January 5: St. John Neumann
Not only was John Neumann quiet, he was short-five feet, two inches tall. His eyes were very kind and he smiled a lot. He was born on March 28, 1811, in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. His parents were Philip and Agnes Neumann. He had four sisters and a brother. After college, John entered the seminary. When time came for ordination, the bishop was sick. The date was never set because Bohemia had enough priests at the time. Since he had been reading about missionary activities in the United States, John decided to go to America to ask for ordination. He walked most of the way to France and then boarded the ship Europa.
John arrived in Manhattan on June 9, 1836. Bishop John Dubois was very happy to see him. There were only thirty-six priests for the two hundred thousand Catholics living in the state of New York and part of New Jersey. Just sixteen days after his arrival, John was ordained a priest and sent to Buffalo. There he would help Father Pax care for his parish, which was nine hundred square miles in size. Father Pax gave him the choice of the city of Buffalo or of the country area. Now John's heroic character began to show. He chose the most difficult-the country area. He decided to stay in a little town with an unfinished church. Once it was completed, he moved to another town that had a log-church. There he built himself a small log cabin. He hardly ever lit a fire and often lived on bread and water. He only slept a few hours each night. The farms in his area were far apart. John had to walk long distances to reach his people. They were German, French, Irish and Scotch. In school, John had learned eight languages. Now he added English and Gaelic. Before he died, he knew twelve languages.
John joined the Redemptorist order and continued his missionary work. He became bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. Bishop Neumann built fifty churches and began building a cathedral. He opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students grew from five hundred to nine thousand. Bishop Neumann's health never improved much, but people were still very surprised when he died suddenly on January 5, 1860. He was walking home from an appointment when he fell to the ground with a stroke. He was carried into the nearest house and died there at 3:00 P.M. In March Bishop Neumann would have been forty-nine. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul VI on June 19, 1977.
We might not be as smart, strong, or active as we would like to be. But that doesn't stop God from loving us and from using us to do wonderful things. When we have to do something difficult, we can ask St. John Neumann's help.
St. John Neumann did not let his "weakness" discourage him from working tirelessly for the gospel. Do I truly believe that God wishes to use me to do wonderful things for his glory and for the salvation of all?