Propagator and fifth General of the Servite Order, b. at Florence, Italy, Aug. 15, 1233; d. at Todi, in Umbria, Aug. 23, 1285
Philip Benizi, Saint, propagator and fifth General of the Servite Order, b. at Florence, Italy, August 15, 1233; d. at Todi, in Umbria, August 23, 1285. His parents were scions of the renowned Benizi and Frescobaldi families. After many years of married life had left them childless, Philip was granted to them in answer to their prayers. When but five months old, on beholding St. Alexis and St. Buonagiunta approaching in quest of alms, he exclaimed: "Mother, here come our Lady's Servants; give them an alms for the love of God". At thirteen years of age, in view of his precocious genius, he was sent to the University of Paris. Here he led a life of study and edification, and after a brilliant career, completed his course in medicine at the University of Padua. He practiced medicine at Florence for one year, chiefly for the benefit of the poor. As a layman he lived like a, member of a religious community, entertaining high ideals. In a vision of the Blessed Virgin he was finally directed to enter the order of her servants, known as the Servites. St. Philip was received into the order in 1254 by St. Buonfiglio, its first superior. Because of his purity and deep humility, he asked to be enrolled as a simple brother, and was sent to Mt. Senario near Florence, there to continue his life of penance and sacrifice. The miraculous fountain that sprang forth in his grotto is still seen enclosed in a small Byzantine chapel built on the native rock. In 1258 while on a journey to Siena, his great ability and learning, hitherto concealed from his brethren, was accidentally discovered. He was at once ordered to prepare for Holy Orders.
The following year he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John Mangiadoro of Florence. He made great progress in sanctity, drawing his inspiration to holiness and virtue principally from the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of Mary. His ability was so recognized that he rose rapidly from one post in the order to another, until finally on June 5, 1267, he was unanimously chosen Superior General. In this position his administrative powers and apostolic zeal enjoyed a broad field for development. He traveled throughout Europe preaching and working miracles. Under his care the order grew in numbers and holiness, many of his spiritual children having been raised to the honors of the altar. The greatest perhaps was St. Juliana Falconieri, foundress of the Servite Nuns. After the death of Clement IV in 1268, the cardinals were about to choose St. Philip as his successor, but the saint, learning of their intention, fled secretly and remained in solitude until another choice had been made. In 1274 he was present at the Council of Lyons, where he possessed the rare and apostolic gift of tongues. When the furious strife between Guelph and Ghibelline was at its height, Philip was active everywhere as a peace-maker, especially in Florence, Pistoia, Arezzo, Forli, and Bologna. God having revealed to him his approaching end, he placed the government of the order in the hands of Blessed Lotharingus. He then repaired to Todi, where he selected the smallest and poorest convent for the scene of his death, which occurred after a short illness. Many miracles were wrought at his intercession; even the dead were raised to life. He was canonized by Clement IX in 1671.
CHARLES F. MCGINNIS