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January 5 is the feast day of Philadelphia's own Saint John Neumann. If you have ever been to his shrine at Fifth Street and Girard Avenue in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, then you know that his remains are on public display in the lower church of Saint Peter the Apostle parish. Though there are some claims that his body is incorrupt, I do not believe that's the case. In any event, his face is covered by a wax mask which is visible in the photo below.
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But to get a real sense of what Saint John Neumann was about, it's helpful to delve into some of his writings. Please enjoy the following excerpt from one of his pastoral letters. Here we see the powerful, challenging words of a Catholic prelate who took the teaching role of the bishop seriously. He spoke not words that tickled the ears or made folks comfortable in their sins. Rather, he fearlessly reminded Catholic parents of their grave responsibility to put their own wants and needs second, and to focus on nurturing goodness and piety in their children:
"Frequent the church and not the taverns.
"Banish from your homes dangerous books, the bane of purity in every age, the scourge of modern society.
"Watch over the children whom God hath confided to you, if you would not set the seal to your own condemnation. For Christ's sake who said -"Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14) -- bring them to Him by your good life and holy conversation. Allow them not to grow up in ignorance and vice. Teach them to pray: to pray for all men; benefactors, friends and enemies; to love their homes, their native land, and never to be ashamed of their Religion; rather to be always ready to reply in the spirit of the noble St. Hilary to the Emperor Constantius, "I am a Catholic, I am a Christian; I will not be a Heretic."Taken from his pastoral letter of November 4, 1854. Click here to read the full letter.
Would to God that more Catholics, past and present, had listened to this sound advice and taken it to heart. How many of our current societal ills may have been ameliorated?