Make me as selfless as Saint
John Neumann. Throughout my life, give me the grace to direct my first thoughts
to the service of You and of others. Make my prayer – “Your will be
done” knowing that in Your mercy and love, Your will for me is my
sanctification. I ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen. (Prayer to
Saint John Neumann)
The liturgical prayer, a brief chronology and a prayer for
the saint’s intercession may be found here.
homily of Pope 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 Lord!
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, [1811-1860] who receives the honor of one who lives in the glory of Christ.
few brief words we shall describe for the other pilgrims some details of his
life, which are already known to you.
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 (St. Augustine,
Confessions, 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” (Jn. 15, 13).
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 June 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
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 Passion of Christ strengthens 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” (Matt. 22, 36).
True humanism in Christianity. True
Christianity-we repeat –is 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
Saint John Neumann, by the living power of your example and by the
intercession of your prayers, help us today and for ever.