At his People for Others blog (now no longer online), my friend Paul Campbell has trouble coming up with “five fun facts” about Ignatius Loyola. One of them is the fact that Ignatius was hauled up several times before the Spanish Inquisition.
This got me thinking about the personalities of saints. There aren’t many “fun” facts about Ignatius, because Ignatius was probably not much of a fun guy. I think he was pretty intense. He seems to have had a charismatic personality and a wonderful gift for friendship. But he was probably more at home in intense one-on-one conversation than circulating at a cocktail party.
One of Ignatius’ great friends was Philip Neri, a fun-loving Italian who loved practical jokes and wisecracks. Philip was a great evangelist in Rome who founded the Oratory congregation. He often did outrageous things. He would dress as a clown, tell jokes to somber visitors, and walk in the streets with a bouquet of flowers and a cushion on his head. He would shave half his beard off and enjoy watching people’s reactions. Ignatius said that he wanted Philip in the Society of Jesus. It seems that Philip did apply. But for some reason it never happened. Maybe the Jesuits weren’t enough fun.