A few days before Pentecost in 1544, the well-known miracle of St. Philip Neri’s heart took place. One of his biographers describes it as so: “While he was with the greatest earnestness asking of the Holy Ghost, His gifts, there appeared to him a globe of fire, which entered into his mouth and lodged in his breast; and thereupon he was suddenly surprised with such a fire of love, that, unable to bear it, he threw himself on the ground, and, like one trying to cool himself, bared his breast to temper in some measure the flame which he felt. When he had remained so for some time, and was a little recovered, he rose up full of unwonted joy, and immediately all his body began to shake with a violent tremor; and putting his hand to his bosom, he felt by the side of his heart, a swelling about as big as a man’s fist, but neither then nor afterwards was it attended with the slightest pain or wound.”

For the rest of his life, St. Philip Neri was fueled by an intense divine love and possessed a contagious joy.

While typically, these types of experiences remain in the spiritual realm, it was later confirmed that his heart did, in fact, grow larger.

“The cause of this swelling was discovered by the doctors who examined his body after death. The saint’s heart had been dilated under the sudden impulse of love, and in order that it might have sufficient room to move, two ribs had been broken and curved in the form of an arch. From the time of the miracle till his death, his heart would palpitate violently whenever he performed any spiritual action.”

The autopsy confirmed this story from his life and was an added impetus to his eventual canonization.

It is an astonishing miracle, one that highlights the power of God’s love and how the gifts of the Holy Spirit can truly set us on fire, helping us to spread love everywhere we go.

As we rapidly approach Pentecost, the Church presents the promise of the Advocate. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate because he makes us ask in prayer what we need. He is Comforter,

The Holy Spirit is also called a consoler because he is formally love, and his main fruit is joy. As an ancient hymn puts it (Veni Sancte Spiritus), “Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation. In labor, rest, in heat, temperateness, in tears, solace.”

While we have received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and an increase of his gifts in Confirmation, Pentecost is a time when the Holy Spirit pours himself more abundantly in us. That is why St. Philip Neri prepared himself so diligently for that great feast.

Let us imitate this great saint by preparing ourselves well.

Firstly, let us pray often to the Holy Spirit and beg him to come to us with his gifts in a fuller way. For this, I suggest praying with two powerful hymns, “Veni Creator Spiritus” and “Veni Sancte Spiritus.” These hymns have a profound theology of the Holy Spirit and his work of sanctification over us.

Secondly, I suggest that we try for these two weeks not to deny anything to the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit work in us through motions or inspirations. The more we say yes to those motions, the more the Holy Spirit can act in and through us.

Thirdly, pray to your Confirmation patron saint and ask him to intercede for you. Fourthly, pray the novena to the Holy Spirit, the oldest Catholic novena.

May the Holy Spirit find us in prayer with Mary when he comes in Pentecost.

May 14 – Sixth Sunday of Easter