Saint Phillip Neri: Patron of Joy

The patron saint of joy, Saint Philip Neri, has been called the merriest man on the face of the earth.  How did he find joy even in difficult situations or suffering? “There is a kind of sober joy that is radiating within a person even at a difficult time; the Lord consoles us with his presence even in [suffering]. But [we have] a sense of joy that Jesus has won a victory and that victory is secure. We have to do our part to live our faith, but rejoice in the Lord,” said Fr. Michael McGovern, pastor of the Church of Saint Mary in Lake Forest, Illinois.

“He was born 500 years ago in 1515. At the age of thirty-five he became a priest and lived in the diocese of Rome. In fact, he is referred to as the Apostle to Rome … he is well known for his faith, his fidelity, his spirituality and especially the way he truly embodied joy, joy in the Lord, and that he was able to share that joy with other people,” says Fr. McGovern.

“Even with the crosses that are out there, we can persevere and the Resurrection is meant to be shared with us. Philip said in one of his quotes, ‘men are generally the carpenters of their own crosses.’ He talked about how sometimes people try to make a cross for themselves out of something that didn’t have to become a cross.”

Father McGovern talked about a retreat he attended that inspired him in living for joy each day.  “When you get all caught up in all these appointments, ask yourself, ‘am I keeping my appointment with life?’ These are all good works to do but sometimes we lose our sense of the whole life itself that God has given you and we’re checking off the list of things to do, but don’t miss the fact that this is life itself. And I think sometimes people…want to postpone [joy], thinking, well after I retire I’ll have time to relax and be joyful, or after the last child is out of college I’ll be able to relax and be happy, but don’t miss the moments of joy along the way. And that’s an important lesson we sometimes learn the hard way—we don’t want to miss the moment that God is introducing joy into our life [today]!”