May 26, 2008

The Saint of Buffonery, Fun, and Practical Jokes

Today is the feast of St. Philip Neri. I read a comic book on his life (possibly in the old Treasure Chest comics of the 1940's and 1950's) when I was in grade school. I won't ever forget there was a drawn picture of the saint with half his face shaved and the other half with a beard. In the story, St. Philip Neri explains to the party that he is adopting the new style of the day.

A short excerpt from a biography shows St. Philip Neri must be the patron saint of comedians and practical jokesters--but with the purpose of destroying pride and growing the virtues of patience and humility.
His extravagant behavior cannot be passed over without some explanation. Why, for example, when certain Polish noblemen came to visit him at the Vallicella, seeking edification, did he have read aloud the most ridiculous passages from pastor Arlotto saying that it was his spiritual reading? Why, when invited to the house of one of his penitents, a rich Roman lady who had invited him to meet her worldly relatives, did he arrive with half his beard shaved off? Why, when some scholarly Bishop, little given to jesting, attended his Mass, did he commit every possible error in pronunciation? Why did he sometimes wear a red jersey or a fur coat over his cassock? Why did he walk through the streets carrying a bouquet of flowers in his hand, or perform a burlesque dance before an audience of Cardinals chanting comic verses which he made up as he went along?
I think St. Philip Neri made himself a laughing stock to hide both his brilliance and holiness--and also perhaps to bring an understanding of our childishness to even the highest people. After reading the above paragraph, he apparently still may confuse some people. Frankly, I think this particular saint would be great company!

1 comment:

Nandarani33 said...

I agree.