The doorbell rang.
Most of the guests had already arrived. Rome’s elite filled a bustling main hall. Very powerful cardinals struggled to hear the very rich men to whom they spoke. The din died down, however, as a very pale butler announced the party’s very newest arrival:
A man missing half his beard. “Fr. Philip Neri,” the pallid butler proclaimed.
According to the people of Rome, the man was a living saint. According to the cultured, cultivated eyes of his onlookers, he was a lunatic. Moreover, there was no mistaking it for an accident. The famed priest had neatly trimmed his beard on one side of his face, and meticulously removed it on the other.
The rest of the night passed awkwardly, especially for the party’s host, to whom the preposterous priest assiduously attached himself until party’s-close. Upon leaving, most of the guests made two resolutions: (1) avoid that priest at all costs, and (2) never attend another party thrown by the host again.
At this point you might ask yourself: Why the beard-shaving?
It would be true for me to say that God gave St. Philip Neri the gift to read souls (to see someone’s virtues and vices), and that, when the party’s host had extended him the invitation to come, St. Philip had seen immediately that the man only wanted him there so that the Roman elite would see their host standing beside a reputed saint.
But that would not be the answer.
Read more at Word on Fire.