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Overwhelmed by too many needs? Here’s an idea from St. Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri Shutterstock

© Francesco Cantone I Shutterstock

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 03/14/24

Let us picture ourselves as beggars ... and then remember that cloud of witnesses that always surrounds us, eager to give us a hand.

I somehow signed myself up for a “Daily Sayings of St. Philip Neri” service and a couple of the selections for this week have really inspired me.

He says:

“The best remedy for dryness of spirit is to picture ourselves as beggars in the presence of God and the Saints, and like a beggar, to go first to one saint, then to another, to ask a spiritual alms of them with the same earnestness as a poor fellow in the streets would ask an alms of us.”

And then

“We may ask a spiritual alms even corporally, by going first to the church of one Saint, and then to the church of another, to make our petition.”

I happen to live in a European city steeped in Catholic tradition not too different than St. Philip Neri’s native Florence or his adopted Rome. So I could do what he suggests with a walk that would barely put me over the recommended 20,000 steps. In fact, the church second-closest to my flat is dedicated to Philip Neri himself (and St. Thomas the Apostle).

So around my block to St. John the Baptist, across the street to St. Thomas the Apostle (with a thanks to Philip while I’m there), up the road to St. Catherine of Alexandria, across the plaza to St. Vincent Ferrer and back around to St. Luis Beltrán. Towards the kids’ school with a stop-in at the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary and then a few steps over to St. Lawrence. And on and on.

While most of us don’t have such a luxury of churches, still, it would be easy to recreate Philip’s idea at a park, or even in your own house, going room to room. There’s something about giving a corporal dimension to our begging that seems comforting, and right.

But the main point is what Philip suggests: “to go first to one saint, then to another, to ask a spiritual alms of them” — either physically or just in mental prayer.

St. Isidore, St. Philip Neri, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa D’Avila

It’s truly an encouraging idea if you find yourself experiencing as many spiritual and physical needs as I do. And I’m sure that’s the case for all of us, because after all, we’re living in a “valley of tears” as the “Hail Holy Queen” prayer acknowledges.

As the days of Lent are slipping by, why not take St. Philip Neri’s advice, make a mental or physical list of your intentions, and turn to our big brothers and sisters in Heaven?

St. Joseph Cupertino, my son is failing so many classes …
St. Monica, this friend isn’t going to Mass anymore …
St. Dymphna, the depression is getting harder to bear for him …

And so on …

Giving us a hand

Pope Francis gave a beautiful and encouraging reflection on prayer to the saints, including those saints who are not canonized but who are our own grandparents and teachers and loved ones who’ve gone before us.

He says:

The saints are still here not far from us; and their representations in churches evoke that “cloud of witnesses” that always surrounds us (see Heb 12:1). […]

The Catechism explains that the saints contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. […] Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (CCC, 2683). […]

The name given to us at Baptism is not a label or a decoration! It is usually the name of the Virgin, or a Saint, who expect nothing other than to “give us a hand” in life, to give us a hand to obtain the grace from God that we need. If the trials of life have not reached the breaking point, if we are still capable of persevering, if despite everything we proceed trustingly, more than due to our own merits, perhaps we owe all this to the intercession of all the saints …

Let’s pray for each other. And St. Philip Neri, pray for us!

PrayerSaintsSpiritual Life
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