26 May, Tuesday — On ‘To Do’ Lists

May 26 – Memorial for St. Philip Neri, Priest

Philip Neri (1515-1595) came from a poor family, though he was related to Italian nobility. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. He was a pious youth, and was taught humanities by the Dominicans.

He moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some family with their business, and while there would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. He received word in a vision that he had an apostolate in Rome. He cut himself off from his family and went there where he was befriended by Galeotto Caccia, who took him in and paid him to tutor his two sons. He wrote poetry in Latin and Italian, and studied philosophy and theology. When he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor.

He began to visit and care for the sick and impoverished pilgrims. He founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He was a friend of St. Ignatius. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest, and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.

With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, with many converts. In 1550, he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later he considered missionary work in India, but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome.

He entered the priesthood in 1551, and heard confessions by the hour. He could tell penitents their sins before they confessed, and had the gift of conferring visions. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to stay, and becoming involved in their lives.

Pope Gregory XIV tried to make him a cardinal, but Philip declined. His popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect, but was cleared of this baseless charge. In 1575, he founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching, but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years, he was beset with several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer.

– Patron Saint Index

Acts 20:17-27
Jn 17:1-11

… provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me

One of the positives that has come out of being in quarantine is that I’ve had a lot of time to read, reflect and think. Yesterday, we touched briefly on what ‘normal’ might look like when all this is over. Maybe a more relevant question might be what version of normal do we want to return to? Whatever social media and the stock market might be saying, life isn’t going back to how things used to be. It just isn’t. Perceptions have changed. Things have changed. We have changed. Our idea of Life and Death has changed.

Pre COVID-19, I was always wrapped up in a lot of ‘doing’. For someone without a regular job, I seemed to be busy all the time. Most of that busyness got stripped away after COVID-19 happened. It was a shock at first, but as the noise quieted down, I could see where I was simply manufacturing work for myself for the sake of doing something. Was I doing it to put off doing something else? Maybe. I have a long ‘to do’ list, yet on it are things that never seem to get crossed off. Why? Possibly because tackling them would require reaching into places that are uncomfortable and awkward — making peace with enemies; mending burned bridges; saying ‘thank you’; saying ‘sorry’; stepping up to responsibilities; engaging with people I’ve written out of my life. They sit on my ‘to do’ list like reminders of how and where I have fallen short, where I am not fulfilling what God expects of me. I don’t cross them out because on some level, I think God wants me to address them. I just can’t seem to bring myself to.

A recurring theme with the heroes of Scripture is their perseverance with the ministry that was given to them, even when things are hard to do. Paul, in today’s reading, goes so far as to say the Holy Spirit has forewarned him of the dangers he will encounter, yet he intends to soldier on and finish the job anyway. Even Jesus himself prays, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). People of God don’t shrink away from what they need to do. They face it head on and get on with it, with understanding that God will provide them the resources and emotional strength to see it to the end. Maybe I too ought to channel my ‘doing’ in the same way instead of avoiding the issue and spinning my wheels, doing nothing of consequence. Avoidance doesn’t seem like a ‘normal’ worth returning to, does it?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the emotional strength to tackle the things that matter and see them to their completion. Not everything that is urgent is important. We pray for the ability to discern with them, and the discipline to act on that understanding.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In this time of much confusion, uncertainty and exhaustion, we give thanks for the sustenance that God gives us to continue His work.

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