We all need models upon which to
pattern our lives. For Bishops they can easily look to canonized Bishops and
try to pattern their lives on the virtues that they see reflected by their
splendid example. Let us take SAINT JOHN NEUMAN! His liturgical feast day is
January 5th.(1811-1860). His motto as Bishop: “Passion of Christ strengthen me.”
What are some of the salient virtues
that St. John Neuman left us as a patrimony?
LOVE FOR THE PRIESTHOOD. When he lived
there were so many priests in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) that he
travelled to the United States and was ordained quickly in New York. He arrived
with one dollar in his pockets! May we
have a renewed love for our priesthood! May our young feel called to follow
Christ and work in the vineyard to save souls!
LANGUAGES. He knew many languages so that he could work
with the poor and the immigrants who came from foreign countries and not able
to communicate. In Neuman they found a friend, a brother in Christ, and a
Father in whom they could confide. He even learned Gaelic for the Irish
immigrants and an elderly Irish woman actually thought he was Irish. As St.
Paul encourages us: “I became all things to all men so as to win some to
SACRIFICE FOR SOULS. When he first worked in upper-state New York
(The Buffalo area) he would travel many miles on horseback (he was so small that
his feet barely could reach the stirrups) to catechize some, to visit the sick
or administer the Sacraments to all those who were in need.
LONELINESS. He suffered loneliness, far from his country
and without a community, so he decided to become a Religious priest, a
Redemptorist—a Congregation founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. He soon rose to
the top and became their first Provincial. Bishops should cope with their
loneliness by turning to God, to the saints, and support from the community
that loves them. May Bishop Neuman by the support and strength of the Bishops!
SHOCK OF HIS LIFE. The Holy Father sent message to him that he
wanted Father John to become Bishop of Philadelphia—a highly refined and
cultured city. Under obedience he accepted.
WORKER. The new Bishop John Neuman wasted no time but
set himself to work hard for the sanctification and the salvation of his flock.
Indeed his life as a Bishop would be barely 8 years. He would drop dead of a
heart-attack walking down a street in Philadelphia, while still in his late 40’s. Our life is short and time is of the essence!
CATHOLIC CHURCHES. When he arrived there were two Catholic
Churches. By the end of his life there were 80!!! Which was about a parish a
month until he would eventually die. He knew that the people, mostly immigrants,
needed a house for worship and the task was done. Many of the beautiful
churches were built by the immigrants pitching in their time, talents and their
treasures and enormous good will.
PARISH SCHOOLS. In addition to the
Parish Churches that were established, Neuman, who was keenly aware of the
importance of good Catholic education, was instrumental in setting up Parish
schools. He invited many Religious nuns and charged them, with the support of
the priests, to educate the children and the young people in the basics of
their catholic faith. The Protestants
actually called many of the Catholics the “no-nothings” due to a widespread
ignorance. Neuman would try to change to tide! In a certain real sense we owe
an enormous debt to both Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Saint John Neuman for
the parochial catholic education in the country. Let us pray to them for a
renewed vigor in teaching the fullness of the truth in our parochial schools.
Let us pray for Bishops in their responsibility, as the primary teachers in the
Diocese, to safeguard, protect and promote excellent catholic education for our
children and young!
EUCHARISTIC ADORATION. Once he dozed off at his desk and the fire from
the candle burnt most of the letters strewn on the desk, but one remained. It
was a letter that referred to the project of the 40 Hours devotion—that is to
say, to start in Parishes the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed for 40
straight hours. Therefore, Neuman launched this program which eventually “took
fire” in the rest of the country. Therefore, now in Parishes throughout the
country there exists the 40 Hours devotion of adoration of the Blessed
Sacrament non-stop. All of this thanks to the initiative of Saint John Neuman.
10. HUMILITY. Neuman wrote a letter to the Pope asking to
be dismissed from the responsibility of being Bishop of Philadelphia; he felt
inept. He had an accent; was not urbane and refined like many from Philadelphia.
Still more, he was not endowed with keen administrative talents. He felt it
best for him to step down and be moved to a more simple Diocese where he could
work, side by side with the poor, the farmers, the coal workers and miners.
This, he believed, would be a better suit. However, the Holy Father never accepted
his desire for this change. God’s plans
are not our plans. As the heavens are above the earth, so are God’s thoughts
above our thoughts. In his late 40’s walking the streets of Philadelphia he
collapsed and dropped dead of a sudden heart-attack. In a mere eight years as
Bishop he radically transformed one of the most prestigious Dioceses in the
country. This happened because of his profound humility, his great love for his
people, the flock that God entrusted to him, but especially because of his
great love for God and the accomplishment of His holy will.
FOR BISHOPS. Let us pray to Bishop
Saint John Neuman for the Bishops of the world, and especially the Bishops of
the United States of America that they will see in the person of Saint John
Neuman a model, an inspiration, a guide, a brilliant a shining star to follow
in their all-important vocation of following Jesus the Good Shepherd of the
Flock. May Bishops have an ardent and growing zeal to work for the salvation of
immortal souls and the honor and glory of God as did the great and saintly
Bishop Saint John Neuman! Amen