Today the church honors St. Charles Borromeo who came from the nobility in northern Italy, but on his feast day I can’t help thinking too about St. Phillip Neri, who was also from northern Italy’s nobility.
Now, before you object to my talking about two saints, let me bringing in a third one, St. Jerome. On his Feast Day, September 30, I quoted lines from a poem about Jerome. It said he had a terrible temper, but he made up for it by gathering hundreds of scattered scrolls to put them together to make our first complete Bible.
A Catholic poet, Phyllis McGinley, writing about both his temper and his writing said, “He filled the world with a Christian leaven, It takes all kinds to make a heaven.”
Charles and Phillip were an example of its taking all kinds to make a heaven. When they were both young men, the uncle of Charles, who was Pope Pius IV, made him the Archbishop of Milan, while the uncle of Phillip, a wealthy business, put him in charge of a large trading company in Naples.
The big difference between the two saints became very obvious. Charles became a strict disciplinarian for the priests, nuns, and lay people of Milan; even setting up the Inquisition to make them toe the line.
At the same time Phillip became a Socrates, wandering the streets of Rome, giving himself to finding respectable lodging for unhappy street girls. He was also drawing a large following of young men who shared his interest in the mysteries of our Faith.
Rome’s senior clergy, much taken with the work of Phillip with young people, insisted that Phillip be ordained a priest, and they gave him and his young followers an oratory where they could study and pray together.