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 clerk, and 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 smiled, peered 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.