Today is the feast day of St. Philip Neri. St. Philip was an evangelist, some call him a “re-evangelist,” who lived in Rome in the 1500’s during a time that the Church is not terribly proud to recall. The Church was in need of some urgent housecleaning. The humans-and-God partnership that is the Church had slid toward the human side. We all know what happens when we put humans in charge of spiritual leadership. The 16th Century was a time of scandal, intrigue and generally a very poor time for the Church, particularly the Church in Rome.
And then Philip came bouncing along. He was born up the road in Florence but followed God’s calling to Rome where he founded the Congregation of the Oratorians, a hospital and a confraternity of laypersons. Philip attracted people by his wit. He once shaved half his beard as an act of humility. He would wander around Rome engaging people in conversation that led to spiritual conversions for many. His openness, cheerfulness, and self-deprecating sense of humor drew people to him, and from him to God.
A web site dedicated to St. Philip quotes him saying, “The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy.”
I’m not suggesting that you shave half your head (but feel free to do so if the spirit moves you in that direction) but be lighthearted today. Remember St. Philip Neri and remember that there are so many things worrying people today the sight of a smile is like an oasis in the desert. God’s children need to be smiled at now and then. Be lights of the world, but be lighthearted lights.