May 21 – St. Philip’s Tenderness of Heart

On this fifth day of the novena to St. Philip, we meditate on his tenderness of heart.

Reviewing the thoughts of Bl. John Henry Newman, the three “juh’s” that may help us understand what it means to be tender of heart after the model of St. Philip.

First, Philip’s tenderness was marked by Justice – Justice is that virtue by which we are disposed to give each person his/her due.  The ultimate foundation for justice is our identity as children of God.  That identity means that we are due absolute dignity, we are due love.  Whenever Philip saw the lack of this, especially among the poor, the sick and imprisoned, his heart was moved with pity and he sprang to action.  What’s the difference – one might ask – between “justice” and “sympathy” in this case?  Justice brings an objectivity to sympathy… sometimes it moulds our sympathy to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  Justice, in a sense, grounds sympathy in reality lest we get carried away to the point that no one benefits from our sympathy.

Second, Philip’s tenderness was marked by Generosity – When his cause for sainthood was being considered thousands of people came forward witnessing to Philip’s generosity.  During a famine he gave away a day’s worth of his own food to the poor and fasted.  When his own purse was empty he would assign penances to his wealthy penitents so that they would pay the dowries of poor girls who could not otherwise afford to marry or enter a convent.  When others received credit for good works that he himself had done, Philip rejoiced and reinforced the misperception to give glory to others rather than himself.  In these and a hundred other ways our saint imitated the generosity of God from whom all life flows generously.

Finally, Philip’s tenderness was Gentle – Philip’s preaching, his teaching and his general encounters were all in the context of his awe at the beauty of God and God’s Creation.  For as much ‘building up’ as he did Philip’s demeanor was more that of one walking in awe through a beautiful structure.  He was always humbled by the experience of being in the world ad this brought a gentleness and inspiration to even his most fervent preaching.