St. John Neumann & The Immaculate Conception (Feast: January 5)
John Nepomucene Neumann was born on March 28, 1811 in Prachatitz, in the Kingdom of Bohemia, then part of the Austrian Empire, now in the Czech Republic.
He received the sacrament of Baptism the same day.
He entered the seminary in 1831 and was ready to be ordained in 1835 when the bishop temporarily suspended ordinations due to an excess of priests in the country.
As a seminarian, John had been deeply inspired by the accounts of the missionaries among the German immigrants in North America, particularly by those of Father Barraga, who later became the first Bishop of Marquette.
At the invitation of Bishop John DuBois of the diocese of New York, young Neumann sailed to the New World where he was ordained in what is now the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Until the age of twenty-nine, the young priest dedicated himself to missionary work in New York. At this time, with the permission of Bishop DuBois, he joined the Redemptorist Order becoming its first member to profess religious vows in America.
In 1852 Fr. John Neumann was consecrated the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia. His ease with languages, of which he would come to know as many as eight, endeared him to the many immigrants arriving in the city.
He not only tended to immigrants in his native German, but speaking fluent Italian as well, he personally ministered to Italian newcomers in his private chapel, and went on to establish the first ethnic church for Italians in the country.
For the Irish, he studied enough Gaelic to be able to hear the confessions of those who spoke no English, an act of charity which the Irish government officially recognized by a posthumous award.
Gifted with great organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities.
He was the first bishop in the country to organize a diocesan school system, and during his tenure increased the schools in his diocese from one to one hundred.
His apostolic endeavors encompassed every facet of spiritual need: schools, catechesis, and apologetics, in short, all that involved the spiritual guidance of souls, their sacramental nourishment and their zealous defense against error.
He instituted the first Forty Hours devotion throughout his vast diocese, from whence it was taken up by others, spreading beyond the confines of the American continent.
Intensely devoted to the Virgin Mother of God, the “little bishop”, as he was sometimes affectionately referred to, was called upon for a singular privilege in her honor.
On December 8, 1854 when Pope Pius IX read the declaration defining the dogma of The Immaculate Conception, John Neumann held the book from which the pope read.
Thus, his 5' 2" frame became the podium upon which rested the illustrious document describing the future patroness of the United States: The Immaculate Conception.
His efforts to expand Catholicism in America were not without opposition. On at least two occasions he wrote to Rome asking to be relieved of his bishopric but Blessed Pius IX insisted that he continue. And, like the Divine Master he so faithfully served, he persevered “until all [his] strength was exhausted, until the insupportable weight of the wood [of the cross] hurled [him] to the ground”.
While running errands on January 5, 1860, Bishop John Neumann collapsed and died in the streets of Philadelphia from a stroke. He was forty-eight.
He was beatified by Pope Paul VI on October 13, 1963 and canonized by the same pope on June 19, 1977. His remains rest in the church of St. Peter the Apostle in Philadelphia where they are venerated by countless devotees.
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception
- Celebrating the Immaculate Conception
- Three Reasons why the Enemies of the Church hate the Immaculate Conception
DAILY QUOTE for May 21, 2019
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions
Fatima custodians often meet people who know little or nothing about the Catholic faith. A few years ago I had such an experience in Florida