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St. Philip Neri

Philip Neri was born in Florence on July 22, 1515; his family was considered nobility, but they were not wealthy. Philip was a devout, yet lively boy. At age eight, he gave his parents a fright by jumping on the back of a donkey, which promptly ran away and fell down the cellar stairs; his mother and father hurried to him, fearing the worst, but he was unhurt. Philip received an excellent education and at sixteen he went to help a relative who was in business near Monte Cassino. From here, Philip traveled on to Rome. In Rome he devoted himself to prayer and charity, taking care of the sick in the hospitals. A considerable following of devout laymen formed around him; this was the beginning of the Oratory, which would eventually be a society of priests. During this time, Philip experienced a vision which left him filled with the love of God; so great was his joy that his rapidly pounding heart expanded and broke two of his ribs. Miraculously this caused Philip no pain, but until the end of his life, his heart would pound when ever he was overwhelmed with spiritual joy. Philip continued his life in Rome as a layman for seventeen years, until his confessor convinced him that the priesthood was his calling. As a priest, Philip heard confessions for hours every day and the door of his private room was always open to men and boys in need of spiritual guidance. While saying Mass, Philip would be caught up in ecstasy for several hours. Although he wanted to be a missionary to India, the advice of a monk convinced him that his mission was in Rome. His influence continued to spread through all levels of society. He was widely known for his spiritual counsel, gentleness, and sense of humor; he had the gift of healing and many miraculous cures were granted through his intercession. In 1575, his congregation of priests was officially recognized as the Congregation of the Oratory. He stepped down as head of his congregation in 1593 and died on May 25, 1595, after predicting the hour of his death. During an autopsy, doctors discovered his enlarged heart and the rib which had broke to make room for it. He was canonized 1622. His feast is May 26.

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