A Community of Prayer and Work
Witness: saint John Neumann – Don’t waste any moment of time!
Poor John Neumann!
This is probably the reaction of many pilgrims coming to Philadelphia, who seeing his body in a glass sarcophagus, wonder at how short he was, and how short his life was. Unfortunately, this saint Redemptorist bishop lived only 49 years, but he achieved a great deal in this brief period. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, promised himself that he would never waste a moment of time. The exact same challenge was taken by his spiritual son, Saint John Neumann, in his priestly and religious ministry.
For example, saint John Neumann learned 8 languages so that he could hear the confessions of his parishioners who were immigrants. He rode a horse or carriage, covering thousands of kilometers a year to reach his parishioners, using all his energy and strength to help the faithful and fulfill his pastoral ministry. He also took care of the proper religious education of all parishioners and watched over the construction of 80 parishes during the eight years of his ministry as a bishop.
Saint John Neumann was one of the greatest blessings for the diocese when he was humbly vigilant and devoted himself to his parishioners, including many immigrants. When John came to Philadelphia, he saw and understood what a church of poor immigrants really is. Not only are they hungry and in need of education and health care, but there are also all those who do not know how to adapt to life in a new society.
This man of short stature appeared to be much bigger than he seemed. Where did this great power come from? We know that on the day of his ordination, John Neumann prayed for holiness. He probably repeated this prayer every day, because his life was filled with ordinary and extraordinary deeds of holiness with great dedication to others. This holiness was certainly the fruit of a special relationship with God. Undoubtedly, in the life of Saint John Neumann, we can see the mirror of our own lives. On the one hand, he was a simple, ordinary man, and on the other, a very zealous man who tried with all his heart to devote himself to the tasks that God set aside for him.
In his life, he experienced many changes, shifts, and shocks as he passed from one community to another and from one apostolate to another. He was called to many different ministries – he was a rural parish priest, missionary, Redemptorist superior in America, and finally a bishop. It wasn’t easy for him. Most often he had to face the rejection and ridicule of many people, but despite all this, he fought for a life of holiness, serenity, and joy.
In trying to understand the life of Saint John Neumann, it should be said that he was not a man who focused on everyday problems. Rather, he saw this life as a step to eternal life and encouraged all whom he served to break away from their earthly concerns and devote themselves to God.
He was a man who tried to unite with God’s will. His only goal was to strive to do God’s will and give God glory. John Neumann’s spirituality can inspire us to find the right accent in life, because most people today focus on physical or emotional needs, excluding their own spirituality.
John Neumann believed that suffering brings us closer to God. During his lifetime, he experienced many such tribulations: loneliness in a seminary in Prague, a departure from family and loved ones, difficult priestly life in the extremely cold and difficult conditions of the northeastern United States, and a criticism that he had to endure in connection with his personality and way of life as a bishop. He endured all these adversities, uniting his suffering with the suffering of Christ.
John Neumann, although released from his vow of poverty when he was consecrated as a bishop, never abandoned his tendency for simplicity. He never had extra clothes or shoes, and his apartment was very modest. Despite the expectations of the rich inhabitants of Philadelphia and other bishops, he continued to fulfill his pastoral duties, serving his poor rural parishioners and avoiding the “obligations” of the upper classes. He never used his position for his own purposes, but he always served the poor to the end of his days.
John Neumann is a saint who always trusted God completely. When he left his home to become a missionary, he trusted that God would take care of all his needs. God’s response to Neumann’s faith was abundant, enabling him to serve the poor and showing how the Holy Spirit works in human life. His many successes in his ministry, both as Redemptorist superior and later as bishop, are credited with great trust in God’s loving providence.
John Neumann was also a great worshiper of Mary. In his devotion to the Holy Mother, he followed in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus. Neumann composed many prayers to the Holy Mother, and most of his prayers to God and Jesus end with an appeal for Mary’s intercession. Given this devotion to the Mother of God, John Neumann willingly spread the dogma of the Pope about the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The testimony of John Neumann’s life can assist all who aspire to live a holy life. This great saint reminds us that serving the poor and the forgotten is a sure path to God. On this path, our Saint invites us to travel carefree, but in great trust in God, ensuring that such a pilgrimage of life is more joyful and fruitful.
Someone once said that John Neumann did ordinary things in an unusual and extraordinary way. These words refer especially to the words of Jesus, who said that whoever is faithful in a small matter will be faithful in a great one. Bishop Neumann has proved with his life what this faithfulness is all about. The hallmark of his holiness is not only doing wonderful things for God, but doing God’s will in everyday life.
His faithfulness to prayer, his priestly and religious vocation, and his love to God and to other people are unique to this saint’s spirituality, and that is why this seems to be a good and sure way of life for each of us.
Through the intercession of this great saint, let us ask the good God that we imitate his faithfulness in the fulfillment of our daily duties, and let us persistently strive for holiness in our lives. Saint John Neuman, pray for us.
Author: Łukasz Drożak CSsR