Chapter 1. Philip's love and devotion towards God.
Chapter 2. Of Philip's devotion to Our Blessed Lady, and to holy relics.
Chapter 3. Philip communicates devotion to those who converse with him.
Chapter 4. Of Philip's gift of tears.
Chapter 5. Of prayer.
Chapter 6. Of Philip's charity concerning the salvation of souls.
Chapter 7. Philip's wonderful way of keeping young people from vice.
Chapter 8. Of the great care which Philip took of his penitents when they were ill.
Chapter 9. Philip frees many from different temptations and troubles.
Chapter 10. Philip's special gift of delivering persons from melancholy and scruples.
Chapter 11. Of Philip's alms.
Chapter 12. Of his compassion, and the tenderness of his heart.
Chapter 13. Of Philip's virginal purity.
Chapter 14. Of Philip's abstinence.
Chapter 15. Of Philip's detachment from worldly goods.
Chapter 16. How far removed Philip was from any kind of ambition.
Chapter 17. Of Philip's humility.
Chapter 18. Of Philip's mortification of himself.
Chapter 19. Of the mortifications with which Philip exercised his spiritual children.
Chapter 20. Of Philip's patience.
Chapter 21. Of Philip's perseverance and firmness in well-doing.
Hitherto we have related Philip’s actions, and the holy life which he led, as well when he was a layman as after he became a priest; we now come to speak of his virtues in particular, so that men may have a livelier picture of him before them. I shall begin, therefore, with that virtue which is the root and foundation of all the others, viz. charity and the love of God, which in his case was so excessive, that the interior flame appeared even in his body; so that sometimes, in saying office, or after mass, or in any other spiritual action, as it were, sparks of fire were seen to break out from his eyes and from his face. This interior flame was such that it sometimes made him faint, or forced him to throw himself on his bed, and remain there a whole day without any other sickness than that of divine love. Sometimes, even when he was in company with others, he was, as it were, surprised by this flame, and would unadvisedly break out into the words of the apostle, “I desire;” but immediately recollecting himself he would, to conceal his devotion, suppress the rest of the sentence, “to be dissolved and be with Christ.” Hence a Dominican, who, before he became a religious, used to go to him every morning, affirms that he found him almost always in an ecstasy, and what S. Paul says of himself seemed to be fulfilled in Philip, I am filled with consolation, I more than abound in joy; and others said that Philip might truly say with S. Ephrem, Lord, withhold the waters of Thy grace and depart from me, for I am not able to endure the magnitude of Thy sweetness; a thing which, in fact, did happen to him several times in his first fervours, as we have already mentioned; so that he himself said one day, “He who has not devotion is out of his senses.”
Sometimes when he entered churches, he felt himself so moved by that ardour, that scarcely could he kneel down before he was obliged to get up again, for fear of going into an ecstasy; and at other times, when he was praying in public, he was so abstracted, and remained with his eyes so fixed on heaven, that they who saw him could imagine that they beheld the glorious S. Martin in the act of prayer; nay, even when he was not speaking of divine things, he often fixed his eyes as on something, and seemed as though he were in an ecstasy. Though Philip tasted such sweetnesses, and continually had sublime thoughts of heavenly things in prayer, yet he wished to serve God, not for interest, as he called it, but for pure love; and he would have desired to love the Divine Majesty without any sensible sweetness, but simply because It was the deserving Object of his love.
But let us now come to some more effects of this love. Philip’s first and foremost devotion was to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. When he was a layman he generally communicated every morning; and when he was subdeacon and deacon he had the most sensible pleasure in touching the chalices, which he could not do while he was in minor orders, and it really seemed as if he could never satiate himself with touching those holy vessels. After he was ordained priest, he said mass every morning when he was well, and communicated when he was too unwell to say mass; and this he generally did in the night, after matins had rung. In the latter years of his life, for the greater convenience of himself and others, he obtained leave from the pope to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a small chamber furnished as an oratory close to his room. His devotion and humility at communion were so great, that he sometimes covered his face, and remained so for a long while, meditating and making his thanksgiving. If the fathers for any reason were late in coming to give him communion, the distress he felt was so great that he could not sleep till he had received it. In the year 1577, when he was so seriously ill that the physicians had given up all hope of his recovery, he heard matins ring one night, and, as usual, asked for the communion. Francesco Maria Tarugi, who was waiting upon him, heard this; but he saw that Philip had had no sleep that night, and he was afraid that his devotion, and the tears he used to shed on such occasions, would destroy all chance of sleep, and endanger his life; and so he gave orders that he should not be communicated. But the long delay made Philip suspect the reason, and he sent for Tarugi, and said to him, “Francesco Maria, I tell you I cannot sleep for the desire I have of the Blessed Sacrament; make them bring me the communion; I shall go to sleep as soon as I have received.” And in truth, no sooner had he communicated than he began to amend, and in a short time was perfectly recovered.
What ordinarily prevented him from sleeping was either his continual application to prayer, or the vehement desire he had of being united with his Lord in the most holy Communion. One night Father Antonio Gallonio, when he was communicating him, held the Blessed Sacrament in his hand for some time, and delayed to give it him; but the aged Saint, not being able to endure the delay, and overcome by his desire, turned to him and said, “Antonio, why do you hold my Lord in your hand, and do not give Him to me? why! why! give Him to me, give him to me.” Gallonio, perceiving the wonderful affection of the servant of God, could not contain his tears while he was giving him communion.
This devotion to the Blessed Sacrament induced him to counsel all his penitents who were priests, to adopt the holy and laudable custom of saying mass every day, when they were not legitimately hindered. This was by no means common in those days; but he thought it a grave error in some to desist from saying mass daily, only under the pretence of rest or recreation, and not for any other sufficient reason: “for,” said he, “he who seeks recreation out of the Creator, and consolation out of Christ, will never find them; he who seeks consolation out of the proper place, seeks his own damnation, as he who wishes to be wise without the true wisdom, or saved without the Saviour, is not well, but sick, is not wise, but a fool.” It is, however, true that he forbade several to say mass every day, as I have mentioned already; but he did it in order to mortify them and to enable them to merit more; and to some others he would not give leave to celebrate immediately after their ordination, but refrained them for a while, in order to kindle in them a greater desire and hunger of this most holy food.
He was anxious also that laymen, as well as priests, should frequent this Sacrament; hence some of his penitents communicated every week, many every feast day, some three times a week, and some, though they were but few, every day. Many by this frequency became men of holy lives and of great perfection. He wished, however, that they should frequent confession even more than communion; so that very many of those who did not communicate every morning, confessed every morning.
His devotion in saying mass was extraordinary, and nothing shows it more than this, that in an action, for which others have to prepare themselves by acts of recollection in order to celebrate devoutly, he had to prepare himself by acts of distraction, or to distract himself during mass, in order to be able to finish it, or to keep himself from going into an ecstasy. He once told Pietro Consolino, that he should often have been unable to say mass if he had not read books just before which were anything but spiritual; yet for all this he could not quite contain himself, so that sometimes he was obliged to pause till his strength, which divine love had taken from him, returned again. At other times he made such violent efforts to repress his fervour, that his whole body fluttered, and made the predella of the altar tremble; and when he was saying mass in his private chapel, he sometimes made the whole room shake: then at other times again he was so distracted and absorbed in God, that the server was obliged to pull him by the chasuble, and remind him of the epistle, or the gospel. When he said mass in public he allowed no one to serve but those of his own subjects that were most familiar with him and accustomed to him, that as soon as they perceived anything of this kind coming on they might advertise him of it. For those movements of his were very quick, and not accompanied by anything ungainly; so that the byestanders easily perceived that it might be said, Agebatur potius quam ageret; and in seeing him thus abstracted they felt themselves the more excited to devotion and reverence, instead of taking scandal or being disedified by it.
In the course of the mass, when he came to the offertory, the contentment, and indeed joyousness, which he felt in his heart were so great, that his hand repeatedly leaped in such a way that he could not pour the wine into the chalice without leaning his arm upon the altar; and yet he was quite young, and with nothing like palsy about him. He was accustomed to put a good deal of wine into the chalice, and the chalice was a very small one, yet, however much he fluttered, he never spilled a single drop. Marcello Benci, who constantly served his mass, says that he repeatedly saw the chalice, which Philip had filled with wine, full of pure blood after consecration. In the memento he made extraordinary movements, even leaped, and was agitated all over; when he perceived it he used to say to the server, “Turn those dogs out, send those beggars away,” mere words to distract him and drive away the trembling. In the elevation of the host it often happened that his arms remained lifted up in the air without his being able to draw them back again for awhile; and occasionally, after consecration, he had such spiritual exultation, that he raised himself on the tips of his toes, and seemed as if he were dancing, or he was lifted a span or more from the ground. In order to avoid this, he was accustomed, as soon as he had raised the host a little above his head, immediately to lower it again; for if he paused ever so short a time, he could not so easily lower it. The same happened to him at the Domine non sum dignus; so he used to communicate as quickly as possible. In taking the Lord’s Body he had an extraordinary sensible sweetness, making all the gestures which people do who taste something very sweet; for this reason he used to pick out the largest hosts he could find, that the most holy species might remain in him a longer time, and he might taste more of that delicious food, in taking which, as they who served his mass attest, he sometimes broke out into the most unspeakable affections. In taking the Blood he licked and sucked the chalice with such affection, that it seemed as if he could not separate himself from it. He had worn off the silver, as well as the gilding, on the lip of the chalice, and had left the marks of his teeth impressed upon it. It was for this reason that he always wished the server to stand on one side, and not to look him in the face, telling him not to reach the ablution till he had made a sign for it; and if he said mass at any altar except the great altar, which he did very rarely, he would not allow those near to put themselves in any such position as that they could see his face, in order that he might be able to take the Blood after his own fashion, and not be observed in the gestures of that singular devotion which God communicated to him. For the same cause he often said the last mass, because there were few people present to observe his tears. His mass, however, when he said it in public, was rather short than long, in order that he might not tire the devotion of the people; yet he himself said it with so much devotion, that it continually caused tears in those who were present. When he had finished mass and made his thanksgiving, he returned to his room so abstracted, that he often passed people without perceiving them, and his face was as pale as death, so that he hardly looked like a living person.
In the latter years of his life men of learning and enlightened in spiritual matters counselled him to get leave to celebrate in private, in order that he might indulge his devotion, and treat with his Lord with more freedom of spirit. Gregory XIV., therefore, gave him permission to celebrate in a little chapel close to his room. There, when he came to the Agnus Dei, they who assisted at the mass went out, and the clerk lighted a little lamp, and then put out the altar candles, fastened the windows, which were twice doubled, and locked both the doors, so that neither the Saint’s voice, nor any affection to which he might give vent during the time, could by any means escape or be heard. This being done, the clerk hung outside the chapel a little tablet, on which was written, “Silence! the father is saying mass.” In about two hours or more, he returned, and knocked at the door; if the Saint answered he opened the door, lighted the altar candles again, opened the windows, and the Saint went on with the mass, sorrowing that the time had passed so quickly. If he gave no answer to the knock, the clerk waited awhile, and then returned, and did so till the Saint had given the signal for him to enter. What passed between God and him during that time none can say; but those who served him, when they entered the chapel at last, found him in such a state that he seemed on the very point of expiring.
In administering this Sacrament to others he had such fervour that his whole body bounded, to the great marvel of those who saw him. A Jewish convert, the wife of one of the neophytes mentioned before, went to S. Girolamo to receive the communion from the holy father. When he took the pyx into his hand, she saw him tremble so violently that the wafers were lifted up above it, and his face beamed as it were with fire; but after the communion he was deadly pale, as if some grave accident had befallen him. All this proceeded from the extraordinary devotion with which he communicated her, being as well as her husband a convert to the faith.
Almost the same timing happened to Nero, a Florentine gentleman and lord of Porcigliano, who one day received the communion from him in company with Barsum, the Archdeacon of Alexandria in Egypt, who had been sent by the patriarch as ambassador to the pope. The Saint, through the abundance of his devotion, began to tremble so, that his right hand made a fluttering movement, and raised itself about a span from the pyx. Nero, fearing lost some particles should fall, (an event which never did occur to him,) reverently took hold of his arm, and held it fast until he had given communion. When he went afterwards to take his leave of him, as he always did, the holy old man drew him close to his breast and embracing him tightly, said, “You have excited me a little too much this morning:” alluding to Nero’s bringing that archdeacon with him, for whom he had consequently made particular prayer in his mass, and had become more fervent than usual, both because he was a stranger, and because Philip knew he had come to the pope on very important business. Another time when he was giving communion to the Marchioness Rangona, the particle with which he communicated her was seen in the air separated from his fingers, to the great admiration of the beholders: and one morning in the little chapel he himself was seen raised a span from the ground while he was communicating; so great was the devotion with which he performed this action.
Philip had also an excessive devotion to the most holy passion of our Saviour, and exercised himself almost continually in meditating upon it. He always kept about him a crucifix of bronze, the figure separate from the cross, that he could the more commodiously vent the affections of his heart upon it. From this devotion sprang his desire, to which we have already alluded, to go to the Indies to shied his blood for the love of Christ. Though he was not able to carry this into effect, he managed at least to satisfy his desire in part, after another fashion; for when blood issued from his nose or from his mouth he prayed the Lord that as much might flow as would correspond to the Blood he shed for love of him. In this request the Lord gratified him, for one day there issued from him such a quantity, that he lost his sight for a while; and at other times he was left as if dead, without any discernible pulse. This is like what we read of S. Lutgarde, that when she desired martyrdom, and God did not see fit to grant her request, He contented her by allowing a large quantity of blood to flow from her; and then Christ appeared to her and told her, that for the great desire which He had seen in her to shed her blood for His sake, He had accorded her that grace. So it happened to Philip, whom the Lord allowed many times over to shed basins full, so that his last infirmities were nothing else but discharges of blood. Hence it has become customary to paint him as a priest in red vestments, which is properly the exclusive colour of martyrs, to denote the vehement desire he had to shed his blood for the love of Christ.
This ardent thirst to offer himself as a holocaust to his crucified Lord, stimulated him to inflame the hearts of others with the same love; so that sometimes he said, “May Saint Antony’s fire burn you.” Meaning, may you burn with the same fire of divine love that inflamed Saint Antony. To others he said, “May you be murdered,” meaning, for the faith, by means of holy martyrdom; and once when he was in the antichamber of Gregory XIV., he said the same of the pope.
Lastly, he had so vehement a devotion to the most holy Name of Jesus, that in pronouncing it he felt an unspeakable sweetness, and he was repeatedly naming it. He had also an extraordinary relish in reciting the Credo, and such a sweet savour in the Pater Noster, that when he once began it, it seemed as if he could never reach the end.
Our Blessed Lady is, as S. Bernard teaches us, the neck by which all spiritual goods descend from Christ the head, into the mystical body of the Holy Church. Philip, therefore, was so devoted to her, that he had her name continually in his mouth, calling her his love and his consolation, and preaching her up everywhere as the dispensatrix of all the graces which the goodness of God concedes to the sons of Adam. His affection towards her was so tender, that he used to speak of her as little children speak of their mother, calling her, “Mamma mia.” He frequently visited her images in the churches of Santa Maria del Popolo, S. Agnese in the Piazza Navona, S. Maria in Trastevere, and elsewhere, remaining before them a long while, giving vent and relief to the fulness of his devotion towards her. He often spent whole nights in his prayers, indulging in the sweetest colloquies with her. He was once seriously ill at S. Girolamo della Carità, and the physicians had ordered that he should not be left alone at night, but that some one should remain always in the room with him. One night Father Giovanni Antonio Lucci sat up with him; and as it was summer, and the room extremely small, the heat was so intense that he did not think he could persevere at his post during the night, and, therefore, went to his duty with no good will. Nevertheless he spent the time with so much sweetness and satisfaction, that when the Ave Maria rang in the morning, he thought it was the evening Ave, the night had passed so quickly; for in fact, the Saint not supposing that there was any one to hear him, did nothing but converse with our Blessed Lady in such affectionate terms, that it actually seemed as if she was present, and discoursing with him face to face.
He had also two ejaculations which he was continually making in her honour. The first was, “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me,” sometimes lengthened thus, “Pray to Jesus thy Son for me a sinner:” the second was simply, “Virgin Mother;” for he said that in these words all the possible praises of the Madonna were briefly comprised; because, first of all, she was called by her name Mary, and those two great titles were given her of Virgin and Mother, and then that other unspeakable one of Mother of God; and lastly, the most holy fruit of her womb was named,- Jesus, the bare mention of which name has power to soften and melt the heart. Of those two prayers he taught his penitents to make a chaplet, repeating one or other of them sixty-three times, with the Pater Noster, to the great profit of their souls. He himself carried beads almost always in his hand, in order to use this devotion, which was so acceptable to the Divine Goodness, that many of those who used it confessed that it was a singular aid to them in their temptations. A layman of our congregation was very much molested by evil thoughts about our Blessed Lady’s virginity; he mentioned his temptation to the Saint, who proposed this devotion to him as a remedy; he obeyed, and in a short time was entirely freed from that annoyance.
Philip professed that he had received infinite favours from our Blessed Lady, and particularly that in praying before an image of her he was delivered from many horrible things with which the devil attempted to frighten him. He had a grateful remembrance of these benefits which he had received from her; and when they were erecting the altars in the church, he ordered that a mystery of our Saviour should be painted on each of them, and that the Madonna was to appear in the mystery. So after the beatification of the Saint, when the fathers had to expose his picture in his chapel, they decided that the picture of our Blessed Lady should be painted there, because they remembered how, like another S. Bernardino of Siena, he was enamoured of her.
While they were building the church, Giovanni Antonio Lucci, who superintended the work, had left a piece of roof above a part of the old church, where there was an ancient picture of our Blessed Lady, very devotional, the same which is now at the high altar. He had done this in order that mass might be said under it, and the Blessed Sacrament reserved. One morning the holy father sent for him in great haste, and ordered him to have the roof taken off immediately, because he had seen that it would have fallen that very night just passed, if the glorious Virgin had not held it up with her own hands. Giovanni Antonio immediately went with some workmen to execute the obedience, and found that the principal beam had started from the wall, and was apparently self-supported in the air, so that all who saw it cried out, “A miracle! a miracle!”
Our Blessed Lady corresponded to the devotion of Philip, in giving him a church dedicated in her most Holy name, that the son who was so devoted to her might not be removed from his mother; and before he died she favoured him with that wonderful apparition of which we shall speak fully in its place, and which left him so full of sweetness, and of devotion towards her, that during the short time that he survived, he could never satiate himself with crying out over and over again, “O my sons, be devoted to the Madonna, be devotees of Mary!”
Besides this singular devotion to our Lady, he had a great reverence and affection for all the saints; so that in his last years he had their lives read to him every day for several hours, and both heard and spoke of them with such relish that he could hardly tear himself from it. His particular patrons were S. Mary Magdalene on whose vigil he was born, and the apostles S. James and S. Philip. On the more solemn feasts he was singularly favoured by God with sentiments of extraordinary devotion; and he was accustomed to say, that the not having some particular feeling of devotion on such solemnities, was ordinarily a bad sign. He had also the most marked reverence for holy relics, which generally he did not carry about his person, nor would he easily permit his penitents to do so, because it often happens that they are not treated with becoming respect, and are also more liable to be injured by time, or by the neglect of those into whose hands they may fall afterwards. He was not, however, altogether hostile to their being kept in a room; for he himself had a reliquary in his room which he handled with great reverence and circumspection. After the Saint’s death this fell into the hands of Baronius, and God vouchsafed to grant some special graces by means of it. Antonio Franchi, a clerk regular of the Minori at Rome, was so ill that the physicians looked upon him as a dead man, and he had already received the Viaticum when Cesare Baronius went to visit him. He carried with him this reliquary, and touched him with it, and then for his greater consolation left it with him. When the night came on, the invalid, fearing lest the reliquary should be broken, put it on one side; but he presently began to feel a terrible distress and inward sinking, so he took it again and said a Pater and an Ave, praying the Lord by his mercy and the intercession of the Blessed Philip, for whom he had a great devotion, to dispose of him as might be for his own greater glory, and in saying this prayer he fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning, he felt no feeling of illness, and in a short time left the house perfectly well.
Philip demonstrated this reverence for holy relics in a most eminent manner in the translation of the bodies of the holy martyrs Papias and Maurus. When our church was happily completed so far as the fabric was concerned, Cardinal Cusano, one of Philip’s spiritual children, and most tenderly beloved by him, wishing to dismantle the high altar at S. Adriano in Campo Vaccino, his titular church, in order to erect one more beautiful and magnificent, found the bodies of the holy martyrs Flavia, Domitilla, Nereus, Achilleus, Marius, Martha, Papias and Maurus, which had been transferred by Gregory IX. from the title of S. Equitius, that is, from the church of S. Martino de’ Monti, where they had been deposited by Sergius II., to this church of S. Adriano. All these holy relics were shut up in three marble coffers, with the names upon them, and on that of Saints Papias and Maurus were the words, In hoc loco requiescunt corpora SS. Martyrum Papiae, et Mauri. Now as Philip showed a great desire to have some of these holy bodies, the Cardinal, who loved him so much, determined to gratify him by transferring at his own expense the bodies of those two holy martyrs from S. Adriano to our church of S. Maria and S. Gregorio in Vallicella; and obtained permission to do so from Sixtus V.
On the 11th of February 1590, the chest which contained the holy bodies was opened, and a portion of them left at S. Adriano. The heads were also taken out, the chest closed again, and sealed with due form, and then both the chest and the heads were brought in most solemn procession to our church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, with a numerous attendance of clergy, and a vast concourse of people. Ten cardinals went outside the door to meet the holy treasures: Cardinal Gesualdo, Bishop of Porto, Cardinal Paleotto, Bishop of Albano, Cardinal Pinello of S. Lorenzo in Panisperna, Cardinal Aldobrandino, Grand Penitentiary, and afterwards Clement VIII., Cardinal della Rovere of S. Pietro in Vincola, Cardinal Gonzaga of Santa Maria del Popolo, Cardinal di Camerino of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, Cardinal Frederick Borromeo, afterwards Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Cusano of S. Adriano, and Cardinal Pepoli of Saints Cosmas and Damian. When the holy bier arrived at the church, Cardinal Cusano by order of Sixtus V. consigned the relics of the martyrs to Philip, in the presence of the cardinals. Philip received them with such joy and exultation, that he could not contain himself. The usual flutterings of his heart came on, he leaped, and showed his intense delight by extraordinary emotions of his whole body. He deposited the relics on a richly adorned altar erected for the purpose in the middle of the church, where they remained four days successively to satisfy the devotion of the people. He then put them in the sacristy; and in sign of reverence and veneration, he commanded Antonio Gallonio to write their lives fully, and with great diligence, which he did. After the death of the Saint, they were placed under the high altar, on the 23rd of May, 1599, the day on which the church was consecrated; their heads were enshrined in silver, and are preserved to this day with becoming reverence.
It was one of Philip’s admirable gifts, that he not only had devotion and the love of God in himself, but by a singular privilege of heaven communicated them also to those who conversed with him. The most lukewarm of his penitents, if they only went frequently to him, were filled by little and little with holy fervour; those who went seldom became sensibly more cool in the service of God, and those who fell off from him lost all devotion and spirituality whatsoever.
Lavinia de’ Rustici, the first wife of Fabrizio de’ Massimi, before she began to confess to the holy father, had no great opinion of him, and even laughed at him; but one day when she heard him speak of divine things, she felt such a movement of heavenly love in her heart, that she was all inflamed with a desire to serve Christ. She took Philip for her spiritual father, confessed to him, and began to communicate three times a week, growing in contempt of herself, and giving herself up to prayer in which she was often favoured with divine raptures; in fact she was a lady of such piety, that the Saint said of her, that without doubt she was in heaven rejoicing with the angels. Costanza Draghi Crescenzi heard Philip’s mass in our church with Eugenia her servant; and in a moment they were both of them seized unawares with such a spirit of compunction, and such an abundance of tears, that Costanza said to Eugenia, “Do you feel this?” and she answered, “Yes indeed, I do feel it.” When they came to reflect upon this afterwards, they concluded that it was an effect of the devotion which the Saint had obtained for them in his mass. Nero del Nero, who has been already mentioned, suffered very much from distractions in prayer; but he declares that after the first time he heard Philip say mass he experienced such a facility in meditating on what he pleased, that he was quite astonished at himself; and the same happened to him every time that he heard him say mass. Once, when the Saint wished to console a person in distress, he said, “I will pray for you, and you shall feel it;” and in fact the person felt himself moved with such an extraordinary fervour, that he came all trembling to acknowledge it as a gift of the Saint.
He communicated such sweetness to those with whom he prayed, that entire hours of prayer seemed to them like moments, and some said they could have remained in prayer with him all the night through. One day a spiritual child of his, named Simone, was praying with him, and felt his heart filled with such sweetness, that although they prayed a whole hour, it seemed to him to be no time, and he said that he should wish to be always praying if he could always feel what he felt then. The same happened many times to others, and when they mentioned their feelings to the Saint, he said, “This is milk which our Lord gives to those who begin to serve him.”
When he was hearing confessions, the fire which burned within him was so ardent, that many of his penitents during confession felt their hearts inflamed with the love of God, and especially in receiving absolution, as he was accustomed in that act to press them to his breast, thereby giving them a sensible comfort, an extraordinary spiritual refreshment, and a sweetness inexplicable to those who did not taste it. This is confirmed by Giovanni Aturia of Marisco Nuovo, in the kingdom of Naples, who, while he was at Rome, kept up a familiar and continual intercourse with the holy father. He says, “When I entered his room I began to tremble, and this happened every time I went in; yet I took a delight in going into the presence of this holy old man, and kneeling before him; and when he laid his blessed hand upon my shoulder, or pulled my hair or ears, I felt many good desires kindled in my mind, in a way which made me think that a particular grace was descending upon me from heaven, and I immediately ran to the blessed Sacrament to pray.”
The Abate Marco Antonio Maffa, visitor apostolic, who has been already mentioned, also confirms the same. He says, “Ever since I knew Father Philip intimately, I have venerated him as a saint, and I frequented his company as much as my duties allowed me. When I confessed to him, and especially while he gave me absolution, I felt in my heart the sanctity which he seemed to breathe; and then at mass I had a particular devotion and tears; and this never happened to me when I confessed to others. Numberless times I have conferred with him about my temptations and tribulations, and by his counsel and his prayers I have been tranquillized immediately. Since he went to heaven, as often as in my troubles I recommend myself with hearty affection to him, I receive the remedy instantly, so that I have been many times astonished at it. I have twice said mass in his chasuble, and both times I had a great abundance of tears.” Such is Maffa’s testimony; and the greater number of those who were familiar with him affirm the same thing.
Although in this second book we design to treat only of the virtues of the Saint, reserving the relation of his gifts for the third, yet as the gift of tears is properly a fruit of devotion, it seems most natural to give some account here of the way in which God favoured him in this kind. The love which burned within him sometimes softened his heart so completely, that when any one spoke in his presence of things that bred compassion or tenderness, he immediately burst into tears. In like manner, when he met with a sinner he considered the state of his soul, and much more the offence against God, and straightway his pity was moved, and he would burst out into the most vehement weeping, almost like a child when it is severely punished. Cardinal Frederick Borromeo affirms that he has seen this many times. Two years before his death he said with tears to a person who he feared was in a delusion, “Old as I am I will still take disciplines for you.”
The Saint once discovered that a young man of noble family did not deal with simplicity in his confessions to his ordinary confessor, but concealed some sins through shame. This youth was one day in the Saint’s room, where he sometimes went out of devotion. There was no other person there, and Philip, fixing his eyes upon him, began to weep most tenderly, and at the same time gained for the sinner such a softness of spirit, that he too was constrained to shed tears; and both of them remained for a long time without being able to speak. The young man then confessed all that he had hitherto kept back, recommending himself earnestly to the prayers of the Saint, who embraced him, and consoled him with his usual sweetness and charity. But the tender heart of Philip had not yet had sufficient vent; he retired into a room alone, and there giving free course to his sighs and tears, he wept abundantly. The penitent then made a general confession to his ordinary confessor; after which he returned to the Saint, and speaking of the confession he had already made, Philip said, “My son, although you have not confessed your sins to me, I know them all, one by one, for God has revealed them to me.” Then he added, “You have changed your face now, and got a good complexion,” an expression he often used when sinners returned from a state of sin to the grace of God. The penitent recommended himself again to his prayers, and begged him to obtain for him more compunction and sorrow for his sins; and at the very moment he made this request he felt such abundance of contrition and grief come into his heart, that he could desire no more; yet before he had conversed with the Saint he did not so much as know what compunction and spirituality were.
When Philip spoke of divine things, it was not long before the tears came into his eyes in such abundance that he was often obliged to desist from speaking, or to change the conversation; so that sometimes when he was discoursing familiarly on spiritual matters, he would insert some example, or some dictum of philosophers, a thing which otherwise he was far from being accustomed to do, and when he made use of this expedient it was as a distraction, to hinder him from weeping. He once went to the vineyard of Patrizio Patrizi with Cesare Baronius, Giovanni Francesco Bordino, Tommaso Bozzio, and some other of his penitents, and after dinner, at the same hour the sermons were generally delivered in our church, he commanded Tommaso Bozzio to make an extempore discourse, so that they might not altogether lose the fruit of the word of God. When Tommaso had finished, the Saint wished to add a few words in confirmation of what he had said. But he had scarcely opened his mouth before he began to tremble from head to foot, and to weep so vehemently that he could not utter a word. Indeed, this was so common with him, when he wished to speak of the things of God, that if he wanted to continue his remarks, it was absolutely necessary for him to betake himself to some worldly illustration, or cool philosophic argument, as it were to distract him and quench the excess of fervour.
In reading the Lives of the Saints, he sometimes shed tears at every word. A prelate one day found him weeping, and asked what the matter was. Philip, to hide the real cause, said in a buffooning sort of way, “What! may I not weep, who am left a poor orphan without father and without mother?” Another time, Angelo of Bagnarea, entering unexpectedly into his room, found him reading the Lives of the holy Fathers, and weeping immoderately. Angelo asked him why he was weeping; he answered, “Because this Saint whose life I am reading, left the world to serve God, and I have done no good, and no one is any the better for me;” and then he added, “O Angelo, if you were one day to see me scourged through Rome, you would say, ‘Ah! look at that fellow Philip that looked so sanctified, give it him well.’” And saying this he wept again through the desire he had of similar mortifications.
When he spoke or read of our Saviour’s Passion, and particularly in mass during Holy Week, he was melted like wax at the fire; and this was the reason why, many years before his death, he left off discoursing in public. For as he was one day speaking of the Passion, he was surprised by such an extraordinary fervour, that he began weeping and sobbing; he could hardly get his breath, he trembled all over, the seat shook, and not the seat only, but the platform on which it stood, as if some one had shaken it with his hands. He made violent attempts to distract himself, and pulled his beard several times; but he was not able to repress the impetuosity of his feelings; he was obliged to come down from his seat and leave the church. As this occurred to him several times, and he was unsuccessful in his endeavours to contain himself, he determined not to discourse any more in public; although he often pretended that he had left off because he had no talent for preaching; and if any one urged upon him that he used to preach when the Oratory began, he said that was only because there were but few to take part in it, and so God supplied him with ability for the time, but as the number had now increased, the case was otherwise.
At other times when he was reading or meditating the Passion, he was seen to turn as pale as ashes, and his eyes to fill with tears, so that merely looking at him filled every one with devotion. At length he was unable even to converse in private on this subject; for often in only hearing the Passion named, he was so overwhelmed with grief that he became motionless and speechless. He went one morning to dine with the cardinal of Vercelli in the refectory of Santa Prassede; and when the repast was concluded, and they had retired into a large room, the Saint at the request of the cardinal proposed a point of spirituality, making those who were present give their opinions upon it in the form of a conference, he himself commenting on the answers which the others gave. But when he began to speak of the love with which Christ had suffered for us, he was so overcome with tears and sighs that he could not speak any more; and while he was making an effort to master himself, the cardinal, seeing how much he suffered, intimated to him that he need not go on. Another time, when he was ill, they brought him some drink; he took the glass in his hand, and before putting it to his mouth, began to weep most bitterly, and trembling all over, he said in a loud voice, “Thou, my Christ, Thou upon the cross wert thirsty, and they gave Thee nothing but vinegar and gall to drink, and I am in bed with so many conveniences around me, and served by so many gentlemen who stand around me;” and repeating this, the tears streamed from his eyes, and he could not swallow the beverage although he tried. One morning in Holy Week, when he was reciting the Passion, he felt himself being carried away, and he began to relax his attention and to do violence to himself, so as to cause distraction. This was successful for a time, but when he came to our Lord’s expiring, he broke out into all the expressions of grief and tears, causing compunction no less than wonder in the byestanders.
When he gave communion to his spiritual children, he sometimes wept so bitterly that he could hardly communicate them; and when he reached the Blessed Sacrament to them, and they saw him with his face all bathed in tears, many confessed that they felt as though they were partakers of his spirit, so great was the devotion which they conceived by barely looking at him. In hearing the Divine Office sung, the holy man took such delight, and listened with such sweetness, that his heart melted within him, and his eyes gushed with tears. He was often seen at compline or matins in the choir of the Dominicans, with his clothes wet with his weeping. Whenever he saw his persecutors he was moved to compassion for the delusion under which they laboured, and forthwith burst into tears. In a word, his heart was so tender, that it laid hold of the slightest occasion in spiritual matters, and found in it an excuse for holy tears. His weeping was so frequent that it passed for a miracle that he had not lost his sight, which nevertheless remained so strong to the age of eighty that he never used spectacles, though he kept several pair about him, to recreate him, as he used good-humouredly to say, rather than for any need he had of them. After his death it pleased God to use some of these spectacles as instruments of sundry miraculous favours. Sister Lucia Mazzani, a nun at Santa Lucia in Silice, was afflicted with a terrible pain in her head, for which she could find no remedy. Overcome with pain, she flung herself upon her bed, and seeing a pair of the Saint’s spectacles near her, she put them on with faith and devotion, and immediately the pain ceased.
Although Philip had this gift of tears in such an eminent degree, his humility did not allow him to have any great esteem for it in itself. He used to say, “Why, even bad women weep easily for any little thing, and that does not make them saints.” He continually repeated that perfection did not consist in these outward things, such as weeping, and the like, and that tears were no sign that a man was in the grace of God, neither must we suppose that a man leads a holy life because he sheds tears when he speaks of divine things.
One of the principal means by which Philip acquired such love and charity towards God, was the exercise of prayer, particularly mental prayer. So great was his affection for it, that all the exercises he instituted in his congregation tended to this one end; and even in the name of the congregation, the Oratory, he kept this in view. From very boy-hood the servant of God gave himself up to prayer, and made great advancement in it, until he acquired such a habit of it, that wherever he was, stirring or still, his mind was lifted up to heavenly things. Sometimes he forgot to eat, sometimes when he was dressing, he became abstracted with his eyes open and raised towards heaven, truly fulfilling the counsel of the apostle, Pray, without ceasing. His heart, in short, was so used to prayer, that it was easier for him to elevate his mind to God than for men of the world to take thought for earthly things. Even when his room was full of people, and different matters were being discussed, he could not at times refrain from lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven, or from breaking out into a sigh, although he made a great scruple of doing such things in the presence of others.
If any one entered his room suddenly, he would most probably find him rapt in prayer, so that when spoken to he would make some answer which was nothing to the purpose, and he would then have to shake himself or take a turn up in the room before he became fully conscious of what was before him. When he went out of doors, he was for the most part so abstracted, that it was necessary for some one to admonish him every time he was saluted, or had to salute any one himself. Sometimes it was necessary to pull him by his clothes, in order to bring him to himself, and then he would make a gesture as if he was just roused from a sound sleep. He quite did violence to himself in order to look like other men; but if he gave way to his habit of prayer in the most trifling degree, he immediately became totally immersed in contemplation. Once after an audience with Gregory XIII., he said to Father Antonio Gallonio, and Francesco della Molara, who had been waiting outside for him, “I have committed a foolery; I was abstracted when I entered the chamber of his holiness, and got close up to his seat with out knowing he ‘was there, or so much as taking my cap off.”
In the afternoon it was necessary to distract him, lest this continual tension should be prejudicial to his health. Indeed, it very often prevented him from sleeping; and then he used to call Father Antonio Gallonio, and say to him, “Antonio, if you wish me to go to sleep, do you know what you must do? give me some book that I do not like.” For by this means he was in some manner diverted from an over-vehement application to prayer, for which purpose he used chiefly the Latin poets, or books of philosophy, and he always kept some near him, so as to have them ready at hand to refrain his spiritual fervours, else they would have shortened his life. Thus it was truly his own experience which he used to express in the third person; “That a soul really enamoured of God, came to such a point as to be forced to cry out, Lord! let me sleep,” and again, “that he who could not pray just after dinner did not look as if he had got a true spirit of devotion.”
Before transacting any business, however trivial, he always prayed, and taught others to do the same, for a longer or shorter space of time, according as the business demanded; nay, it was his custom, whenever he was asked a question, not to answer till he had recollected himself. Sometimes he conceived so great a confidence about things, that he would say, “I wish such a thing to turn out in this way, and such a thing in that way,” and, so it would turn out in the event; and he was accustomed to say, “According as I have time to pray, so I have a secure hope that I shall obtain of the Lord whatever favour I ask of Him.”
Notwithstanding this inveterate habit of prayer, or that his whole life might be called one continuous prayer, Philip had regular appointed hours for this exercise. Every morning in the summer, and every evening also, when he was not hindered by some important business or pious work, he retired to the highest part of the house whence he could see the sky and the open country. When he was at S. Girolamo, he had a platform raised upon the roof, and when he came to the Vallicella, he had a small lodge made in a high place, where he secluded himself for prayer; and in the latter years of his life, he used to go above the ceiling of the church, and there spend many hours in mental exercises. If he was called during this time, he descended immediately to satisfy the person who had called him, saying that this was not, properly speaking, to leave prayer, but to leave Christ for Christ, which is nothing else than to deprive ourselves of spiritual sweetnesses in order to gain souls to Christ. When he had finished the business for which he was called, he returned to his little lodge and pursued his meditation, saying that a work of charity was so far from being a distracting interruption to him, that he felt all the more inwardly inflamed with divine love, and recollected after it. In winter he made his prayer a little after the Ave Maria, and continued it for two or sometimes three hours, with a little light before his crucifix, darkened on his side, so as not to show any light to him or dazzle his eyes, but to reflect all its brightness on the figure. In order to be punctual at his morning prayer, when he went to sleep he placed at the head of his bed a watch, on the face of which he could tell what o’clock it was by merely touching it; he also laid there a crucifix without any cross, and his beads, so that all was ready for him to begin praying as soon as he awoke; and he did not usually sleep more than four, or at the most five hours.
Sometimes if any one had seen him go late to bed, and yet found him risen early in the morning, he would say, “I slept very little last night - what do you mean to say, what do you mean to say?” Then if the other answered, “Father, you have been praying,” he would reply, “This is not the time to sleep, for Paradise is not for sluggards,” or some other phrase of similar meaning. When he was hindered in the day time, he subtracted his time from the night, and doubled his vigils; he repeatedly said, “I did not sleep at all last night, for I was hindered yesterday, and I must make it up to-night;” and if nature was sometimes oppressed by the necessity of repose, he spent the time in knotting and unknotting a cord to keep himself awake at prayer. At some times of the year he was more than ordinarily intent upon prayer, as at the more solemn feasts, and in urgent spiritual necessities, public or private; but above all during Holy Week; indeed for many years he was accustomed to remain at the Sepulchre in prayer from Thursday morning till after mass on Good Friday, taking no food and never stirring from the place.
He recited the divine office with immense devotion, and when he said it alone he was almost immediately absorbed in contemplation; on this account he for the most part recited it in company, as he would scarcely ever have been able to finish it by himself; he almost always had his eyes shut, and his face towards heaven while he recited it, and never made the least movement of his body; yet he wished to have his Breviary before him, and observed the slightest error that was made, even though it were only of a syllable, and warned others to be particular in not saying the hours without reading them, especially when office is said alone, because mistakes are so easily made. When he was almost eighty years old Gregory XIV., in consideration of his continual infirmities and habitual abstraction, had commuted his obligation of saying office, into the recital of a chaplet, or some other prayer even shorter than that; yet he would never avail himself of this privilege, but always said his office. When he was so ill as to be unable to do this, he had it read to him, listening with great devotion, and with such attention, that if any one made a mistake he interrupted him immediately, correcting him either by a sign or a word, even when he appeared so abstracted that no one would have supposed he was listening at all.
To prayer Philip joined the reading of spiritual books, and particularly of the Lives of the Saints, saying there was nothing so fitted to excite devotion as this, if only a person used discretion; for there are some who when they begin to read the Lives of the Saints, or to practise mental prayer, never give over; and then they injure their constitutions, and are of no good either to themselves or to any one else. The book with which he was most familiar was the Collations of John Cassian, but which he said ought not to be read indiscriminately by all persons, as it required a well-prepared mind, and ought to be read attentively, and after some preparatory prayer. The works of John Gerson were great favourites with him, and those of Father Granata, the Quiver of Divine Love, the Life of S. Catherine of Siena, and, above all, that of the Blessed John Colombini. He generally read a chapter of the Lives of the Holy Fathers every day, and of Lipoman’s Lives of the Saints. Of the different books of Saints, he had a particular liking for the epistles of S. Paul; but in order to make his reading of them fruitful, he read slowly and pausingly; and when he felt himself warmed by what he read, he went no further, but stopped to ponder the text; and when the feeling subsided, he resumed his reading, and so he went on with passage after passage successively. It was a favourite piece of advice of his to those who were called to minister the word of God, especially members of his own congregation, that both for instruction in prayer, as well as for study, they should read chiefly the authors whose names began with S. that is, S. Augustine, S. Gregory, S. Bernard, and other Saints.
He was anxious people should not go from prayer wearied and sickened, but rather with sweetness and a desire to return to it; and therefore he was very particular in teaching all, but specially those who could not make prolonged meditations, repeatedly to lift up their minds to God in ejaculatory prayers, some of which we have thought it not out of place to subjoin, as well Latin ones as others in the vernacular.
Cor mundum crea in me Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Deus, in adjutorium mweum intende: Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.
Doce me facere voluntatem tuam.
Domino, ne te abscondas mihi.
Domine, vim patior, responde pro me.
Ego sum via, veritas, et vita; dixit Dominus.
Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Jesu, sit mihi Jesu; ego non te diligo.
Adauge mihi fidem, O bone Jesu.
Omnis vallis implebitur, et omnis mons, et collis humiliabitur.
Verbum caro factum est. (To free me from the flesh.)
Ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Ne reminiscaris, Domine, iniquitatum mearum, (For Thy most holy Passion’s sake.)
Quando te diligam filiali amore?
Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus, miserere nobis.
Tui amoris in me ignem accende.
Maria, mater gratiae, mater misericordiae, tu nos ab hoste protege, et hora mortis suscipe.
Assumpta Maria in caelum, gaudent Angeli.
I know Thee not yet, my Jesus, because I do not seek Thee.
My Jesus, what shall I do if Thou dost not aid me?
My Jesus, what can I do to please Thee?
My Jesus, what can I do to fulfil Thy will?
My Jesus, give me the grace not to serve Thee for fear, but for love.
My Jesus, I would fain love Thee.
I distrust myself, but I trust Thee, my Jesus.
My Jesus, I can do no good without Thy help.
My Jesus, I wish to do nothing but Thy most holy Will.
My Jesus, I have never loved Thee yet, but I would fain love Thee now.
I shall never love Thee if Thou dost not help me, my Jesus.
I would fain love Thee, my Jesus, but I do not know how.
I seek Thee and do not find Thee, my Jesus.
My Jesus, if I did but know Thee, Thou wouldst know me.
If I should do all the good that is done in the world, what would it be worth after all, O my Jesus?
I shall fall, my Jesus, unless Thou upholdest me.
My Jesus, if Thou wishest for me, clear away all the hindrances which keep me from Thee.
My Lord, I wish to learn the road to heaven.
My Jesus, without Thy help I know not what to say or do.
My Jesus, if Thou dost not help me I am ruined.
O my Jesus, grant that I may never offend Thee.
O my Blessed Lady, give me grace always to be thinking of Thy virginity.
O my Blessed Lady, give me grace always to be calling Thee to mind.
He used also to teach people to say, Deus in adjutorium meum intende: Domine ad adjuvandum me festina, sixty-three times, in the fashion of a rosary, or any other of the above ejaculations, just as we should say the chaplet of our Lady. F. Francesco Zazzera said that the Saint used to praise most highly these ejaculatory prayers, and used to teach them to him at different times of the year, making him say every day first one and then another, and that he gained immense help from them.
Thus Philip exercised himself and his disciples in the practice of prayer, to which, indeed, he exhorted all, according to their station, business, and health, persuading them to make their prayer every evening in the little oratory, as we have related at some length before. But, not content with this, he introduced family prayer into many of the principal houses of Rome, so that the fathers and mothers of families retired into their oratories every evening with their household, and prayed in the same order and method as is observed in our oratory. Indeed, there were some who not only observed a like practice of prayer, but as much also of community life as was possible in their circumstances. In a word, there was nothing Philip had so much at heart as the practice of prayer, both for himself and others, and he continually exhorted his spiritual children to try to have God always before their eyes. He had many favourite pieces of advice which he used to repeat in this matter; and although they were common sayings of S. Bernard, Cassian, and others, yet he and his penitents had them so familiarly and continually in their mouths, that they were considered as his, and we shall mention them as his favourite maxims, both now and whenever it may occur to us to quote any of them.
First of all, then, he used to say that a most excellent means to learn how to pray, was to recognize ourselves as unworthy of so great a gift, and to throw ourselves entirely into the arms of the Lord who will teach us how to pray; and that the true preparation for prayer was to exercise ourselves in mortification; for to desire to give ourselves up to prayer without mortification is like a bird trying to fly before it is fledged. He used also to say that no one could arrive at the contemplative life, who had not first diligently occupied himself in the active life. One of his penitents once asked him to teach him how to pray: he replied, “Be humble and, obedient, and the Holy Ghost will teach you.” To those who were beginners in the spiritual life, be used. to recommend the perusal of devout books and Lives of the Saints as a good help in prayer, adding, however, that they were not to read out of curiosity, or in a hurry, but with pauses, and a little at a time, stopping awhile whenever they found themselves moved to compunction or devotion. He said that in prayer we ought to obey the Spirit of God, and follow His motions, whatever our own previous purpose might have been; and when, for example, He draws us to meditate on the Passion, we ought not to desire to meditate on some other mystery. Also, when we go to communion, we ought to follow the same spirit we had in our prayer, and not change, or cast about for new meditations. When we begin to ask some favour from God, we ought not to give over praying because we see He is long in granting it, but still strive to obtain it by the same means. If a sick person for whom we are praying begins to recover, we must not leave off our prayers; for, as the convalescence was ordained to be got by prayer, the same means may be necessary to the complete recovery. It was one of his common maxims, that when a spiritual person asks for anything, and then experiences great calmness of spirit, it is a good sign that God has either granted, or will soon grant, the petition; and in praying for others he recommended that the request should always be made conditionally, as, “If it is pleasing to the Divine Majesty,” and the like.
He said we ought to desire to do great things for God, and not to be content with an ordinary sanctity, but to wish to surpass, if it were possible, even S. Peter and S. Paul in sanctity and love: and if it be not possible for man to attain this, it is at least well to effect in holy desires what we cannot accomplish in actual operation. We ought, therefore, never to think we have done any good so far, nor to be contented with the degree of perfection to which we may have arrived, however high it be, because Christ has given us the form of our perfection in putting before us that of the Eternal Father: “Be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
As to the affections in prayer, his counsel was not to look too much with our bodily eyes at pictures and images, or to gaze at them for long together; for this, said he, not only hurts the head, but opens the way to illusions, as well through the weakness of the sight, as through the machinations of the devil. In the time of dryness he advised as an excellent remedy the picturing ourselves as beggars in the presence of God, and of the Saints, and to go as a mendicant from one Saint to another, to ask of them a spiritual alms, with the same urgency as beggars in the streets. He said it was sometimes well to do this even in a bodily way, going first to the church of one Saint, and then to the church of another, to ask this holy alms. His own practice was rather to visit those churches, where there was least multitude, and tumult of people and distraction.
He particularly exhorted beginners to exercise themselves in meditations on the Four Last Things, and he used to say that he who does not go down into hell when he is alive, runs a great risk of going there when he is dead. He admonished his subjects never to abandon the evening prayer and discipline at the Oratory, and he exhorted every one to recommend himself to the prayers of others; and when any one asked his prayer, he not only used to pray for him himself, but got others to do the same. When he wished to show the necessity of prayer, he said that a man without prayer was an animal without reason. His physicians once forbade his praying on account of his health, and though he strove to obey, yet as almost his whole time was given to it, he could not exist without it, and he said to Gallonio who was with him, “Ah me! Antonio, I seem to myself to have become a beast.” He was very much against any one quitting his prayer because of the phantasms that troubled him, or for any other temptation whatsoever; he said they ought to bear it all patiently, because the Lord sometimes grants in one moment, what we have been seeking for ten years in vain; “for there is nothing,” said he, “which the devil fears so much or so much tries to hinder as prayer.”
With regard to this matter Philip had received a particular gift from God, a light by which he could tell when a man had made his morning prayer, and when he had omitted it. By these and other instructions, his penitents and disciples profited so greatly in this exercise, that not religious only, but secular persons, artisans, merchants, physicians, lawyers, and courtiers, arrived at such a height of spirituality under his direction, and became such men of prayer, as to receive therein extraordinary favours from God, and in the midst of their temporal concerns led a life as pure and devout as the most fervent religious in their monasteries.
From his burning love of God there sprang up in Philip’s breast the most ardent longings of charity towards his neighbour; so that in his extreme old age his desire to bring sinners back to the right path was so great, that he was anxious to suffer for them; and for this end he inflicted upon himself severe disciplines, and bore the burdens of others’ misdoings, and wept for them as though they had been his own. Indeed, his fervent zeal never grew weary in labouring for the conversion of souls; and he allured them to the service of God with such dexterity, and such a holy winning art, that his very penitents themselves were astonished at it; for he enticed them in such a way, that they who came to him once, seemed as if they could never leave him to seek another director. He so accommodated himself to the temper of each one in particular, that what was said of the apostle was excellently well fulfilled in him, I became all things to all men that I might save all. In order to keep them together, and to gain others as well, he sometimes invited them to sup with him at San Girolamo, where his frugal table was seasoned with good instructions and a quiet mirth. It was astonishing how this bound them together as if they were so many brothers, and bred in them an affectionate reverence to the Saint. If great sinners, and persons with long-standing habits of vice fell into his hands, at first he exacted nothing from them but an abstinence from mortal sins, and afterwards by little and little, conducted them to that height of virtue to which they seemed called.
A penitent went to confess to him, who was so immersed in a particular sin
that he fell almost every day. The Saint gave him no other penance than to
come to confession immediately after each fall, and never to wait for a second
misfortune. The penitent obeyed, and Philip always gave him absolution, simply
renewing the same penance; and this one means gave him such real assistance,
that in a few months he was entirely free, not only from that sin, but from
many other sins besides, and in a short time attained such perfection, that the
holy Father himself said of him, that he was become an angel.
Through this same sweetness of manner he converted a dissolute youth, by only begging him to say the Salve Regina seven times a day, and then to kiss the ground, repeating, “To-morrow I may perhaps be dead.” The youth obeyed him, and in a short time began to lead a most excellent life, and fourteen years after died with signs of great devotion.
Another, called Domenico Saraceni of Collescepoli, went to confess to the Saint; in his own country he had always been accustomed to give something to his confessor; and when he had finished his confession, finding that he had no money about him, he said, “Pardon me, father; I have brought no money with me.” Philip smiled and said, “Come now, instead of the money you were going to give me, promise that you will return to me next Saturday.” The penitent returned; and in short, became so taken with Philip’s sweetness, that he put himself under his direction, and became a very good man, going to confession and communion at least once a week.
In 1562, a youth named Giovanni Tommaso Arena of Catanzaro, went very often to the sermons at San Girolamo. It was, however, rather to make game of the exercises, than through any serious intention of turning to God. Some of the brothers of the Oratory perceived this, and being displeased with his conduct, they mentioned it to the holy father, in order that he might apply some remedy. “Have a little patience,” he answered, “and do not doubt.” Giovanni Tommaso still persevered in turning the Oratory to ridicule, without showing any signs of amendment. The Saint, however, would not allow a word to be said to him. The good father’s patience was not in vain. By little and little the youth was softened, as well by the word of God as by Philip’s incessant prayers. He began to reflect upon his misconduct, and conceived such contrition, that he gave himself entirely up into Philip’s hands, and grew so fervent, that by the holy father’s counsel he entered into the order of S. Dominic, and died a holy death during his novitiate.
A young Neapolitan, named Pietro Focile, an irregular liver, and much given to unseasonable jesting and buffoonery, was one day brought to the exercises at San Girolamo. He was dressed in a most singular and whimsical fashion, and when he entered, he perceived that the Saint kept his eyes continually upon him; he felt every look go through him like a dart, and was aware that Philip was actually reading his very secret sins. He heard the discourses and assisted at all the exercises of the Oratory that day; and they took such hold of him, that his nature seemed changed all at once, and he became a different man. When he went out, his companions asked him what had happened to him, for he did not seem like the same person. A week passed, and the work was meanwhile going on in his heart, and at last he determined to make a good confession. He went to San Girolamo, and placed himself near the Saint’s confessional in order to confess; but Philip pretended to take no account of him, and when he had finished confessing the others, he told him to return another time, for that he could not hear him then. The Saint treated him in this way every time he came, and went on putting him off, and then bidding him return, for two whole months, always saying to him, “I cannot hear you; come again.” But the more the Saint mortified him, the more anxious was Pietro to return to him. At last, when Philip saw the time was come, he heard his confession, to Pietro’s infinite satisfaction, who became one of his most fervent penitents. He was once making the visit of the Seven Churches in company with the Saint; and when they were at S. Sebastian’s, Pietro wished to kneel down to make his confession, but the Saint said to him, “Get up from here and go to Father Pompeo.” He did so, whereupon Philip arose and said to Father Pompeo, “Do not confess this fellow.” Pietro then went back to the Saint, who said, “I do not know you.” At last, however, he heard his confession, but would not let him have the communion. In the evening he sent for him and consoled him, for what he had done was to refine him by means of mortification. Philip prophesied to him, that he would die poor, and the prediction was verified. For, although he was very well off at the time, he was reduced to such straits in his old ago, that he was in actual want of bread. He died a holy death, befitting the life which he had lived ever since he had put himself under the direction of the Saint. He also prophesied to him, that he would have a male child two days before it was born, and even during his life-time he occasionally appeared to to him in dreams to comfort him in his adversities.
Marcello Ferro, a Roman cleric of noble family, and who enjoyed a rich benefice in Rome, used to dress in coloured clothes like a layman, and with great show of vanity. In the cloister of the Minerva he saw a young man who was one of Philip’s penitents; the youth, entering into conversation with him, said to him, “One Father Philip from San Girolamo is in the habit of coming here to vespers and compline; O if you were but to speak to him, what a happy thing it would be for you.” The cleric, moved by God, believed the young man’s words, and prayed him with much importunity to introduce him to Philip. Meanwhile the Saint entered the church with Giovanni Battista Salviati, Costanzo Tassone, Giovanni Animuccia, and others of his own people. Marcello following them, saw that Philip, as soon as ever he knelt down, covered his face with his hands and began weeping, and that he trembled (in his usual way) during the whole of compline, which made him wonder exceedingly. When compline was over he had a long conversation with Philip, who invited him to San Girolamo to hear the sermons. The good father knew well enough that he was a cleric, yet for the fifteen or sixteen days that he was continually coming to him, he never gave him the least reprimand for dressing in that style; but simply endeavoured by prayer and other means to breed real compunction in him. After that time, the young man, becoming ashamed of his dress, discontinued it of his own accord, and made a general confession, during which Philip kept his eyes fixed on heaven, and trembling in his usual manner, disclosed to the young man the secrets of his heart, and manifested to him his sins as plainly as the penitent could disclose them himself, and before giving him absolution he fell upon his neck, and said, “O my son, do not resist the Holy Ghost; God wishes to save you.” Marcello gave himself up entirely to the holy father, and became one of his most intimate and favourite penitents.
By this method of his he brought an almost infinite number of sinners back to the paths of holiness. They acknowledged that under God they owed their salvation to him, and many of them at the hour of death exclaimed, “Blessed be the day and hour in which I came to know Father Philip.” Others astonished at the great conversions he effected, said, “Father Philip draws souls as the loadstone draws iron.” No sooner did any one go to confession to him, than he immediately wished to go again; for Philip was greatly displeased with confessors who made the path of virtue too difficult, especially to penitents recently converted. He could not endure their exasperating them with harsh rebukes, or anything like rigour in the confessional. He would have them compassionate their penitents, seek to gain them by sweetness and love, and condescend to all as far as ever they possibly could. He was very much against stiffness or offhand prohibitions, about wearing fine clothes, cellars, swords, and such like things, lest the penitents, repulsed by the fear of difficulties, should not return, and then, abandoning confession, should persevere in sin.
For the same reason he never inveighed in an exaggerated way against certain vanities in clothes and head-dress, to which women not unfrequently give way. He dissembled the best he could, so as to bring them the more readily and seasonably to the end he had in view. He said that we must sometimes bear with these defects in others, just as we are obliged against our own will to bear with defects in ourselves; he used to say, “Only let a little devotion gain admittance into their hearts, and then you may leave them to themselves; they will soon do all or more than all you wish.” A lady one day asked him if it was a sin to wear slippers with excessive high heels; the Saint only answered, “Take care you don’t tumble in them.” One of his male penitents used to wear a collar with inordinately large tuckers: Philip, touching him lightly en the neck, said, “Ah! I should fondle you a good deal oftener than I do, if this collar did not hurt my hands.” The lady left off her high slippers, and the gentleman took the tuckers off his collar.
For the same end of insinuatingly drawing souls to the service of God, he kept his room door always open, so that he was exposed to every one who came; and when any one through respect would have retired, he took him by the hand and drew him in. He had neither time nor place which he could call his own. He wished every one to come in, even when he was unwell, and in the evening, although he might have gone to bed to rest himself, he gave audience to all who came, and would not have any one go away without consolation. He thus attached people to him in such a way that there was nothing they would not most willingly have done for him. He would on no account allow any one to say, “Philip is resting,” or “he does not wish to be disturbed.” One day Antonio Gallonio prevented a person from entering, as the hour seemed unseasonable; but when Philip heard of it, he rebuked him sharply, and said, “Have I not told you that I wish to have no time or hour for my own?” Another time Francesco Zazzara shut the Saint’s room, that he might not be wearied; Philip, perceiving that some one was expecting him, called Francesco, and gave him a most severe reprimand, in the presence of the person whom he had caused to wait. At other times he would go out unexpectedly and enter the room of some father, where he thought there might be some one waiting for him; and if it was so he reprimanded, with no little sharpness, and in the presence of the person who had been waiting, those whose business it was to have told him. Nothing gave him greater displeasure than to hear that any one had been inconvenienced by waiting for him. On one occasion some persons said to him, “Father, do not make yourself so common.” He answered, “I tell you, that those of my penitents, who have now got the most devotion, are just those whom I have gained to the Lord by being easily accessible, and ready even in the night to convert them; and rest assured that nothing brings so much consolation and sweetness to souls that love God, as leaving Christ for Christ.”
But Philip was not content with staying in church to hear confessions, or receiving in his room all who chose to come; though by these means he reaped an abundant harvest of souls. He did not spare himself in any other kind of toil, whatever it might be, so long as it was in the service of souls. Neither rain nor wind nor cold nor risks of any sort, though life or reputation were involved, seemed much if he could but so convert a sinner and draw a soul to Christ.
He was once informed that a youth at court ran a great danger of being assassinated because of a lady of quality in Rome, and although several prelates had done all in their power, they could not turn the young man from his perverse intention. But Philip having called him to him, with his usual dexterity and patience, induced him to acknowledge his error, and not only persuaded him to desist from his enterprise, but also to abstain from passing that lady’s house for two years together. This promise he kept so faithfully, that in accompanying a great prince in his carriage, which he did repeatedly, when they came near that street he asked leave to retire: so efficacious were Philip’s words, or perhaps rather Philip’s prayers!
In fine, he was all things to all men. He suited himself to noble and ignoble, young and old, subjects and prelates, learned and ignorant, and received those who were strangers to him with singular benignity, and embraced them with as much love and charity, as if he had been a long time expecting them. When he was called upon to be merry, he was so; if there was a demand upon his sympathy, he was equally ready. He gave the same welcome to all, caressing the poor equally with the rich, and wearying himself to assist all to the utmost limits of his power. In consequence of his being so accessible, and willing to receive all comers, many went to him every day, and some continued for the space of thirty, nay, forty years, to visit him very often both morning and evening; so that his room went by the agreeable nickname of the School of Sanctity, and the Shelter of Christian Mirth.
Although by this manner of his, he reaped great fruit in the conversion and edification of souls, there were not wanting those who found great fault with it, and spoke depreciatingly of it; and this not only among worldly men, but even among those of excellent and indeed saintly lives. Experience, however, showed that Philip reaped more fruit by his way than they did with their rigour and particularity. Teseo Raspa, a priest and confessor at San Girolamo, a holy man, but a little rigid, by no means approved of Philip’s gentleness and easiness in the confessional, especially as they were so unlike his own practice. But although he had many penitents at first, nearly all of them abandoned him very shortly, whereas Philip’s number swelled daily and it is a fact well worth recording, that some of his penitents, notwithstanding that he only allowed them to come to confession once a week, and very often less frequently than that, because of their studies or other duties, were more advanced, and, so to speak, better grounded in the science of the Saints, than the penitents of others.
Yet Philip knew how to be rigid and severe when he saw occasion for it. He could play the superior, and imperiously too if there was need, and that not only over his subjects in the congregation, or over penitents of an easy and yielding disposition, but over stubborn and perverse natures. He was once sent for by the Company of the Misericordia to attend a person who was going to be executed, and who obstinately resisted all the methods used for his conversion, though many of the company, as well as several religious, had used their utmost endeavours. Philip reached the little chapel where the wretched culprit was screaming like one in despair; he sent out those who were there; then, in the impetuosity of his spirit, he seized the criminal by the collar, and laid him flat on the ground, saying, “Not a word; hold your peace.” But he had scarcely finished the words, when the prisoner begged to go to confession; and after having confessed twice, resigned himself to death. We have another instance in the case of a young noble, who had unhappily become so entangled in vicious habits, that the various endeavours which had for a long time been made to bring him to repentance had been all in vain. One day Philip began reproving him most sharply for his hardness of heart, threatening him with the pains of hell, and putting before him in a vivid picture, the justice of God irritated against him. He then added, “Up with you! I see we must come to facts with you.” Having the young man before him, he made him kneel down in front of him, and rest his head upon his (Philip’s) knees. “Look now,” said the holy father, “look with your own eyes at the pains which await you down there, in hell.” The youth remained in that position for a short time then, lifting up his head, all agitated and trembling, he repented of his sins, made a good confession, entirely changed his manner of living, and persevered in the service of God till his death.
Philip knew very well that men mostly carry to the grave the vicious habits they have acquired in their youth; and hence it was, that although he was anxious to turn all kinds of people from sin, he laboured with a special zeal for the conversion and perseverance of youth, sedulously inventing ways of keeping them from offending God, and insinuating into their hearts the desire of virtue. When he grew old, and his bodily strength had nearly failed through excessive fatigues, the holy man was still seen going about the streets of Rome with a train of young men, conversing with each of them in a manner suitable to their profession, making them affectionate, one towards another, and winning their reverence and affection to himself. Sometimes he left his prayers, and went down to sport and banter with young men, and by this sweetness and condescension, and playful conversation, as Cardinal Crescenzio deposes, he gained their souls. He very often conducted them to some open ground, and there made them play together at different games, such as battledore, or mall. He generally began the game himself, and afterwards retired to some thicket or hillock, either to read, or to meditate on some point of the Passion; for he mostly carried about with him a little book which contained nothing but the ends of the four Gospels, with the Passion; after he had read a little while, he was unable to go on, but became motionless, and absorbed in contemplation.
Whenever any of them left off coming to confession or to the Oratory, the same affectionate charity moved him to send for them and win them back in some touching way; and if they had unfortunately swerved from the path of virtue, he was indefatigable in effecting their return to the service of God, even sending people to them underhand and with some other pretext, who were to try and bring them back again. He took this much to heart, and exhorted his spiritual children to pray to God that he would please to bring the wanderers back to frequent the Sacraments; and it sometimes happened that the truants, thus regained, resumed their spiritual exercises with more fervour than ever.
It was well known in all Rome, and particularly among religious, what a singular gift Philip had of exciting young men to the love of virtue and the desire of perfection. The Father Superior of the Dominicans in the convent of the Minerva repeatedly gave him his novices with their reader, that he might take them out where he pleased for recreation, confident of the fruit they would reap from his conversation: nor was he ever disappointed. Sometimes he took them to the Seven Churches, particularly at the time of the Carnival, and then they all received the Communion, and said that was their Carnival; at other times he took them to some agreeable place, where they stopped all day, and dined together on the spot. The holy old man took great pleasure in seeing them eat and be merry; and he used to say, “Eat, my sons, and do not have any scruple about it, for it makes me fat to watch you.” When dinner was over he made them sit down on the bare earth, in a ring round him, and gave them many counsels, telling them the secrets of their hearts, and exhorting them to the practice of all virtues, but especially that of perseverance, assuring them that the Divine Majesty had conferred on them one of His greatest benefits in having called them to religion; “and this,” he added, “this I say with all my heart.” During these addresses the novices felt their hearts burn with fervour and a desire to profit by their vocation, and used to go away contented and lighthearted, returning to the convent with no little satisfaction and profit to their souls.
The patience which Philip had with young men, when he was trying to keep them from sin, was something indescribable. They made what noise they pleased, even close to his room, and the Saint said nothing; some in the house, however, complained of their want of discretion, and the youths one day told Philip of this; but he answered, “Let them talk, go you on with your play, and be merry; all I want of you is to be out of the way of committing sin.” He even made them play at ball in front of his room, that they might not have any occasion to go elsewhere; and for this end, whenever he made a happy capture of some boys in the confessional, he used to entrust them to some of his other penitents, in whom he had confidence, in order that they might not have to seek friendships with others.
A certain Roman gentleman, who often went to visit the Saint, wondering at the uproar the young men made, asked the Saint hew he could possibly bear it. Philip answered, “So long as they do not sin they may chop firewood upon my back.” One of the persons most influential at court, who was intimate with the Saint in his youth, said to a friend, with tears in his eyes, “When I was a youth, and confessed to Father Philip, I never committed a mortal sin; but as soon as I left him I gave myself up, wretch that I am! to this licentious life which I am now living.”
He could not endure any one to be downcast or pensive, because spirituality is always injured by it: and directly he saw any one out of spirits, he instantly asked him why he was in such a mood as that, and sometimes he would give him a box on the car and say, “Be merry.” He said that his long experience in the direction of souls had taught him, that in spiritual matters blythe and cheerful men were much more easy to guide than the melancholy. Hence it was that he had a particular and marked leaning to cheerful persons.
Speaking of this I must not omit to relate something which on one occasion happened with some religious in his room. Two Capuchins came to see him, the one an old the other a young man. Philip looked both of them in the face, and as it appeared to him that the young one had more spirituality than his elder companion, he determined to try if it was so, and that by his usual method of mortification. It happened that the young Capuchin was guilty of a breach of good manners in spitting in Philip’s presence, and the Saint took occasion from that to give him a biting reprimand. First of all, he exaggerated the matter in the most excessive way, pretended to be in a furious passion, and said, “What sort of manners is this! get out of my presence,” and taking off one of his slippers, he made as though he was going to hit him on the head with it. But notwithstanding all Philip’s words and gestures, the young Capuchin was as merry and cheerful as before, and did not show the slightest sign of displeasure, whereas his melancholy companion showed by his looks how deeply he felt the mortification, though in reality it had fallen on his companion, not on himself. The Saint, not contented with all this, bid the young monk take his cloak off, telling him he was not worthy to wear it; to which the young man replied, “Your Reverence is master; I can go very willingly without my cloak, not only because I am not worthy to wear it, but because I am not cold; and above all because I have had a most capital meal this morning.” The Saint then played several other tricks with him, affecting great frivolity, but nothing could disturb the young Capuchin’s good humour, or tire his instant and willing obedience. At last, Philip looking fiercely at him, sent him away, without testifying the least affection for him; for all that the monk was as cheerful as ever, and as patient.
They left the room, but when they had got to the bottom of the stairs, Philip had them called back again, and as soon as ever he saw the young one he ran to him and pressed him to him in a most ardent embrace, caressing him in an extraordinary manner, and giving him some blessed beads and other devout things; and as he went away, he said to him, “My son, persevere in this cheerfulness, for this is the true way to advance in holy virtues.”
But, great as the pleasure was which he took in cheerfulness, he was far from sanctioning any thing like dissipation. On the contrary, he said that there was great need that young men should be specially on their guard against becoming dissipated, or giving way to a buffooning spirit; for buffoonery not only renders a person incapable of receiving any additional spirituality from God, but even roots up what little he may have acquired before.
He was anxious also to have the young people that were about him always occupied. Some times he would bid them sweep the room out, or make the bed over again, or move the table from one place to another. Sometimes he would set them to thread a rosary, or plait garlands of flowers; and in short he would order one person to one thing and another to another, simply to keep them occupied; for he hated idleness so much, that no one ever found him unemployed.
He wished young people to go to confession very often, but not to communicate every time they went to confession; and not infrequently, to teach them the virtue of humility, he made them prepare for communion with the greatest diligence, bidding them offer up particular devotions for that purpose; and then in the morning when they were going to communion, he would put them off till another time, giving them fresh devotions to make; and he kept dealing with them in this way, till he judged it well for them to communicate. He did not act thus without a reason, for he said, “On communion days the devil generally makes greater and sharper assaults than on other days; and if young men do not resist these, they come at last to outrage the Sacrament.” He always told those who were going to communion, to prepare themselves for more temptations than usual, for the Lord does not choose to let us be idle on such occasions. He was anxious also that they should approach the altar with a desire of that heavenly food. When they asked his leave to go to communion, he used to quote the text to them, “Ye that thirst, come to the waters.” For the same reason he always liked his young penitents to give him four or five days’ notice when they wished to have communion; and for a few days after wards he gave them something additional to do, that they might get greater fruit from the Sacrament, such as saying five Paters and Aves with the arms extended, or reciting some of the chaplets he had taught them, as we mentioned before, or something of a similar nature.
In the time of the Carnival he used to set his young penitents to act plays, in order to prevent their going to the Corso or to the exhibition of immodest comedies. It was for the same purpose that he introduced the pilgrimage to the Seven Churches, and the spiritual conferences in open places, as at Montecavallo, or Sant’ Onofrio, or in any other place which he considered convenient; and when he once heard that one of the youths had worn a mask, he rebuked him sharply, telling him he had done wrong, and that he was to be careful not to go to the masquerade any more, but to burn the mask.
In order to keep young men far from all danger of impurity, he used to give them wise rules by which they might avoid what experience shows to be mostly occasions of temptation. One counsel that he gave them was, not to retire to their own rooms alone immediately after dinner either to read or write, or for any other cause, but to remain in conversation with others; because it is a time when the devil is wont to assault men with more than usual violence, and this is that evil spirit called in Scripture, “the noonday demon,” from which David earnestly prayed to be delivered. He desired them also to avoid touching one another, even laying hold of each other’s hands in sport, as they would shun a pestilence, a thing which in members of his congregation he held in extreme and special abhorrence. He never allowed two of them to remain alone together, even if they were near relations, or of the best dispositions, saying, “They may be good, and not have any one bad thought, yet for all that bad thoughts may come.”
He was very much displeased when brothers played and bantered with sisters of their own age. A young man, who was in the habit of playing with his sister, went to confession to Father Angelo Velli. The confessor, who modelled himself on the Saint’s instructions, told the youth repeatedly that he must not do this; but he, not having any bad thoughts, and hearing his confessor repeat this same thing over and over, was scandalized. One morning, therefore, Father Angelo said to him, “Tell me, my son - you have no scruple at all about this, have you?” The penitent answered, “No, father, I cannot say that I have any scruple at all about it.” “Well then,” replied the confessor, “go to Father Philip, and ask his advice.” He went; and Philip, when he had heard the whole story, asked him whereabouts he was in his studies. “In logic,” replied the youth. “Ah then,” said the Saint, “I can tell you the devil is an excellent hand at logic, and he will soon teach you to abstract, and say, Woman, not Sister.” This was enough for the young man; he played no more with his sisters, receiving from the Saint not the remedy only, but the fortitude to put his advice into practice.
In a word, in governing young men, and in keeping them at a distance from sin, Philip had a gift peculiarly his own, and in which few of his time equalled him; and what was most of all to be admired was, that he bestowed such a special care upon each one in particular, that it seemed as if that one was the only penitent he had to guide.
Whenever any of his penitents were ill he went to visit them continually; and as soon as he entered the room he began to pray for them, and made the byestanders do the same. When they were in extreme danger, he generally stayed with them till they died, or till a favourable turn took place, not unfrequently spending whole nights in attending the dying. He had a remarkable power of consoling the sick, and of delivering them from the temptations with which the devil usually assails them.
A musician named Sebastian, one of his penitents, and a very virtuous man, was lying at the point of death, when the devil appeared to him all black and frightful, inducing him by every possible means to despair of his salvation. Sebastian, panic-stricken, began to scream out most desperately, “O wretch that I am! would that I had never been born! all hope is past, and I must now go into the burning flames of hell; woe is me! what an unfortunate wretch am I!” He cried out in this way for two hours successively, without receiving any consolation. Meanwhile, those who were about him sent for the rector of the parish; but Sebastian would not look at him nor listen to him; he turned his face the other way disdainfully, saying that he had no faith, that he was damned, and that all hope of salvation was out of the question for him. His friends did not know what to do, till at last they thought of sending for the holy father. Philip came, and as soon as he set foot on the threshold of the room, he said in a loud voice so that every body could hear, “What is this? what is this?” one of his favourite exclamations; he then went up to the bed, laid his hand on the sick man’s head, and said, “Do not be afraid.” Sebastian was comforted instantly, and began to cry out, “Father Philip is driving the devils away; the devils are flying, Philip is driving them off; O grand virtue of Father Philip! Viva Christo! Viva Philippo, who has saved me from hell! Viva l’ Oratorio!” Then in an outburst of joy, he began to sing the hymns they sung at the Oratory, and particularly the one which begins, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! let every one call on Jesus!” He then raised his hands and eyes to heaven, and said, “Look at the angels, look at the archangels,” and naming all the choirs of angels one by one, (the very names of which he never knew before, for he was quite an ignorant person,) he resigned his soul to God in Philip’s arms, in the month of September, the day before the feast of S. Michael the Archangel.
When Persiano Rosa, Philip’s director, of whom we have spoken before, was in his last illness, he had to sustain most tremendous assaults of the devil, during which he cried out loudly, “Tu judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam.” While he was repeating these words he sat up in bed, made the sign of the cross, and threw himself first on one side and then on the other, because of the panic he was in. Meanwhile Philip arrived, and Persiano, as soon as he saw him, said, “Sancte Philippe, ora pro me,” for he was accustomed to call him Sancte Philippe; he then added, “I beg of you to drive away that fierce black dog which is trying to tear me.” When Philip heard this, he immediately betook himself to prayer, and exhorted the byestanders to say a Pater and an Ave for the sick man. He had scarcely knelt down before Persiano began to cry out, “Thank God! the dog is going, the dog is running away.” Philip got up, and sprinkled the sick man and the whole room with holy water; the devil disappeared altogether, and the day after Persiano passed happily and quietly to a better world.
Gabriello Tana of Modena, a youth of about eighteen, and who was in the service of Giovanni Ricci Cardinal of Montepulciano, was in a mortal sickness. He was one of Philip’s first penitents, and for two years before his illness had given himself up entirely to devotion, confessing and communicating at least twice a week. He was always most diligent in works of piety, and especially in visiting the hospitals. He had been confined to his bed for twenty days, dangerously ill; no medicine seemed to do him the least good, and he was now drawing towards the close of his life, when there came upon him a temptation of the devil in the shape of a most anxious desire to get well, together with an inordinate fear and abhorrence of death. The holy father, who visited him continually, found him in this state, and asked him how he felt; the invalid answered, “I am in capital spirits, because it seems to me that it is not God’s Will that I should die this time.” He begged the Saint to pray for him in his mass, that God would give him time to do penance for his sins; the saint replied, “‘Well, I am going to San Pietro in Montorio to say mass for you in the chapel where the holy apostle was crucified.” Gabriello, possessed with the desire for his recovery, repeated several times, “Pray God for me, that he may give me time to do penance.” The saint then perceived that this was a temptation, for he had had a revelation of Gabriello’s death; he said therefore, “I wish you now to make me a present of your will, that I may offer it to God in the offertory of the mass, so that if he should call you to himself, and the devil should want to molest you, you could answer, “I have no longer any will of my own, I have given it away to Christ.” Gabriello consented, and Philip told the bystanders to pray for him, while he went to say mass for him. After mass he returned to the invalid, and found him entirely changed, repeating over and over again, and with much affection, those words of the apostle, “I wish to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.” He took his crucifix in his hand, and hold it to his breast, and then with his eyes full of tears he embraced it tenderly and kissed it, exhorting and comforting his friends who stood round him, bidding them take up the service of God in good earnest, and cast the vanities of the world behind them. “This life,” he kept saying, “this life is become odious to me; I wish to die that I may go to Paradise;“ then turning to the saint, he added, “Up to this time, Father, I have prayed with the greatest earnestness for my recovery; but now I pray you to persuade our Lord that I may depart out of this miserable life as soon as possible.” He continued in these sentiments all the following day; and in the evening, when the Saint was leaving him to return to San Girolamo, where he was then living, the invalid said to him, “My father, I desire to go to Paradise; pray now for me, that I may be consoled.” Philip answered, “And if it should please God that you should suffer this sickness for a long time, would you not submit to his Will?” To which the youth replied, “Now what is this that I hear, my father? Do you not know that I have told you many times that I wish to go to Paradise to see God, and that I cannot remain in this life? Pray the Lord, then, that anyhow I may depart before five o’clock this afternoon.” “Come then,” said Philip, “be of good heart, and do not fear; you shall be gratified; but meantime I warn you to prepare yourself to make a valiant fight of it, for the devil is going to make repeated assaults on you: remember, therefore, that you have given your will to Christ, and fear nothing, for He will overcome every obstacle for you.” He afterwards told him, one by one, all the temptations with which the devil would assail him; and then left him, that he might pray for him more conveniently and readily at home. He ordered, however, some of his own people, and among them Giovanni Battista Salviati and Francesco Maria Tarugi, not to leave him, but to give him all the assistance in their power, and if any fresh change took place, to let him know; for he had already come four or five times that day to visit him, and comfort him with little fervent discourses. An hour had scarcely passed before the devil came to tempt the youth with presumption, making it appear to him that he had merited greatly by his good works, and that his salvation was already secure. The sign of this temptation was, that when he heard the litanies, usually recited at the commendation of a departing soul, at the words A morte mala libera eum, Domine, he smiled and shook his head, saying, “He who has Christ in his heart cannot die a bad death.” But immediately perceiving the deceit of the enemy, he began to cry out, “Help me, I pray you, my brothers, help me with your prayers, for what I have just said was a temptation of the devil.” He had scarcely discovered and vanquished this temptation before the adversary assailed him with a second, trying to hinder him from pronouncing the Name of Jesus, which he so ardently desired to utter, and especially at the moment of death, that he had prayed his friends to remind him of it in that extremity. Feeling himself hindered by an internal violence, he cried out, “Help, my brothers, help, for I cannot name It.” They asked what it was that he could not name, adding, “Perhaps it is the most holy Name of Jesus which the devil will not let you pronounce.” Then Gabriello showed by signs that it was so, and turning to Giacomo Marmita, the Cardinal’s secretary, and one of Philip’s penitents, he said to him, “Alas what temptation is this, that I cannot pronounce the Name of Jesus!” and although he pronounced it several times, he was not aware of it, and still fancied that he could not pronounce it. The byestanders comforted him, and told him to pronounce it in his heart, if he could not with his mouth. He was harassed by this temptation for a long time, and a most violent perspiration ensued, whereupon they sent immediately for the holy father. When he arrived the invalid became quite cheerful, and pronounced the Name of Jesus with Philip several times, and very distinctly, repeating it affectionately and just in the way he wished, the Saint helping him by showing him a crucifix, and with words full of unction putting, as it were, that most holy Name into his mouth. The devil, however, would not leave the field; he now tempted him in his faith, insinuating also into his heart a hope that he would certainly get well. Gabriello, turning to Philip, said, “Help me, father, for I seem not to believe, and likewise I fancy I am not going to die.” Philip replied, “Despise this fresh deceit, my child, and say with me, ‘I believe, I believe.’” But although he pronounced these words with the Saint several times most distinctly, he thought that he could not pronounce them properly, nor believe in the way he really wished. Hereupon Philip ordered the byestanders to recite the Credo aloud, and told Gabriello to do so in his heart. After this he knelt down and prayed for him, and immediately the temptation ceased; and when the invalid had taken breath a little, he assumed a holy boldness, and mocked his adversary, and insulted him, saying, “I will believe in spite of you; whether you wish it or not, I will believe for all eternity.” Thus this vexation ceased, and through the grace of God Gabriello remained, much exhausted, certainly, yet master of the field. Finally, the crafty serpent was driven to his last resource of despair. He appeared to Gabriello, and putting himself in front of him with a fierce and terrible aspect, he terrified him in such a manner that his whole countenance was changed, and his eyes, full of terror, wandered here and there distractedly, but found no place on which they could light without horror. In this state of wretchedness he cried out, “Ah me! wretch that I am! what sins! what sins! ah me! mercy, O my God! Father, drive away those black dogs that stand all round me.” Philip laid his hands upon the sufferer’s head, and speaking to the devil, he said, “hast thou force, malignant spirit! to strive against the grace of God? These hands have touched Christ this morning; wherefore I command thee on his behalf to depart from this place, and leave this his creature at peace.” No sooner had he said this than the temptation ceased. He then turned to Gabriello and said, “Be comforted, my son, and say, ‘Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity,’ and do not be afraid; for if you have sinned, Christ also has suffered and paid for you: enter, then, my son, into His Side, and into His most holy Wounds; and fear not, but combat manfully, and you will soon be conqueror.” When he had said this he knelt down at the foot of the bed, and the invalid, joyous and contented, said, “What joy, my brothers, what joy! the dogs are departing; Father Philip is driving them away; see how furiously they fly!” and he pointed with his finger to the place where he saw them; at last he said, “Indeed we have overcome; you are gone in spite of yourselves; now see how freely I can pronounce the Name of Jesus!” Thus comforted, Gabriello fixed his eyes stedfastly on a crucifix which one of the byestanders had in his hand, and prayed with such fervour that there was not one in the room who did not weep excessively. Presently turning to those who were present, he said to them, “O my brothers! what things have I seen with these eyes of mine! Now I know for a truth what our father has so often told us, that all the love we give to the creature is so much taken from the Creator; wherefore I pray you to give all your love to God.” Then turning himself afresh to Christ, and going on with his prayer, he said, “Give me the crucifix into my hands;“ no sooner had he received it than he began to embrace it and to kiss it with the greatest affection; and moved with great fervour of spirit, he slightly raised his head, and lifting up his hand, he said in a clearer voice than he had before, “Blessed be Jesus all the world over, blessed for evermore! and who shall be able to separate me from his love?” Then repeating the words which Philip had suggested to him, he said in a strong voice, “Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity,” and began mocking the evil one with many words, so that Philip, fearing lest by this excitement he should hasten his death, said to him, “No more, my son, no more; let the devil alone; we do him too much honour by talking about him: put your trust in Christ and in His most precious Blood, for He it is who has overcome the devil in you; so be at peace, and leave Him to act for you.” At this command the youth was silent, and Philip made a little sermon to all who were there, on the love of God and on His goodness. Now that all the illusions of the devil had vanished, and Gabriello had fought so manfully, all present believed, from his speaking so clearly and for so long a time together, that he would live till the next day; and the medical men were of the same opinion. The Saint, however, said, “It will not be so; the instant he is moved from his present position he will die.” And so it was; for scarcely half an hour afterwards Gabriello turned on his right side, where Philip was, rested his face upon his hands, and naming the Name of Jesus, passed happily into the other world; such a beauty remaining on his features that he looked like an angel of Paradise.
Giacomo Marmita, who was mentioned above as secretary of the same cardinal of Montepulciano, was one of the Saint’s spiritual children, a man of great erudition and prudence, and what is of more importance, one who feared God most devoutly. He was attacked by a very sharp fever, pains in his body, and other ailments, so that he was reduced to extremities; and being near his death, the weakness of the flesh caused him to complain and to reject all consolation. The Saint who was there said to him, “Courage, Messer Giacomo, call on the Lord, and say, Deus noster refugium et virtus, adjutor in tribulationibus,” to which the sick man replied, “quae invenerunt nos nimis.” Philip went on consoling him, and in a short time brought him into a state of the greatest tranquillity and resignation to the Divine Will, and shortly afterwards, to the edification of all present, he quietly gave up his spirit to God.
Father Niccolò Gigli, a priest of our congregation, was grievously ill, and when his death drew near, he was much harassed by the devil, but came out of the trial victorious through the prayers of Philip, in the following manner. The holy father said mass in the chapel, of which we have spoken above, and there he prayed most earnestly for the sick man; and, behold! while he was praying, some of the fathers heard tremendous noises in the house, as of stones or machines being dragged over the pavement. While the noise was going on, Philip, who was alone in the little chapel praying, called out, and Father Pietro Consolino running to him to see what he wanted, “Make haste and let me know how Niccolò is.” He went, and found the sick man with his hands joined and his face towards heaven, repeating with great feeling, “Let us give thanks to our Lord God; he came, he has retired, he is conquered.” Pietro, returning to the Saint, told him all that had passed; Philip, according to his custom, answered, “it is enough, it is enough, I do not want any thing.” A little while after he went himself to the sick man. Niccolò, when he saw him, looked at him with much affection, and said, “Ah! my father, why have I not known you long, long since? why so late, O my father?” This he said, as having experienced in his combat the efficacy of Philip’s prayers, and obtained a truer notion of his real sanctity.
Niccolò was a Frenchman; but he was free from all earthly attachment, either to his country or to his relations, but especially to the latter. He would not read the letters they sent him, but threw them into the fire as soon as they arrived. He was a great lover of obedience, and a great enemy of idleness; he was assiduous at the confessional, hearing all sorts of persons without ever wearying. He was, moreover, much given to prayer and mortification, so that the Saint loved him with a particular affection. Philip predicted the very day of his death, even before he fell ill. He lived twenty years in the congregation, and gave up his soul to God on the 14th of June, 1591, leaving such a reputation for sanctity behind him, that the holy father used to keep something of his about him as a relic.
Carlo Mazzei, another of Philip’s penitents, was seized with a mortal sickness, and a little before his death he had to sustain most vehement assaults of the devil, who appeared to him and tried to induce him to despair, at the same time putting before him all he had said or done in his life. To this the sick man made no other answer than to repeat twice, “I appeal to Philip,” at which words the devil immediately lost courage, and disappeared in confusion. The holy father afterwards said, that if the sick man had reasoned with the devil, he would most certainly have been deceived by him; and he declared that the soul of Carlo was gone into a place of safety, having been freed from the hands of the enemy by those very words; and Philip used to tell the story as a proof of the fear the devil has of our spiritual father and director.
It was a thing well known among his own people, that when Philip entered a room he used to put the devils to flight by simply saying, “Who is here?” and the persons whom he went to see felt themselves freed from their temptations at the same moment; and many in their agony saw the devils in visible shapes, departing at the appearance of Philip.
But to return to the sick: Philip exercised this charity, not only to his own clear friends, but even to those who persecuted him. Many instances of this I will pass by, or speak of them in the chapter on the holy father’s patience; at present I will briefly mention one case. A person who had done all the evil in his power, both to Philip and one of his penitents, was dangerously ill. Philip, coming back into the sacristy one morning after saying mass, said to some who were there, “I have prayed for such an one beyond my usual custom.” They learned afterwards that the person had been obliged to take to his bed during the time the Saint was celebrating. Such was the affection that Philip always showed towards him, that when he spoke of him, he wept through compassion; and God was pleased to tell him of his sickness during mass, in order that he might pray for him.
With regard to this matter of charity to the sick, it will be well to mention some of the counsels he used to give: the first was, that they who visited the sick or dying, should not speak many words to them, but rather help them with their prayer. Another was, that men should be very cautious in playing the prophet, and saying that the invalid would die or would got well; for there were some who, if they prophesied that a man would die, actually took it ill if he recovered, and were wicked enough to regret the unlucky issue of their prophecy. At times the Saint himself regretted that he had prayed for the recovery of some, who when they got well, fell from good ways and began to lead sinful lives, and he declared he never would pray again, except with a condition, for the life of any one. From this rule, however, he most readily excepted women in labour.
Philip’s affectionate solicitude for the sick, was not confined to those who suffered from bodily infirmities, but was no less extended to those whose sickness was of the soul. There was hardly a person, however afflicted with temptations, who was not both freed from his temptations and consoled in his troubles, if they had recourse to him; and this was equally true if the troubles were even of a temporal sort. Let us begin, however, with those which concern the soul.
Marcello Benci, of Montepulciano, a relation of Cardinal Tarugi, was very much disturbed about a risk which he ran of falling into sin. He conferred with Father Angelo Velli, his confessor, several times about it, who told him that if he wanted to be rid of it, he must seek the remedy from Father Philip. Marcello, in obedience to this advice, gave the Saint a full account of the temptation, and of the danger in which he was, and recommending himself with much earnestness to his prayers, he implored him for the love of God to free him from it. Even during the very time that he was speaking with him, he felt great interior consolation, and the conversation was hardly finished before he found himself entirely delivered from the temptation, neither did it ever give him any further uneasiness.
Antonio Fantini, of Bagnacavallo, a poor huckster, and one of Philip’s penitents, went to confession to him for thirty years successively, during the last twenty of which he confessed daily, and then died, giving great edification to all who knew him. His wife was very young, and on one occasion he was troubled by a gentleman’s servant who used to pass under the window and behave in a manner very displeasing to Antonio, who warned him to leave off, or he should repent of it. The servant, however, continuing to act as before, Antonio in a fit of anger inwardly resolved to assassinate him. He remained in this intention three days, when a feast came on which he had always gone to confession and communion without fail. He did violence to himself, therefore, and went to the holy father, and kneeling down, he told him all the behaviour of the servant and his own resolution to murder him. When the Saint heard it all, he merely put his hand on Antonio’s head, and said laughingly to him, “Go away; God be with you; this is nothing;” and at the very instant, Antonio, who had come distracted with trouble, felt himself all at once filled with joy and lightheartedness, and the temptation wholly gone. Nay, when he met the servant, he was not conscious of the slightest movement of anger towards him; and what is even more remarkable, the servant never passed in front of his house again.
A youth, who had fallen into Philip’s hands but a little while before, could not by any means be persuaded to forgive an injury which he had received. The Saint did all he could to induce him, but his heart seemed only to get harder than ever. One day, seeing that no other means were of any avail, he took a crucifix, and said to him very briskly, “Look at this, and think how much Blood our Lord has shed for the love of you; and He not only pardoned His enemies, but prayed the Eternal Father to pardon them also. Do you not see, my poor child, that every day when you say the Pater Noster, instead of asking pardon for your sins, you are calling down vengeance upon yourself?” When he had said this, he ordered him to kneel down, and repeat after him a prayer to the crucifix, in which the Saint by exaggerating the hardness and obstinacy of his heart, showed clearly to him what a grievous sin he was committing. The youth obeyed and knelt down, but trying to repeat the prayer, he could not pronounce a word, but began trembling all over. He remained a long time in this state, and at last getting up, he said, “Here I am, father, ready to obey you; I pardon every injury I have ever received; your Reverence has only to order me to make what satisfaction you please for my sin, and I will do it directly,” which promise he faithfully fulfilled.
Pietro Focile, of whom we have already spoken, went one day to confess to the Saint, who had commanded him several times to do some particular things, but Pietro had never obeyed him. On this occasion Philip gave him a most severe reprimand, which put the penitent very much out of humour, so that he said to himself, “Why, what is this? perhaps there is not another confessor in Rome but he?” whereupon he went off, and confessed somewhere else; but the very first confession he made elsewhere, a melancholy came upon him, and disquietude of conscience, so intolerable that he could got no rest. Two days passed, and on the third the Saint sent for him, as usual Pietro was full of joy at merely hearing that Philip asked for him; but when he saw him, his heart was so softened that he threw himself at his feet and wept bitterly. Philip took his head and pressed it to his bosom, and gave him a gentle reproof, to which Pietro, greatly consoled, replied, “Father, I will never disobey you again, and I promise most positively to perform in deed what I now pledge myself to by word.”
Elizabetta, Countess of Castello, had a most violent temptation which lasted three or four months, and her confessor, Father Angelo Velli, recommended her to confer with the Saint. Philip, as soon as he saw her, cried out, “Ah poor lady! you have one of the greatest temptations which can beset a spiritual person;” he then laid open to her all her secret temptations, saying to her, “You have this one, and this one.” At these words she was overcome with astonishment, particularly as they were things which none but God and her confessor could know. Finally, the Saint laid his hand upon her head, and said to her, “Come now, do not be afraid; I am going to say mass and to pray to God for you;” and trembling in his usual manner, he left the confessional, and Elizabetta felt herself that instant freed from the temptation, which never disturbed her again. The next morning she was in the church, and the Saint called her, and said, “Now have I not done you good service?” to which she answered that he had, for the temptation was already gone: the Saint then added, “Whenever it comes again return to me.”
Muzio Achillei, priest of San Severino in the March, when he was young confessed to the holy father at San Girolamo della Carità, and had a great devotion to him, because in his confessions Philip had exhibited a knowledge of the secrets of Muzio’s heart. Indeed, so great was his esteem for Philip, that when he returned into his own country, he did nothing of importance without consulting the Saint by letter, and he had such faith in him that he recommended himself to him even when he was alive, as if he were a canonized Saint. Once during a visit to Rome, he was in the act of falling from a rock into the Tyber, where no one would have seen him or would ever have known what was become of him; he immediately recommended himself, as he would have done to a Saint, and at the same instant felt himself rescued from his danger, he knew not how. This good priest affirmed also that whenever he was assailed by any temptation, he had only to recommend himself mentally to the holy father, and he was immediately freed from the annoyance, and his conscience tranquillized.
Others say that every time the Saint heard their confessions, or laid his hands upon their heads, or they themselves made use of the remedies he had suggested, they were sure to have their troubles lightened, and to be comforted in their temptations. Francesco Maria Tarugi, having an almost irresistible temptation to idleness, disclosed it to the Saint, who was at that time confined to his bed. He prayed for him at once, and with such affectionate earnestness, that he was raised up from his bed about the height of a span, and he afterwards said to him, “Francesco Maria, how do you feel now?” Francesco replied, “Very well, father; I never felt better.” In like manner Agostino Boncompagni, a youth of eighteen, being harassed by some temptations, the Saint told him to come to his mass and that he would communicate him. He served the Saint’s mass, and communicated, and the temptations left him. Indeed, some confessed that by merely pronouncing his name they were delivered from temptations. Sometimes in his playful moods he gave them a gentle slap on the cheek, saying, “It is not you I am beating, but the devil;” and whenever he did this, bad thoughts seemed to fly at his very touch.
But his success in this matter was not wholly confined to things spiritual; he delivered many from troubles which had to do with the daily affairs of the world. Guilio Petrucci, a Sienese noble, whom the Saint afterwards placed in the service of S. Charles, was harassed by some great anxiety; and as he had heard of the goodness and sanctity of Philip, he went to confess to him, with a confident hope that he should be delivered from his anxiety. Nor was he disappointed, for as soon as he had related his grievance, he found himself entirely freed from all trouble and solicitude, so that he could scarcely conceive that it had ever been a real subject of anxiety to him. By reflecting upon this he came to have a great esteem for Philip, and put himself entirely under obedience to him, from which obedience he never departed so long as the Saint lived; and afterwards, even in the decrepitude of old age, he never failed to frequent the exercises of the oratory, to the great edification of all who knew him.
When Sixtus V. succeeded to the pontificate, two apothecaries, Bernardino Cotta and Gherardo Caracci, contended for the office of apothecary to the Pope, and so warm did they become in the contest, that one evening they were on the point of murdering each other. Antonia, the sister of Gherardo, immediately went for the holy father, and told to him the state of things. Philip pretended to pay hardly any attention to what she said, but simply replied, “Enough, go home and do not be afraid; you will have what you wish.” He then said mass, at which she was present, and on her return home found that her brother had got the office he was seeking, and so all contest was at an end. Giovan Battista Magnani, one of Gregory XIII.'s runners, had lost many hundred crowns at play, and had become half desperate in consequence. The holy father met him at Corte Savella, and although he did not know him, he took him by the hand, and said with much feeling, “Do not despair; God will help: I wish you to go to confession, and you shall see the grace of God.” He led him to San Girolamo and heard his confession, and when he laid his hand upon his head, Giovan Battista immediately felt his heart relieved, and all his distress gone; and this filled him with such wonder, that he went about everywhere saying, that of a truth Father Philip was a great Saint.
Boezio Giunta, a cleric of Sinigaglia, being also in some great distress, went to San Girolamo della Carità to confess, and finding the Saint in the confessional he knelt down to make his confession. As soon as Philip saw him, although he had never had any knowledge of him before, he let the penitent make the sign of the cross, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Lord! this is a soul grievously distressed,” and these words alone were sufficient to comfort Boezio and free him from all anxiety. Another cleric, a Roman, whose name was Bartolomeo Mantica, corrector of the press to Cesare Baronius, received intelligence that his father had fallen into the hands of bandits. In great affliction he went to Chiesa Nuova to let the fathers know, in order that they might pray for him, and he found the Saint just taking off his vestments after mass. He told him the misfortune which had happened to his father; the Saint told him not to be afraid, for that his father would not suffer any injury whatever. The next day Bartolomeo returned to Philip, and told him he had fresh news; which was, that the bandits had insisted on a ransom of 1500 crowns, and that if his father did not pay it within a few days they would murder him. When the Saint heard this he was greatly disturbed, and he said within himself, “We must console this poor fellow, who cannot pay a hundred, let alone a thousand crowns.” Then turning to Mantica, he said, “Get the Capuchins to pray.” “Father,” replied Bartolomeo, “that is done already.” Philip, with a countenance full of joy, answered, “Well, go home and pray that God may return him to you without any ransom at all, and you will have what you wish.” This prediction was verified, for a few days after he heard that his father had been delivered from the hands of the bandits in a most remarkable manner, and without having suffered any injury, or paid a farthing of ransom. And thus Bartolomeo was filled with consolation when he least expected it.
A lady of a princely house had suffered from a grievance of ten years’ standing, and by simply reading a letter Philip wrote in order to alleviate her distress, she experienced such consolation that she said, “As soon as I read Father Philip’s letter, such contentment was infused into me, that I would not have changed places with any queen in the world.” Prudenza Diaz, a Roman lady, was disturbed by some irritating annoyances which caused her an insupportable heaviness and disquietude, so that she could neither read nor say her usual prayers, and when she went to confession she found no comfort in it. At last, becoming impatient, and even a burden to herself, her confessor sent her to confer with the holy father about this tribulation. When she came to the confessional, before she had spoken a single word, Philip related with accuracy everything she intended to tell him; then, laying his hand upon her head, he said some prayers, and making the sign of the cross on her forehead, he sent her away. In one instance she shook off all her heaviness, was filled with consolation, and free from all impatience or disquietude.
There was another Roman noble who never had any trouble or persecution (and he had many) without consulting the Saint about them. Philip always gave him the same answer, “Do not be afraid; have faith in God;” and he then made him say a Credo, a Pater, and an Ave, for those who persecuted him; and in the end matters always turned out as Philip had predicted. The same thing happened to Livia Vestri Orsina, who was harassed by a particular thought for six months together. Her confessor, being unable to remedy the matter, sent her to the holy father. He heard what she had to say, merely answered, “It is nothing,” and immediately all the pertubation vanished from her mind. There was another instance of the same sort in Camillo Panfinio, father of Innocent X. He had been awake the whole night through, unable to sleep because of some business which pressed upon his mind. The night seemed a thousand years long, so anxious was he to confer with the Saint, but as soon as Philip saw him in the morning, he said, “O Camillo, I would have you know that I have been with you all this night in order to console you;” at these words all disturbance left him, and the business turned out exactly as he wished.
In conclusion, we may quote what Girolamo Cardinal Panfilio, brother of Camillo, said of the Saint: “In all my prayers I recommended myself to Philip, and by his prayers and counsel I was delivered from all my troubles, so that when he helped me I felt quite secure, and was afraid of nothing.” We must not, however, omit to add that he was most urgent in enforcing the duty of thankfulness upon those who were delivered from temptations, or any other sort of trouble. For he knew how soon men forget the favours they have received from God; and, therefore, he gave one of his penitents who had received a most signal favour, an obedience to recite the Office of the Cross, and that of the Holy Spirit, every day for the remainder of his life.
Philip had a most singular gift of dispelling low spirits and scruples, of all the ills of the soul perhaps the most difficult to cure. A Roman noble was living in retirement in the convent of San Gregorio, because of a quarrel. One day a body was brought to be buried in the church, and among those that followed the corpse was a possessed person. After the funeral, the gentleman began asking this person questions out of curiosity; after some conversation he went up to the gentleman, close to his face, with extraordinary and terrific gestures, and said, “You are possessed too.” At these words a wild fear and melancholy entered into the noble; he became afraid that he was really possessed, and went so far as to have himself exorcised; and this strange humour took such hold of him, that when the exorcist asked him his name, he gave different names of devils, just as his fancy prompted him; besides giving many other signs of actual possession: so that the priest, who exorcised him more than once, decided that the possession was real. The exorcisms seemed, indeed, to increase the evil; and his melancholy grew to such an extent, that he was put into the hands of four of the principal medical men in Rome. They tried many remedies, and among the rest that of depriving him of his sleep, the want of which, together with other things, reduced him at last to skin and bone. Nothing, however, was of the least avail, and the physicians abandoned him as hopeless. One day he went to the Torre di Specchi, to visit an aunt of his who was in that monastery. He told the nuns there the whole history of his malady, and they persuaded him to confer with the holy father. But as he was a young man of the world, he did not dare to go to Philip; so his aunt and one of the other nuns begged the Saint to go to his house. Philip went to him, told him he was not possessed, and to turn him from his fancy, made him sing a little with Father Antonio Gallonio, and then told him to come and see him at Chiesa Nuova, which he did. The Saint caressed him in his usual way, took hold of his head and pressed it to his bosom, saying, “How do you feel?” He, experiencing great consolation, said, “Father, I am cured.” Philip then got him to make a general confession; and the gentleman finding himself most cheerful and contented when with Philip, began to come to him every day, and stay whole hours with him. By this means he became by degrees, without either medicines or exorcisms, a very devout person, recovered his former health, and continued to frequent the exercises of the Oratory with much affection.
I must not forget to mention that this gentleman, while making his general confession, said he could not get rid of the impression that he was possessed. The Saint answered, “Never mind, I will exorcise you in the night.” One night the penitent dreamed that his month was wide open, and that a great multitude of devils went out of him; he immediately awoke, and cried out, “O Jesus!” and from that moment he was delivered from his distress. The next day he related the matter to Philip, who put his hand on his head, gave him a gentle box on the ear, and said, “Vade, et noli amplius peccare.”
Domenico Saraceni, an eminent physician of those times, fell into a terrible melancholy, for which he could find no remedy himself, nor obtain any benefit from the prescriptions of other medical men. He conceived, however, a lively faith that he could be cured by the merits of Philip, and went to confer with him. Philip received him with great charity, and said, “Do not be afraid; you will he cured without any doubt.” At these words Domenico felt a sudden lightening of his affliction, and without any further remedy, got rid of his melancholy altogether; and on his recovery made a formal oath that he believed his cure to be miraculous. Almost the same thing happened to an influential person about the court, who had fallen into a profound melancholy; Philip relieved hint by simply saying, “Do not despair.” He one day restored cheerfulness in a like case to Father Francesco Bernardi, of the congregation, by simply asking him to run with him, saying, “Come now, let us have a run together.”
As to scruples I should never have done if I were to tell of the persons whom he freed from them, or the methods he used to effect it. The following cases will suffice for the consolation of those who are harassed by scruples, and who may take occasion and encouragement from them to recommend themselves to Philip in their distress. Giuliano Fuscherio, a priest at San Girolamo della Carità, and a man of most exemplary life, had a penitent who was come to such a degree of scrupulousness that he could not go to confession. Giuliano had referred him to several persons to see if they could not relieve him in some way or other; but as no good came of it, he resolved at last to send him to the holy father. As soon as Philip saw the penitent, he said to him, “My son, you are suffering under a temptation of the devil; I know you very well; but only have a good will, and all will come right in the end.” He then embraced him several times with much tenderness; and as he saw that the whole proceeded from the spirit of pride with which the devil held his heart fast, in order to confound the enemy, and humble the penitent, and thus free him from his scruples, he said to him in the presence of Father Fuscherio, “Will you mention your sins out loud to us two together?” The penitent replied, “Yes, father, most willingly, for I do not hold back either through fear or human respect, but simply from an inability to express myself.” Then Philip said, “Kneel down between us two, and begin at once to mention your sins.” When he had finished, Philip added, “Now kiss the ground for the confusion of the devil;” and no sooner had he kissed the ground than all his scruples melted away in a moment, leaving him in perfect freedom, and able to go to confession ever after without the slightest difficulty.
A very common remedy which the Saint made use of to cure his own subjects of scruples, was to make them kneel down in the refectory of the congregation at meal times, and accuse themselves of their scruples. Cardinal Frederick Borromeo mentions the case of an ecclesiastic who was painfully scrupulous in saying office, and got worse every day. At last, almost in despair, he went to Philip, who merely promising to pray for him, sent him away. He returned home, set himself to say his office, said it to his own great astonishment without the slightest hindrance, and was never troubled with scruples again.
Philip suggested many remedies, and gave many advices about this matter. What he most insisted upon was, that when a scrupulous person had once decided that he had not consented to a temptation, he was not to examine himself again as to whether he had consented or not, because such reflections frequently bring the temptations back again. Many are harassed with scruples, because they are not sure whether they have not consented to a suggestion, particularly in thought; and for them he laid down two rules; the first was, that a person should consider whether in the temptation he had always preserved a love of the virtue which is the opposite of the vice whereto he was tempted, and also a hatred of the vice; for in that case he might sufficiently conjecture that he had not consented. The second rule was, that he should think whether he was ready to make oath that he had consented to the temptation, knowing it to be a mortal sin to swear for certain any thing which is doubtful; then, if he would not swear that he had consented, he might consider that he had not done so in reality. Besides the ordinary remedy of submitting always and in every thing to the judgment of one’s confessor, he specially exhorted his penitents to despise their scruples. He would not allow frequent confession to the scrupulous, so that they might become used and hardened to scruples, and negligent about them and if scruples began to appear while they were confessing, he would not hear another word, but sent them off to communion with their confession unfinished, he frequently said of scruples, that they were a disease that often makes truce with a man, but hardly ever peace, and that nothing but humility ever comes off victorious over them.
God had given Philip so special a gift of consoling people, that not only his words and the different manners and gestures he assumed had that tranquillizing effect, but even his very touch, nay, even things belonging to him, of which he had been in the habit of using. His hands, in which he always held something, either a spiritual book, or a rosary, refreshed and comforted those whom he touched. Tiberio Ricciardelli, declares that when the Saint pulled his hair, he felt his heart gladdened, and if he was under any temptation at the time, it immediately disappeared. Cardinal Baronius was always relieved when Philip gave him a playful box on the ear, which he did not unfrequently. Cardinal Ottavio Bandino used to boast that the Saint had once boxed his ears when he was a boy; and Francesco Pucci of Palestrina says, that whenever he touched his head, he felt such abundant interior consolation, that his heart actually bounded for joy; and the young men that used to go to confession to him, asserted similar things so that those words of the Canticles were verified in Philip, “His hands are turned, and, as of gold, full of hyacinths.”
Pellegrino Altobello, Canon of San Marco in Rome, speaking of Philip, said, “When I conversed with him I had such a feeling of inward satisfaction, that I was never willing to go away. Every time he met me in the street he pressed my face between his hands, and said, ‘how are you, and what are you doing?’ and while he did this, I used to feel a particular consolation, and it seemed as if his flesh exhaled a most sweet fragrance. One time he met me at the palace of Cardinal Sforza, and as soon as he came up to me he began caressing me in his usual manner with his hands upon my face, saying, ‘Well, what is San Pellegrino about now?’ and as he spoke there sprung up such a joy in my heart, such mirth and satisfaction, that for very lightheartedness I did not know where I was going.”
Indeed, not only his person, but his very room, had such an effect upon people, that those who were about him resorted to it as their ordinary remedy in their troubles. Marzio Altieri felt such an inward joy so long as he stayed in it, that he used to say, “Philip’s room is not a room, but an earthly Paradise.” Giulio Benigno, Archbishop of Thessalonica, said the same, and he was frequently in the habit of going there. Cardinal Frederick Borromeo took such pleasure in it, that even when he had nothing to speak to the Saint about, he esteemed it quite a privilege to remain in his presence or in his room. Alessandro, Cardinal of Fiorenza, who was afterwards Leo XI., went there repeatedly every week, often remaining five or six hours at a time; and he often said to his attendants, that he could not bear to hear the Ave ring, because the day seemed to have gone too quickly. Nay, many by only standing at the door of his room, without going in, felt themselves unburdened of their troubles. Fabrizio de’ Massimi, whenever he was in any distress of mind, or disgust, used to go to the door of Philip’s room, and was at once relieved without any further remedy. Indeed, this became completely a custom with him, so that one day, when Cardinal Cusano found him there, and asked him why he did not go in, Fabrizio said it was not necessary, for that standing at Philip’s door was quite enough to procure for him entire relief and consolation. Nero del Nero, also, when he was in trouble, used to go to the room which had been Philip’s, and however heavy his heart might be, it was lightened immediately. There were some who recovered their lost peace of mind, by simply looking Philip in the face; and Monte Zazzara declares, that when he was in trouble Philip’s presence alone consoled him, even though he did not say a single word to him; and Ridolfo Silvestri, the physician of Gregory XIV., says he never felt so joyous as when he was in Philip’s presence. To dream of Philip was enough to comfort many, and to give them a peculiar strength and support in their trials: in a word, Philip was a perpetual and unfailing source of comfort and refreshment, to all who in any way had recourse to him in their difficulties.
Although Philip’s principal object was spiritual works of mercy, yet he endeavoured also by all the means in his power to alleviate the temporal distresses of his neighbour. When he visited sick people who were poor, he generally carried them alms, not only of money, but of such other things as their particular diseases might require. He never waited to be called, but made it his business to find out where poor people lived, and carried either in his bosom or in his pockets something which might be a refreshment or a treat to them. He might be seen going about at all hours, no matter how inconvenient they might be to him. No time was unseasonable, if there was any work of charity in question. He very often carried petitions to the Pope for poor persons, and exerted himself even to fatigue for those with whom he was hardly at all acquainted.
So ardent was his charitable zeal, that God often permitted him, as a reward, to see in spirit the necessities of others. Thus, a certain musician of Castel S. Angelo, having fallen into poverty, the holy father succoured him every time that he came into extreme want, without being advertised of it either by the poor man himself or by others on his behalf. He did the same to Antonio Fantini, who has been already mentioned. On one occasion he went as usual to confession, happening to be at the time in extreme necessity, and Philip gave him sixteen crowns without Antonio’s mentioning a word about his distress. In like manner he provided a nobleman in decayed circumstances with food and clothing for a long time, of whose distress he had no earthly sources of information. Neither were Philip’s alms trifling. He often gave large sums of money, as well as presents of other things in considerable quantities; and when a lady of quality had given him furniture for his room, he immediately caused it to be sold, and the price to be given away for the love of God. Neither was the relief he gave confined to individuals. He alleviated the distresses of whole families. On one occasion he found a mother, with four little children and the grandmother, so poor, that they had no means of providing either food or clothing. For the space of four years Philip made himself their steward, provided them each day with the means of living, and sometimes gave them front eighteen to twenty crowns to aid them in other necessities.
The wife of Vincenzo Miniatore, of whom we shall have to speak hereafter, a most excellent woman, was left a widow with six children. Philip provided her with food and clothing, and gave one of the daughters the means of becoming a nun. When Gabriella of Cortona, a pious and highly respected lady, lost her husband, Philip provided everything needful for her family, and settled one of her daughters in marriage. He himself went to the wedding feast, as being always on the look out to gain souls, or cause them to be gained. He took with him Baronius, Francesco Maria Tarugi, and Giovanni Francesco Bordoni, and while they were at dinner he ordered Baronius to sing the Miserere as a substitute for spiritual reading.
But although Philip was full of charity towards all, his zeal and liberality shone forth more particularly towards poor girls. Some nieces of Giovanni Animuccia were left without any resources, whereupon he gave them an alms of six hundred crowns, besides a daily provision of food, until they obtained settlements, he found two Florentine girls, who had lost both father and mother, and were remaining in Rome in great peril of their honour. He provided for them so bug as they remained there, then found an opportunity of sending them to Florence, where, by his assistance, they became nuns. Another time he gave eighty crowns to a girl, to enable her to enter a convent; and three other orphans in extreme distress he provided with marriage portions, and to the husband of one of them he gave one hundred crowns over and above the dowry, because he needed it.
In 1586, a poor woman who was burdened with six children, four sons and two daughters, in conjunction with two others as poor as herself, and all three penitents of the Saint, moved, as they thought, by the spirit of charity, formed tile design of gathering together poor abandoned orphan girls, and in less than two years they got together about twenty. All this was done without their taking Philip’s advice, or having any means of supporting their orphans, as they themselves were straitened by poverty. Philip, therefore, sent for them, and first of all mortified and humbled them most severely, commanding them not to enter a church for some days. He then took upon himself the care of those young virgins, and by degrees distributed them in different places, some in convents, others with ladies who offered to take charge of them, and the rest in places of security, so that in a short time he contrived to get them all into safe refuges, and do away with the establishment.
He was also particularly charitable to the prisoners, to whom he sent good large sums of money several times during the week; and besides money he distributed other things in all the prisons in Rome, and persuaded his penitents to visit the poor inmates, and assist them in their causes. He set no bounds to his affection for the shrinking and bashful poor, and was most liberal in his alms to them. To some religious houses he allowed a monthly pension, besides the daily alms which he sent them; and kept hung up behind his door a list of pious institutions, and often sent alms to them. Poor students were another object of his special charity, especially if he saw that they had good talents and lived in the fear of God. He provided them not only with food and clothing, but also with books for their studies. Among those whom he assisted were two who, for lack of money, were about to abandon their studies; by his kindness they were enabled to persevere, and both ultimately rose to be cardinals. To one of these he often gave as much as thirty crowns at a time, and to aid the other he sold all the books he possessed himself.
Father Antonio Gallonio affirms, that Philip gave an alms to all the poor that ever came to him, and that he never sent one away uncomforted; and when he walked about Rome he would always have some of the party to take money with them, to give to the beggars he might meet; and many were of opinion that he was miraculously supplied with money, seeing that he gave so largely, and for so long a time.
But Philip did more than give, he had a great compassion for the poor, and especially for persons of a respectable rank in life, but who were fallen into misery. He used to give them alms secretly by night, a holy practice which it pleased Almighty God to approve by more than one miracle. In the year 1550, as he was carrying some bread to one who was ashamed to beg, and who was advanced in years and of a noble family, Philip, in endeavouring to get out of the way of a carriage that was coming along the road with excessive rapidity, fell into a very deep ditch, but an angel caught him by the hair, and placed him on the ground without any injury. On another occasion, about the same time, while Philip was employed in these pious works, an angel presented himself to him in the form of a beggar, and asked an alms of him. The Saint immediately gave him the few pieces of money he had about him. But the angel, seeing his promptitude, would not receive them, but said, “I wished to see what you would do,” and immediately disappeared. From that moment Philip’s yearning compassion for the poor was more ardent than ever, as he seemed still more clearly to comprehend the excellence and virtue of almsgiving, and was thus spurred on to more heroic deeds of charity, and to that holy prodigality which we have already related.
In a word, his charity was so great that his penitents generally called him father both of soul and body; and after his death many wept at the mere remembrance of his alms, and others cried out, “Never will another man come into the world so charitable as Philip!” It was for this reason that Cardinal Bellarmine, a man as famous for sanctity as for literature, and to whom the Sacred Congregation of Rites committed the cause of Philip’s canonization, called him a second S. John the Almoner, because of the numerous alms recorded in the processes. When S. Francesco Romana was canonized in 1608, a poor woman, named Maria della Volta, who had often received great alms from Philip, went into S. Peter’s, and calling him to mind, she burst into tears and cried out, “And when will my Father Philip be canonized? for if Santa Francesca carried wood upon her head to give alms of it to the poor, my Father Philip has countless times come to my house with his bosom loaded with bread, and I know too how he carried wine, and oil, and other things to many poor people.”
In speaking of this poor Maria della Volta, I must not omit to mention, that Philip taught her, her mother, and several others to say forty-nine Paters and Ayes devoutly every day in honour of the Holy Ghost, from Holy Saturday to Whitsuntide; and he said it was a most excellent devotion for obtaining favours from God. He taught the same poor woman mental prayer, though the task required no little patience and charitable perseverance. He accomplished it by showing her how to take the Lord’s Prayer to pieces, and pause on each of the words or petitions, considering first of all what a thing it was to have God for her Father in heaven, and so on through the rest of the prayer; and after this he gave her a rosary-book, to enable her to learn how to meditate on the Passion.
But Philip’s charity and liberality were by no means confined to the poor; and, as is usual with persons who are prodigal in their kindness to others, he was himself grateful to a most remark able degree for the least kindness he received. Cardinal Girolamo Panfilio said of him, . “ The holy father was in his lifetime most grateful to all who did him any service, however insignificant, recompensing the in even in temporal matters, far beyond the value of what he received, and he kept most tenaciously in remembrance any favour which was shown to him.” The Abate Marco Antonio Maffa, gave very much the same testimony: “Philip,” he says, “was so grateful and courteous, that you could not make him a present, without receiving another from him of double value; and I remember once that when I had begged him to accept of some little trifle as a little mark of my affectionate respect for him, he presently afterwards sent me a bronze crucifix of excellent workmanship, which must have cost several crowns; and I keep it now as a precious relic of that holy man.”
Yet, for all Philip’s charity towards the poor, he could not bear to see them begging in church, and he sometimes rose from the confessional himself, in order to send them to the door; this was not through any want of compassion, but to prevent the divine offices being disturbed. For he acted in the same way to children when they cried out, and with masons and others, who made any noise which was not actually necessary; and if he heard any thing of this sort when he was at the altar, he made a sign to them to give over working.
Philip's compassion and tender-heartedness were so great that he could not endure the very sight of suffering; and although he abhorred riches, yet he would have wished always to have enough to give to the poor, and to succour them in their distress. Upon one occasion when he heard of a poor woman not being able to leave her house through the want of clothes, he instantly took off his cassock and sent it to her. He could not bear to see boys or girls badly or scantily clothed, but did all in his power to procure fresh garments for them. But innocence oppressed or suffering, touched him above every thing, and so afflicted him, that he felt, as it were, constrained to exert all his influence in its behalf. Tiberio Astalli, a Roman gentleman, was falsely accused of homicide, and Philip, knowing his influence, interceded so efficaciously for him with the Pope, that he obtained his liberation. He acted in a similar manner with regard to a priest who was under persecution, and had been falsely accused to his superiors: and notwithstanding the power of his adversaries, Philip came forward with zeal and warmth to defend the accused, and succeeded in establishing his innocence before the public. Another time, he heard of some gypsies who were unjustly imprisoned and condemned to the galleys; his compassion at once drove him to Pius V., who was then Pope, from whom he procured their freedom; and in the time of Sixtus V., he freed another Roman gentleman, a great number of whose vassels had come from different villages on his estate to bring false accusations against him. Indeed, the union of compassion with the love of justice was the cause of the holy father’s zealous exertions for the good of his neighbours.
In 1551, during the severity of a famine, six loaves were sent him as a present; but knowing that there was a poor priest, a foreigner, at San Girolamo, who was suffering very much from hunger, Philip sent the six loaves to him, and had nothing to eat himself all that day except a few olives. One of his penitents finding this out, asked why he had done so, and had not rather reserved at least half the bread for himself? Philip answered that he was well enough known in Rome, and somebody was sure to help him, but that the poor foreigner would not so readily have found help in his necessity.
Philip had a special tenderness towards artisans, and specially those who had to support themselves by their labour, and found a difficulty in selling their goods. His charity was never weary with inventing new means of helping them. There were two brothers, watchmakers of some skill, who had now grown old and were burdened with families, particularly with grown-up daughters. In order to assist them he ordered them to make a great number of watches of different kinds, which he begged rich persons to buy; and he thus assisted the needy by getting money from those who would not so easily have parted with it in mere alms. One of his penitents saw Philip upon one occasion persuading a man of rank to buy several of these watches, and was scandalized by it, as though the holy father was persuading him to throw away his money in an idle and foolish manner; but when he afterwards discovered the Saint’s artifice, he was greatly edified by it.
One evening a poor chicory-seller went to the exercises of the Oratory at San Girolamo, and such a violent rain came on that he could not go away or sell his chicory. This little incident moved great compassion in Philip, and he bought part of the chicory himself, and begged others to buy the rest, so that the poor fellow went home in high spirits. The Saint felt also a particular interest in the poor orphans of the Piazza Capranica, and many times a week sent some of his best penitents there to serve them, to make their bedss, to wash them, and perform other works of mercy for them. But the tenderness of his heart was not confined to men; it seemed to flow over even upon animals, in whose lives and movements he lovingly contemplated the Creator. A father of the congregation, passing through a courtyard one day, and seeing a lizard, put his foot upon it; whereupon Philip said to to him, “Cruel fellow! what has that poor little animal done to you?” Another time passing near a butcher’s shop, he saw a butcher wound a dog with one of his knives, and notwithstanding the Saint’s usual equanimity, he was greatly troubled at this action, and had some difficulty in calming himself. One of his penitents once found a little bird and took it to him; as soon as he saw it, he was moved with pity, and said, “Do not hurt it; open the window and let it go.” The youth obeyed; but a little after the Saint called him back again, and asked him what he had done with the little bird; he answered that he had let it go in obedience to his order. Philip replied, “It would have been better to have kept it and brought it up, for it was so young that it would not know where to go to, and perhaps will die of hunger.”
Indeed, he could not bear to see the slightest cruelty shown to animals under any pretext whatever. If a bird, or any other creature, happened to get into a room, he would have the window or door opened immediately that it might escape; and if any one caught an animal alive he begged of them to set it at liberty forthwith, or if it was mischievous to put it somewhere where it could injure no one. When he was in a carriage he always warned the coachman to take care not to run over any one, nor even over any animal; and if live animals were given him as presents, which was sometimes the case, he entrusted them to some of his penitents to take care of, or gave them away to some one else and in all these little ways his tenderness of heart was continually appearing. It would seem too, as though the animals themselves corresponded by their mute gratitude to this loving gentleness of Father Philip; for even such as were not domestic allowed him to touch them and caress them as though they were tame. One of his penitents, Luigi Ames, a Frenchman, had two little birds which sang most charmingly, and he made the Saint a present of them. Philip, however, only received them on condition that Luigi should come himself every day to look after them, a condition imposed that the good father might more completely win his soul. Luigi consented; and one day when he came, he found the cage door open, and the little bird fluttering and playing round Philip’s face, singing the meanwhile most sweetly. The Saint seeing Luigi, asked him if he had accustomed the bird to do this; Luigi said he had not. Philip then drove the little creature away several times, but it always returned, fluttering from his feet to his face, and from his face to his feet, and nothing could allure it from him. The Saint, seeing this, said to Luigi, “Take the cage, and offer it to the bird:” the moment he did so, the creature went in quietly, as, if it was conscious it had received an obedience to do so.
We have already exhibited Philip’s remarkable love of God and of his neighbour, the tenderness and compassion of his heart: let us next touch upon his virginal purity, a purity not easily to be found in many persons, as indeed that virtue has in itself and from its rarity something singular and wonderful to the eyes of men. Philip, well knowing the pleasure which God takes in cleanness of heart, had no sooner come to years of discretion and to the power of distinguishing between good and evil, than he set himself to wage war with all his might against the concupiscence of the flesh, and never rested till he had gained the desired victory. Thus it was that, notwithstanding the religious exercises mentioned in the last book, which brought him in contact with all kinds of persons, and put in his way many occasions of falling, he preserved his virginity spotless to the last.
In proof of this I may quote the testimony of Cardinal Baronius, his confessor. A few days before he died, Philip bewailed to him his own ingratitude to God, and with floods of tears confessed, that through the Divine grace he had preserved his virginity. Persiano Rosa, who was the Saint’s confessor in earlier years, said the same; and indeed it was the common belief in Rome, as well as in Florence, among all who knew him; and the Sacred Congregation of Rites, in his beatification, as well as his canonization, has declared this fact to be adequately proved. In confirmation of this may be added what he himself said to one of his penitents towards the close of his life; he revealed to him in confidence this very fact, in order that he might the more readily persuade him to live a chaste life, by showing him in his own case that a man may not only live chastely, but even, by the grace of God, maintain and preserve his virginity.
From his boyhood to the very time of his death Philip watched over this his precious treasure with a diligence hardly to be believed. He was not content with keeping it jealously hidden beneath the ashes of humility, and standing guard over his own heart with unceasing strictness; but he took also the most exact care of his outward senses, and of every part of his body. First of all, like St. Antony, he never allowed any part of his body to be seen uncovered; and he was particularly pleased when he observed that others did not allow any of their limbs, not so much as an arm or a leg, to be seen naked, or even to look at it themselves. From his lips no word was ever heard that could offend the most punctilious modesty: well or ill, he would never utter any expression of his wants, if it might so much as seem to offend the most scrupulous particularity, but by a gesture he would beg others to leave the room. So strict was his custody of his eyes, that one of the most beautiful women in Rome in those days, who went to confession to him for thirty years successively, declared that she did not believe he had ever once looked at her all that time. For this reason, when he first began to hear confessions, he was not very willing to hear women; indeed, to the last he had always far more male than female penitents; and he never allowed women to speak to him at the confessional, except through the grate; and in opposition to the usual sweetness of his character, he was by no means affable with them, but rough and abrupt, keeping his face turned the other way while he spoke. In his old age, however, he was not so austere with them, because he said the Lord had given him the grace to hear their confessions as he wished. One of his penitents once took him to dine at a gentleman’s house, and after dinner the Saint turned to his penitent and said, “You have made me do a thing which I never did before,- to eat in company with women!”
The devil, however, endeavoured by various artifices to stain the whiteness of his purity. One day, while he was yet a layman, and on a journey, he met with some profligates, who, allured by his good looks, most impudently tempted him to commit sin. The holy youth’s first and most anxious wish was to fly, but seeing that it was impossible, and being greatly grieved at the occurrence, determined to speak to them of the hideousness of sin, and of the things of God. He did this so winningly and efficaciously, that he not only persuaded them to abandon their horrible thought, but even reclaimed them from their evil ways. One evening, also, while he was a layman, he was obliged to lodge at the house of a friend where there was a beautiful but immoral young woman, who entered his room secretly during the night, and tempted him to sin. But the Saint so far from yielding to the perilous assault, armed with the divine grace, thrust from him that instrument of hell, and came off victorious from the fearful contest.
About the same time some persons, who did not believe that Philip was really what men commonly took him for, invited him under some pretext or other to their house, and then put two women of bad character into his room, locking the door upon them. Philip, finding himself in this strait without any possibility of escape, immediately began to pray, and that with such fervour, that neither of the two poor wretches durst speak to him or even approach him; and at last they were obliged to leave him in shame and confusion.
After he was a priest and confessor, a famous harlot, named Cesarea, having heard it said that Philip was a virgin, trusting in the allurements of her beauty, audaciously boasted that she would cause him to fall. In pursuance of this horrible design she feigned herself ill, and sent for him, saying she wished to go to confession, and to change her life, so that she might not die in sin. Philip, in order to secure his favourite virtue of chastity, was particularly anxious, especially at that time of his life, not to engage in the conversion of women of ill fame; but as one whose heart’s desire was the salvation of souls, he allowed himself, though with difficulty, to be over-persuaded, and go to visit her. The guilty woman had no other covering to her body than a thin veil, and in this guise came forth to the Saint; he instantly detected the device of the enemy, and signing himself with the cross, turned his back upon her and fled down the staircase with the utmost speed. When the harlot saw that she was foiled, in her rage she took up a stool, and flung it after him, and just missed him. The Saint considered it a miracle of God’s mercy, thus preserving him as well from a peril of the body, as of the soul.
This act was so acceptable to the Divine Majesty, that henceforth he received the grace to suffer no more from the motions of the flesh, nor even from nocturnal illusions; and Baronius affirms, that the Saint himself told him he should almost die of grief if such a thing happened to him, and that in this matter he had become nearly as insensible as a log of wood, as he had received such grace from God, that to touch a woman or a boy, was no more to him than touching a stone. Antonio Gallonio, speaking of the virginity and modesty of Philip, says, “In my intercourse with the holy father, I have thought that his purity was not inferior to that which by special favour of God was conferred on Eleazzar, Count of Ariano, and Simon Salo, praised in Surius, both of whom led a life, angelic rather than human, in the midst of the world and conversation of men.”
The fruits of this eminent gift were as singular as the gift itself. His virginal purity was such that it shone forth even upon his countenance, and particularly in his eyes, which in the very last years of his life were as clear and bright as when he was a boy, so that no painter was ever able to give the expression of them, though many took the greatest pains to do so. It was not easy to keep one’s gaze fixed upon his face steadily for any length of time, as there came a sort of light from his eyes which shot into the eyes of those who looked at him, and, as it were, dazzled them; so that some said that his very look was that of an angel of paradise. Besides this, his body emitted a kind of fragrance, which, even in his decrepid old age, refreshed all those who came near him; and many declared that they felt spirit and devotion infused into them, by the smell of his hands or of his breast.
Fabrizio Aragona, a gentleman of Mantua, went to confess to him, and finding him ill in bed, he expected from the Saint’s great age that there would be some unpleasant effluvia from his body, in consequence of which he tried to keep at some little distance from him. But at length, drawing near to the bed, Philip took him by the head and pressed him strongly to his bosom, and Fabrizio was sensible of so sweet a fragrance coming from him, that he was astonished and did not know what to liken it to. But hearing afterwards that the holy father was a virgin, he said, “And this surely proceeded from his virginity.” Giovan Battista Lamberti, Beneficiary of S. Peter’s, while he was confessing to the Saint, leaned upon his breast to receive absolution, and in doing so perceived a fragrance which greatly astonished him.
God had also endowed the Saint with the power of detecting the vice of impurity by the smell; so that sometimes when he met a bad woman in the streets, though she might be quite unknown to him, he would put his hand or his handkerchief to his nose, with all the gestures of one offended by an offensive smell; and he used to say that the stench of this vice was so horrible, that nothing in the world could equal it. Sometimes when some of his penitents went to him, stained with this vice, he would say to them before they had time to speak, “O my son how foul is this stench!” or “My Son! I know your sins already by their ill odour.” Hence, some who fell into this sin, knowing his power in this respect, were reluctant to go into his presence, lest he should detect them, as he had even the power of discerning those who had suffered nocturnal illusions; and in others he could detect the presence of impurity by their looks; and, which seems to have been peculiar to Philip, he could detect the impurity, if impurity it can be called, of animals.
Many confessed that they were at once delivered from temptations of impurity by his merely laying his hand on their heads; and others in simply conversing with him, felt themselves inspired with the love of purity, and by keeping up their intimacy with him preserved themselves in the practice of that virtue. Very many experienced the same, when Philip pressed them to him; and what is still more remarkable, not his hands only, but inanimate things which he had touched and used were gifted with the power of removing these temptations. Antonio Fucci, a physician of Castello, and one of the Saint’s first disciples, was molested with temptations in attending women, and in consequence had almost determined to give his practice up. But, reflecting that in this ease he should have no other means of support, he consulted the holy father about it. Philip pitied him exceedingly, and gave him one of his garters, telling him to follow his profession as before, and that provided he kept as careful a custody over his eyesight as circumstances would allow, be should never be troubled by the temptation again. Antonio observed the condition, and always carried Philip’s gift about with him, and followed his profession fearlessly without the temptation ever harassing him again.
The very name of Philip seemed to have a power to repress the violence of the evil one. A young woman of fourteen, who was left a widow, was grievously tormented with temptations of the flesh; her confessor, unable after many trials to give her any relief, sent her to the holy father, who said to her. “When you feel temptations of this sort, say to the devil, ‘I will accuse you to that dull ass of a Philip.’” The woman obeyed this strange injunction, and the moment site said the words she was freed from the temptations, and even from other temptations besides those of impurity. The same remedy succeeded with several others; but he bade them pronounce the words simply, and without any reasoning about them; for he knew how much the devil fears words said with faith and in Christian simplicity. Indeed, so terrible was Philip’s purity to the evil one, that even after the Saint’s death, when the possessed were adjured propter honestatem Beati Philippi, they fell into the most extravagant contortions, a fact which was observed several times by Father Onofrio Bagnasco, a Piemontese, of the order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives.
In order to preserve purity in himself Philip put in practice many salutary maxims, which he laid down for others, to assist them in the acquisition of that virtue. Some of these were suitable for all men, while others had special reference to particular classes of people and conditions of life. First of all, to confessors he said that they ought not to confess women unless the grate was closed between them, and that they should not look at them, or hold long conversations with them, and that their words should be rather rough and abrupt than otherwise. Father Giovenale Ancina, when at Naples, was deputed to hear confessions; whereupon he wrote to Philip, to ask counsel with, regard to the circumspection which that sacred ministry requires, especially in hearing the confessions of women. The Saint sent him the following answer: “Do not be scrupulous about what happens to you, be sure that like things happen to others; do not be more willing to hear one class of sins rather than another; do not be curious to know more than is just enough to enable you to apply the remedy, and never descend to any other particulars than those which it is absolutely necessary for you to know, in order to be sure of the quality or species of the sin: for the rest recommend yourself to God, who never fails to give more than ordinary help in such cases, provided a man treats them with diligence and caution.”
He used also to advise confessors not to be too ready in going to private houses, unless they had a companion with them, except it were a case of necessity, or one from which singular fruit might be expected, and then to be as quick as they could about it; for the having done so many times without being tempted, is no real guarantee for the future, or ground of self-confidence. Indeed, the devil often lets a man lull himself into security, in order to make him fall afterwards, and uses for the most part the weakest instruments, that is, women. One morning a priest came to our church whom Philip did not know, nor he Philip; but the Saint saw in spirit this defect in him, and taking him aside, admonished him, telling him that it was not well, especially for a priest, to be so intimate with women, and that he must be more cautious about this matter for the future. The priest was beyond measure astonished at Philip’s knowledge of this, especially as he was a perfect stranger to him. But the Saint was so convinced of the importance of the matter, that he judged it better to divulge what he knew, although it might redound to his credit, as showing the divine communications with which he was favoured, rather than to omit the warning in a case so full of danger.
He exhorted men never to trust themselves, whatever experience they might have, or to reckon length of time, old age, or infirmity, any ground of confidence; but always to fly every occasion so long as a man, to use his own expression, had the power of lifting his eyelids. He bade them also take no example from him in this respect, as God had given him gifts which he does not ordinarily grant to all.
He also strongly recommended priests to confess young men at the grate, on the ground that youths are most keenly alive to shame, and so, if making their confession more openly, might omit some sin out of that very shamefacedness. He used to give young men five short rules for keeping themselves pure: the first was to shun bad company; the second, not to pamper their bodies, as he said one day to Marcello Ferro, showing him the disciplines he used, that to obtain chastity it was necessary to mortify the flesh; the third was to avoid idleness; the fourth, to be diligent in prayer; the fifth, to frequent the Sacraments, and especially confession.
His general advice to every one was, that humility was the true guard of chastity; and, therefore, that when we hear of any one having fallen we should be moved to pity and not to disdain, as compassion for our brother’s fragility, and an absence of boastfulness about ourselves, are the most efficacious means for preserving our own chastity; for while we acknowledge our gifts to be from the mercy of God, we are on our best security. Nay, he went so far as to say, that the not having pity for another in such cases was a forerunner of a speedy fall in ourselves; and that in the matter of purity the greatest danger was the not fearing the danger; and that for his part, when he found a man secure of himself and without fear, he gave him up for lost. Entire openness with our confessor was another excellent remedy which he prescribed for the maintenance of chastity. He would have us keep nothing hidden in our own breasts, not so much as a thought; and that the showing wounds of this sort to the physicians of our souls was all one with having them healed. He exhorted young men to mention in confession the nocturnal illusions which they suffered, although they might be perfectly blameless; and he said that for the acquisition or preservation of thus virtue it was necessary to have a good and experienced confessor.
He said that as soon as a man felt a temptation coming, he was to fly to God, uttering devoutly that ejaculation so much esteemed by the holy fathers of the desert, Deus, in adjutorium meum intende: Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina, or that verse, Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis, and then to kiss the ground; and after this to avoid idleness as much as possible. He was so anxious that persons under these temptations should divert their thoughts from them, that he did not care to what indifferent subject they might turn themselves; and he advised one of his penitents, when sensual thoughts came into his mind, to set to work immediately and count the cross beams in the ceiling, or any other task of a like nature.
Among the Saint’s penitents was a young man who in his past life had loved a wicked woman; some time after his conversion the desire to convert her also came into his mind, and, as he thought he had now acquired sufficient stability in virtue, he went to her, but instead of converting her was perverted himself, and relapsed into sin. He did not dare to go to the Oratory with his conscience thus stained, and being ashamed to appear before Philip, he went to confession elsewhere. At last he came back to him, and the Saint immediately said, “There are some who, because they have got a little spirituality about them, think they can do anything, and convert the world, and thou they fall, and because they are ashamed to come to their own confessor, go and confess somewhere else.” When the young man heard this he turned pale, but the saint, laying his hands on his head, caressed him very affectionately, as he had been accustomed to, and said to him, “Are not you he who has been falling into sin, and then going to Aracoeli to confess?” And by these words he persuaded him to return, and frequent the Oratory as before.
He particularly advised young men to abstain from embracing and kissing boys, although they might be their relations, and also from caressing animals, as they would thus the more easily preserve their purity. And when some English gentlemen, who were on the point of returning to their own country, came to bid him good bye, he bade them beware of this, and every other, occasion which could endanger their purity; and with this advice he gave them his blessing.
As to temptations at night he recommended persons to say the Te lucis ante terminum every evening before they went to bed, adding that he himself had always said it at bedtime. But what he laid the greatest stress upon, was that doctrine which all the Saints have unanimously inculcated, that while some temptations are overcome by boldly facing them and fighting with them, and others by despising and taking no account of them, those alone against purity are to be over come by flight; as the Saint used to say, “In the warfare of the flesh it is the cowards who come off best.”
These were the chief lessons which he used to give to his penitents, to aid them in preserving their purity; and to confessors, to enable them to guide others surely and discreetly to the acquisition of this virtue.
But Philip was not contented with maxims. He justly regarded mortification of the flesh as one of the chief helps towards the maintenance of chastity. Besides the austerities which he practised in his youth, and which are related in the first book, he was accustomed when he was a priest to take nothing in the morning, or at the most a little bread and wine, and this he took while he was pacing up and down. In the evening he generally contented himself with a raw salad, and one egg, or sometimes perhaps two; and he mostly had no bread brought him, but ate the remainder of what had been brought for his breakfast; to this he sometimes added fruit, when it was in season; at other times he took only one of those things, either the bread, or the eggs, or the salad, or the fruit, so that Baronius said in a sermon, that the Saint made every day a fast day. He never took milk, or food dressed with it, or broth; he seldom touched fish, and still more seldom flesh, except when he was unwell, or dining in the company of a stranger. When he passed by the shambles, he used to say, “By the grace of God I have no need of those things;” and when he lived at San Girolamo, if any flesh-meat was sent him, as a present, he used to give it to the boys who served the masses in that church. However scanty the pittance might be which was brought him, something was sure to be left, and he was accustomed to put pieces of bread into a little basket, and sometimes gave them to his penitents to eat, in order, as he supposed, to mortify them; but, in truth, they often took them for themselves secretly, and gave them to others out of devotion. He used good-humouredly to say, that he ate thus sparingly for fear of becoming as fat as his friend Francesco Scarlatti, a merchant who was immensely corpulent.
Whenever the orders of his medical men obliged him to take any substantial nourishment, he used to complain, to declare it made him ill, and that he was over-eating himself, and it required no little trouble to make him obey their injunctions. In the latter years of his life, after he had communicated, his people used to remind him of his breakfast at the usual time; but his answer was, “Breakfast! I have had it;” and at other times when they perceived that he had not eaten any thing, and asked him the reason, he said he had forgotten to do so. He generally had his meals in his own room by himself, with a napkin spread on a little table, and nobody to wait upon him. He refrained from going into the refectory, partly that he might keep his great abstinence more secret, and partly, because after so many continuous years of spare diet, he could not eat with others without either injuring his health, or seeming singular. But he sometimes ate with others when he was trying to win their souls, as by this means he became more intimate with them, and then he generally proposed some spiritual subject for discourse, yet so as to avoid all appearance of singularity and ostentation.
He was as sparing in his drinking as in his eating. He had a flagon so small that it held only one glass, and he put so much water into his wine, that it was rather water with some wine in it, than wine with water in it; and the little he drank, he did not drink till it had become flat, and it sometimes remained in the flagon two or three days; and very often he drank water only. He used a little rude cup of glass without any foot to it; and one of these glasses, though broken, is at Cracow in Poland, and was carried through the city in procession in a costly silver reliquary with great pomp, on the feast of the canonization of the Five Saints. Another one he sent as a present to Giovanni Antonio Lucci, telling him that he had used it for many years, in order to overcome a repugnance he had to make use of any thing so vile and worthless.
Indeed, his abstinence was so great, that some physicians of considerable repute, affirmed upon oath that nature could not be sustained on so little, according to ordinary laws; and it was believed that he lived rather on the virtue of the Blessed Sacrament which he received daily, than on corporal food.
Although he was so austere himself, he would not allow his spiritual children to imitate him in this. He told them that at table, and especially in community, they ought to eat whatever was before them, and not to say, “I do not wish for this,” or “I do not like that.” Neither would he allow members of the congregation to ask for anything special, unless it was absolutely necessary for them; but that they should be contented with what God sent them. He was particularly displeased with any one who ate out of meal times; and to one who had the habit of doing so, he said, “You will never be spiritual, if you do not cure yourself of this.” He also admonished persons not to begin eating before the host, or before they had sat down to table, and grace was said.
As to sleep, he was accustomed to take four or five hours at the most; the rest of the night he spent in prayer, and other spiritual exercises. His room was furnished, as the rule of the institute requires, like those of ordinary secular priests, with all Christian simplicity. He slept upon two common mattresses, and in the latter years of his life he had cotton curtains; but before he was priest, he slept very often, as I have mentioned already, on the bare floor. He generally went to bed about midnight; and although he was the last in the house to retire to rest, he was always the first to rise, unless he was hindered by some indisposition.
His characteristic hatred of everything like ostentation appeared in his clothes, which were generally like those of other people, without any affectation either of fineness or of plainness. He never used silk, or any sort of clothes of delicate material, or showy; he generally wore a serge cassock, with a cloak of Bergamascan stuff; thick and wide shoes, and the collar large; and he did not allow any of his shirt to be seen about his wrists. He was a great lover of cleanliness, and held dirt in special abomination, particularly dirty clothes; and he was perpetually quoting that maxim of S. Bernard, “Paupertas mihi semper placuit, sordes vere nunquam.”
This method of life he adhered to till his death. The older he grow, the more he practised
abstinence, not only from the want of vigour natural to advanced ago, but also from the desire of suffering, and of
macerating still further his worn-out body; and if any one said to him that he ought to have
regard if not to his age, at least to his decrepitude, he would either turn the conversation, or answer laughingly,
“Paradise was not made for cowards.”
But for all Philip was so austere with himself, he was most gentle with others, nay, affectionate beyond measure. He could not endure to see his subjects with more work than they could well get through, and he said it was generally better to let the body have somewhat too much food than somewhat too little; because it is easy to subtract the too much, but when the too little has once injured a man’s constitution, there is no mending the matter. On this principle he once dispensed a penitent from the observance of certain Fridays and Saturdays, commanding him not to fast because he was suffering from the gout, telling him that some alms more than ordinary would be better pleasing to our Lord, and to our Blessed Lady. With reference to this subject, he used to say that the devil some times craftily urges spiritual persons to penances and bodily austerities, in order that by indiscretion they may so weaken themselves that they may either be unable to attend to works of greater importance, or that the infirmity which they have brought upon themselves may frighten them from even their usual exercises of piety, and make them turn their back upon the service of God altogether. He preferred very much to see persons pay some, yet a moderate attention, to bodily mortification, but exert themselves chiefly in the mortification of the will and understanding, even though it might be in matters of the most trivial description. But he did not esteem very highly those who gave themselves up exclusively to macerations of the flesh and corporal austerities.
To his abstinence and purity Philip joined a singular detachment from riches and the conveniences of life. Though he never made any vow of poverty, yet he kept his affections far removed from all self-interest or the desire of worldly goods. We have already related an instance of this in his renunciation of all his uncle's property, while he was a layman, and in the life of poverty which he at that time voluntarily imposed upon himself, while resident in the house of Galeotto Caccia. When he was raised to the priesthood, and undertook the hearing of confessions, different persons of rank and wealth repeatedly offered him presents, even of thousands of crowns, and that of their own free will, and without any conditions restricting the application of the money to pious purposes, but simply as a personal gift. Philip, however, would never accept any thing, saying that he did not wish to receive the reward of his labours in this world; and if sometimes a present was forced upon him, he gave the whole of it either to the church or to the poor. He had some property at Castel Franco in the Valdarno, the original settlement of the family of Neri; and one day his penitent Simone Grazini, a Florentine, told him that he ought to look after it, for it was not well that it should be possessed by those who were not the lawful owners. But Philip answered, “Take care never to speak to me about such things again, for I take no interest in them.”
While he was living at San Girolamo, long before the date of the anecdote which I have just related, he heard that his Father Francesco Neri was dead, and that he had left him heir of all his property, which was to go to his two sisters, Caterina and Elizabetta, after his death. Philip with the most disinterested generosity executed a legal instrument, by which he renounced his inheritance in favour of his sisters, as may be seen in the documents quoted by Domenico Maria Manni, a Florentine, in his academical lecture on the inaccuracies in the life of S. Philip. His sister Elizabetta, who had no heir but himself, several times wrote to him from Florence, offering him all her property; but he always declined it, telling her moreover that she must provide herself with another heir, for he had fixed his eye upon another inheritance, of greater value, and more enduring. During the sixty years that he lived in Rome he would never receive any thing from his relations. Elizabetta once sent him two shirts, which however were spoiled on the road by the negligence of the bearer; but Philip desired her to send him no more.
It was the custom in his time, as at the present day, to assign two small rooms to every priest who went to San Girolamo, and a certain sum of money every month. But Philip contented himself with the rooms only, and refused to take any thing else; nay, he built two other rooms at his own expense for the convenience of those who went there, and whom the others would not hold; and these new rooms he left to the community there without asking for any remuneration. It is true they were mean and small, for he had them built simply out of necessity, and so as not to offend his love of poverty. As to wills and legacies, he knew that to meddle in such matters generally occasioned ill-will and suspicion on the part of persons in the world, and he extremely disliked having any thing to do with them; so much so, that when in visiting the sick he heard any allusion to the will, he immediately took his leave, and did not return until all such matters were fully settled. Vincenzo Teccosi of Fabriano had without his knowledge left him a legacy of a hundred crowns, together with some other things. But after Vincenzo’s death, Philip, who was appointed executor, made over the whole of it to the nephews of the deceased. Costanzo Tassone also left him a considerable legacy, and when the written acknowledgment of it was presented to him, he took the paper and immediately used it as a cover to a vessel which he had in his hands, thus showing his contempt not for the writing only, but for the legacy of which it was the acknowledgment, neither would he ever hear a word of it afterwards.
Among those who were distinguished even above others for their affectionate attachment to the Saint, was Prospero Crivelli. He fell sick, and at once put in execution the design he had of making Philip his heir. The holy father had a presentiment of this; and instead of visiting him every day, as he had been accustomed to do, he absented himself for a long time, notwithstanding that Prospero had become so much worse that he had received the viaticum and extreme unction. At last, however, his tenderness of heart would not allow him to refrain any longer from visiting one whom he loved, when he was thus lying at death’s door. As soon as Prospero saw him, he began to complain: “Ah! father, why have you been so long in coming to see me? the doctors have said that my death was inevitable if the usual paroxysm came on to-day, and it has actually come.” Philip replied, “Although I have not come to see you I have not forgotten you, nor have I omitted doing anything for you which I should have done if I had visited you daily. But there is a talk in Rome that you have made me your heir, and so I have not come to see you, because I do not want either your inheritance or your money; and to show you that I will not have anything belonging to you, I am now going to S. Peter’s to pray to God by all means to restore you to health; and if it cannot be done otherwise, I will pray Him to lay your infirmity upon me.” Saying this he laid his hands on the hands of the sick man, and went away almost weeping. The invalid fell asleep, and awoke in a short time perfectly restored to health.
From this aversion to riches, there grew in Philip’s heart a most intense desire of poverty. But he was not able to put it into execution as he would have desired, because it was not suitable for the position in which he was placed, nor to the genius of his institute. Inwardly, however, he loved poverty as his chosen spouse, so that he would many times exclaim, “O that I could be reduced to go about begging! Would that matters were come to such a pitch with me, that I might be in want of sixpence, or a threepenny piece, in order to support myself, and yet not find a man to give it me! I should esteem it a special favour of God, if I were reduced to die in a hospital,” and other wishes of a similar nature. Through this same desire of poverty and low estate, as well as to mortify himself, he begged as an alms the old shoes of the Cardinal of Alessandria, and also of another cardinal. The little food which he ate he received as an alms from some of his spiritual children; and in the two last years of his life when he retired from the government of the congregation, he got Cardinal Cusano to give him as an alms a little flask of wine and a roll of broad. He told Father Gallonio not to let the cardinal know that he had received any order from him to this effect, but as of himself to persuade him to send him a roll every day as an alms, and to persuade Cardinal Borromeo to send him a little flask of wine and some eggs in like manner. But Cardinal Montalto, out of reverence to the Saint, would fain share with Cusano in the honour of supplying him with the very little wine which he required. Father Francesco Bozzi was once present when these things were brought him, and the Saint said, “Francesco, I am preparing myself for death; I am detaching myself from everything; I wish to live and die like a poor man, and so I am getting my very food by alms;” by which he meant to imply, that he who wishes to arrive at perfection must have no attachment to any single thing in the world.
Angelo of Bagnarea, going one day to visit him, found him reading the Lives of the Holy Fathers; upon which the Saint remarked to him, “Angelo, do you see what I am reading? this is the book of old men like me. This man I am just now reading of, left the world and possessions to serve God; but that is not enough.” Philip desired to see in his disciples the same abhorrence of riches which he had himself. Discovering once that one of his penitents had got together a little property with some eagerness, he said to him, “My son, before you possessed this property, you had to my mind the face of an angel, and I took a pleasure in looking at you; but now your countenance is changed; you have lost your merry looks, and are downcast; so look to yourself.” The man blushed at Philip’s words, and from that time he changed his plans, and exerted all his industry in accumulating riches for another life.
He one day asked Egidio Calvelli, a brother of the congregation, if he would like to have some money. Egidio answered, “Father, I have no desire for any such thing;” upon which Philip rejoined, “If that be so, I vote that we go to Paradise, and I will conduct you there myself, on condition that you never allow a desire of riches to rest in your mind.” He was continually putting his penitents in mind of the same lesson, and had almost always in his mouth his favourite sentiment, that all the love we have for creatures is so much taken from God.
Francesco Zazzara, when he was young and occupied with his law studies, took great pains in perfecting himself in that study in order that he might rise at court. One day the servant of God called him to him, and Francesco knelt down at his feet. The Saint immediately began to lavish the most unusual caresses upon him, and at the same time to lay open to him all the secret designs of his heart. “O happy you!” said he, “now you are studying: then you will be made doctor and begin to gain money, and to advance your family; you will be advocate, and then some day you may be raised to be a prelate;” and so he went on describing step by step all the honours which the world could give, or had ever passed through the youth’s imagination, repeating again, “O happy you! then you will think you have been recompensed according to your deserts, and will want nothing more.” Francesco thought that the Saint spoke truly; but Philip, pressing his head to his bosom, whispered in his ear, “And then?” These words remained so deeply impressed upon the young man’s heart, that when he got home he began to say within himself, “I study in order to get on in the world, ‘and then?’” Reasoning thus with himself, he found he could not get those words out of his heart, and he at last resolved to turn all his thoughts and plans to God, a resolution which he executed by entering into the congregation, where he gave great edification to all who knew him, and died in the odour of sanctity. It was he who immediately after the Saint’s death began to exert himself for his canonization, prosecuting the cause with extreme diligence and fatigue, until God consoled him by allowing him to see it brought to a favourable issue. Indeed it appeared as if he was only kept alive to see all completed, for as soon as ever he had obtained the bull of the canonization and the office with the proper lections and prayer of the Saint, he went to his eternal rest.
The same words which had proved so efficacious with Francesco Zazzara, wrought also the conversion of another of Philip’s penitents, a merchant who prided himself upon having amassed a great deal of money, and hoped in a few days’ time to gain a large sum. The Saint’s simply saying, “And then?” made him resolve to leave off business, and become a priest, in which holy office he became a great servant of God.
Although Philip desired to see this detachment in all his penitents, he still more ardently desired it and studied more diligently to obtain it in the members of his congregation. Every time that one of them got faculties to hear confessions, the principal admonition he gave to the new confessor was, never to touch the purse of his penitents; for he used to say, that it was impossible to gain souls and money at once. He used often to repeat, “If you wish to have fruit among souls, you must leave purses alone.” To his penitents he frequently quoted St. Paul’s words, “I do not want your goods, but you.” He admonished, not confessors only, but all the members of the congregation generally, by no means to meddle in the matter of wills, as it is always an object of suspicion to worldly people, however good and holy the intention may really be. No one, he said, would ever advance in virtue who was in any way the slave of avarice; for he had found by experience that sensual persons are more easily converted than covetous ones. He called avarice the pest of the soul, and when he saw any one guilty of it, he entertained the very worst opinion of him; and if any such asked him to give them leave to fast, he would say, “My good Sir, no! give alms.” When he wished to reprove any one indirectly for this vice, he would manage to bring out in the course of conversation some such sayings as, “He who wants to be rich will never be spiritual.” “Let the young man look to his flesh and the old man to his avarice, and then we shall all be saints.” “All sins displease God, but above all, those of the flesh and covetousness, because they are very hard to cure.” He said we ought never to omit praying to God, that the spirit of avarice might not gain the mastery over us, nor the affection to worldly things be as a burden upon us. In a word he considered this abhorrence of riches so important and so fertile in good works, that he used to say, “only give me ten persons truly detached from worldly things, and I should not despair of converting the world with them.” To those in the congregation he would say, “God will not fail to provide you with goods, but see well to it that when you have got the goods you do not lose the spirit.”
Philip was as much detached from the honours and greatnesses of the world as he was from its riches. All Rome regarded him as a Saint; he was beloved, not only by the middle and lower classes, but by the nobles, and even by the sovereign pontiffs themselves, and not only beloved, but held in the highest esteem and reverence. Yet amidst all this applause, amidst all these opportunities of advancing himself, he always preserved his former humility and contempt of self. He very seldom went to visit the popes, the cardinals, or the princes, and then only that he might carry into effect some charitable purpose, or contribute to the general good. He would never accept pensions, benefices or dignities of any kind; for he knew that among wise men the glory of refusing a dignity is equal to that which we should acquire by accepting it; and he managed his refusals with so much dexterity, that the very persons who wished to advance him hardly detected the artifices of his humility, and those were very few indeed who thoroughly penetrated his designs. When he refused the canonry of S. Peter’s which Gregory XIII. offered him, he excused himself amusingly, on the ground that he did not know how to wear a canon’s vestment. It is most certain that he refused not only the first canonries in Rome, and some important bishoprics, but even the cardinal’s hat.
Gregory XIV. loved Philip affectionately; and when he was raised to the throne, Philip went to kiss his feet and to congratulate him. As soon as the pope saw him, he embraced him with every demonstration of love, and after some conversation, in presence of several persons, he took the same berretta that he had worn himself when he was cardinal, and put it on Philip’s head with his own hand, saying, “We create you cardinal.” The holy old man immediately went up to his holiness, and whispered a few words into his ear; then turning the whole affair into ridicule, and treating it as a joke, he took his leave. But the pope a short time afterwards sent the same berretta to his house, desiring the messengers to say the same words; the Saint returned him thanks, and said he would let his holiness know when the time came in which he should be ready to accept that dignity. Many thought that all this was a joke from beginning to end, but it was not so, for they who were present knew that it was the pope’s actual intention to make him a cardinal; and the Saint himself gave the same account of the matter repeatedly to some of the congregation. Indeed, the pope seems to have acted in this way in order to make this desire of his the more public, but he was overcome by the reasons which Philip urged upon him, and would not do violence to his repugnance to accept the honours of the world.
This repugnance was still more clearly manifested in the time of Clement VIII. Philip desired to obtain a certain favour from his holiness for a girl who was his penitent, and being confined to his bed by illness, he sent him a petition; the pope in his answer shows clearly that he had desired to make him a cardinal, but that the Saint would on no account accept it; indeed his holiness certified it in his own handwriting. In order, however, that every one may see this for himself, I subjoin here both Philip’s memorial and the pope’s answer to it.
“Most holy father! And what sort of a person am I to have cardinals coming to visit me, and especially the cardinals Fiorenza and Cusano yesterday evening? And because I had need of some manna for my medicine, the said cardinal of Fiorenza procured me two ounces from Santo Spirito, seeing that my lord cardinal had sent a large quantity of it to that place. The same day he stayed till two hours after the Ave, praising your holiness, rather more, as it seemed to me, than your holiness deserved, for, seeing you are pope, you ought to be humility itself. Christ at the seventh hour of the night came to incorporate Himself with me; and your holiness has not so much as once come to our church. Christ is both God and man, and He always comes to visit me; and your holiness is a mere man, born of a holy and worthy father; but He is born of God the Father. Your holiness is the son of the lady Agnesina, a very saintly lady; but he is the Son of the Virgin of virgins. I could say still more if I chose to back up the passion I am in. I command your holiness to do my will respecting a certain girl whom wish to place in the Torre di Specchi. She a daughter of Claudio Neri, and your holiness promised to protect his children, and remember that to keep his promises is the right sort of thing for a pope to do. Therefore hand over this business to me, and let me make such use of your name as I may find occasion for, seeing that I know best what the girl’s wish is, and that I know her for certain to be moved only by divine inspiration; and so with all proper humility I kiss your most holy feet.”
The pope with his own hand wrote on the petition the following words: “The
pope says that the first part of the note savours a little of the spirit of
ambition, wishing to let him know that cardinals come to visit your reverence
very frequently, and mentioning it under the pretence of letting him know that
such gentry are very spiritual, which he knows very well already. As to his not
coming to see you, he says that your reverence does not deserve it, because you
have not accepted the cardinal’s hat which he has offered you so many times.
As to the obedience your reverence has given him, you may be satisfied with
knowing, that with his usual imperiousness, he will give those excellent mothers
a good rebuke, if they do not behave as your reverence wishes. In return, he
sends you an obedience to take care of yourself, and not go back to the
confessional without leave; and when our Lord comes to see you, to pray for him
and for the urgent needs of Christendom.” The allusion in this note is also
confirmed by the fact, that when Philip went to kiss the feet of Clement at the
beginning of his pontificate, the pope said to him in the presence of Giuseppe
Caradoro, Canon of
S. John Lateran, “Now I will take care that you shall not be able to avoid the cardinalate.”
Three months before Philip died, he was talking in the most free and confidential manner in his own room, with Bernardino Corona, a brother of the congregation; and among other things, he said to him, “Bernardino, the pope wants to make me a cardinal; what do you think of that?” Corona said he ought to accept the dignity, if for no other reason, at least for the good of the congregation. But the Saint, taking off his cap and looking up to heaven, exclaimed, “Paradise! Paradise!” Another time some of his penitents spoke of the prelacies and honours of Rome, in connexion with his freedom and familiarity with the popes. But Philip said to them, “My sons, take my words as spoken in earnest; I would rather pray God to send me my death, yea to strike me with an arrow, than permit me to indulge a thought of such dignities; I covet indeed the spirit and the virtues of cardinals and popes, but not their greatness.”
The Abate Marco Antonio Maffa, considering this detachment from all love of high places and advancement, declared we might truly say of Philip, what S. Jerome says in his life of S. Hilarion: “Let others admire the miracles that he wrought, let them admire his incredible abstinence, science, and humility; for my part I am most astonished at the way in which he could tread glory and honour underfoot;” especially as Philip trod them underfoot in the very heart of Rome, and so many dignities, and so many opportunities of aspiring to them.
But Philip was not only averse to all outward distinctions; he even renounced those which seemed in every way due to him, as father and founder of the congregation. Having been elected perpetual superior, he was very importunate with the fathers two years before his death, to allow him to renounce his office, saying he wished to be subject and not superior, and that he was old, and wanted a little time to prepare himself for death. The fathers, however, would not consent to gratify him in this respect, knowing that he spoke out of a spirit of humility, and not from any real desire which he had to be at ease. Philip did not rest satisfied with this: he made use of Cardinals Frederick Borromeo, and Agostino Cusano, as his negotiators with Pope Clement VIII., who desired them to inform the congregation that it was the wish of his holiness that they should comply with Philip’s request. Thus on the 23rd of July, 1593, the Saint retired from his office of superior, and Cesaro Baronius, in spite of all his exertions, was elected in his place. The fathers, and Baronius in particular, paid Philip the same respect and reverence, as they would have done if he had been still superior, and conferred with him daily about almost every thing that happened; and the holy father on his part avoided no sort of labour in the service of the congregation.
This alienation from honour and greatness which distinguished himself, he was anxious to see also in his penitents, and especially in the members of his congregation. He did not like their frequenting palaces and courts. Germanico Fedeli sometimes went among great people, as he had an aptitude for dealing with them; neither did he go amongst them without some good reason; yet the Saint was jealous of this, and said to him several times, “You will leave us, but for all that you will not become a prelate;” and so it was, for Clement VIII. took him out of the congregation and appointed him tutor to his nephew Silvestro Aldobrandini, who was afterwards cardinal of the title of San Cesareo; and Germanico was made canon of S. Peter’s; but at last he renounced even his canonry, and died a simple priest.
Philip not only wished that those who put themselves under his direction should not seek dignities; but he was also greatly displeased with them if they held more than one benefice. He reproved even cardinals and prelates of high rank on this account; and he used to tell a story of a prelate who was asked how it came to pass that he had several benefices and was trying to obtain more, whereas, before he had any, he not only had no desire for them, but abhorred them as something pestiferous. The prelate answered, that when the first benefice was offered him, he refused it several times, and could not be induced to accept it on any account; but at last the prayers of his relatives compelled him to do so, though he was still reluctant. No long time afterwards a second was offered him; he refused it, but with less firmness than before, and at last accepted it. After this he not only took all that were offered him, but even laid plans to procure others; and he assigned as a reason for this great change, that the first benefice had taken away one of his eyes, and the second benefice the other, so that he was now blind. This anecdote Philip used to relate, that he might take away from his spiritual children all desire of obtaining ecclesiastical benefices.
He was very unwilling to hear the confessions of those prelates, who, notwithstanding the obligation of residence, lived at Rome without any lawful excuse; and in this matter he did not spare even the cardinals themselves, so that Baronius said of him, “Philip was a man of great freedom in rebuking whatever he knew to be wrong, especially in prelates and persons of rank, always however in the right place and at the right time.” In his familiar discourses Philip used sometimes to inveigh against the vanities of the world with so much spirit, that his words wrought upon very many, and caused them to make heroic resolutions about their way of life. At the end of these discourses he used to add in a most impressive manner, “Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas,” “There is nothing good in this world,” and maxims of a similar character, but uttered with so much unction that they penetrated the hearts of all who heard him. He used also to say, that the contempt of riches and honours was more necessary in Rome than in any other place in the world, because more honours are conferred there than in any other city. So great in truth was his detachment from the love of riches, and so complete his estrangement from all desire of honour and advancement, that this was one of his favourite sayings, “I find no one thing in this world that pleases me, and this gives me a peculiar pleasure, not to find any thing that pleases me;” and he used often to add that if a soul could keep altogether clear of venial sins, the greatest pain it could feel would be the continuance of this life, because of the vehement desire it would have to unite itself with God.
The dislike which Philip had to worldly prosperity and greatness, arose not only from his being enlightened to discern the true value of things, and esteem them accordingly, but also from his profound humility. He had arrived at such a height of perfection in this virtue, that, like St. Francis, he unaffectedly believed himself to be the greatest sinner in the world; and when he said this, it was with so much feeling that no one could doubt for a moment its coming from the heart. This impression was so strong upon him, that if he heard of any one having committed a serious crime, he would say, “Thank God that I have not done worse!” On this account he used to read very often, and always with great emotion, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt; for he desired to imitate her in her spirit of penance, although he had not imitated her in her sins.
Every day he used to make a protest to God with the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, saying, “Lord! beware of me to-day, lest I should betray You, and do You all the mischief in the world.” At other times he would say, “The Wound in Christ’s Side is large, but if God did not guard me I should make it larger;” and when he was just going to communicate he would say, “Lord, I protest before Thee that I am good for nothing but to do evil.” He used to say that his only preparation for mass was to present himself to God as one who was ready, so far as he was concerned, to be guilty of any and every evil, if God did not assist him.
Earlier in life, when he was ill, he used to say, “If God gives me my
health back again I wish to change my life, and begin to do good:” but in his
last illness, when he had acquired a greater knowledge of his own nothingness,
he said quite the contrary, “Lord, if I recover, so far as I am concerned, I
shall do more evil than ever, because I have promised so many times before to
change my life, and have not kept my word, so that I despair of myself.” He
thought that God would punish him for his sins; so that when he was ill he used
to say, that God had sent him that sickness to convert him.
At confession he would shed abundance of tears, and say, “I have never done one good action;” and even out of confession he was so penetrated with this thought, that when he saw young persons, he set to work considering how much time they had before them to do good in, and said, “O happy you! O happy you! who have time to do good, which I have not done.” When he saw religious he often broke out into such exclamations as these: “O happy you! who have left the world, which I should never have had the heart to do.” He felt this with such sincerity that he often said, “I am past hope!” and one day, meeting two Dominicans, he passed between them, saying, “Let me pass, I am without hope,” meaning that he had no confidence in himself or in anything he had done. The good fathers, understanding the words in their ordinary sense, stopped him and began to console him, and to ask him a multitude of questions; at last he smiled and said, “I am past all hope of myself, but I trust in God.”
Costanza del Drago could not bear to see certain persons, who were under great obligations to the Saint, treating hum rudely; and so she told him that he ought to rebuke them, and to manifest the truth to them; but Philip answered, “If I was humble God would not send them to me.” He persevered so fixedly in these sentiments, that one day, when one of his spiritual daughters said to him, “Father, I wish to have something of yours for devotion, for I know you are a saint,” he turned to her with a face full of anger, and broke out into these words, “Begone with you; I am a devil, and not a saint.”
In like manner when he was ill, and some of those who were most devoted to him wished him to make that prayer of St. Martin, “If I am still necessary to Thy people I do not refuse to work,” he answered quite angrily, a thing most unusual with him, “I am not St. Martin, nor did I ever think I was; and if I believed myself necessary to anybody, I should consider myself damned.” A person of rank also begged him, when he was ill, not to abandon his spiritual children so soon, but to pray to God to prolong his life, if not for his own advantage, at least for their good, and as a means of doing further good to others. But he answered with the same humility, “It never came into my head to think that I could help any one.” The same person, considering the great gifts which God had granted to Philip, said to him one day, “The Saints do great things, Father;” he answered, “Nay, say not so, but rather, God does great things in His Saints.” To another, who said to him one day, “Father, a temptation has come to me, to think that you are not what the world takes you for,” he answered, “Be sure of this, that I am a man like my neighbours, and nothing more; so do not be annoyed by this temptation, as it is not of the slightest consequence.”
As Philip thought himself the chief of sinners, and of no merit before God, and called himself unworthy to be a priest, he invariably recommended himself to the prayers of all persons. For this purpose he sent to have prayers made for him in many different convents; but he recommended himself specially to the novices of religious houses, having a peculiar confidence in their prayers. He used also to have mass said for himself, not only when he was ill, but on the occasion of any temporal or spiritual want which he might have; and he had the masses said by religious of different orders, and particularly on the feasts of the Saints whose days fell about the time, and in their churches, feeling sure that he should by this means obtain what he could not presume to expect through his own prayers. Thus he was accustomed to attribute to the prayers of others every grace and favour which he received from God. Nay, although he was himself so excellent a master of prayer, and had received such privileges in that way, yet even in this very respect he had so low an opinion of himself, that meeting two Jesuits one day in Rome, he said to them, “You are sons of a great father; I am under great obligation to him; for Ignatius has been my master in mental prayer.” Yet in truth, before he knew S. Ignatius he had received from God that miraculous palpitation of the heart, and had practised mental prayer with all that sweetness and profit which we have already described.
One morning, while he was saying mass at San Girolamo, there was a great trembling of that earth in the church; no one was present but the server and an old woman. When mass was over, he was asked if he knew what that quaking of the earth meant, to which he replied, “It was the prayer of that old woman which caused it.” So when he gave his penitents a penance, he used to beg of them to apply half of it to him; or if they were priests, to say mass for him, or at least put him into their Memento.
He had so little esteem for himself, that he could not bear to be thought well of by others, and complained grievously of it whenever it was expressed. If he heard that any one had a good opinion of him, he used to say, “O poor me! O wretch that I am! how many rustics, and how many poor girls, will be greater than I shall be in Paradise!” On one occasion a penitent of his, returning from a pilgrimage to our Lady of Loretto, told him with great simplicity, that in every place where he had been men held the good father to be a Saint, and as such recommended themselves to his prayers. All that evening Philip did nothing but bewail himself and say, “O poor me! O miserable that I am! would that God would give me the grace to be what these people think I am!” and he added with great emotion, that he was not near being what they thought him.
He avoided all marks of honour as a very pestilence; he could not bear to receive any signs of respect, or that any one should remain uncovered in his presence, not even one of the poorest or lowest of the people. When he came into church, all, both men and women, wished to touch his clothes, and knelt as he passed by. Philip could not endure this homage, and used to strike them, sometimes with his long sleeve and sometimes with his hand, saying, “Get up, get out of my way.” He did not like people to kiss his hands, though he sometimes let them do so, lest he should hurt their feelings by refusing; and others of his penitents he allowed to do so, because of their familiar intimacy with him. He would not generally talk on spiritual subjects with persons who were themselves reputed to be spiritual, unless some one came to ask his advice. He would never allow his own subjects to call him, at least as a general rule, Father Prefect, or Father Rector, but simply Father; and this name was especially sweet in his ears, because it implied love rather than authority; and hence has come the custom in our congregation of calling the superior by the simple title of Father. He had a particular dislike to being called the Founder of the Congregation; and this was one of the reasons why he was so unwilling to leave his rooms at San Girolamo, and come to the Vallicella; and he used to say expressly to those who talked with him upon the subject, “I assure you I had no thought of doing any such thing (as founding a congregation,) but God in his goodness chose to make use of me as an instrument for my very weakness’ sake, that his power might shine forth all the more in the matter.” Indeed, when he was looking back, and making reflections on the past, he repeatedly expressed surprise that God should have made use of such a one as he.
He was a great enemy to every kind of rivalry and contention; and he always took in good part everything that was said to him. He had a particular dislike of affectation both in himself and others, in speaking, in dressing, or in any thing else, he avoided all ceremony which savoured of worldly compliment, and always showed himself a great stickler for Christian simplicity in everything; so that when he had to deal with men of worldly prudence he did not very readily accommodate himself to them, and he avoided as much as possible having anything to do with two-faced persons, who did not go simply and straightforwardly to work in their transactions. As for liars he could not endure them, and he was continually reminding his spiritual children to avoid them as they would a pestilence.
In all matters concerning either his own conduct or the government of the congregation, and even in affairs of far less importance, he habitually asked the advice of others. He was not contented to consult with intelligent persons, or with superiors; but as one who knew by the light that was in him with whom the Holy Spirit rested, he conferred also with those who were altogether his inferiors, insisting upon their giving their opinion, and recommending the matter in their prayers; and at the last acquiesced rather in the opinion of others than in his own. His constant counsel to his spiritual children was, that they should not trust in themselves, but always take the advice of their director, and get as many prayers as they could.
He took great pleasure in being lightly esteemed, nay, even in being actually despised, and regarded as a man of no worth; for he kept always in mind that sentiment of the apostle, “If any among you seem to be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise:” so that many remarked, that what St. Gregory Nyssen says of St. Ephrem was true of Philip, that he wished rather to be than to seem. Hence it was observed, that he was always trying, either by gestures, or motions, or words, or some facetious levity, to hide his real devotion; and when he had done any virtuous action he would contrive to cover it by joining something simple, almost silly, with it, as a sort of blind.
When God was pleased to make Philip his instrument in the working of miracles, (and we may really say that his whole life was nothing but a continuation of miracles,) the holy father acted in such a way that no one, or at least very few, perceived what he was doing. As St. Francesco di Paola used herbs and other things to hide his miracles, so Philip did actions that seemed quite contrary to the actual events, as if he did what he was doing in a kind of playful or joking way, so that the spectators did not reflect on what they saw. But of this we shall see more when we conme to treat directly of his miracles. Many, who after his death reflected upon his miraculous life, have been lost in astonishment to think how a thing so plain and indubitable could have passed, so to speak, in silence and they have been unable to come to any other conclusion than that the Saint, like Simon Salo, had obtained this as a special favour by his prayers. Even those who perceived his miracles, knowing his extreme displeasure at any notice of them, did not dare to speak of them; and all this arose from his profound humility, through which, even to the end of life, he asked nothing so earnestly of God, as that all his virtues and miracles might be hidden from men both in his life and at his death.
Baronius was once praising him for something connected with his miraculous powers: but Philip answered, “O Cesare, I assure you it is a great subject of regret to me that people should take me for what they do; and I pray God constantly not to do anything through my instrumentality, which may give them occasion to esteem me for what I really am not; and believe me, that if at times something has happened of a supernatural character, it has been through the faith of others, and not through my merits.” At other times when he visited the sick, and some of them asked him to touch them with his hands or to pray over them, he answered them quite angrily, and seemed very much annoyed: “These people,” he would say, “would fain have me work miracles, and I know nothing about working miracles.”
In a word, his conduct towards every one was marked with the most singular humility; in giving orders he was even respectful to those he was commanding; he was very sparing in laying work upon his subjects; he had a most pleasing manner in transacting business with others, great sweetness in conversation, and was so full of compassion that he could not bear to see any one suffer the least annoyance upon his account. He was fond of pacing up and down his room; but lest the noise should be disagreeable to those in the room below, he used to put on a pair of thin felt shoes. He was so completely untainted by self-esteem, that those who were continually in his company never in any one single instance detected the least appearance of complacency in anything that he did; and so great an enemy was he to pride, that although he dealt with all kinds of sinners in order to gain them to Christ, it appeared really as if he could not domesticate himself, so to speak, with the proud and lofty. What we read of St. Thomas Aquinas, that he was never so much as tempted to vain-glory, seems also true of Philip. He always abhorred to speak of himself unless there was some strong reason for it; so that the phrases, “I said,” “I did,” were rarely in his mouth; and he exhorted others never to make any display of self, particularly in things which might redound to their credit, either in earnest or in joke.
He was anxious that his spiritual children should use more diligence in the acquisition of this virtue than of any other; so that often both in youth and in old age, he used to say in a sing-song voice, as if he were humming a tune, those two great words, “Humility” and “Detachment;” and as S. John the Evangelist was continually saying to his disciples, “Love one another,” so was Philip ever repeating his favourite lesson, “Be humble, think little of yourselves,” and he seemed never to be tired of laying stress upon it. Francesco Maria Tarugi was preaching one day, and enlarging in a very spirited manner upon the excellence and utility of suffering, so that all who heard him applauded. The holy father, who was present, feared lest this should be an occasion of vain-glory to Francesco, began to make the usual fluttering movements which he was accustomed to make, and getting up struck a pilaster with his hand, and drew the whole attention of the audience upon himself. This he continued to do as long as the sermon lasted, and then mounting into Tarugi’s place, he cried out with a loud voice, that none of the congregation had any occasion to be vain-glorious or boastful, because up to that time not one of them had shed so much as a drop of blood for the love of Christ, but that, on the contrary, by their service and following of their Divine Master they had only earned for themselves honour and reverence; and then went on to discourse at some length upon this matter to the great edification of those who heard him.
He said that nothing should induce a man ever to utter a word of self-praise, neither in earnest, nor in joke; and that if ever we do a good work, and another takes the credit of it to himself, we ought to rejoice and acknowledge it as a great favour of God; or if this is above our weak virtue, at least not to grieve that others take from us the praise of men, seeing that it envy causes God to reward us with a proportionally greater honour. He was always saying to his spiritual children, “Throw yourselves into God’s hands, and be sure that if He wants anything of you, He will make you good in all that He wishes to use you for.” He exhorted them to pray God, if He gave them any virtue or any gift, to keep it concealed even from themselves, that so they might the more readily preserve themselves in humility, and not find an occasion of vain-glory. If ever they said anything which redounded to their own credit, he immediately reproved them, saying, “Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi;” thus giving them to understand that they ought not to publish or divulge to all persons the inspirations which the Lord sent them, or the favours His Divine Majesty might vouchsafe to them.
It was a favourite maxim of his, that when a man puts himself into an occasion of sin, saying, “O I shall not fall, I shall not commit Sin,” it was a clear sign that he would fall, and fall with especial damage to his soul. He said that he was really much less uneasy about a man who had temptations of the flesh, and resisted them by avoiding the occasions, than he was about one who was not tempted at all, but did not avoid the occasions. He recommended them often to make little acts of this sort in their hearts, “ Lord! I have no confidence in myself, for I shall fall for certain, if You do not help me;” or, “Lord! You must look for nothing but evil from me.” In temptations he taught them that it was not enough to say, “I will do, I will say;” nay, that there was something of presumption and self-confidence in these words, and that a man should rather say with great humility, “I know what I ought to do, but I do not know what I shall do.” In going to confession he recommended persons to confess their worst sins first, as being those they were most ashamed of; for by this means they put the devil more completely to confusion, and drew greater fruit from confession; and he added, that pure and frequent confession was actually the best means to obtain humility.
He was greatly displeased with those who made excuses for themselves for he said, that any one who honestly wished to become a Saint should never, a few cases excepted, make excuses for himself, but always allow himself to be considered in fault, even if he was unjustly reproved; and he used to nickname people who defended themselves, “Madonna Eva” (My Lady Eve.) He laid it down as a rule, that the true medicine to cure pride was to kneel down and mortify what may be called touchiness of mind; and that when a man was reproved for any thing, he was not to be too much disturbed by it, or take it too much to heart; for he said that a man often committed a greater fault in letting himself be cast down by a rebuke than the fault for which the rebuke had been given, and that excessive sadness has generally no other source than pride; and he would have a man after a fall acknowledge it, and say, “If I had been humble I should not have fallen.”
He did not enter into the spirit of those, who, with too much trust in their own strength, asked God to send them tribulations; he rather desired his children to pray that the Lord would of his infinite goodness grant them patience in those little trials and annoyances which are of daily occurrence. There was nothing, he said, more dangerous for beginners in the spiritual life, than to wish to play the master, and guide and convert others. He would have them look first to their own conversion, and keep themselves humble, lest they should begin to think that they had done some great thing, and so run into the spirit of pride. In order the more completely to avoid all risk of vain-glory, he recommended persons to make any particular devotions which they might have in their own rooms, and not to seek for sweetnesses and spiritual consolations in public places. He was urgent with them to avoid all singularity, which generally causes and foments pride, especially in spiritual matters. He did not, however, wish that a man should forbear doing the good he might do, simply out of a desire to avoid vain-glory.
Conformably to the doctrine of the holy fathers, he used to distinguish three sorts of vain-glory; the first he called the Mistress; this was when vain-glory rose in the mind beforehand, and was the motive and end of the action: the second he called the Companion; this was when a man did not do an act for the sake of vain-glory, but felt a complacency in doing it: the third he called the Slave; and this was when vain-glory rose in the doing of a good deed, and was repressed the moment it rose; and he used to add, “Take care at least that it is not mistress; and though as companion it does not take away the merit of a good action, yet perfection consists in having it as slave.” As a crowning maxim, he laid it down as a rule, that to obtain the gift of humility perfectly, four thing were necessary - to despise the world, to despise no one, to despise self, to despise being despised by others - spernere mundum, spernere nullum, spernere se ipsum, spernere se sperni. Indeed, if I were not afraid of being prolix, I might heap together many other counsels which Philip gave to his spiritual children on the subject of humility.
Philip joined to his humility what is usually called the virtue of mortification; nay, he was so eminent in this, both from his continual mortification of himself, and of those whom he guided principally through this exercise, that he was deservedly hold by all to be a master of it. As to himself, his principal study was to get others to think him a mean and abject person; and he went to the utmost extent of what is lawful in every occasion which presented itself to him of appearing as such in the sight of men. Hence it was that he many times both said and did things, which, it we looked merely at the outside of them, seemed frivolities and follies But those, who paid attention to the end which the servant of God had in view in doing them, quickly perceived that it was the love of that wisdom which passes for foolishness in the world’s esteem, that induced him to walk along that road, and draw his spiritual children after him.
Thus Philip mortified himself, both in the house and out of doors, in public and in private, with every variety of mortification. But to come to particulars: he used for this end repeatedly to skip about like a child, in the presence of others, even of cardinals and prelates, and this not only in remote and uninhabited places, but even in places of resort, such as palaces, squares, and streets. Sometimes he jumped three or four steps at a time in the presence of others, and then said to some of the byestanders, “What do you think of that?” On the first of August he began jumping in the square of S. Pietro in Vincoli, where there was an immense concourse of people because of the feast; and some one was heard to say, “Look at that old fool there;” and thus Philip gained what he so much desired, to be thought a man of little sense.
Another time as he was going through Rome, he met a waterman, and stopped him in the middle of the street, and begged him to have the kindness to let him drink at one of his big barrels; he consented, and Philip put his mouth to the barrel and drank, the waterman being lost in astonishment that a man of his appearance should drink in such a way as that before a crowd of people.
Another time as he was passing through the Banchi he met S. Felix of Cantalice, the Capuchin, whose excellence is well known to all. After many and most affectionate greetings, Fra Felice asked Philip if he was thirsty; Philip said he was. Whereupon Fra Felice said, “Now I shall see if you are really mortified,” and he immediately held to him the flask which he carried round his neck. Philip put his mouth to it, and began drinking; a crowd soon gathered, but instead of being scandalized, people said, “See! here is one Saint giving drink to another!” The holy father then said to Fra Felice, “Now I wish to see if you too are mortified;” and taking off his hat he put it on the friar’s shaven head, and told him to go away with the hat on. Fra Felice said, “Yes, I will go; only if the hat is taken away, that is your concern, not mine.” Away went the friar some distance with the hat on; but the Saint, who already knew his goodness and mortification, sent to recover his hat; and the two Saints went their way, leaving people in doubt which of the two was the most perfectly mortified.
Cardinal Alfonso Gesualdo, who loved Philip most tenderly, gave him a fur pelisse, and made him promise to wear it, as he thought it was really necessary for him, both because of his advanced age, and of his continual attendance at the confessional. Philip obeyed, and from the mere love of mortifying himself wore it for a whole month together; and in order that every one might see that he wore a fur pelisse, he used to walk out in it with a grave and stately pace, and looked round upon himself with an air of admiration, as if he had been a peacock; and all this like another Simone Salo, for the mere purpose of being made game of by all who saw him.
He was once invited to dine with Cardinal Alessandrino, and to mortify himself, he took one of his penitents with him, ordering him to carry a dish of cooked lentils in an earthenware pipkin; and when they sat down to table, he had them placed before him. The cardinal, however, knew whom he had to deal with, and was so far from taking it amiss, that he and all the guests at table insisted on partaking of Philip’s dish, and the cardinal declared he had not tasted such good pottage for a long time. For although the holy old man endeavoured by these odd devices to obtain for himself the reputation of a fool or of being in his dotage, yet very often just the very opposite effect was produced, men detecting the saintly artifice through the knowledge they had in other ways of his real holiness and wisdom. At other times he practised similar mortifications when he went to dine with others, with a view to gain some one over to piety and virtue.
On the day of the translation of the bodies of the holy martyrs Papias and Maurus, when our church was quite full of people, Philip was standing near the door expecting the procession with the sacred relics. In order to mortify himself in the midst of all this joy which he felt, and also as if it were to let some of his mirth escape through a safety-valve, he cast his eyes upon one of the Swiss of the pope’s guard, who was on duty there, and who had a splendid beard. Philip went up to him, took hold of his beard, and pulled it two or three times, and then caressed it in a most extraordinary manner; some of the spectators laughed; others were so lost in astonishment that they could not even laugh; but many who saw what Philip was aiming at, were highly edified by this remarkable exhibition.
He once lit upon a most singular device in order to draw upon himself the ridicule and contempt of others; he had his beard cut on one side only, and went out with half a beard jumping and dancing, as if he had gained some victory. At other times, to mortify both himself and a brother of the house, named Giulio Savera, who was a skilful barber, he used to call him out where there were several people, and make him trim his hair and beard. Several spectators of course gathered round; and from time to time Philip said, “Ah! that will do; yes; now you are trimming me well!” He used repeatedly to go out of the house accompanied by some of his penitents, and carrying in his hand a huge nosegay of blown flowers, at which he kept smelling with ridiculous gestures of satisfaction and delight, both to make himself a laughing stock, and to mortify his companions. At other times he took his spectacles off and held them to the eyes of women and little girls.
He often went about Rome in a cassock, and a pair of great white shoes, like a friar, shoes which Cardimial Alessandrino had given him for an alms. Sometimes he began reading in public, and then made mistakes on purpose, especially when he saw that persons of education were standing near and listening; and afterwards he would ask his own people, “What did such an one say?” In a word, he very seldom left the house without doing some act of mortification to bring ridicule upon himself. Indoors these acts were almost continual; indeed we may say without exaggerating the matter, that his whole life was one continuous act of mortification; but as the very triviality of each separate act would from the nature of the case be wearisome to the reader, I shall content myself with selecting a few instances as specimens. Very often the holy father would remain in his room to receive visitors with a pair of white shoes on, and a red shirt over his doublet, reaching below his knees; and in this costume he received even men of rank and quality, in order that they might think ill of him for his childishness or his singularity. On feast days he sometimes went down into the church with his gown inside out over his cassock, and his cap cocked on one side, and one of his people going after him with a brush, and brushing him before all the people. At other times he took a great cushion, lined with blue cloth, and carried it on his head in public; at other times he went out in a doublet of white satin which had belonged to S. Pius V.
One day in particular, when several cardinals were come to keep the feast of our church on the 8th of September, Philip came into choir in the middle of vespers in a most extravagant costume, hoping perhaps to receive some grave rebuke from those prelates; but so great was their opinion of his sanctity that they rose when he entered, and begged him to go and sit among them, showing him all manner of courtesy, particularly Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandino. The Saint, however, smiled and said, “It will be enough for me to sit among these train bearers;” and so he joined them, and remained there during the rest of the function. Yet this gave no scandal to the byestanders; those who did not understand it wondered, yet from the Saint’s character were not offended; and those who saw the end the holy father had in view were greatly edified.
In order to lessen men’s esteem of him he used to keep in his room story-books, jest-books, and the like; and when persons went to him, especially if they were persons of distinction, he caused some of those books to be read, and pretended to be listening with the greatest attention and delight. On one occasion Innocent VIII. sent to him some of the principal Lords of the kingdom of Poland to converse with him, and admire his virtues and eminent sanctity. When Philip heard that they were arrived, before they had come up stairs, he ordered Father Pietro Consolina to take one of these books and begin to read, and not to give over on any account what ever, until he should give him the signal to do so. As soon as the nobles entered Philip most unceremoniously said to them, “Have the goodness to wait till this story is finished;” and during the reading he kept saying, “Ah! see now what good books I keep; see what important matters I have read to me,” and words of that sort, without so much as touching upon spiritual matters. The noblemen remained for some time, looking at one another in the face, and then took their leave, completely bewildered. As soon as they were gone, Philip told Father Consolino to put the book away, saying, “We have done all that was wanted at present.”
But the Saint was not content with keeping books of this kind in his room, and having them read aloud to him when persons of distinction came to see him; but in order the more effectually to make them think him a frivolous and imprudent man, he used as occasion presented, to tell different people of this, or to quote from the books, sometimes reciting foolish poetry about battles, or making verses of his own on the spur of the moment. He was one day in the house of the Marchesa Rangona, when the lady of the Spanish ambassador was there. After some other conversation, she asked him how long it was since he had left the world: Philip answered, “I do not know that I have ever left the world,” and he immediately began to tell her of these jest-books which he kept in his room, and turning to Father Antonio Gallonio, whom he had brought with him, he said, “I say, Antonio, do I not take pleasure in those nice poetry and fable books?” Gallonio replied, “Yes, father, but what wonder, seeing you cannot in any other way cool the flames of your love of God?” This was a very different answer from what Philip expected; for he had brought on the conversation, because he saw that that lady had formed a very high opinion of him, and he hoped by dwelling on these frivolities to destroy this, and make her think meanly of him. When he got home, therefore, he rebuked Gallonio, and said to him, “There now, a pretty answer you gave me; God forgive you! whatever was running in your head that you should say such a thing as that?”
Lorenzo Altieri, a Roman noble, went once to visit him; and not knowing Philip’s ways, he was not a little astonished to see him so merry, and to hear him speak with so much apparent unguardedness. When he took his leave, he told Angelo of Bagnarea, who had persuaded him to pay the visit, that he was any thing but edified with the Saint’s way of going on. Angelo answered, that the holy father behaved in that way in order to hide his real sanctity. The nobleman, hearing this and reflecting upon it, was inflamed with a desire of visiting him a second time. Meanwhile Angelo had told Philip what Altieri had said, and begged him to behave with more gravity, if the nobleman should return. Philip answered, “Eh! and what would you have me do? do you want me to be on my good manners, and look grave, in order that it may be said, ‘This is Father Philip,’ and then I shall begin to spout fine words! I tell you what - if he comes back, I shall behave myself worse than I did before.” The nobleman not only returned, but began to enter into Philip’s ways, and perceived that there was something hidden under that exterior, and so not only ceased to wonder at his habits, but began to find out his sanctity, and to draw the greatest edification from what had before been almost a scandal to him.
With those in the house he was continually behaving in such a way as to lessen their esteem of him, and make them think him after all a man of but moderate discretion, or at all events to hide from them what he really was. Sometimes he invited them to run with him, and then set off running; sometimes he challenged them to jump with him. Sometimes he retired into his room and put a red berretta on, the same which Gregory XIV. had given him, and then he waited for people to come to him. Some, seeing him dressed in this fashion, did not dare to enter; upon which he called them, and asked them why they did not come in. They answered, “Because we do not know, father, whether to call you illustrissimo, or plain reverendo, as we see you have got a cardinal’s berretta on.” Then he would laugh and take it off, saying, “O what a silly fellow I am, am I not?” Indeed, it would be impossible to enumerate all the instances of this sort; he was perpetually behaving in this droll manner with the people in the house. But for all that, he never succeeded in making them lower their estimate of his real holiness.
Through these little, but perpetually recurring acts of mortification, he had obtained the most complete mastery over his passions; and he always kept a jealous and suspicious eye over any natural inclination, which was not yet thoroughly mortified. He once made Giovanni Antonio Lucci a present of a cup of thick glass, which he had used for a long time. Giovanni Antonio asked him what he wished him to do with it. Philip told him that in times past he used to be very fastidious, and that he had used that cup in order to avoid drinking out of those which others had made use of; but now that he had overcome that foolish disgust, he had no longer any occasion to be singular in having a particular cup of his own. At mass also he felt a great repugnance to using the chalices of others. This repugnance, however, he completely overcame by repeated mortifications and when he perceived that he had completely over come his nature in this respect, he had a chalice made for himself. Giovanni Antonio asked him why he had done so; and he answered, “Because I am now master of myself; hitherto I have had to use the chalices of others in order to get the better of my fastidiousness.”
Philip, as we have many times remarked already, was as anxious for the spiritual advancement of those beneath his care, as he was for his own; and one of the most constant exercises in which he occupied them was that of mortification. It would fill a whole book if I were to enumerate the different acts of mortification in which he tried them; it will be enough to mention a few of his most ordinary devices in that way. He used repeatedly to send his penitents, even though they were noble and distinguished persons, to ask alms at the church doors, where there was the greatest concourse of people, neither did he allow them to have their faces covered as the Sacconi have, so that they might not he known. He made them sweep the steps and street in front of the churches, and then carry the sweepings away. He ordered them to beg at sermons, a thing which was not usual in those times, and was considered disgraceful. When he built the rooms at San Girolamo, he made his penitents carry a good part of the materials, like common masons’ labourers. At other times he sent them to private houses to beg morsels of bread for the love of God; and he once ordered one of his spiritual children, who had got a new coat on, and took a vain pleasure in his fine clothes, to go to the door of Santa Maria Maggiore to ask alms, forbidding him to eat any thing that day but what was given him out of charity; and he then sent others on purpose to tease and mock him. Sometimes he sent them to the choir of the Dominicans to hear compline, and ordered them to he at full length, like corpses, on some benches, until the Salve Regina was finished. He had also a great many pairs of spectacles, although he very seldom used any at all; and he would sometimes put one pair on one person, another on another, especially if they were boys, and order them to go and do several things with the spectacles on. The inventions of this sort which he hit upon were almost numberless; but the end of all of them was to keep his spiritual children humble, and make them regardless of what others said or thought of them.
He made Father Francesco Bozzi lie flat on his face in church, in front of his confessional, in the morning while his penitents came to confession, and he kept him there for a considerable space of time. Another morning he did the same to Giovan Battista Ligera, a priest who was given to low spirits and scrupulosity. Anna Borromeo, who was also plagued by scruples, having confessed to the Saint one morning, came back presently afterwards to confess over again. Philip mortified her publicly in the church in the presence of several persons, by driving her away without hearing her confession, and reproaching her in a loud tone of voice. The lady, without changing countenance, turned modestly away, and left the church without making an answer in self-defence.
Another time he sent a young man to ring a bell through the Campo di Fiore and the street de’ Giubbonari, most populous places, in the most inhabited part of Rome; the artisans, attracted by the unusual sound, took him for a madman, and hissed him. Another time he sent one of his penitents through Rome with a great box lid fastened to his shoulders, on which was written in great letters, “For having eaten curds and whey!”
One day Philip went with several of his penitents to visit Cardinal Alessandrino, and before taking leave he said to the cardinal, “Monsignore, I wish you would give me something for these children of mine.” The cardinal, who understood the Saint thoroughly, knew very well that he was seeking an opportunity to mortify them; upon which he went immediately to a cupboard, and took out a large cake, and gave it to him. Philip thanked him, saying, “This is just what I wanted;” and as soon as they got out of the palace he broke the cake into several pieces, and gave a piece to each of them, ordering them all to begin eating, and so they went through the streets of Rome all munching the cake together, as if they were keeping time one with the other.
One of his penitents wishing to leave off the toupee, as was usual in those times, the Saint would not only not allow him to do so, but commanded him to have it trimmed; and to mortify him still further, he told him to go to Fra. Felice, the Capuchin, and that he would have the charity to dress his hair for him. The good penitent went accordingly, and Fra. Felice, who was in league with the Saint, instead of trimming him, shaved the whole of his head, which he bore with the most patient good humour. Another of his penitents, called Alberto Legnajuolo, asked the Saint’s leave to wear a hair shirt; the Saint said, “By all means, but on condition you wear it outside your gown.” The penitent readily obeyed, and wore it in this way till his death, so that people nicknamed him Berto of the hair shirt.
One of the most influential people at court had a dog, which he petted immensely, caressing it in the most extraordinary way, as he had quite a passion for animals. It happened that one morning a gentleman brought this dog with him to San Girolamo, and Philip beginning to caress it, the dog took such a fancy to him that it would not leave his rooms, although the Saint sent it back to its master time after time. At first the master of the animal was very much displeased at this, so he petted the dog more than ever to hinder it from running away, and even kept it tied for some days. At last, seeing that it always ran off to San Girolamo as soon as it was let loose, although Philip had nothing to give it but a bit of bread, he was quite struck with the animal’s attachment to the Saint, and said laughingly, in allusion to some of his gentlemen who by Philip’s persuasion had left the court in order to serve God more perfectly, “Father Philip is not content with taking men from me, but he must needs take even my animals away.” The holy father made great use of this dog in mortifying his spiritual children. Although it was very large, he made some of his penitents, even men of rank, carry it in their arms through the streets; he set others to wash and comb it; and others to lead it tied with a chain or cord through Rome, when he himself went out walking, so that it served to mortify Philip himself, as well as those who led it, for the dog was always trying to get ahead, and dragging his leaders after him, so that they looked like so many blind men led by a dog. The various mortifications in which this dog played its part, lasted for fourteen years; and they were so burdensome that Cardinal Tarugi used to call the animal, “The cruel scourge of human minds;” it would never leave Philip, and died in his room at last.
For the same end, that is, to serve as an occasion for mortifications, he left a cat at San Girolamo, when he went to live at the Vallicella; and for six years together he sent some of his people every day to look after her, and also to go to the shambles to buy meat for her; and when they came back, even though cardinals, prelates, or nobles, wore present, he always asked after the cat, whether they had made her comfortable, how she was, if she had eaten cheerfully, with many other minute questions, as if it had been a matter of the greatest importance.
When Cesaro Baronius first fell into his hands, he set to work training him in a disregard and contempt of himself and men’s opinion of him; and for this purpose he used often to send him to the public-house with a bottle large enough to hold more than six mugs full, and then he bade him ask for half a pint of wine to put into this huge bottle, but that first of all they were to wash the bottle out, and then he was to insist upon going into the cellar to see it drawn himself, and sometimes he was to ask them to give him change for a tester, and sometimes for a gold crown; and when Baronius began to put into execution all these precautions, the publicans, thinking he was making game of them, abused him lustily, and often threatened to give him a sound thrashing. When Baronius was a priest, and lived at S. Giovanni de’ Fiorentini, Philip used often to make him carry the cross before the dead bodies through the streets, by way of mortification.
As soon as Bernardino Corona, one of Cardinal Sirleti’s gentlemen, fell into his hands, Philip began to mortify him in every possible way. He often made him pass before his old master’s palace, leading a horse by the bridle, as if he were a groom. Bernardino had also a remarkably fine beard; and Philip commanded him to follow the example which he himself had set him, and shave one half of it. Corona set off instantly to perform the obedience, but the Saint, seeing his readiness, told him he need not do it. All who lived with Bernardino in the Congregation know to what a purity of life he attained through these and other mortifications; he became as pure arid simple as a child, and the Saint loved him with an exceeding tenderness.
One time during the summer, when Philip was called into church to speak to a lady, he went in a cassock lined with fur; and as he came out of the church, he took it off in the courtyard, and put it inside out on Marcello Vitelleschi, a Roman noble, and one of his penitents. They were singing vespers at the time, and he ordered him to go into the choir with a message to Cesare Baronius who was their superior. The youth was ashamed to be seen tricked out in that fashion, and went behind the benches to speak to him, for the choir was different then from what it is now. The Saint perceived this, and therefore as soon as the young man came back, he sent him our the same errand in the same costume, enjoining him to pass through the middle of the choir, which Marcello did.
Father Antonio Gallonio was so unable to bear any thing like heat, that even in the most rigorous winter he wore nothing but a serge cassock; the Saint, in order to mortify him, made him wear a pellisse over his cassock for three months together, and that in the heat of summer. The same Father Antonio knew how to sing some songs in the Norcian patois; and when cardinals and other persons of quality came to the house, Philip sometimes ordered him to sing those songs in their presence; at other times he made him do so before nuns, mortifying at once himself, the poor priest, and the audience. Before Gallonio was a. priest, Philip ordered him to abstain from communion six or eight months, which was a great mortification to a man of his devotion. When he was made priest, he used to shed tears at mass through the greatness of his fervour; whereupon the priest ordered him to say mass only three times a week; and it was not till a long time after that he allowed him to celebrate five times a week. At other times, before meals, he sent him into the refectory to ask for his dinner or supper for the love of God; a mortification to which he frequently put others also; and at other times he made him carry several loads of bricks to different places.
The devil once put into the mind of a member of the Congregation, thoughts of disesteem of Philip, so that he lost faith in the counsels the Saint gave him in confession. At last, however, he manifested this temptation to the holy father out of confession, and Philip, on the look out as usual for every opportunity of mortifying both himself and others, commanded him to declare these thoughts publicly in the refectory. The penitent obeyed, and Philip stood listening to them with every mark of unusual joy. This publicizing of temptations before others, was one of the most common remedies he used for over coming the temptations themselves; but he never put it in force except where he saw that persons were able to bear it. Fra. Ignazio Festini, a Dominican, in obedience to Philip, manifested some temptations publicly, which otherwise nothing in the world would have induced him to tell, and he declares that no words can express the inward satisfaction and contentment which he felt in publishing them, and likewise that as a remedy it succeeded perfectly.
Agostino Manni of Cantiano, a priest of the congregation, a man of great charity and devotion, who died in 1618, on one occasion preached an excellent sermon in our church; whereupon Philip called him, and ordered him under holy obedience to deliver the same discourse six times running, and not wittingly to alter a single word. Agostino obeyed, and when the people saw him mounting the pulpit, they cried out, “O there is that father who has only got one sermon!”
But what Philip delighted to mortify above all things was reasoning, and this he set himself to do with the greatest earnestness, especially when there was some show of plausibility for the reasoning. This practice, so urgently and warmly commended by the saints, is perhaps one of the most difficult of all the mortifications of the spiritual life; and as an illustration of it, we may relate what passed upon one occasion between Philip and Baronius. The pope had assigned a certain sum of money to the latter, in order to enable him to go on with his Annals. No sooner did Philip hear of this than he immediately laid hold of it as an opportunity of mortifying him, whereupon he signified to Baronius that it was his will he should now contribute to the expenses of the house, as the others did, seeing that he could no longer plead the excuse of impossibility. Baronius thought this very hard, and although he was ordinarily most minute and perfect in his obedience to the Saint, in this matter he suffered a little human frailty to get the better of him; and, in fact, he had no other money but the pope’s allowance, and that he was obliged to be always spending in getting manuscripts copied at the Vatican. He made various and numerous attempts to dissuade the Saint from this idea; but Philip, who was aiming at his spiritual good, always stood firm, and would not yield to any artifice or argument. Notwithstanding this the temptation increased upon Baronius so strongly, that he went to Father Tommaso Bozzi, and urgently besought him to try to divert Father Philip from doing violence to his feelings in a matter of this sort, for that he really felt as if he would rather leave the Congregation than contribute to it from this money. Father Tommaso warmly espoused his cause, but Philip was firmer than ever, and only answered, “Tell Cesare openly, that he must either contribute or leave; no man is necessary to God.” Father Tommaso, hearing this, and not knowing what he could do further, exhorted Baronius by all means to submit to what the Saint had ordered, remembering that his advancement, as well in literature as in devotion, was entirely owing to Philip. Baronius accepted the good advice, and his good feelings returning, he want straight to Philip’s room, and, kneeling down before him, humbly begged his pardon for the resistance he had made, and offered him not only all the little money that he had, but all that he might ever acquire in his life-time, and put himself again wholly at the Saint’s command. Then Philip said to him, “Now you have done all I wanted; I do not wish for any of your money, but learn another time to submit yourself more readily to obedience.”
The mortification to which he put F. Francesco Maria Tarugi was hardly less severe. Indeed, he made a point of mortifying more especially those who were distinguished for nobility or talent, knowing how greatly others are edified by it, as well as the persons themselves being assisted in the spiritual life. One day he called F. Bozzio, and ordered him to go immediately and tell Tarugi to leave the Congregation, because his conduct did not meet with his approbation. Tarugi was overwhelmed with anguish at this unexpected and melancholy news, and spent his time, day and night, in examining his actions, to find out what had been wrong. Not, however, being able to detect anything by which he could have deserved the Saint’s indignation, after many and long prayers he went to F. Bozzio, and implored him to be his mediator with Philip, to ask what his offence had been, and to offer on his behalf to submit to any penance rather than leave the Congregation. Bozzio undertook the office, divided between fear and hope: fear, because of the firmness he had witnessed in Philip; and hope, because of his benignity. He went with Tarugi, whom he left outside the door, he then told Philip that he had brought back the wandering sheep, and that he did not doubt but that he would receive him, as before, with tenderness and love. At this prayer Philip seemed to be appeased, and, as if he knew by some heavenly light that Tarugi was at the door, he told Bozzio to bring him in. No sooner had he entered the room than he threw himself at the Saint’s feet, but was unable to utter a word through grief and tears. Philip said to him, “Since you ask pardon I grant it to you; but take care not to behave again in such a way as renders you unworthy to live in this house;” and he then dismissed him perfectly consoled. Philip afterwards said to Father Bozzio, “You would hardly believe to what a degree of merit Tarugi has arrived during these few days, simply because he has been mortified in this way.”
In these and other occasions which the Saint put in the way of his children, in order that they might practise self-contempt, he always put forward this maxim, that one who could not bear the loss of honour, was incapable of profiting in spiritual things. Hence he insisted particularly on the duty of a man’s using all his diligence in mortifying his intellect, and he used to say, touching his forehead at the time, “A man’s sanctity rests within the compass of three inches” and he explained his meaning by saying, “The importance of the whole matter consists in mortifying the razionale,” (an expression which was continually in his mouth as a sort of catchword, and by which he signified over-reasoning about a thing,) “and in not wishing to act the prudent man, and discuss every thing.” “Perfection,” he used to say, “consists in leading our own will captive, and in playing the master over it; I do not make much account of abstinences, and such like things, where self-will is the manager; but I would have you occupy yourselves in captivating the razionale, even in trivial things, if you wish to conquer in great ones, and to profit in the ways of virtue.”
So strongly was he impressed with these truths, that if any one came in his way who had the reputation of sanctity, he used to try his virtue by mortifications, and if he found it stand the trial, he honoured it as real holiness; if not, he suspected it as delusion. For he said that the perfection of a Christian consisted in his knowing how to mortify himself for the love of Christ, and that exterior mortifications helped greatly towards the acquirement of interior mortification, and of other virtues also, and that nothing could be done without mortification.
In a word, like another San Giovanni Colombi no, of whose spirit he had drunk so deeply, he kept his spiritual children in an incessant exercise of mortification, so far at least as was practicable for secular priests. Sometimes when one of the fathers was preaching, and warm with his subject had grown fervent, he would send another to tell him to hold his tongue, that he was preaching poor stuff, and was to come down from the pulpit, because he himself was going to preach; and very often he ordered some one to get up and preach a sermon off-hand, and he did it with the air of one who knew very well what he was doing; for when it was in obedience to him, the off-hand sermon was always better than the well-studied discourse would have been from the same preacher. Sometimes he sent them to booksellers’ shops to ask for books with extravagant titles, such as, Piovano Arlotto, Matteo Maria Bojardo, Esop’s Fables, and the like, and he enjoined them expressly to ask with a loud voice, so that every body might hear them, and they themselves have a full humiliation. At other times he made them go from Vallicella to San Girolamo without a ferrajolo (cloak worn by ecclesiastics), and sometimes with torn sleeves, and holes in their garments; so that one day a gentleman, who saw one of them in the street, offered him a pair of sleeves for the love of God; and the Saint, learning that his penitent had refused the alms, sent him back to the gentleman to say, that although he had refused the sleeves before, yet that now he should be very glad of them, as he was in want of them. He obeyed, the gentleman gave them to him, and the Saint made him wear them. Some he ordered to kiss the feet of those who came to visit him; others to dance and sing in the presence of cardinals and prelates. He made several go about with a berretta of white cloth upon their heads, and others with a huge hat and a cord passing under the chin after the antique fashion. On others he put a large rosary, like a hermit’s, round their neck, and made them go to Church in that costume; and on others he put beards of taffety and gold lace. He often made F. Pietro Consolini wear purple taffety with threads of gold round his hat, and made him walk about Rome with it; and he repeatedly sent Giuliano Magaluffi into the refectory during supper, with a monkey shouldering a gun and with a berretta on its head, commanding him to walk about the refectory in that way. Thus he gave one mortification to one person, and another to another, as he judged expedient, continually repeating, “My children, mortify yourselves in little things, that you may the more easily be able to mortify yourselves in great ones afterwards.”
Neither can we in this matter think it less than wonderful that Philip never laid a mortification on any one, however extravagant it might be, without its being willingly accepted, or without its producing the fruit in the penitent’s soul at which the Saint was aiming. In fact, he knew who were capable of bearing such burdens and who were not. There were some who were thirty or forty years with him, and yet he never gave them one single mortification, in deed or word; others had scarcely come under him before he began to impose the most extravagant things upon them. But he had not only the gift of discerning those who were capable of submitting to mortifications, but also the nature of the mortifications to which they would submit, and in what degree of virtue they were at the time: and so he dealt with them as they could bear it, mortifying them or not as he thought best. To some he gave very severe mortifications, to others moderate ones, to others very little ones, according as he saw good for them, making it a great point that they should submit with alacrity.
He esteemed this virtue of mortification so much, that he scarcely ever had out of his mouth, that sentence of S. Bernard’s, “Spernere mundum, spernere nullum, spernere se ipsum, spernere se sperni,” declaring, as I have said once before, that these were the degrees of perfection; but reflecting on the difficulty of arriving at such perfection, especially at the last degree of it, he used to add, “But these are only gifts of Him above;” or, “I have not got to that,” or, “I wish I could get to that,” and the like, showing at once his esteem of mortification, as well as his opinion of its difficulty.
Although this practice of mortifying both himself and others was quite one of Philip’s special singularities, yet in the latter years of his life he was more sparing in imposing outward mortifications; for, he said, his inclination that way was notable enough now, so that actions of that sort were not only less likely to bring forth fruit, but in some might even be reasons of pride and of vain-glory.
We now come to the virtue which the Saints hold to be the touchstone of all sanctity, and that is patience. Besides what we have mentioned in the first book, on occasion of the exercises he introduced at San Girolamo della Carità, we may say that his whole life, besides being one continuous act of mortification, was also one unbroken exercise of patience, because of the contradictions that he met with in every thing that he did.
First of all he was the butt and laughing-stock of the courtiers in almost every palace. They said every thing bad of him which came into their mind, especially while he was living at San Girolamo; so that as soon as any of his penitents appeared at court, he was asked what Padre Messer Filippo was doing, and what dainty he had eaten that morning, how many capons had been presented to him, and how many pipkins his spiritual children had sent him, with other similar pieces of disrespect and impertinence; and this sarcastic talk lasted for years and years, so that Rome was full of it, and through all the shops and banks, the idiot’s and scapegraces did little else but ridicule Philip or his penitents. All this was of course known to the Saint; and every one was astonished, not only at his patience, but at the great joy he evinced in hearing that he was ridiculed in this manner. A person of quality, who used himself to make game of him, reflecting upon this unwearied patience, conceived such an esteem for him, that he sent continually to recommend himself to His prayers, and wherever Philip was the subject of conversation, he extolled his goodness as something wonderful.
There were some, who out of a spirit of jealousy, or for other reasons of their own, could not bear to see the exercises of the Oratory prospering, or the odour of Philip’s sanctity daily spreading far and wide. These persons laid hold of every occasion they could to breed in others a bad opinion of him. One day there was a cry all through Rome that Father Philip of San Girolamo had been put in prison for improper intercourse with women; the fact being, that a servant living there, and also named Philip, had been imprisoned for that cause. But the envious, making use of the equivoque of the name, went about fastening this rumour on the Saint. When Philip heard of it, he did not take it in the least amiss, but with the greatest calmness contented himself with a simple smile.
On one occasion he went to speak to a prelate in behalf of Fabrizio de’ Massimi, a Roman gentleman, and one of his penitents, who had been falsely accused of a capital crime, and of whose innocence the Saint had certain proof. The prelate not only refused to give ear to the truth, but reviled Philip in such a manner that they who were present were astonished beyond measure, not only at the conduct of the dignitary, but much more at the patience and gentleness of the Saint in bearing those insults with such a cheerful countenance; in the end, however, the innocence of the accused was proved, and he was acquitted accordingly.
Something similar occurred in the Church of S. Giovanni de’ Fiorentini, where a gentleman’s servant began without any cause to insult Philip with manner and language so insolent, that Fabrino Mantachetti, a canon of S. Peter’s, and a man of note in the literary world, not being able to endure even to witness such impertinence, was about to lay hands on him, but seeing on the other hand the gentleness and joy with which the holy father took it all, he restrained himself, and was so edified with that exhibition of patience, that from that day forward he honoured Philip as a Saint.
Another time as he was out walking with some of his spiritual children, he met a cardinal who had given ear to false and sinister reports against him; so strongly was he prejudiced against Philip, that as soon as he saw him he ordered the carriage to stop, and gave him a most bitter reprimand in public. The Saint knowing the rectitude of the cardinal’s intention, was not in the least disturbed, but with his usual smile went up to him, and whispered a few words in his ear. The countenance of the cardinal changed instantly, and showing the holy father great marks of kindness, he said, “Go on then doing what you are doing now.”
But it was not strangers only who furnished Philip with occasions of exercising his patience. His own spiritual children, and even those under the greatest obligation to him, contributed by their behaviour to his perfection in this respect. Some of them, not being in the least able to enter into his real character, thought him a coarse and foolish simple person, and treated him accordingly, without his showing the least resentment, or his kind looks being altered towards them. When an important affair regarding the congregation was under discussion, a letter upon the subject was presented to the holy father as superior, and while he was reading it, one present, thinking the letter contained something which he did not want Philip to know, insolently snatched it out of his hand, saying that it was not to be read. The Saint took the affront with such incomparable meekness, that neither his look, word, or gesture betrayed the slightest internal emotion. But a long time afterwards he gave orders to F. Germanico Fedeli, that after his death the offender should be corrected, in order that, by acknowledging his error and doing penance for it, he might obtain pardon and indulgence of God.
The insults which Philip received were so numerous, that for brevity’s sake I must pass many of them over in silence: but I cannot forbear to mention, that Francesco Rosano, a philosopher and theologian of considerable note, seeing the wrongs which the Saint suffered daily, especially when he introduced the exercises at San Girolamo della Carità, said, “Philip is well matched with San Girolamo, for he too had great contradictions and persecutions as long as he lived.” But it is remarkable, that those who in any way harassed the Saint, either repented and came to ask his pardon, or were shortly afterwards chastised by God. A person, having murmured against him one evening, in going out of his house the next day fell over a steep place, was in danger of losing his life, and did in reality hurt his leg very seriously; and he confessed that he believed this judgment had come upon him for having murmured against Philip, and he added that if he had said what he did say with a malicious intention, he was sure he should have broken his neck; and from that day he could not endure to hear any one say the least word against Philip.
A noble lady of great age, and who was now in danger of death from a severe illness, was repeatedly visited by Philip, who went to hear her confession. Her nephew, a very influential person, seeing Philip go to visit his aunt so very often, was afraid she might make the Congregation her heir, and the Saint was given to understand that he was to discontinue his visits. However, as the good of her soul was his only motive, he persisted in spite of the threat; whereupon the gentleman, still more angry, and still more suspicious, ordered the servants not to let him in upon any account. Philip broke through all these difficulties, and continued to visit her without regarding either menaces or whatever else of a worse sort they might plot against him. The fathers of the Congregation, hearing of this, begged the Saint not to go there any more, as he was putting himself into danger by it. Philip answered, “I go to the sick woman for the good of her soul, and if I should be killed in consequence, it would be the best piece of luck that could happen to me.” The fathers rejoined, that still there were cases in which it was better to give way. Then Philip said, “Well, you need not be afraid, I shall not be harmed; and the sick woman, who is so ill, will shortly get well, and the nephew, who is in such good health, will die within a fortnight.” Every word of this came true; the lady recovered, and lived a long time, and the nephew died in a fortnight.
Another time, the Saint went with his spiritual children to the Seven Churches, as usual; and a person, who did not approve of this, said contemptuously to his companion, “What do you think? These Girolimini (the nickname given at first to the Fathers of the Oratory) have gone to the Seven Churches, and have taken with them seven asses loaded with tarts,” adding other idle jokes, turning the whole thing to ridicule. Not many days afterwards, the speaker was murdered, and the listener died. Other instances might be mentioned; but I withhold them, lest the persons should be discovered; but the cases were very numerous, both of individuals and entire families coming to a bad end because of their opposition to the holy father.
A prelate, whose name I conceal out of respect, calumniated him to one of the cardinals, in order that his eminence might oppose and hinder the exercises at San Girolamo; and the calumny was of so serious a nature, that the cardinal spoke to the pope about it; and Philip, although he knew the whole of it, never said one word against his accuser, but went very often to that same cardinal, from whom he received many mortifications; thus making use of it as a means to enable him to become more completely master of himself. Meanwhile the monks of Monte Oliveto, made some opposition to that prelate, saying that he was an apostate, and had been five years in religion; the poor prelate sickened of vexation, and died within a few days almost in despair. The Saint, forgetting his injuries, visited him several times during his illness; and when the news of his death was brought him, he grieved exceedingly, and asked one who was with him to reach him a Bible: he opened it, as it were, at random, and lit upon those words in the sixth chapter of Proverbs, “A man that is an apostate, an unprofitable man, walketh with a perverse mouth. He winketh with the eyes; presseth with the foot; speaketh with the finger. With a wicked heart he deviseth evil; and at all times he soweth discord. To such a one his destruction shall presently come; and he shall suddenly be destroyed, and shall no longer have any remedy.”
But to return to Philip’s patience:- he carried this virtue so far, that he not only bore with his persecutors, but even loved them tenderly. He was not contented with praying for them himself, and at his ease; but for that end he went often to St. Peter’s or to Traspontina Vecchia, (possibly Santa Maria del Carmine,) and made his penitents pray for them, often giving them an obedience to say a Pater and an Ave for his persecutors. Indeed patience had so completely become a habit with him, that he was never seen in a passion, and it appeared as though he did not even know how to be angry. As soon as ever the first movement of resentful feeling rose within him, he checked it that moment, and doing violence to himself, his countenance calmed instantly, and reassumed his usual modest smile. Sometimes, for the good of his spiritual children, and in order to correct them, he would put on a severe and frowning look; but as soon as they were gone he used to turn to any one who happened to be with him, and say, “Did you not think I was in a passion? I am not angry; no; but I am obliged to act in this way sometimes;” and immediately his face would become as calm as usual. Sometimes he would even laugh with those with whom he had just before pretended to be angry, and would say, “Well, are you scandalized at me, eh?” One morning, after he had said mass, as he was coming out of his private chapel, he met F. Antonio Gallonio; no sooner did he see him than he pretended to be greatly displeased with him, and without rhyme or reason gave him a most sharp rebuke, and bullied him so that Gallonio could not conceal his emotion. The aged Saint perceiving this, in the very height of his fictitious passion said, “Antonio! give me a kiss,” and he insisted upon his kissing him, in order by that means to remove any lurking feeling of bitterness from his heart. Cardinal Crescenzi says, the Saint did this not so much to exercise Gallonio in mortification, as to hide that wonderful paleness with which his face was so covered after he had said mass, that he seemed like a dead person.
No one ever saw Philip melancholy: those who went to him always found him with a cheerful and smiling countenance, yet mixed with gravity; and this was so well known among his disciples that they used to say, “You may say or do what you like to Father Philip, and insult him as you please, for you cannot put him out of temper.” Once he was told that some people had called him a silly old fellow, and he was greatly pleased with it. Another time he heard that a religious had said of him that he was doting, and it put him into such good spirits that he told Cardinal Cusano of it with immense glee; and sending for the religious, caressed him with marks of the warmest affection. Again, when he was told that people thought him mad for carrying a dog about in his arms through the streets of Rome, he laughed and was highly delighted; and another time, when he was told that people had been preaching publicly against the Institute of the Oratory, he did not answer a word, or betray the least emotion.
Philip exhibited an equally edifying patience in the sicknesses which he had almost every year, brought on by his over-fatiguing himself, and which often lasted fifty or sixty days at a time. He received Extreme Unction four times, and even then he had the same calm and joyous countenance. Once when the physicians had given him over, and he saw that all around him were much cast down at the idea of his death, he said with a firm voice and quiet courage, “Paratus sum, et non sum turbatus.” He never spoke of his illness except to the medical men, and he never showed outwardly what he suffered, however sharp it might be; and when he spoke, it was to break out into such exclamations as those, “My Lord, if you wish for me, behold here I am;“ “My Love, I have not known you, I have not done any good,” and while he said this he used to shed tears. He always heard the confessions of his penitents, unless the physicians expressly forbade him to do so; and if those in the house begged him not to do so, because of his illness, he told them to let him alone, for hearing confessions was a recreation to him: so great was his zeal for the salvation of others. He was never heard to change his voice, as invalids generally do, but he spoke in the same sonorous tone as when he was well. When he was ill, he did not so much receive consolation from his visitors, as impart consolation to them; and by the various winning ways in which he dealt with them, it always turned out that the charity was rather on his side than on theirs.
There was a kind of miracle too about his recoveries; for no sooner was he able to leave his bed, even when he was old, and the indisposition had been a long one, than he was able at once to say mass, and perform all his other duties. There was never any sign of convalescence about him; he got well all at once; so that very often he might be seen in the evening almost as if he were going to die, and in the morning he was performing his ordinary duties with as much readiness as if he had never been unwell. The physicians expressing their surprise one day at these sudden recoveries, Philip, to show that they were gifts from above, said to them, “I can tell you it is not you who have cured me, but that reliquary,” pointing to a reliquary which S. Charles had given him, containing the wood of the holy Cross, relics of Saints Peter and Paul, and S. Francis.
While I am upon this subject I must not omit to relate what happened on one occasion when he was dangerously ill at San Girolamo. He asked Giulio Petrucci to give him a little water mixed with pomegranate wine. Giulio reflected for a moment whether it would not be better to put some sugar into it to temper the crudeness of the water, and the acidity of the pomegranate juice; deciding to do so, he looked about for some sugar, hut could not find any, and while he was anxiously debating with himself what to do, suddenly a youth stood before him whom he had never seen before, holding a loaf of sugar in his hand. Giulio was so eager for the sugar, that he hardly gave a thought to the strangeness of the apparition, but sweetened the wine and water as he had intended. Philip, having drunk it, turned on the other side, and lying still for a short time, rose and said, “Giulio! I am cured;” and in the morning he got up and went about his usual duties. Giulio, reflecting afterwards on the event, and seeing nothing more of the youth, understood that the goodness of God had sent that sugar miraculously to succour his servant in his need, and did not doubt but that the youth was an angel of the Lord.
Another time also at San Girolamo, he was so ill that the physicians declared the case hopeless; and so having received the Most Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction, he was expecting his departure from hour to hour. Pietro Vittrici, of Parma, one of his penitents, and a great benefactor to the Congregation, and at that time in the service of Cardinal Boncompagno, afterwards Gregory XIII., was one of those who were in attendance upon him, and the Saint asked him to give him a little water to wash his mouth out. When he had drunk it, Philip drew himself into the middle of his bed, and turning his face towards the wall, like another Ezechias, he remained so for a quarter of an hour, and was then perfectly well, and returned without any convalescence to his usual duties.
To return from this digression: Philip not only gave a bright and continual example of patience, but many admonitions and maxims concerning it to his spiritual children, he said that nothing more glorious could happen to a Christian than to suffer for Christ; and that he who really loved God, would take no thing so much to heart as the not finding any occasion of suffering for Him; because the having no tribulation is the greatest tribulation which can befall a servant of God. When he heard any of his disciples saying that they could not bear such and such adversities, he used to say to them, “Nay, say rather that you are not worthy of so great a good, or that the Lord should visit you, for there is no surer or clearer argument of the love of God than adversity.” When a confessor was once complaining to him, that he was unjustly persecuted, Philip reproved him; “How can you teach others patience who are so impatient yourself? My son, the greatness of our love of God is known by the greatness of our desire to suffer for the love of him.” There was nothing, he used to say, which brings about contempt of the world more quickly, or unites the soul to God more closely, than being harassed and afflicted, and that they who are not admitted as scholars to that school may well call themselves unlucky men.
He was fond of repeating, that in this life there is no purgatory; it is either all Hell, or all Paradise; because to him who serves God truly, every difficulty and infirmity turns to consolation, and even in this world, in addition to his reward in the world to come, he has a paradise within himself in every kind of inconvenience and discomfort. Another favourite maxim of his was this; when God sends extraordinary sweetnesses to the soul, then let a man prepare himself for some serious tribulation, or temptation; and when he finds himself in possession of that little unusual fervour, let him spend it in asking of God grace and fortitude to bear what ever it may be the will of his Divine Majesty to send upon him. He said also, that in such spiritual sweetnesses a man ought to be very much upon his guard, because there is always danger of sin behind them: when a man has such sweetnesses, he ought immediately to humble himself, and to pray God that the danger which they foreshadow may not be mortal sin, but some other kind of tribulation which may not separate him from his grace, and that what ever it is, he may not offend Him in it, not even venially; for we may take it as the ordinary rule, that spiritual sweetness is the forerunner of some peril of the soul.
In order to animate his disciples to this virtue of patience, he exhorted them never to lose heart, for it is God’s way to make human life a sort of web, first a trouble, then a consolation, at least an interior one; he instructed them never to fly from a cross, for in that case they were sure to light upon a greater one, and that there is nothing on earth more beautiful than to make real virtue of necessity, instead of doing what men mostly do - manufacture crosses for themselves.
He did not, however, advise his penitents to ask tribulations of God, in the presumption that they could bear them, but to walk most warily in this matter, for it is not little which a man does when he bears what God sends him daily. Yet he himself on one occasion, compassionating a poor invalid, abandoned by the physicians, begged of God in the most absolute manner, and with an act of heroic charity, the life of the poor sufferer, desiring that the severe sickness might pass from him upon himself; and his venturous prayer was heard and answered to the letter.
Some who had been exercised in the service of God for a long time, he recommended to adopt this practice: in the time of prayer to imagine that all manner of insults and affronts were offered to them, such as blows, wounds, and the like; and then to make acts of charity in imitation of the charity of Christ, and to accustom their hearts to remit injuries in good earnest to those who might offend them; and he said that this exercise would bring with it a great increase of devotion. To one person, however, who begged him to teach him the method of this exercise, he said, “No, it will not do for you, nor for all.”
With these and similar holy admonitions did Philip confirm himself and others in the virtue of patience.
Let us come now to that which was, as it were, the complement of his eminent virtues. He knew well that every action, however great and heroic it might be, cannot lay a just claim to the title of virtue, when it is not accompanied by stability and firmness; and therefore, from boyhood upwards, he aimed especially at perseverance and firmness in well-doing. When he he came to Rome and knew that it was the will of God that he should labour in his vineyard there, there did he remain quietly for the space of sixty years, and never went beyond the gates, except so far as the circuit of the Seven Churches extends. His friends repeatedly begged him most importunately to go with them to different places, and his relations specially urged him to pay a visit to his own country, and his native Florence. But they never could move him from his purpose; for, as he said to Vittoria Gottifredi, superioress of Torre di Specchi, he recognized no native land but heaven.
When he became a priest and confessor, his attention was continually fixed on the proper discharge of those two offices, of the Priesthood and the Confessional; so that we may really say, that the whole course of Philip’s life was made up of praying, reading holy books, hearing and preaching the word of God, ministering the Sacraments, visiting the churches and the sick, and doing other pious and religious works.
When he had founded the Congregation he was very particular not to accumulate many exercises in it, in order that he might the better attend to the principal end which he had in view, in establishing the institute; for he said he was contented with three things, prayer, the administration of the Sacraments, and the word of God. This jealousy of multiplying exercises arose entirely from his desire that he himself and the others of the Congregation might persevere the more unintermittingly in these three.
This love of perseverance and stability he was always endeavouring to instil into the minds of others; for Philip was never contented with practising a virtue himself; he was always on the watch to cultivate it in others. He was continually quoting our Blessed Lord’s words, that not he who shall begin, but “he who shall persevere to the end, shall be saved.” He taught his spiritual children, that the best help towards the acquisition of this virtue was discretion; and that it was not necessary to do every thing in a day, nor to wish to become a saint in four days, for perfection is only to be acquired with very great fatigue; and he used to laugh very much at those, who, having a little spirituality, thought it was some great thing; and he added, that he really thought it was a more difficult thing to moderate those who wished to do too much, than to stir up those who did too little. Another advice of his was, that a man should take care not to attach himself so to the means as to forget the end; and that it was by no means well to be so taken up with mortifying the flesh, as to omit to mortify the brain, which after all is the principal matter.
He was very much against persons intermitting their devotions for the sake of every little occasional distraction that might arise, such, for example, as going to confession on their usual days, and particularly hearing mass on week days; but if they wished to go out walking, or do any thing else, to go to confession or the other spiritual exercises, whatever they might be, and then to take their walk. He was also opposed to persons loading themselves with many spiritual exercises; for there are some who by little and little take upon themselves the obligation to say so many rosaries and offices, that they presently tire of them, and either do not persevere, or if they persevere, say them without devotion. Hence his counsel was, to take but little on ourselves, and then to keep to that little without intermission; for if the devil can only get us to drop one exercise, he will easily get us to drop a second, and then a third, until all - our heap of devotions melts into nothing and he was continually saying to his disciples, “Nulla dies sine linea.”
Another admonition of which he made much was, that people should be on their guard against little defects; for otherwise, if we begin to slight and neglect such failings, a kind of grossness comes over the conscience, it loses its sensitiveness, and then all goes wrong. He exhorted his penitents frequently to renew their good resolutions, and never to abandon them because of the mere violence of the temptations against them. He told them by all means to have confidence in God, who is eternal, and not to be out of heart with things going contrary to us for God, when he wishes to grant any virtue, generally allows a man to be first harassed with temptations to the opposite vice; and as a remedy for discouragement, he recommended that when a temptation comes upon us, we should call to mind the sweetnesses we have felt in prayer at other times, and we shall thus more readily overcome it.
He used to say that fervour is generally great at the beginning, and then the Lord fingit se longius ire, makes as though He would go further, and that we must then stand firm, and not be disturbed; for God is then withdrawing His most holy Hand from pouring out His sweetnesses upon us, in order to try our fortitude and perseverance; and then if we resist and master these tribulations and temptations, the sweetnesses and heavenly consolations return. So all we have to do is to look after the acquisition of virtue, for at last the whole turns to our more abundant consolation, when the Lord returns us our sweetnesses and consolations doubled.
He said that there were three degrees in the spiritual life: the first he called the animal life; it is that of those who run after sensible devotion, which God most gives to beginners, in order that they may be drawn on by the sweetness, just as an animal is by a sensible object, and so give themselves to the spiritual life: the second he called the human life; it is that of those who cease to experience sensible sweetness, but fight against their passions in the strength of virtue, a thing which is properly the work of man: the third he called the angelic life; it is that to which they arrive, who have been exercised for a long time in the taming of their passions, and so receive from God a quiet, tranquil, and, as it were, angelic life, even in this world, and find neither trouble nor disgust in anything. Of these three degrees Philip exhorted his penitents to persevere in the second, because assuredly God in His own time will grant the third.
As to young men, he said that the avoiding of evil practices and keeping good company, were as necessary to their perseverance in the ways of virtue, as the frequenting of the Sacraments. He did not very readily put faith in them, how ever great might be the show of their devotion so that sometimes when persons spoke to Him of certain youths making great progress in the spiritual life, he would say, “Wait till they are fledged, and then let us see what kind of a flight they will make of it: ” and then he added, that he himself would undertake to make anybody very devout in a short time, but that the important part of the business was the persevering.
He exhorted every one to pray without ceasing, that God of His goodness would vouchsafe to grant him this gift of perseverance. He introduced the custom of saying in the Oratory every evening five Paters and five Aves, to obtain from the Divine Majesty perseverance in His holy service; “But,” he said, “to begin well and end better, two things are wanted, devotion to the most holy Mother of God, and hearing mass every morning, when there is not any legitimate hindrance in the way.”
When he began with people who had a spirit of religion, he used to mortify them for a long time, breaking down their own will in the things to which he saw they had the greatest repugnance, in order to enable them to persevere more firmly afterwards. He kept in suspense for several months one person who wished to become a religious, but seeing that he still persevered, and continued to beg for his permission, he at last consented to his becoming a friar. On this very account, many who entered upon the religious life with his counsel, have said repeatedly, that if the holy father had not dealt with them in that manner, they should not have persevered. A Capuchin father, visiting the Saint, after he had kissed his hand, said, “O father, the mortifications which I received from your reverence are nothing compared to those of the religious state; but I am sure I may say confidently, that if it had not been for the one, I should never have been able to go through the other.” He used also to say, that if a religious found himself in an order that had degenerated, and lived in it with observance and edification, he ought to remain there, because God may wish to make use of him at some time to renew the spirit of the order.
He held all change in great suspicion; and did not like men passing from one good state to another, nay, not even to a better, without great deliberation; for he said, that the devil often transformed himself into an angel of light, and made men leave off good, under the pretext of doing better. But it was not merely in men of the cloister that he desired to see this stability, but in laymen also; and his great aim with his penitents was, when they had once made their choice of state, to persevere in well-doing in that state, and not for a light occasion to change either their profession or their residence.
Massimiano Borgo, one of his penitents, had entered into the service of a great person, but it was somewhat against his own will, and only on condition that he was not to be occupied in secular affairs, and to be able to attend to his spiritual exercises, and to serve God. His master did not, however, quite keep his promise, whereupon Massimiano wished to leave his service, and spoke to the Saint about it. Philip advised him to be patient, telling him expressly, that if he ran away from one cross, he would find a greater one, and would never be at peace. And so it was; for Massimiano, following the injudicious counsel of others, left his place, and from that time forward was never easy, and never found a permanent home, although in ether respects he led a good and praiseworthy life.
He animated all to perseverance in the spiritual life by saying, that God hardly ever sends death to a spiritual man, without giving him warning beforehand, or bestowing on him an unusual increase of devotion. Almost his main object with the members of the Congregation was, to form this virtue of stability in them. He did not readily give them leave to go out of Rome under pretext of change of air, especially if it was for a long time, or to go to their own country; for he said, “Devotion is relaxed and lost among relations; a man gains nothing; and when he returns, he mostly makes a hardship of resuming the usual exercises, and going back to his former life, and putting a restraint upon himself.”
There was a youth of most excellent qualities, who entered into the Congregation, and gave great hopes in succeeding admirably. It happened that he was afflicted with some bodily indisposition, for which change of air was recommended. The holy father did not relish this, but the youth being importunate about it, especially as he wished to go in company with another member of the Congregation who had some necessary occasion to leave Rome, the Saint humbly retracted his refusal, and gave him leave because of his importunity. But he said to some, “Two you see are going away, but only one will come back;” and so it proved, for the youth went into the country, and overcome by the love of home, returned no more. Philip, however, wrote him a letter, of which I subjoin an extract, that the Saint’s desire may be better seen from his own words: “I wished, N., that you had not left so soon, and that when you had left, you had not stayed so long with flesh and blood, amidst the love of mother and brothers; especially looking at the example of San Marco and San Marcelliano, who, having been bold through many martyrdoms, so to speak, were at last close upon denying Christ, through love of father and mother, and would have done so if San Sebastiano had not strengthened them with his holy words,” &c.; and in the end he adds, “Now then it is for you to decide whether you will stay or come back, for we do not want pressed men here.”
Father Giovanni Antonio Lucci, who has already been mentioned, left to go to Bagnarea, his native place. The Saint tried to detain him, saying, “Giovanni Antonio, do not go, for I know what I say;” and he added, “Puto ego quod Spiritum Dei habeam.” Lucci went notwithstanding, fell in love with home, and never returned to the Congregation. The same thing happened to some others, who went home against his will; some of them died while they were there, and others returned no more to the Congregation.
He was also reluctant to give his subjects leave to go and found congregations in other cities; he wished them to remain perseveringly in the Congregation of Rome, and attend to the best of their power to the discharge of their duties in it. How strong this feeling was in him may easily be collected from a letter he wrote to S. Charles Borromeo, whom he tenderly loved and greatly revered. S. Charles had asked for some of his subjects to transplant thorn to Milan, and Philip answered, “These students are yet unripe, and I cannot see my way to taking them from their studies; I think I should make a mistake in doing so:” and a little further on he adds, “The ripe ones I cannot send you, for we are too much in want of them here; and for them I toil and tremble when I have made choice of them to send them anywhere, or put any kind of charge upon them; and I recommend myself most earnestly to God,” &c. From this we may see how averse he was to removing any of his subjects from the Congregation of Rome.
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