Today is the feast of St. John Neumann, the first American saint. He was born in what is now the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe. Upon completing seminary he was initially denied ordination because his diocese had too many priests (imagine that). His desire to become a priest was so strong that he left his homeland and came to the United States where the bishop of New York ordained him. At the time he was one of 36 priests serving 200,000 Catholics and his parish boundary stretched from western New York to Pennsylvania. In fact, in my home town of McKeesport, PA, there was a parish that he visited and preached at in 1846. He eventually became bishop of Philadelphia where he started the Catholic school system in America. He was widely regarded for his great love and pastoral care.
St. John Neumann was a living example of the story shared in the Gospel reading for today, the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:34-44). Like the meager offering of five loaves and two fish, John Neumann offered the all that he had, little and poor as it was, and Jesus took that offering and multiplied it many times over as a blessing and provision for others. It is a reminder that when we give to God what we have, even though it may seem insignificant, he can do great things with it.
I know my temptation is to hold back. I want my offering to God to be perfect. I often feel that if I can’t have the “perfect” prayer time I might as well not pray. If I can’t come up with the “perfect” blog I might as well not write anything. If I can’t use my gifts in the “perfect” manner I might as well not bother at all. That is not the lesson of the feeding of the 5,000; and it is not the lesson of St. John Neumann’s life. All God asks is that I give him what I have. If it’s imperfect, he can make it perfect. He makes up the difference. He brings about the miraculous. He multiplies whatever I have to give, if only I give it. In that moment of surrender, when I give him my little offering of loaves and fishes, he is pleased and he can work with it.
(Click here for sourcing of biographical info on St. John Neumann)