“Philip…felt himself called by God to the conversion of souls. He mortified therefore his love of solitude, and gave himself up with great fervour to the assistance of his neighbour. To this end he began about the year 1538 to go about the squares, shops, schools, and sometimes even the banks, talking with all sorts of persons in a most engaging way about spiritual things. Amongst others, he exhorted the young men in the warehouses to serve God, saying, “Eh, my brothers, when shall we begin to do good?” and thus with his natural sweetness, and wonderfully attractive manner, he gradually gained such influence over them, as to win them to the service of God.
But Philip’s earnest longing after the salvation of others, did not stop here. By a particular inspiration of God, he began to converse with men of the very worst lives; indeed, he went out every day in search of sinners, and with his usual charity and dexterity he converted many to the Lord in a short time. But he avoided especially at that time of his life any attempt to convert vicious women; though afterwards God made him the means of bringing many such to penance, and even to the monastic state.
Upon another occasion some wicked persons determined to seduce Philip, if possible, from his virtuous life, and make him fall into sin. When he discovered their evil design, he began with such sweetness and effect to speak to them of the beauty of virtue and the hideousness of vice, that they who had come to subvert him remained in a wonderful manner a happy conquest to his words.
Even before he was a priest and confessor, he had sent many converts into different religious orders. To this zeal which Philip had for the conversion of souls, he always joined the exercise of corporal works of mercy. He visited the sick in the hospitals more than ever; he served them in all their necessities, made their beds, swept the floor round them, gave them their meals, and procured them different kinds of food to refresh and cheer them. Above all he exhorted them to patience; and when they were dying he made the commendation of their souls, continuing in attendance upon them entire days and nights; indeed he generally remained until they died, or some favourable crisis occurred in their disease.”
(Bacci, Fr.Pietro Giacomo. The Life of Saint Philip Neri.)