St. John Nepomucene

March 16, 2011 | Vol. 49, No. 46 L.I. Catholic

An image of the saint at St. John Nepomucene parish in Bohemia.

Born between 1330 and 1340 in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), St. John Nepomucene was cured as a child from a serious illness by the prayers of his devout parents. Because of this he was consecrated to God, as was often the custom of the time. After he was ordained he preached such wonderful sermons that he converted thousands of people to the Catholic faith. He was named vicar general of Prague and was known for his honesty and devotion to God.
He served under King Wenceslaus IV, who was, unfortunately, not the “Good King Wenceslaus” we sing about in the Christmas carol. This Wenceslaus was a tyrant who tried to interfere with the election of an abbot, which John fought. His actions enraged the king, who looked for a way to punish him.
It so happened that Queen Sophie, who knew St. John to be a righteous man, asked him to be her confessor. He agreed, and the faithful queen spent much time in prayer in the church. King Wenceslaus was jealous and insecure, and demanded that St. John reveal to him what the queen had confessed. The godly priest refused, and Wenceslaus threw him into prison. Although he was tortured and threatened with death, he continued to uphold the seal of the confessional.
It is said that St. John had a premonition of his death and preached a beautiful sermon on the words of Christ: “Yet a little while, and you will see Me no more.” (John 16:16) In his own way he was preparing himself to die.
Finally the king had had enough, and he ordered St. John to be drowned. He was bound and thrown into a river in Prague, and five stars appeared directly over the spot where his body fell. The queen recognized the miracle which occurred and ran to tell King Wenceslaus, who promptly shut himself up in his room for several days, too terrified to emerge.
On March 19, 1729, St. John Nepomucene was canonized under Pope Benedict XIII. A statue of the saint has often been erected on bridges in Europe as protection for those who travel across them.

Saints & our lives
St. John Nepomucene is usually depicted with his hand up to his mouth, indicating an admonition to hold our tongue. How many times have we spoken when we wished we hadn’t! Often when we are with a group of friends or colleagues we don’t think anything of gossiping or slandering someone, only to feel horrible about it later on. Thomas à Kempis writes: “I wish I had held my peace many times when I spoke and that I had not been so much among worldly people as I have been. But why are we so glad to speak and commune together, since we seldom leave without some harm to our conscience? This is the cause: by conversing together we hope to comfort each other and to refresh our hearts when we are troubled by vain imaginations, and we speak most gladly of such things which we most love, or else of things that are most bothersome to us. But unfortunately all we do is vain, for this outward comfort is no small hindrance to the true inward comfort that comes from God.” (Imitation of Christ)
St. John Nepomucene died for his belief that a priest should never break the seal of the confessional. This is a sacred trust and one we can be assured of today. When we go before a priest to confess our sins, he is bound by oath to act on the part of Christ, thereby giving him the authority to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Whatever sins we confess stay within those four walls, and we can leave knowing that God puts them as far away from Him as east is from west. (Psalm 103:12)
Our saint prepared himself for death by focusing on the words of Scripture. It is something we all should do. We have nothing to fear about death because it brings us to Christ, our truest friend. We will find much comfort if we recognize that it is only a passing on to a different life: life eternal with Love itself.

Taken from “Evangelization and the Lives of the Saints: St. John Nepomucene,” produced by the diocesan Office of New Evangelization. For the complete pamphlet, visit “Coffee with the Saints” on the Daily Blog of the diocesan website at Reprinted with permission from Editor/ The Long Island Catholic.


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