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State Chaplain 2023 - 2024

Picture of Rev Kenney St. Hilaire

Rev Kenneth St. Hilaire

April 2024

My Brother Knights,

One of my favorite stories about St. Philip Neri, whose feast day (May 26) will be overshadowed this year by the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, involves one occasion when he went to the catacombs to pray. Living in Rome, he frequented the catacombs for years. These visits seemed to be occasions of profound contemplation for him, as he connected with the spirit of the early Christians and drew inspiration from the faithfulness that led so many of them to offer the ultimate sacrifice rather than deny Christ by offering worship to the Roman gods.

On this particular occasion, just before Pentecost in the year 1544, Philip (age 28) went down into a catacomb and was praying fervently to the Holy Spirit. He saw a ball of fire appear and enter his body through his mouth, lodging in his heart. From that time on, heat radiated from his heart, even to the point that in cold weather he would go about with his cassock unbuttoned. It is said that people would draw near to him and be consoled by divine love, experienced through the warmth of his heart. He also experienced wild palpitations, as a result of this divine indwelling, that shook his whole body.

Upon examination of the Saint’s body after his death, doctors found that his heart had enlarged to the point of breaking two of his ribs! Now that’s a Pentecost experience!

As we look to the Saints as models of how we can concretely live the Christian life, we are clearly not, in this case, asking for God to send us a fireball to swallow. However, when faced with St. Philip’s story, we do have to ask ourselves: do our hearts burn with the love of God? Are we on fire for Christ and His Church?

Many of our Knights have undoubtedly been involved in the charismatic movement in the Church and have developed a deep love for the Holy Spirit, but the charismatic movement is not the only place where one’s heart can be set afire with divine love. In fact, this powerful experience is available to all of us. I would go so far as to argue that it should be the norm for Catholics to have a truly ardent love animating and motivating their Christian life.

If that doesn’t describe you, dear reader, what are you to do? Don’t despair. Our love for God is not something that we generate; it is a gift given by God Himself. So, there’s no need to beat ourselves up if our hearts aren’t on fire for the Lord. However, on the other hand, it’s not magic. It isn’t that God randomly selects a handful of people to experience His love in a dynamic way and dooms the others to be satisfied with a relationship that is lukewarm. He pours out His Spirit into the hearts of those who desire this outpouring and are disposed to receive it. I conclude, then, with a few practical suggestions.

  1. Ask God each day to increase your desire for Him. Speak to God of this desire.
  2. Ask for the grace to overcome any obstacles standing in the way. Surrender and trust.
  3. Ask your pastor or a trustworthy, knowledgeable spiritual friend to help you.
  4. Ask God each day to give you the Holy Spirit and renew the grace of your Baptism.
  5. Pray to St. Philip Neri and ask him to obtain for you the grace of loving God more deeply and fervently.

St. Philip, pray for us, and teach us to open our hearts to the Lord!

Vivat Jesus!

Rev. Kenneth St. Hilaire

State Chaplain

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