerful and pleasant disposition, filled with renewed hope and confidence in Jesus’ words as he insures us that “No one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22).

For joy is a gift from God, meant to be shared and spread lavishly everywhere we go.

Saint Phillip Neri, pray for us.

Saint Phillip Neri (1515-1595)

Saint Phillip Neri (1515-1595)

Related Articles