The second millennium of Christianity saw a multitude of kind-hearted believers who loved animals,1 and St. Philip Neri (1515–1595) was among the most compassionate. He was born in Florence, committed his life to serving others, and became a priest at the age of 34.2 His friends regarded him as a warm, kind man who effortlessly brightened the lives of those he met.

St. Philip Neri’s kindness embraced all sentient beings, and he understood their complex and sensitive nature. He practiced kindness toward them in his daily life, from keeping animals off his plate to freeing wild animals from captivity, including those whom others had trapped and intended to kill as “pests.”3 Given his heartwarming care for everyone, it’s no surprise that St. Philip is the patron saint of joy!

We have much to learn from St. Philip Neri and his example of ethical living. His feast day, May 26, is an opportunity to honor him with simple acts of kindness toward animals, such as cooking a delicious vegan dinner for friends, handing out animal-friendly literature, or hosting a movie night to screen a religious-based animal rights documentary, such as A Prayer for Compassion. Modest but meaningful actions like these will help us keep St. Philip’s legacy going strong in this new millennium and make this world a better place for all animals.

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