Dear Friends,
Last week we remembered the Ascension, the day our Lord returned to Heaven but not before promising to send the Holy Spirit. And today on Pen-tecost we remember when the Apostles and Mary received the Holy Spirit as in tongues of fire. Now Saturday of this week is the Feast day of St. Philip Neri, he’s one of my favorites. For the collect of that Mass we will pray about the Holy Spirit as a holy fire. We will pray, “O God … gra-ciously grant that the Holy Spirit may kindle in us that fire which he wonderfully filled the heart of St. Philip Neri.”
Now some have called St. Philip Neri, Mr. Happy go Lucky. He had a great sense of humor, sometimes shaving off half of his beard. Or making some design in the stubble of his beard. He was eccentric but at the very same time he was also very holy and humble. He was a priest who lived in Rome during the 16th century. And the beginning of that century marked a very low point in our Church’s history. There was corruption, priests were not celebrating Mass or the sacraments, and people didn’t pray, or even know their faith. But Philip Neri helped to change that, through his joyous and holy example, he brought many back to the faith. And for that he’s been called the Second Apostle of Rome. St. Paul being the first.
There are many stories about St. Phil Neri. A certain bishop once visited Philip Neri for dinner. This Bishop was not the best example of Christian charity. And to help serve the meal Philip used the assistance of a monkey; however, the monkey was dressed to look just like the Bishop. The monkey wore a tiny miter on his head and carried a tiny crosier. I’m not sure the Bishop got the message. Philip’s penances given in the confes-sional were sometimes creative. Once a prideful young man came to him to confess, for penance the young man was made to carry a tiny dog wear-ing a big pink bow. The young man had to carry this dog all around Rome for a month. This is not something a young man would do at that time. It would have been a very humbling experience. Because of his joyful holiness many were attracted to St. Philip Neri. His room would always be filled with visitors seeking his advice, his prayers, and the sacraments, the sacrament of reconciliation especially. He brought people closer and closer to our Lord.
St. Philip Neri arranged spiritual talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents. He was also known for his pilgrimages. He would organize day long pilgrimages where he and his band of followers would visit the seven Basilicas of Rome where they would pray in each one of them. And in between the visits to the churches there would be parades, music, picnics and lots of laughter. Now because of his exuberant joy he became suspect, so he was investigated, the higher ups wondered “Why is this man so happy?” But nothing sinful was ever found, he exhibited true Christian joy, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Some of Philip’s followers became priests and they came to live together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded, and still operating today. Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He’s one of the most influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself.
As I said before, the collect, the opening prayer, for the Feast day of Philip Neri, speaks of the Holy Spirit. That prayer will ask God the Father in his love to kindle in us the fire of the Holy Spirit who so filled the heart of Philip Neri. This prayer refers to Philip’s personal Pentecost. As a young man Philip would walk to the catacombs every night and pray to the Holy Spirit. One night he felt a violent inrush of the Spirit and with this inrush he felt a tremendous heat and his heart began to beat wildly. From that time forward (for more than fifty years) any time Philip became lost in deep prayer his heart would beat wildly and loudly. So loud that those close to him could hear it. At his death they found that his heart was twice the size of a normal heart pushing two of his ribs outward. His enlarged heart, however, never affected his health.
Many times when we try to explain the Holy Spirit the words heat and fire are used as an explanation of the Spirit’s power. With the Holy Spirit St. Philip Neri felt a tremendous heat. In Luke’s gospel Jesus says, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kin-dled!” (Luke 12:49). Few words in the English language get our attention like “fire.” (People follow fire engines) If not stopped, fire will devour everything in its path. It’s relentless, the more it consumes, the more unstoppable it becomes. Fire breeds fire. It cannot be satisfied. As long as there is fuel and the conditions are right it will continue to burn. And this is the image that Jesus chooses to convey the nature of his love for us. “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and would that is were already kindled.”
Now in the Old Testament Moses too spoke of this fire. Some of Moses’ final words to the Israelites were these: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God!” (Deut 4:24). Jealous because God will not be content until we find our rest and satisfaction only in Him. Con-suming because he removes all that is sinful and unworthy in us. At Pentecost this divine fire touched the disciples. At baptism and confirmation this same fire touches us. And this fire of the Holy Spirit, like all fires, needs to be sustained. If it is to burn it needs to be sustained and it is the Eucharist that feeds this flame within our heart and soul. The Eucharist is the most perfect way to sustain the fire of the Holy Spirit. There are other ways, but the Eucharist is the most perfect.
For St. Philip Neri it was the Eucharist that was his joy. Sometime the Masses he celebrated would take up to four hours to complete. After the consecration he’d just stand there lost in thought at the great mystery before him on the altar. His altar boys learned to take a break at this point, they’d leave for a two hour coffee break, putting a “do not disturb” note on the chapel door. They’d come back after two hours to help finish the Mass. And at night he’d spend hours in prayer before the Tabernacle. The Blessed Sacrament fed the flame of the Holy Spirit within his heart. And the proof is his life where we see all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and joy, most especially joy.
Everything available to the saints and those first disciples at Pentecost is available to us. The Eucharist adored outside of Mass and received worthily at Mass will keep the flame of the Holy Spirit burning hot and bright within our Heart and Soul. Catholics should be the most joyful and spirit filled Christians around.
“O God … graciously grant that the Holy Spirit may kindle in us that fire which wonderfully filled the heart of St. Philip Neri.”
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley

The Eighth Annual St. Jerome’s Council of
Catholic Women Purse Bingo will be held on
Saturday, May 19th. Doors will open at 5:30
p.m. The cost is $12.00 per person and includes
homemade desserts, 20 games for purses valued
over 50-100 dollars. The cover all purse is
worth over $300! 50/50 tickets will be sold.
Contact Pat Smith for more information at: 269-317-8514.

Dear Friends,
As a seminarian I regularly visited a couple of nursing homes, I visited Saint Patrick’s Manor and I
visited the Lutheran Netherland home. It was at this second place, the Lutheran Netherland Home, that I visited a woman by the name of Firminia, and she was neither Dutch nor Lutheran. She was a Portuguese Catholic and she was 105 years old. Firminia was born in Portugal where there wasn’t much opportunity, so after marrying she and her husband immigrated to the USA. They landed in Boston and began to live the American dream. This was back in the 1920s.
Firminia and her husband quickly added four children to their family. Their son Johnnie came of age at the time of World War II. And Johnnie, like many of the young men of his generation, felt it was his patriotic duty to enlist into the army. And he did. His mom did not want him to go, however. She had already left Europe. And she had left for good. She didn’t want her son going there. Once overseas Johnnie experienced the terrors of war and in battle, he was lost very quickly. He was killed by enemy fire within a very short time of setting foot on the continent of Europe.
As you can imagine Firminia was heartsick for her dead son. He was gone, taken from her at such a young age. Firminia would never see him marry and never see him have children of his own. There wouldn’t be any grandchildren from her son Johnnie. And then about a month or so after his death a letter from an insurance company arrived in Firminia’s mailbox. It contained a check; and the letter accompanying the check stated that she was the recipient of her son’s insurance policy. Before going overseas to Europe, on an impulse Johnnie had taken out an insurance policy in case he should die. On this insurance policy he named his mother, Firminia, as the beneficiary. She was surprised. She hadn’t expected this and it brought about another wave of sorrow and she started crying. She didn’t know that more checks were to follow. Every month year after year Firminia received a check from this insurance com-pany. She received these checks every month for 64 years. Until she died she received a monthly check and whenever a check would come, if someone was present she would say, “My son Johnnie still takes care of me. Even though he’s been gone all these years he still takes care of me, I still feel his presence.” Her sorrow had been replaced by joy.
Jesus promised not to leave us alone. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” He promised to send us the advocate, to send us the Spirit of Truth. “He will remain with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans.” He promised to continue to take care of us and to be present with and within us. Leading us to truth, strengthening us and giving us the courage to say yes to God’s will. From the catechism we have this; Jesus came to us to give us the Spirit, and by the Spirit we come to share God’s life. This is the Catholic understanding of grace: it is a sharing in divine life. “As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.”
At the seminary before every class one of my teachers, Fr. Moriarty, would begin each class with the short prayer, “Come Holy Spirit!” Whether he said it for himself or for us, I’m not sure. But it’s a good prayer to always have on our lips and in our minds. It’s a good prayer to begin each day. Praying it in those difficult moments when we are in need of heavenly aid, when we are in need of the right words and the right actions in our home, our place of work, or school.
Saint Hilary a fourth century bishop and Doctor of the Church once wrote this about the Holy Spirit (It’s so good); “We receive the Spirit of truth, he wrote, so that we can know the things of God. He then used the example of our eyes, ours ears, and our nose in order to explain the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s relationship to our soul. The eye does not work without light, the ear does not work without sound, and the nose does not work without a scent to smell. Our organs of sense need light, and sound, and odor in order to work properly. And it’s the same with the human soul. Unless the soul absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind won’t have the ability to know God it would lack the grace necessary for that knowledge.
This unique gift which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone. It is everywhere available, but it’s given to each person in proportion to his or her readiness to receive it. The more we desire the more we receive.
Firminia received a monthly gift from her son. This gift supported her and gave her comfort and security. How much more and in a more real way does the gift of the Holy Spirit support us giving us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Never neglect the gift of the Holy Spirit, let these words always be on our lips, “Come Holy Spirit Come!”
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley