The saintly Bishop of Philadelphia loved Jesus in the Eucharist and introduced many practices to revive Eucharistic devotion.
St. John Neumann was the bishop of Philadelphia from 1852 to 1860, and during this time he did all he could to reignite among the faithful a love of Jesus in the Eucharist.
He held a diocesesan synod where he gathered all the priests together to instruct them on his expectations and to encourage them in practicing the Forty Hours Devotion.
The devotion consists of placing the consecrated host on the altar in a monstrance, where parishioners take turns adoring Jesus continuously for 40 hours.
He wrote a letter after one of his synods explaining his desire, printed in a biography entitled Life of John N. Neumann.
Last month I assembled all the priests of my diocese and gave them the spiritual exercises, then followed a synod, and I have reason to rejoice over the success of both … Besides several statutes enacted upon various points of discipline, it was also proposed to introduce into the larger churches of the diocese the devotion of the Forty Hours, so that there might be no week in the year in which the Blessed Sacrament would not be exposed for the adoration of the faithful.
His proposal was unfortunately met with little enthusiasm in his diocese and the priests were not interested in the devotion.
Saddened by this response, Neumann didn’t know what to do and might have abandoned his idea if Jesus hadn’t given him encouragement.
Jesus confirms Neumann’s desire
One night Neumann was responding to letters late in the night and fell asleep on his desk. He woke-up to find the candle burning his letters, but they were somehow not being consumed by the flames. Then he heard a voice speak to him.
As the flames are here burning without consuming or even injuring the writing, so shall I pour out My grace in the Blessed Sacrament without prejudice to My honor. Fear not profanation, therefore hesitate no longer to carry out your designs for My glory.
Renewed in his desire, St. John Neumann ordered that the Forty Hours Devotion be celebrated in the parishes of his diocese and according to his biography, “He caused a pamphlet containing the history of the devotion, the manner of conducting it, and the prayers for the same to be printed.”
Neumann led by example and launched the Forty Hours Devotion in each parish. Everyone was impressed by his personal love of Jesus in the Eucharist and many were renewed in their faith.
He also started the Archconfraternity of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Alphonsus’ Church in Philadelphia. It was a group devoted to spreading Eucharistic devotion among the faithful and Neumann wrote the various rules and practices of the group.
Neumann did much to start a Eucharistic revival in his diocese, sharing with his flock the deep love he had for Jesus in the Eucharist, hoping that they would have the same zeal that he possessed.