Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest
We celebrate the Memorial of St. Philip Neri, who was born in 1515 in Florence, Italy. Known for his cheerfulness and joy, St. Philip was not afraid to challenge men and women and call them to holiness.
One famous story communicates his way of offering rebuke and urging others to conversion: On one occasion, when a woman confessed to him her love of gossip and spreading slander and scandal and asked him how she could cure herself of the habit, Philip replied: “Go to the nearest market-place, buy a chicken just killed, and pluck its feathers all the way as you come back to me.” Greatly astonished, she did what he asked, and returned to him with the plucked chicken. “Now go back,” he said, “and bring me all the feathers you have scattered.” “But I cannot,” she replied, “that is impossible. I cast the feathers carelessly and the wind carried them away. How can I recover them?” He answered: “You cannot. And that is exactly like your words of scandal. They have been carried about in every direction. You cannot recall them. Go and slander no more.”
These words are fitting for a time in our society where gossip, hatred, and passing judgment on other people’s actions or beliefs seem particularly widespread. People are divided on politics and religion, and they easily make space for outrage while closing the door on actual fruitful dialogue. A friend of mine recently said to me: “I feel like God is calling me to be the voice of reason in our world today—to show patience and compassion toward others, and not overreact to everything, being yet another voice in an endless stream of shouting and negativity.”
Many things distress us, and a tense argument and fuel for the passion of anger seem to be a few words or one disagreement away at all times. Where is our peace of heart? Why do we give it away so easily? Practicing peace of heart and living in the presence of God allows us to listen to the voice of the Lord and commune with the One who loves us.
While James and John were rather bold and forward for asking to sit at the Lord’s right and left in the Kingdom of heaven, the resulting outrage from the other disciples could have caused irreparable damage. The disciples were effective in preaching not only because of their openness to the Spirit but also because of their unity and love for one another. Perhaps, we can work to restore the love that is so quickly replaced by hatred when we find disagreement with other people.
Reflection Question: Where is God calling you to use your words to praise and bless? Where do you fall short in your speech?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB