John Neumann

“Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work.”
                                                              – St. John Neumann
Today is the feast day of John Neumann (1811-1860) who was canonized in 1977.  As I read about him in Voices of the Saints (by Bert Ghezzi) I was struck by the following:
In 1852, Pope Pius IX named him bishop of Philadelphia, a sprawling diocese of 35,00 square miles with 170,000 German, Irish and Italian Catholics.  From day one John Neumann was a bishop of the people – his welcome parade was canceled (! – exclamation point mine) and the money used to build a school.  His episcopal style was personal contact.  Before the end of the year he had visited more than half of his parishes, talking to people, preaching, celebrating Mass, and hearing confession for hours.  To make himself more accessible he had learned Italian and Gaelic.  “Thanks be to God!” exclaimed an Irish woman.  “We now have an Irish bishop!”
Once John Neumann became bishop he dove deeper into his pastoral duties then ever before.  In this day and age, it seems even more astonishing.  When was the last time you saw a bishop?  
Obviously, lay people these days can’t build schools and churches as John Neumann also accomplished, but his example of every day faith can be followed.  And isn’t that what sainthood is all about?

Leave a comment