While in seminary he worked extensively with deaf-mutes in Naples, Italy. Ordained in 1871. While working with plague victims, he contracted the disease himself, but was miraculously cured through the intervention of Our Lady of Pompei. At one point, depressed over the frustration of his mute students, he asked to give up his teaching, and to work in the foreign missions; his spiritual advisor convinced him to stay, and Filippo threw himself into the work. In March 1885, with the help of Father Lorenzo Apicelia and several nuns he had trained, he founded a school for deaf-mutes in Lecce, Italy; it became the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts. Father Filippo soon expanded the work of his schools to include blind, orphaned, or abandoned children. Served as confessor and spiritual director to priests, seminarians, and several religious communities. Founded the Eucharistic League of Priest Adorers and Eucharistic League of Women Adorers. Superior of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales. Canon of the Lecce cathedral. Recognized and commended by civil authorities.
Saint Filippo Smaldone, son of South Italy, knew how to instill in his life the higher virtues characteristic of his land. A priest with a great heart nourished continuously on prayer and Eucharistic adoration, he was above all a witness and servant of charity, which he manifested in an eminent way through service to the poor, in particular to deaf-mutes, to whom he dedicated himself entirely. The work that he began developed thanks to the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts founded by him and which spread to various parts of Italy and the world. Saint Filippo Smaldone saw the image of God reflected in deaf-mutes, and he used to repeat that, just as we prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament, so we should kneel before a deaf-mute. From his example we welcome the invitation to consider the ever indivisible love for the Eucharist and love for one’s neighbor. But the true capacity to love the brethren can come only from meeting with the Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. - Pope Benedict XVI, from the canonization homily of Saint Filippo