St. Philip is known, perhaps more than anything, as a confessor. It’s only logical that clergy noticed Philip’s gifts and witnessed conversion played out among his followers. They sought him out for spiritual direction.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, St. Charles Borremeo were among the many priests and bishops who sought Philip’s direction.
Later in his life, Philip went to confession every day.
Naturally he was well worth listening to. Here are some penances that people have recorded over time that Philip gave, which he called “simply mortifications”:
- Once a drunkard came to confession and confessed that he had been drinking wine to excess every day since his last confession. Philip told him to drink all the wine he wanted, but ordered that he drink no water. Of course wine makes a person thirsty, so the man was cured within a week.
- A woman went to Philip in confession and confessed that she had been gossiping about other churchgoers. Philip told her that her menance was to pluck a chicken while walking down a street a few miles long. Then, he said, when you reach the end of the street, backtrack and pick up every feather that you threw on the ground. “That’s impossible,” the penitent replied. Philip responded that it was also impossible to take back all the effects that her gossip had spread throughout the city.
- A man confessed to Philip that he had been guilty of various forms of pride. Philip told him to, as a penance, wear a hair shirt over his clothes. Making a fool of himself, Philip knew, was the best way to solve this problem or pride.
By the way, the image to the left is a priest in the “Philip Neri chasuble.” Who knew?