"I Prefer Heaven" by Dcn. Jim Reinhardt

Posted on July 29, 2022 in: General News

"I Prefer Heaven" by Dcn. Jim Reinhardt

Excerpt from the July 31st Bulletin - Written by Dcn. Jim Reinhardt

I Prefer Heaven

Several years ago, when we had most of the kids still around the house, we used to have “Sunday Night Family Movies.” Because our children were a wide range of ages, it was frequently an arduous task to find a movie that everyone could agree upon. One Sunday, I made the executive decision to choose a movie recommended to me by a friend called, “I Prefer Heaven.”  The movie is about the life of St. Philip Neri. As you might expect, my choice was not a very popular one. Not only was the movie about a saint that my family was not familiar with, but it was also a foreign film with English subtitles. It was especially disconcerting for our youngest child, Sam who had not yet learned to read. On this particular occasion, I was happy that Nadine and I had instituted a policy to our movie night that nobody could opt-out. Everyone had to participate and be happy about it—or at least, not complain!

As the evening progressed, all of us (even Sam) became increasingly enthralled with the movie. However, one thing I did not realize when we started the movie was that it is 3 hours and 40 minutes long! By the time we hit intermission, it was bedtime and much to the dismay of the kids, we had to plan to finish the movie the following night. Since then, “I Prefer Heaven” has become a family favorite! Also, since that evening, St. Philip Neri has become one of my favorite saints. Because he was such a good communicator, he is a saint I go to for his intercession when I am preparing and giving homilies! I am not sure it helps, but I can only imagine what they would be like without his help.

I would like to comment on two lessons I have learned from the life of St. Philip Neri. The first is the JOY he had in all circumstances—even when his hopes and dreams were dashed. Philp Neri had a life-long goal of serving God as a missionary to India. However, that did not appear to be what the Lord had in store for him. As his life unfolded, Philip Neri found himself in Rome where he ministered to many poor youths. He started a “youth group” (called The Oratory), where he used gifts, including his keen sense of humor, to teach the Catholic faith, helped to resolve conflicts and introduced them to a life of hope and purpose. His great faith allowed him to perform many miracles in conducting his ministry. Philip Neri’s involvement in the life of these children and young adults helped many of them to discern their vocations. St. Philip Neri’s life gave the people of Rome (and now us) a beautiful example of how to live a life of humility, charity, and prayer, encapsulated with an intense joy in his heart. Philip Neri served God right where God had him—even though his personal longing to go to the missions in India was never fulfilled.

St. Philip’s response to disappointment in life is a great lesson for all of us. Life rarely goes exactly how we expect it to. We all understand from an early age that life is filled with many disappointments. Whether it be related to career, family, marriage, or circumstances such as chronic illness, or an unexpected tragedy, we all experience discontent in our lives. St. Philip Neri was no exception but remains a beautiful example to us about how to live our life with extraordinary joy, regardless of what unexpected direction it may take.

The second lesson that I learned from the life of St. Philip Neri, is his practice of forming community among those he lived with. He understood that we need each other (i.e., community) to live our life in Christ. Like Philip Neri, we need to live unselfishly FOR each other. However, helping people to learn to love and care for one-another is a challenging task. When people are together, there are rivalries, prejudice, jealousy, selfishness, and crime. Philp Neri taught his young friends how to navigate these problems as Jesus would. He taught forgiveness, humility, and love by his word, but mostly by his example. He helped a diverse group of young people to learn to live with one another in peace and love. These lessons are no less pertinent today as they were during the time of Philip Neri in the 16th Century. In our neighborhoods, our parish, and our family, we are faced with circumstances that try to tear us apart. We need to fight these forces with prayer and love so that we can achieve unity. It is how we as Christians LOVE that will be the greatest witness to a world that is becoming so devoid of it. It reminds me of the old 60’s song I learned in grade school, “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love”. St. Philip Neri knew this, and he helped to teach this truth to those around him. His efforts resulted in helping to re-Christianize Rome!

I thank God for the hundreds of saints the Church has recognized as people who can help us to understand how to live out our Catholic faith. St. Philip Neri is near the top of my list! If you do not know him, I encourage you to meet him. In fact, perhaps you would like to have a family movie night and watch, “I Prefer Heaven.” You can watch it for free on FORMED (through our parish subscription). St. Philip Neri, pray for us.

Deacon Jim Reinhardt


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