Why read about a young man prone to vanity, severely tempted to despair and passed over for ordination in his home country? Because he’s America’s first canonized male, St. John Neumann.
2011 is the bicentennial year of his birth.
Redemptorist Father Richard Boever has put together Saint John Neumann: His Writings and Spirituality, the first part of which is a biography in the first person, as if written by the saint himself. Actual words from the writings of St. John Neumann are found in italics throughout the story, and more of them are found in the second part of the book, which includes some of his pastoral and personal letters.
From the time Neumann arrived in America in 1836 to his death in 1860, his influence was seen in places such as New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Yet, he almost wasn’t ordained.
In his early 20s, Neumann wrote, “Lord, I am beginning to feel that awful state of depression coming over me again! I lose all yen for prayer because You have seemed to turn a deaf ear to my cries.”
Neumann found the solution to his problem by giving up his desire for consolation and replacing it with prayerful surrender to Providence. He wrote, “I no longer look for comfort from either Heaven or earth. You, Divine Master, can judge whether such are necessary for me. I propose to worry no more over the aridity You send me. You, my God, are the font of both aridity and grace.” He then expressed thanksgiving for learning this from the Lord, and proceeded to complete his seminary training.
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