Friday, May 26, 2017

St. Philip Neri's Feast Day or "Did Laughing At Yourself Help At All?"

I have always been attracted to this saint without too much of a specific reason other than I knew that he loved to laugh. Then I read a bit more about him and saw that was reason enough. Joy and gaiety were so much a part of his normal disposition that Goethe, who esteemed him highly, called him the "humorous saint." It was his gay, blithe spirit that opened for him the hearts of children. "Philip Neri, learned and wise, by sharing the pranks of children himself became a child again" (epitaph). (from Catholic Culture.)

So it is no wonder that he appeals to me.

One of the stories that attracted me to him is this one from Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. This is one of those classic saint tales that remind us no one is perfect ... so there is hope for each of us.
It is absolutely pointless to ask God for something which we ourselves are not prepared to do. If we say "O God, make me free from this or that temptation" while at the same time seeking every possible way of falling to just such a temptation, hoping now that God is in control, that He will get us out of it, then we do not stand much chance. God gives us strength but we must use it. When, in our prayers, we ask God to give us strength to do something in His Name, we are not asking Him to do it instead of us because we are too feeble to be willing to do it for ourselves.

The lives of the saints are enlightening in this respect, and in the life of St. Philip Neri just such an occasion is described. He was an irascible man who quarreled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on. Whether it was virtue or whether he could no longer endure his brothers his Vita does not tell us. The fact is that he ran to the chapel, fell down before a statue of Christ and begged Him to free him of his anger. He then walked out full of hope. The first person he met was one of the brothers who had never aroused the slightest anger in him, but for the first time in his life this brother was offensive and unpleasant to him. So Philip burst out with anger and went on, full of rage, to meet another of his brothers, who had always been a source of consolation and happiness to him. Yet even this man answered him gruffly. So Philip ran back to the chapel, cast himself before the statue of Christ and said "O Lord have I not asked you to free me from this anger?" And the Lord answered "Yes, Philip, and for this reason I am multiplying the occasions for you to learn."
We need to remember to laugh. And then to ask ourselves, "did laughing at yourself help at all?"

It almost always does. A sense of the ridiculous, especially one's own ridiculousness, is extremely helpful in regaining perspective.

And, back to the humor factor, we all know that The Curt Jester is all over the holy humor thing. I proffer this little gem from his fertile imagination.

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