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Monday, January 5, 2015

The Shrine of St. John Neumann

Today is the feast day of St. John Neumann, a wonderful model for what a bishop ought to be: humble, simple, zealous for souls, a teacher, a martyr for his flock. St. John Neumann was all that and more. I made a virtual visit to his national shrine in Philadelphia today, but I hope to go there for real this year. You see, one of my new year's intentions is to visit more shrines in the United States. What a wealth the country offers and some are only a few hours from my home in the Shenandoah Valley including St. John Neumann's. Two easy pilgrimage stops that could be made in tandem are the Shrine of St. John Neumann and the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, a northern suburb (where I lived for several years as a teenager).

If you've never read St. John Neumann's short autobiography, I recommend it.
He was so humble I have no doubt he would never have written it except under obedience. It's rather Spartan, but that makes it all the more charming (and the editors provide much additional information). What Neumann doesn't describe are his heroic efforts to minister to his flock. In his various assignments his parishes covered hundreds of miles. Often he would walk twenty miles to visit a sick or dying parishioner to bring the comfort of the sacraments. When farmers loaned him a horse to make travel easier, he was chagrined because he hated riding. Once when he was traveling by foot, he was attacked by robbers and rescued by some friendly braves from a local tribe. Reading about his life makes it clear why he died before he was fifty. He burned himself out like a candle.

As bishop of Philadelphia, Neumann opened over a hundred schools and created many new parishes. He lived simply, wore a threadbare cassock, and when he collapsed on a Philadelphia street one winter evening his rescuers did not immediately recognize as the city's bishop the "beggar" whom they took into a nearby house. The stoop where he stopped to rest before he died is preserved at the shrine as is his body in a glass casket under the altar.

St. John Neumann, pray for us.


  1. Mary Ann,
    I highly recommend a pilgrimage to St. John Neumann's Shrine in Philadelphia; also his shrine in Baltimore [St. Alphonsus Liguori Church]. People in both shrines are so hospitable, you'd want to linger and pray and look at his various relics. While in Baltimore, you might want to stop by St. Elizabeth Seton's house near St. Mary's Seminary. It's awesome.

    I'm from California and am just amazed at the many holy places to visit back East. There's St. Elizabeth Seton's Shrine in Emmitsburg, MD; Ven. Fr. Solanus Casey's Shrine in Detroit; and the Servant-of-God Fr. Prince Gallitzin's shrine in Loretto, PA.

    Not least of all is Our Lady of Good Help Shrine in New Franken, WI [near Green Bay.] It is the only [so far] Church-approved Marian apparition in the U.S., thus equal to Lourdes, Guadalupe, and Fatima. We American Catholics ought to know more and spread the word about Our Lady of Good Help.

    God bless and happy pilgrimage!

  2. Thank you, Marie, for the additional information. Larry and I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on a cross-country trip a few years ago. I did not know about the Baltimore shrine to St. John. We are back and forth to Baltimore for doctors' visits at Johns Hopkins and will definitely put a stop at St. Alphonsus on the itinerary.

    We have been to Emmitsburg many times and love to linger at the Lourdes shrine there as well as visiting St. Elizabeth's house. We truly are blessed with so many holy places! I loved visiting the Shrine of the North American martyrs and St. Kateri's shrine in Fall of 2013. I brought back some water from St. Kateri's spring. I still need to have it blessed.

  3. We went to his Feast Day Mass on Sunday! It was MAGNIFICENT! The church is breath-taking, the church was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and there were several priests. A retired bishop gave an excellent homily. There was a wonderful choir with organ and trumpets, etc.
    If you can ever make it; it i worth the trip! So many graces!
    They are also making improvements to the shrine.
    The "Little Bishop" has often been seen in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia! Still healing. A great saint!