A couple of years ago while on retreat in Philadelphia, I visited the shrine of St. John Neumann. Today, January 5, we celebrated his feast day.
His life ended suddenly in 1852 when he was just 49 and bishop of Philadelphia.
In many ways he thought that he was unsuited for the role of bishop of a large diocese with a sophisticated Catholic population.
Despite the limitations he saw in himself, it is evident that God found in him a powerful instrument.
He is considered to be the founder of the Catholic school system in the United States. In New Zealand we know him as the founder of the “forty hours devotion” and even more as the writer of the catechism that paved the way for the Baltimore (or penny) catechism.
I am aware of some of the times when i have been called to do what I did not consider I was able to do. God has bridged the gap. And in these days I am aware of a challenge on the horizon that I am not sure I am up to. I trust that, as God did with Neumann, God will make all he calls me to possible.
You may know the great hymn of St. John Henry Newman (Note not to be confused with St. John Neumann): Lead Kindly Light. The words of this prayer were very significant for me in the months leading up to my ordination 26 years ago. This hymn is my prayer especially in these weeks.
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!