Today is the Memorial of St. Philip Neri, an Italian saint who lived from 1515-1595. At age 18, Philip Neri felt called to a life devoted to faith. While he first considered studying to be a priest, at that time he found himself called to life as a lay person, and devoted his life to engaging others in conversation, inviting folks into community, and serving those who were most vulnerable. At age 36, with his ministry flourishing and many young people joining him to devote their life to prayer and service, Philip Neri found himself discerning again how to best live his vocation to love and serve God. He decided that he could serve the most people through ordination, and he became a priest, in order to better serve the community he loved. Philip Neri considered becoming a missionary to India, but discerned that his most urgent call was to remain in Rome, bearing witness to God’s love in the midst of a Church that was in need of reform and revitalization. Philip Neri was known for his joyful sense of humor, and devoted life of prayer and service. His joyful faith inspired many others in Rome, including some of the early Jesuits like Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier. Philip Neri also celebrated the gifts and vocation of the laity in a time of entrenched clericalism, and offered many people ways to engage in prayer and service in the midst of their lives.
In today’s first reading Paul says that he has committed his life wholeheartedly to the ministry to “bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.” Jesus too, in our Gospel reading, looks back on his life and prays that he has accomplished the work that God gave him to do. Jesus, Paul, and Philip Neri remind us today that a life of constant discernment can lead to flourishing for us and for all the people in our circles of relationship. Each of us who have come to know Jesus have come to know the wonderful love of God. Like our role models in faith, we are called to discern how to respond. Let us consider what work God is entrusting to each of us, given our gifts, desires, and the world’s needs. May we be people of discernment, prayer, and service who respond wholeheartedly to God’s invitation, and bear witness to God’s love and grace in our lives with joy.
JoAnn Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy and Resident Minister