I Prefer Paradise

I learnt this refrain from Don Claudio, the much loved parish priest of Cavriago, Italy where I spent many a happy university holiday helping in the parish. To be honest it got stuck in my head even before I really knew all the words, its catchy! It was written by Marco Frisina for the 2010 film about the life of Saint Philip Neri entitled “Preferisco il Paradiso” – “I prefer paradise”. The famous scene of this movie comes when San Filipo is asked if he will accept the nomination to be made a cardinal (it is a very somber setting). And in response, after a long tense pause, he sings “paradiso, paradiso, preferisco il paradiso” – the song he sings with the youth he ministers to, earlier in the film. It is pretty epic.

Along with his many charitable works, spiritual direction and founding of the Oratorians, Saint Philip is known for being the patron saint of humour and joy, so he is definitely someone to ask for intercession in our current times.

“A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” ~ Philip Neri

Saints so often remind me that to “put my hope in things above” means approaching life with joy, even through suffering, pain and anxiety. Not just to put on a brave face, but to actually live closer to the REALITY that this world of suffering is temporary, and that the love of God is a real reason to be joyful! So many saints who should have been miserable, given their situations and experiences, were described as the most contented people around!

“To preserve our cheerfulness amid sicknesses and troubles, is a sign of a right and good spirit.” ~ Philip Neri

Now, I don’t find that easy, sometimes the sheer weight of things really gets to me (the failure of a project, my inability to stick to my plans and goals, my helplessness in the face of daily life…). But I have had moments where I have glimpsed what St Philip was talking about there. I have found simply that: the more I make space for God and spend time with Him, the less these failures or struggles really effect me deeply. Or rather, the less they affect my hope. It is not permission to give up or to retreat into escapism… and it isn’t a quick fix that makes everything ok… it is peace in flinging myself into the arms of my loving Father who is there to accept me, console me, encourage me and love me, always, no matter what. I think it is a life-long struggle for us all, but every saint had to start somewhere, and this great Italian saint has some advice for this too:

“First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow.” ~ Philip Neri

It is so simple, to go and sit and open up to Jesus in His presence… but it is always so easy to think of something more urgent do… but nothing really is.

Laughing at Myself

As a South African I can appreciate the need for a sense of humor. It is said that you need to be able to laugh if you live here or you will go crazy. That is what the lives of the saints tell me… not to take myself too seriously… or I will go crazy! And it is true! How many times have I acted out or done or said stupid or hurtful things because I took myself or my pride too seriously? Focusing on myself does make me mad! Focusing on God and others and how I can love them brings me closer to reality… and it definitely makes me laugh more. Saint Philip Neri, patron of joy and humor, Pray for us!

I Prefer Paradise

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