Holy Wit


One of my favorites has his feast today: Philip Neri. A model of simplicity, joy, engagement with the culture and the transforming power of the arts. JP the Great paid lovely tribute to him on his 4th centenary back in 1994.
St Philip, together with cultivating piety in its traditional and new expressions, undertook to reform and elevate art, restoring it to the service of God and the Church. Convinced as he was that beauty leads to goodness, he brought all that had an artistic stamp within the realm of his educational project. And he himself became a patron of various artistic forms, promoting sound initiatives that led to truth and goodness.
The contribution made by St Philip to sacred music was incisive and exemplary; he urged it to be elevated from a source of foolish amusement to being a re-creation for the spirit. It was due to his initiative that musicians and composers began a reform that was to reach its highest peak in Pierluigi da Palestrina [whose Confessor Neri was-ed].
Nevertheless he knew that solemnity needn't conflict with good cheer and was at home with a good joke book and the saying, "scruples and melancholy, away from my door."Phyllis McGinley offers this homage to him in her Love Letters:
When Philip Neri walked abroad
Beside the Tiber, praising God
They say he was attended home
By half the younger set of Rome.
Knight, novice, scholar, boisterous boy,
They followed after him with joy,
To nurse his poor and break his bread,
And hear the funny things he said.
For Philip Neri (by his birth
A Florentine) believed in mirth,
And held that virtue took no harm
That went with laughter arm-in-arm.
Two books he read with most affection-
The Gospels and a joke collection;
And sang hosannas set to fiddles,
And fed the sick on soup and riddles.
So when the grave rebuke the merry,
Let them remember Philip Neri
(Fifteen-fifteen to ninety-five),
Who was the merriest man alive,
Then dying at eighty or a bit
Became a Saint by holy wit.
Update: An excellent homily for St. Philip's feast. On his main page, scroll down for several posts with excellent pictures from the Birmingham oratory.