CANONIZATION OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN
HOMILY OF PAUL VI
Sunday, 19 June 1977
Greetings to you, Brethren, and sons and daughters of the United States of America! We welcome you in the name of the Lor
The entire Catholic Church, here, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, welcomes you with festive joy. And together with you, the entire Catholic Church sings a hymn of heavenly victory to Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, who receives the honor of one who lives in the glory of Christ.
In a few brief words we shall describe for the other pilgrims some details of his life, which are already known to you.
Sia gloria al Signore che concede a noi la gioia di potere dichiarare Santo il Vescovo di Filadelfia, negli Stati Uniti d’America, Giovanni Nepomuceno Neumann, già da noi insignito del titolo di Beato il 13 ottobre 1963. Sia onore alla Chiesa Cattolica Statunitense che inserisce nell’albo dei Santi il suo primo campione! Richiamiamo qualche dato biografico. Giovanni Nepomuceno Neumann era un immigrato europeo oriundo della Boemia, nato a Prachatitz, il 28 marzo 1811, educato nel Seminario di Budéjovice, che apparteneva allora all’Impero Austro-Ungarico, e poi a Praga, dove completò gli studi teologici. Essendogli stata differita l’ordinazione per l’eccessivo numero di alunni avviati al Sacerdozio, il giovane Neumann si recò a Strasburgo associandosi ad un progetto di missioni per l’America, vagò a Parigi, poi a Le Havre, donde partì, povero e solo per New York. Qui il Vescovo di allora, Monsignor Dubois, lo ordinò Sacerdote, il 25 giugno del 1836. Qui, nella regione delle cascate del Niagara, a Williamsville, poi a North Bush, rimase quattro anni, tutto dedicato al ministero sacerdotale per i boscaioli. Il desiderio di perfezione e di vita comunitaria lo portò ad entrare tra i Redentoristi d’origine italiana, sempre dedicando di preferenza il suo ministero agli emigranti di lingua tedesca, dapprima a Baltimora, ove emise i voti religiosi, poi a Pittsburgh, ove fu chiamato a reggere la Casa, che i Redentoristi vi avevano aperto. Per tre anni Pittsburgh fu la sua residenza, con impegni molteplici. Tornato a Baltimora, vi esercitò il ministero parrocchiale nella chiesa di Sant’Alfonso, quale primo parroco redentorista di America, sempre primo al lavoro e al sacrificio, sempre ultimo al riposo, sempre modello di regolare osservanza religiosa.
Qui dovette accettare, nel 1852, la nomina alla sede vescovile di Filadelfia. Le nuove responsabilità raddoppiarono il suo zelo pastorale. Superando difficoltà d’ogni genere riuscì a fondare circa cento scuole cattoliche, instancabile nelle visite pastorali, a contatto col popolo povero e laborioso. Fondò a Filadelfia la prima Parrocchia Italiana, dedicata alla Santa Fiorentina Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, ed avviò la costruzione della monumentale Chiesa Cattedrale. Fu in Italia, nel 1854 per la proclamazione del dogma dell’Immacolata, e fece visita al suo Paese d’origine. Scrisse varie opere, tra cui un celebre Catechismo, molte volte ripubblicato. Mori, stroncato da un improvviso malore the lo colse per strada il 5 gennaio 1860; non aveva ancora 49 anni. E sepolto nella Chiesa di S. Pietro a Filadelfia. Ed ora egli vive nella comunione dei Santi, nella gloria di Cristo.
We ask ourselves today: what is the meaning of this extraordinary event, the meaning of this canonization? It is the celebration of holiness. And what is holiness? It is human perfection, human love raised up to its highest level in Christ, in God.
At the time of John Neumann, America represented new values and new hopes. Bishop Neumann saw these in their relationship to the ultimate, supreme possession to which humanity is destined. With Saint Paul he could testify that “all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3, 22). And with Augustine he knew that our hearts are restless, until they rest in the Lord (S. AUGUSTINI Confessiones, 1, 1).
His love for people was authentic brotherly love. It was real charity: missionary and pastoral charity. It meant that he gave himself to others. Like Jesus the Good Shepherd, he lay down his life for the sheep, for Christ’s flock: to provide for their needs, to lead them to salvation. And today, with the Evangelist, we solemnly proclaim : “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Io. 15, 13).
John Neumann’s pastoral zeal was manifested in many ways. Through faithful and persevering service, he brought to completion the generosity of his initial act of missionary dedication. He helped children to satisfy their need for truth, their need for Christian doctrine, for the teaching of Jesus in their lives. He did this both by catechetical instruction and by promoting, with relentless energy, the Catholic school system in the United States. And we still remember the words of our late Apostolic Delegate in Washington, the beloved Cardinal Amleto Cicognani: “You Americans”, he said, “possess two great treasures: the Catholic school and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Guard them like the apple of your eye” (Cfr. Epistola 2 iunii 1963).
And who can fail to admire all the loving concern that John Neumann showed for God’s people, through his priestly ministry and his pastoral visitations as a Bishop? He deeply loved the Sacramental of Reconciliation: and like a worthy son of Saint Alphonsus he transmitted the pardon and the healing power of the Redeemer into the lives of innumerable sons and daughters of the Church. He was close to the sick; he was at home with the poor; he was a friend to sinners. And today he is the honor of all immigrants, and from the viewpoint of the Beatitudes the symbol of Christian success.
John Neumann bore the image of Christ. He experienced, in his innermost being, the need to proclaim by word and example the wisdom and power of God, and to preach the crucified Christ. And in the Passion of the Lord he found strength and the inspiration of his ministry: Passio Christi conforta me!
The Eucharistic Sacrifice was the center of his life, and constituted for him what the Second Vatican Council would later call “the source and summit of all evangelization” (Presbiterorum Ordinis, 5). With great effectiveness, through the Forty Hours Devotion he helped his parishes become communities of faith and service.
But to accomplish his task, love was necessary. And love meant giving; love meant effort; love meant sacrifice. And in his sacrifice, Bishop Neumann’s service was complete. He led his people along the paths of holiness. He was indeed an effective witness, in his generation, to God’s love for his Church and the world.
There are many who have lived and are still living the divine command of generous love. For love still means giving oneself for others, because Love has come down to humanity; and from humanity love goes back to its divine source! How many men and women make this plan of God the program of their lives! Our praise goes to the clergy, religious and Catholic laity of America who, in following the Gospel, live according to this plan of sacrifice and service. Saint John Neumann is a true example for all of us in this regard. It is not enough to acquire the good things of the earth, for these can even be dangerous, if they stop or impede our love from rising to its source and reaching its goal. Let us always remember that the greatest and the first commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God” (Matth. 22, 36).
True humanism in Christianity. True Christianity-we repeatis the sacrifice of self for others, because of Christ, because of God. It is shown by signs; it is manifested in deeds. Christianity is sensitive to the suffering and oppression and sorrow of others, to poverty, to all human needs, the first of which is truth.
Our ceremony today is indeed the celebration of holiness. At the same time, it is a prophetic anticipation-for the Church, for the United States, for the world-of a renewal in love: love for God, love for neighbor.
And in this vital charity, beloved sons and daughters, let us go forward together, to build up a real civilization of love.
Saint John Neumann, by the living power of your example and by the intercession of your prayers, help us today and for ever.
Einen besonders herzlichen Willkommensgruß richten Wir bei dieser denkwürdigen Feier such an die anwesenden Gläubigen aus dem Geburtsland des neuen Heiligen Johannes Nepomuk Neumann.
Sein Wahlspruch »Passio Christi conforta me« - »Leiden Christi stärke mich« - offenbart uns das Geheimnis seines Lebens und die unversiegbare Kraftquelle seines so fruchtbaren und heiligmäßigen Wirkens.
Möge der heilige Missionar und Bischof Johannes Nepomuk Neumann gerade such Ihnen, seinen Landsleuten, in Prüfung und Not fortan mächtiger Fürsprecher und sicherer Führer zur ewigen Heimat sein!
Saint John Neumann, Fourth Bishop of Philadelphia
Bishop and Confessor
Born 28 March 1811 Prachatitz, Bohemia, Austrian Empire
Died 5 January 1860 (aged 48) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified October 13, 1963, Rome, Italy by Pope Paul VI
Canonized June 19, 1977, Rome, Italy by Pope Paul VI
Feastday: January 5
Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, C.Ss.R., (Czech: Jan Nepomucký Neumann, German: Johannes Nepomuk Neumann, 28 March 1811 – 5 January 1860) was a Redemptorist missionary to the United States who became the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia (1852–60) and the first American bishop (and thus far the only male citizen) to be canonized. While Bishop of Philadelphia, Neumann founded the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States.
Neumann was born in Prachatitz, Bohemia, Austrian Empire, which is part of modern-day Czech Republic. He attended school in České Budějovice before entering seminary there in 1831. Two years later he transferred to the University of Prague, where he studied theology, though he was also interested in astronomy and botany. His goal was to be ordained to the priesthood, and he applied for this after completing his studies in 1835. His bishop, however, had decided that there would be no more ordinations for the time being, as Bohemia had a high number of priests.
Neumann traveled to America with the hope of being ordained to the priesthood. He was ordained in June 1836 by Bishop John Dubois at old St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. After his ordination, St. John was assigned by the bishop to work with recent German immigrants in mission churches in the Niagara Falls area, where he visited the sick, taught catechism, and trained teachers to take over when he left. From 1836 until 1840 he served as the founding pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Williamsville, New York. In 1840 he applied to join the Redemptorist Fathers, was accepted, and entered the novitiate of the Congregation at St. Philomena's in Pittsburgh, PA--becoming their first candidate in the New World. He took his vows as a full member of the Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland in January 1842, and, after six years of difficult but fruitful work, he was appointed the Provincial Superior for the United States. Neumann was naturalized as a citizen of the United States in Baltimore on 10 February 1848.
Bishop of Philadelphia
In March 1852 Neumann was consecrated in Baltimore, as Bishop of Philadelphia. He was the first bishop in the United States to organize a Catholic diocesan school system, and he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from one to two hundred. His construction campaign extended to parish churches as well. He actively invited religious orders to establish new houses within the diocese and founded a congregation of Franciscan Sisters, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Philadelphia. He brought the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Germany to assist in religious instruction and staffing an orphanage and intervened to save the Oblate Sisters of Providence from dissolution. He established and built so many new parish churches within the diocese that one was completed almost at the rate of one every month.
His facility with languages endeared him to the many new immigrant communities in the city. As well as ministering to newcomers in his native German, he also spoke Italian fluently and ministered personally to a growing congregation of Italian-speakers in his private chapel. He eventually established the first Italian national parishes in the country for them.
John was notorious for his frugality. He kept and wore only one pair of boots throughout his residence in America. When given the gift of new vestments, he would often use them to fit the newest ordained priest within his constituency.
Neumann's efforts to expand the Catholic Church throughout his diocese was not without opposition. The Know Nothings, an anti-Catholic political party, was at the height of its activities, setting fire to convents and schools. Discouraged, Neumann wrote to Rome asking to be replaced as bishop, but he received a reply from Pope Pius IX insisting that he continue. In 1854, Neumann traveled to Rome and was present at St. Peter's Basilica on December 8, along with 53 cardinals, 139 other bishops, and thousands of priests and laity, when Pope Pius IX solemnly defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
While running errands on January 5, 1860, Neumann collapsed and died on a city street, due to a stroke. He was 48 years old. Bishop James Frederick Wood, who had been appointed his coadjutor with right of succession, then took office as Bishop of Philadelphia. Neumann's date of death, January 5, is now celebrated as his feast day in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America.
The first step toward proclamation of Neumann as a saint was his being declared ""Venerable"" by Pope Benedict XV in 1921. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council on 13 October 1963, and was canonized by that same pope on 19 June 1977. His feast days are January 5 on the Roman calendar for the general Church and March 5 in the Czech Republic.
After his canonization, the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann was constructed at the Parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Philadelphia. The remains of St. John Neumann rest under the altar of the shrine within a glass-walled reliquary.