Philip Neri: The Laughing Saint. In this book I learned about his joker personality when he was a child, but I also learned about what a great mystic he was. After reading this book, I was inspired to learn more about this great saint. Therefore. I knew I had to read the book In No Strange Land when Angelico Press published it.
The book begins with a lengthy introduction on the subject of mysticism and how it can be a misunderstood and intimidating term. It continues by describing the mystical states of consciousness. Other topics broached in the introduction were Thomas Aquinas and "The Weight of God." The book then gives us a background on St. Philip Neri and the world he grew up in. Both time and place were great influences on his life and his spirituality. We also learn of the great influence the Dominicans had oh his education. In fact the whole first part of the book is about how Florence shaped Philip and what effect this had on his spirituality and mysticism. Part Two focuses on his time with his uncle in San Germano and Part Three focuses on his time in Rome after his ordination.
The central theme of this book focuses on the three stages of spiritual growth. Different saints through the ages have different viewpoints for what these three stages are, but essentially they deal with beginning the journey, making progress on the journey, and arriving at the journey (or perfection). The three divisions of this book and the three divisions of St. Philip Neri's life reflect the central theme of this book. With this purposeful division of his book, the author (Fr. Jonathan Robinson) masterfully weaves biography, history, and Catholic spirituality into readable chunks. Reading through this book, I feel like I have a better understanding and appreciation for Philip Neri the man and Philip Neri the saint. Fr. Robinson also managed to make mysticism more approachable by using a concrete example of one man. Instead of presenting an overall abstract definition of mysticism, he presented Philip's life to us and showed us that mysticism is attainable. If you would like to learn more about this saint, his life, and Catholic spirituality, you will want a copy of this book.
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