“She is always smiling” was the comment I was recently told by a parent of one of the wonderful children in the First Sacrament class I taught this past year. My love and joy of teaching shined so much that he had shared with his mom how I was always smiling. I was so touched to know that he felt it. It was a prayer answered for me that my love would not just teach to the children’s minds but also touch their hearts as well.
There is quite often a smile on my face. Some days my facial muscles are even sore from being overused. I have asked myself why I smile so much. I see the good in people. I see Christ in them and want to let my love and light shine forth, and spontaneously, without thinking about it – a smile appears. I love to spread joy because God has filled me with such profound joy. A smile is an easy way to spread even just a little bit of joy to others in the world.
The joy from the Lord gets me through those recently tough days filled with caring for three sick kiddos, canceled vacation plans, and missed end-of-the-year celebrations. Did I feel much like smiling this week? Not really!! But remembering the needs of others that I can help fulfill, the joy of serving those in need (even if only within my own house this week), I can’t help but smile even just a little. I know that I can share with them something so simple as a smile to help soothe their own sadness of a tough week that did not go as we had planned or hoped.
Yesterday (May 26), the Church honored the patron saint of joy and laughter – St. Phillip Neri. His story is so touching and deserves a full read for all he did through such charitable joy. Back in January, I planned to write about St. Philip Neri for his feast day. I did not know how much I would need his witness this week especially. I hope his story and witness help you find a little joy for yourself!
A key part of the story that I want you to reflect on is this part:
At the age of twenty-nine…he was praying for an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit in preparation for the feast of Pentecost…
“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; …he was suddenly surprised with such a fire of love…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.”
After his death, when his body was examined, it was found that Philip’s heart had expanded so greatly with the love of God that two of his ribs had been broken and curved outwards. This mystical event was the defining moment of his life. From then on, Philip experienced strong heart palpitations “whenever he performed any spiritual action.”
After receiving this special grace of the Holy Spirit, Philip became inflamed with even greater love for God and neighbor. He devoted himself to a new and apostolic way of life committed to the salvation of souls. It was his fire of holy charity, combined with his ability to befriend others, that transformed Philip into “The Apostle of Rome.” (Patron Saint)
God literally expanded St Phillip’s heart to enable it to experience greater joy and love than man can normally handle. He used that gift from God to befriend everyone he could and keep them on the path to holiness. He was cheerful to all he met, and his personality was so affable that thousands renewed their love of the faith and became devoted to God again. St. Philip’s joy also included a major sense of humor. He would attract people with his jokes and “clowning around” while at the same time increasing his humility, making fun primarily of himself. He used humor and joy as tools for his evangelization to spread the joy of Christ.
“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and helps us to persevere. A servant of God ought always to be in good spirits. Charity and cheerfulness, or charity and humility, should be our motto.”
St. Philip Neri (Patron Saint)
Let his joy and laughter fill your heart and enable you to touch a world so broken, lonely, and hurting. Despite all or maybe even because of the suffering around the world, joy must be spread to combat the darkness of violence and sin. May your smile, kindness, humor, and love relight the fading ember of someone’s joy.
It was during his preparation for the Feast of Pentecost that St Philip Neri received his tremendous gift from God to feel within his body the joy of spreading love. What does the Holy Spirit want to create anew in you this Pentecost?
TODAY begin a Novena to the Holy Spirit. These links below will lead you through a short video reflection on each of the fruits of the Holy Spirit followed by prayers.
Rely on the Holy Spirit, like St. Philip Neri did, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to find a joyful way.
St Philip Neri, pray for us!
Patron Saint quotes retrieved from https://www.goodcatholic.com/st-philip-neri-patron-saint-of-laughter-and-joy/
Author: Laura Stephens, FF Sacrament Preparation Catechist