St Philip Neri and the Lesson of the Better Part 11

Saints are those who best understand the lesson of the better part. St Phillip Neri understood the lesson well.

  • His holiness and good humor made him the most sought-after priest in the city of Rome during the mid-1500s.
  • He was an adviser to popes and cardinals, kings and dukes, and also to beggars and bakers.
  • Universally loved and respected, he reformed a corrupt city almost single-handedly.

One day a young man came to him after finishing his bar exam.

  • After years of study, the young man had finally made the grade, and was about to begin a promising career in the law.
  • He was also courting a beautiful, popular young lady.
  • He was positively beaming with enthusiasm as he described his optimistic plans: first he would take a respectable job as a legal clerkand then he would marry his girl.

St Phillip asked him one question. He said, “And then?”

  • So the young man continued, explaining how he would climb the ladder of success and raise a family.

St Phillip asked him another question. He said: “And then?”

  • At that, the young man frowned and thought for a moment.
  • Then he started stammering about becoming a famous judge and having grandchildren, but his enthusiasm seemed to be waning.

St Phillip smiledpeered into his eyes, and asked him another question. He said: “And then?”

  • The young man looked at the saint with panic and confusion – he had never thought that far ahead.
  • He slowly walked away to think things over.
  • The next day he joined St Philip’s oratory, and eventually he became a holy, fruitful priest.

Not all of us are called to the priesthood or consecrated life, but all of us are called to keep Christ first.

Sooner or later, only “the better part” will remain, and if we haven’t chosen it for ourselves, we’ll be left out in the cold.



  1. Pingback: St Philip Neri and the Lesson of the Better Part - CATHOLIC FEAST - Every day is a Celebration

    • St Philip Neri is one of my favorites for his joy, humility, and great sense of humor. He was quite the motivator and influencer in Rome back in his day by just imitating Christ.

  2. And would not more of us do as the young man did to whom St. Phillip Neri was questioning if we really believed there is a “better part”?

    I chose marriage for my vocation because HE was so real for me because of my own beautiful parents. However…i made some foolish choices in my life because I did not fully comprehend what the “better part” was really all about. I allowed much of the world and its advocates of their version of the “better part” to deafen me…confuse me.

    If it isn’t all about Jesus…it isn’t about anything. Can’t make it any simpler than that. No frills…just truth. Sometimes it will be difficult to digest. But the reward for perseverance will be great.

    The first step to a relationship with Jesus may be a big one or a series of baby steps…one foot in front of the other…HE will be with us the whole way…

    • The beauty of the “eleventh hour” is we can always have “the better part.” God is great, and will not be outdone in generosity. Thanks for your comment and God bless!

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