During the Catholic reform in the 16th and 17th centuries there were a number of shining witnesses for the Faith. St. Philip Neri (1515-1595), St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), and St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) were holy priests who led many people to Christ.
St. Philip Neri
Philip Neri was born in Florence. At eighteen he was sent to work with a cousin who was a successful businessman. His prayer experience left him without interest in worldly pursuits. He left Florence and settled in Rome at twenty.
In Rome, Philip lived the life of a hermit. He tutored for a few hours each day to support himself. He studied philosophy and theology for three years; then he sold his books and dedicated himself to prayer.
At twenty-eight, while praying in the catacombs of St. Sebastian on the eve of Pentecost, he felt a globe of light enter his mouth and sink into his heart. Thereafter on his fervors his heart would often palpitate, enlarge, and give off warmth.
Philip had a way of getting others to do good works with him or to accompany him in his devotional practices. Philip cared the sick at the hospital and became a street-corner apostle. He spoke to everyone—-from beggars to bankers—about God,.
At thirty-five, on the advice of his confessor, Philip became a priest. As priest, he would spend hours each day hearing Confessions. Philip organized spiritual conferences and prayer sessions for his penitents, and the big room which held these gatherings was called “Oratory”; the priests who helped him were called “Oratorians”.
Philip promoted Holy Communion, Confessions, and devotions. He emphasized the importance of prayer and humility. Before Mass, Philip would distract himself with jokes and light reading so that he could get through the Mass without falling into ecstasy.
When asked how to pray, Philip’s answer was, “Be humble and obedient, and the Holy Spirit will teach you.”
St. Francis de Sales
Francis was a gentle and patient saint. As a young priest, he volunteered to evangelize the 60,000 inhabitants at the nearby Calvinist territory.
For three years, with doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him, Francis had not made one convert. However, he did not give up. With unusual patience, he wrote his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors.
Francis went to the children and played with them. When the parents saw how kind he was to the children, they began to talk to him. Eventually about 40,000 people were brought back to the Catholic Faith.
In 1602, he became Bishop of Geneva. As Bishop he guided many people on the way to holiness through spiritual direction. He dispensed spiritual advises through letters and he wrote the spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life. He taught that holiness is for all people.
“You will catch more flies”, Francis used to say, “with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar”.
St. Vincent de Paul
In 1618, Francis de Sales and Vincent de Paul met each other in Paris. They had many ideas in common. They both saw the need for religious community of sisters that would work among the laity.
Vincent de Paul is patron saint of all charitable societies. He was the one mainly responsible for popularizing the non-cloistered way of life typical of modern feminine congregations.
Vincent was interested in every kind of charity. He served the poor, the sick, children, orphans, and the aged. He would say, “I belong to God and to the poor.”
He founded a community of priests to do missionary works, and a community of sisters for works of charity.
St. Vincent said, “Go to the poor: you will find God.”
斐理有相當的感染力，能使別人願意與他一起投身，全心行善；他常到醫院探訪病者，且成了「街頭使徒」，向每一個人談及天主 —— 無論是叫化子或是銀行主腦。