I believe St John Neumann was not a large man. Physically short and frail, he was nevertheless a terrier of a bishop–tireless and fervent in all that he attempted. Read more about him here and here. What a dynamo! Serving the poor, establishing parishes, building churches, building schools, learning umpteen languages. Lord, give me a portion of that energy and focus! St John Neumann pray for us!
What struck me today at Mass for St John Neumann is that he did all this in the midst of great opposition. He faced poverty and persecution (the Know Nothings) and hardship and peril. He was an immigrant and away from his home country, yet see what he did in Philadelphia!
Now the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has another “little guy” to lead it. Archbishop Chaput has taken the helm of a diocese reeling under yet more stories of corrupt priests, financial crisis and seemingly terminal decline. Parishes and schools must be closed and consolidated. There is a shortage of priests. There is loss of faith. There is heresy and complacency and persecution and resistance. See how Chaput has begun to face this head on from the beginning by reading his letter–which Jimmy Akin fisks here. All of this St John Neumann also battled. All of this all of us have in one way or another if we seek to proclaim the gospel and be faithful to the cross of Christ. To be a priest, to be one of the faithful baptized we must battle all these things.
Abp. Chaput has gone into the storm with a firm resolve to put things right. It will be interesting to see how things go in Philadelphia. I think what we are witnessing is the beginning of a great change within the American church. The old establishment, complacent, cultural Catholic church of the great cities is dying, and if not dying, then evolving into something very different. This article by Fr. McCloskey explains what is going to be required: a leaner, more efficient and committed Catholic population. We must be “Intentional Disciples“– equipped to evangelize, sacrifice and live the faith of the apostles in a way that is, as yet, unexpected and unpredicted and unimagined by many Catholics.
We will have to have the same, astringent and invigorating missionary spirit that charged St John Neumann. I believe Archbishop Chaput has such a spirit as he begins his new task.
I hope and pray he succceeds. May St John Neumann–his saintly predecessor intercede for him.