A Year with the Saints – 24 April


If any house should be found where there was no monk who was troublesome and of a bad disposition, it would be well to look for one, and to pay him at a high rate for the great good that results from this evil when judiciously managed. – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

When Saint Philip Neri was living at San Girolamo, he had a great concourse of penitents. The sacristans of the church, annoyed by this, took a dislike to him, and did him all the ill-turns they could. Sometimes when he was going to say Mass, they locked the door in his face; or they would not give him the sacred vestments, or only cheap and torn ones, with many rude and insulting remarks.

Sometimes they took from his hands the missal and chalice, or hid them, or compelled him to take off his vestments when he already had them on. Again, they would make him leave one altar and go to another, or perhaps back to the sacristy – and all to irritate him and induce him to leave the place. But the holy man, without ever complaining of the bad treatment he received, or giving any sign of annoyance, went on concealing his feelings and praying for these men, treating them also with charity and respect, and doing them any services that he could. Though he was often urged by his friends to go and live elsewhere, he would not do it, “because,” said he, “I do not wish to fly from the cross which God sends me.” This lasted for some years. Finally, seeing that he accomplished nothing by his charity and humility and that his enemies, instead of being softened, rather increased in pertinacity, he had recourse to God for some relief; and one day in particular, fixing his eyes upon a crucifix, he said: “O my good Jesus! why dost Thou not hear me? For so long a time, and with so much earnestness, I have asked for patience; why hast Thou not listened to me?” Then he heard a voice in his heart, which said: “Dost you not ask Me for patience? I will give it to thee, but it is by this means that I wish thee to gain it.” Thence forward, he bore all with greater cheerfulness, and with the most perfect content, to such a degree that he no longer felt any of their injuries, but greatly desired them; and when he was ill-treated by these men or by others, he made no account of it and did not speak of it, nor allow it to be spoken of. If he ever heard any evil said of those who had offended him, he promptly excused them, praised them, and, if it was suitable, visited and protected them. On this account, he acquired such a liking for the place that for thirty years he would never leave it. He could not be induced to abandon his beloved place of suffering, even when he had built the new Oratory of the new church, and many of his sons had gone to live there. Though they tried to prove to him the suitableness and the obligation of living with them as he was their founder and head, all their entreaties and prayers were of no avail until, finally, the authority of the Pope was interposed to give them success.

MLA Citation