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Good little Phil

by davesandel on May 26th, 2021

Wednesday, May 26, 2021                 (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

Good little Phil

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant. The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Always it is this way, the men and women who move mountains on the earth during their lifetimes are the servants of all. And if I don’t move a mountain, at least I can shine a brightish servant beam into the lives of the folks I live with.

This is easier to say than it is to do. I think of yesterday’s acronym CHOICE: choose compassion, humor, optimism, intuition, curiosity and self-Expression. I also know how important it is for me recite prayers when I’m hurt and angry, to be able to rely on the Jesus Prayer or the Lord’s Prayer or the Rosary or the Divine Chaplet to catch me up and hold me while my emotions slip down a notch before they finally fade away.

Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

I’ve always wanted things to go my way. I’ve always had things go my way, at least enough of the time to expect it the rest of the time. And then the tables turn, and I feel hurt and angry. God looks at me and says, Look at me. This is a moment for you to look up at me, and not inside at your ego. Turn this thing around. Look up.

Come to our aid, O God of the universe. Give new signs and work new wonders. Fill your temple with your glory.

As a child, they called St. Philip Neri “good little Phil.” He was known for his happy obedience. Jasper reminds me of that. He’s nearly two. He impresses everyone with his happy obedience. “Good little Jasper.”

When he was 18, good little Phil experienced a mystical vision and Christian conversion. Instead of becoming a businessman he tutored kids in Rome, prayed a lot and spent time in solitude. He ate small meals of bread, water and a few vegetables.

After tutoring he studied for the priesthood, but time after time he left his desk to spend hours on the streets of Rome talking with strangers. Just talking. He asked the men and women who were interested in what he had to say, “Well, when shall we begin to do good?”

May your compassion quickly come to us, Lord, for we are brought very low.

Good little Phil’s story fascinates me. He seemed to share God’s love for him with everyone he met. Eventually he became a priest and focused his work on poor lay people, hearing their confessions with a sense of gentleness and friendship. As others noticed his servant heart, though, he became an advisor to popes, kings and cardinals.

He died, as the Bible might say, at the good old age of 80. His life story reads the way God intends for us to live, grow old, and die. Everybody dies, but not everybody lives a life of happy obedience.

Of course I want our grandkids Jack, Aly, Miles and Jasper to get on the “good little Phil” track, to hear what Jesus means when he calls us to be servants forever. And I hope the examples their parents and grandparents set for them make it easier to find that way for themselves.

Perhaps they will have a moment or two of mystic revelation, as Father Phil did. “On the Eve of Pentecost 1544, Philip saw what appeared to be a globe of fire. It is said the fire entered his mouth, and he was filled with such paroxysms that he screamed, ‘Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more.’”

Whether or not that happens, like us our grandkids are called to be servants. Jesus shows us how, every one of us.

(Sirach 36, Psalm 79, Mark 10)


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