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Sunday, January 4, 2015

St John Neumann

"Beloved: We receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him." 1 Jn 3:22

Fig trees were important symbols of peace and fertility in the ancient world. Our Jewish ancestors knew that the freedom to sit under a fig tree meant their nation was safe and productive. All of us should have fig trees in our lives, places where we can go to sit, be quiet, pray and seek peace. Unless we ask regularly, even everyday, what it is the Lord would have us do and be in order to be fruitful disciples, we risk seeking our own fulfillment rather than God's reign.

When St John Neumann came to the United States from what we now call the Czech Republic, he had enormous energy and imagination. Soon, however, he realized that there were no "fig trees" where the children of immigrants could go to learn peace and be fruitful disciples. Hence, though he was not a good preacher, thought of himself as uncultured, and was willing to resign as bishop, he is credited with establishing the parish school system in the United States which for more than a century has been recognized as the shining star of the American church.

Though today the Catholic school system is struggling to stay alive, we need not despair. Rather, we should ask God for the imagination to discover new "fig trees" for the education and formation of our young, and the good of our nation and world.

Today, go to your fig tree and pray to be a person of peace who bears fruit for the good of all.

Were Catholic schools an important part of your faith formation?

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