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Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States

I am the most wanted man on my island; but I'm not on my island. More's the pity.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Sanctus Johannes Neumann, Ora Pro Nobis

Today is the feast of St. John Neumann, Redemptorist and Fourth Bishop of Philadelphia. An excellent biography of the Saint can be found here.

I've made the pilgrimage to the shrine of St. John Neumann a few times, which isn't so hard when you grow up in Philadelphia. Making the pilgrimage is, in my opinion, an heroic act of faith as the Shrine is located in a war zone. Be very careful where you park, and keep a straight line from your ride to the church.

I believe the body of the Saint at one time was located under the main altar of the church. Nowadays, it is under the altar of the lower chapel. It's painful, actually, seeing a Saint's mortal remains in one of those monstrous post-Vatican II designed chapels. Is there anything more tacky and unpleasant to the eye as abstract stained glass? Then again, at least they haven't tossed his body out of the church, like St. Vibiana in Los Angeles. Yes, yes, I know. Roger Cardinal Mahoney is going to reinter the Saint in the new cathedral. Well, has it been done yet? Why not?

In case you can't tell from the picture, the Saint was a little fellow. I'm guessing he was maybe 4'10"-5'1". He collapsed on the streets of Philadelphia, dying of a stroke. The pavement on which he expired was ripped from the street, and can be seen at the shrine.

When I was very young, I remember seeing the Saint under the glass altar and thinking he was going to pop out from under there, like in a zombie movie. Years later, I realized how silly that was. Years after that, I realized I was right all those years ago. He will pop out from under there, but not like a zombie movie. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

I still have a first class relic packed away somewhere from my last visit. A few months afterwards, we learned the wife was expecting our second child. Her doctor ran some tests (she knows all the names and numbers better than I do) and explained to her that she was most likely experiencing a miscarriage. As he explained to my wife, that what she had inside her was most likely a "mutation" or a "deformed group of cells", she started to cry. I simply asked, "So, when you say that my child has a mutation, is it possible he could turn out like Spiderman or Wolverine? Because that would be cool."

After five hours of cold silence, my wife finally asked how I could dare make a joke at a time like that. I explained to her my options were make a joke, or smash my chair over the doctor's dome. I thought option A was the smart move.

That night we started placing the relic on her stomach before bed, during prayers. This continued all through her heavy bleeding. Finally, the bleeding stopped, and at her next checkup a stunned doctor informed my wife that whatever numbers they look at had gone off the chart, showing a perfectly normal pregnancy. It was January 5, the Feast of St. John Neumann. In September, we had a boy. His name is Sean, which is the Irish variant of John. Thank you, St. John Neumann. She wouldn't go for John Neumann as his name, so I hope Sean works for you.

Good and gracious God, You called St. John Neumann to labor for the Gospel among the people of the new world. Just as his ministry strengthened many others in the Catholic faith, we ask, through his intercession, that the faith grow strong in this land. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever. Amen.


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