by Fr Richard Heilman | January 5, 2024 1:13 PM
Today is the feast day of St. John Neumann. I have a special relationship with this holy saint. Let me tell you why.
I have been a priest for more than 35 years. I feel truly blessed to be a priest. I can honestly say that I have never had a moment of regret in all those years. Sure, I look at so many beautiful families I know, and I begin to wonder what it might be like to have a family. I don’t wonder in sorrow … I just wonder.
Both of my parents have passed to eternal life, and I rely heavily on their prayers. I pray often for them too (see how HERE), along with all of my relatives and friends who have passed before me. I believe, along with all of my siblings, we felt that we had a particularly close relationship with our grandparents. We spent most Sundays over at gramma and grampa’s house. Gramma loved preparing the Sunday dinner for the family … she just loved having the family there. When our grandparents got on in their years, my mom took over the role of hosting the family which, of course, included gramma and grampa.
I don’t think any of our siblings had the impression that any one of us were more special to our grandparents than the rest. They loved us all just the same. That’s why it took me by surprise when my gramma pulled me aside the day of my ordination as a transitional deacon, on my way to priesthood.
After the ordination, all the family gathered back at our house, and it was just like all those Sunday afternoons … laughing, teasing, reminiscing and celebrating. There I was, wearing the Roman collar for the first time (in those days they didn’t allow seminarians to wear the collar). I could feel the family’s joy throughout the day, but I knew my very devout gramma was especially proud of me.
She got a moment to pull me aside and talk with me alone. She pulled out a holy card she wanted to show me. It was a holy card of St. John Neumann. I wondered why she was showing me this. She began to explain that she was traveling with my grampa (He was Vice President of Oscar Mayer, so they traveled a lot) back in the 1960s, and one day after they checked into their hotel room, she opened one of the drawers and found that holy card. She told me she could not explain why she did it, and why she chose me out of all of the grandchildren, but she began to pray that day, through the intercession of St. John Neumann, that I would become a priest some day … and she prayed for that every day of my life up until then (it was probably 25 years of praying). She said she never wanted to tell me that because she feared it would influence my decision one way or another. I was stunned … and so very grateful.
Gramma passed away a short time after that. She was not alive to see me become a priest, but I knew she was there, and she was praying for me on my ordination day, and everyday of my priesthood. I thank God for my vocation … and I thank St. John Neumann and the loving prayers of a gramma.
Prayer works!! Try it on someone you’d like to see become a priest!!
Here is some information about St. John Neumann (HERE)
“Our great mistake is that we allow ourselves to be deceived by the spirit of worldly shrewdness, the desire for fame, and the love of comfort. We ought to fight the temptation to make spiritual things a means of temporal advancement. The principles of faith fade out of our hearts in proportion as we allow the principles of the world to come in. We place our confidence not in God but in our own intelligence and experience. This, my dear Father, in my opinion, is the cause of all unhappiness.”–St. John Neumann’s letter to Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R., January 30, 1850
Many years later, a friend of mine, Richard Blaney, passed away. One day, the family came to me and said that they thought Richard would want me have these. It was his collection of First Class Relics. Wouldn’t you know … one of them was a First Class Relic of St. John Neumann. It is now in my private chapel where, among other things, I pray for my gramma … right underneath that relic, and the holy card gramma prayed with for my vocation.
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