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The astonishing miracle of St. Philip Neri’s enlarged heart

Philip Neri

Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 05/26/21

An autopsy confirmed that St. Philip Neri's heart was physically enlarged after receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The life of St. Philip Neri is full of miracles, and one that has become famous over the years concerns his heart.

He felt his heart grow bigger one day, and after his death this was confirmed.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the miracle occurred shortly before the feast of Pentecost.

[A] few days before Pentecost in 1544, the well-known miracle of his heart took place. Bacci describes it thus: “While he was with the greatest earnestness asking of the Holy Ghost, His gifts, there appeared to him a globe of fire, which entered into his mouth and lodged in his breast; and thereupon he was suddenly surprised with such a fire of love, that, unable to bear it, he threw himself on the ground, and, like one trying to cool himself, bared his breast to temper in some measure the flame which he felt. When he had remained so for some time, and was a little recovered, he rose up full of unwonted joy, and immediately all his body began to shake with a violent tremour; and putting his hand to his bosom, he felt by the side of his heart, a swelling about as big as a man’s fist, but neither then nor afterwards was it attended with the slightest pain or wound.”

For the rest of his life St. Philip Neri was fueled by an intense divine love and possessed a joy that was contagious.

While typically these types of experiences remain in the spiritual realm, it was later confirmed that his heart did in fact grow larger.

The cause of this swelling was discovered by the doctors who examined his body after death. The saint’s heart had been dilated under the sudden impulse of love, and in order that it might have sufficient room to move, two ribs had been broken, and curved in the form of an arch. From the time of the miracle till his death, his heart would palpitate violently whenever he performed any spiritual action.

The autopsy confirmed this story from his life and was an added impetus to his eventual canonization.

It is an astonishing miracle, one that highlights the power of God’s love and how the gifts of the Holy Spirit can truly set us on fire, helping us spread love everywhere we go.

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