St. Philip Neri
Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise.
At an early age, he 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.
As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome.
At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way.
Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services.
The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.)
Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.
Many people wrongly feel that such an attractive and jocular personality as Philip’s cannot be combined with an intense spirituality. Philip’s life melts our rigid, narrow views of piety. His approach to sanctity was truly catholic, all-embracing and accompanied by a good laugh. Philip always wanted his followers to become not less but more human through their striving for holiness.
Philip Neri prayed, "Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow."
Also, in the Latin Calendar there is commemorated today Pope S. Eleutherius, Martyr. A story about this commemoration can be found by Clicking Here.
Pope St. Eleutherius was a Greek, son of Habundius, born in Nicopolis, part of what is now Greece, some time after 100 AD. His name means "frank, honest, free-spirited". Whether that is his real name or a description of the man is unknown. Eleutherius was Bishop of Rome from about 175 to May 24, 189 AD. It is said that he was martyred at that time.
Eleutherius, according to Hegesippus, the first Christian writer, was a deacon under Pope St. Anicetus and he stayed on after the death of that pope (c. 166). He succeeded Pope St. Soter and was influential during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius (d. 180) and his son Commadus (d. 192). Marcus Aurelius was fairly tolerant of Christians, although he was a pagan. But there were a number of prefects who took matters into their own hands and had local persecutions.
The biggest problem Eleutherius had to face was the continuing problem of the Montanists, also known as the "New Prophecy" and the Marcionists. These were groups of people who described themselves as Christians but tended to claim that the Holy Spirit was directing them to do and say things not adopted by the orthodox church. In many ways, they were similar to the Pentacostalists of today. However, with their fasting and ascetic ways, it was difficult to piece together whether they were actually heretical or not. The most embarrassing activities they held were their large public displays of ecstactic prophesying.
In 177, Eleutherius received a letter from the Church at Lyon, France, asking him to consider carefully the Marcionists, to show mercy but to not compromise in his dealing. The letter was delivered by the deacon, Ireneus, who shortly became the bishop of Lyon. It appears that either Eleutherius or his successor, Victor, actually wrote letters of support for this group, but recalled the letters based on further information.
An example of their displays is thus: "'And he [Montanus] became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.' The Montanist prophets did not speak as messengers of God but were described as possessed by God while being unable to resist. A prophetic utterance by Montanus described this possessed state: 'Lo, the man is as a lyre, and I fly over him as a pick. The man sleepeth, while I watch.'"
Due to the hesitancy on the part of the Roman Church, Tertullian came out in favor of the New Prophecy in 205, yet never converted. Meanwhile, many of the bishops in Asia Minor, where the heresy began, were totally against the sect early on. They had synods and wrote letters, disclaiming the followers. Eventually, the followers of Montanus claimed that he, himself was the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, sent from Jesus to guide and direct the Church. That was the beginning of the end for this heresy.
Some references say he was martyred, others that he died a natural death. In either case, Pope Eleutherius was buried on Vatican Hill after his death, near other popes. They were moved to the Church of Saint Susanna in 1591, at the request of Camilla Peretti, sister of Pope Sixtus V.
St. Eleutherius, pray for us.
Oh My God:
The Creator of all creation is totally perfect and holy. Taking His name in vain does not make God any less holy, but it does make His name less holy in the eyes of the world.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
I urge you, therefore, not to be entirely disheartened in the face of the cross...heaven bestows on you...