What will Pres. Obama give the Pope when he is admitted to His Holiness’s presence?

When heads of state come to visit other heads of state, they bring gifts.

What will Pres. Obama bring when the Pope admits him into the papal presence?

My emphases and comments in this CNA story.

The stole of St. John Neumann that the president will present to Pope Benedict.

Baltimore, Md., Jul 9, 2009 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- When President Barack Obama visits the Holy Father tomorrow, he will present a stole worn by St. John Neumann, a 19th century Redemptorist priest who is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants.

“It’s a delight that something of one of our Redemptorist saints would be given to our Holy Father,” said Very Rev. Patrick Woods, provincial of the Redemptorists’ Baltimore Province. “We’re delighted as Americans that our president is visiting the Holy Father, and delighted that something belonging to our province would be given to him.

The Redemptorists, founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori in 1732, are priests who minister to the needs of the faithful, particularly the poor and the spiritually abandoned.  Currently there are 300 Redemptorist priests serving in the United States alone.

Fr. Woods further explained that the stole was an appropriate gift for the Pope as a symbol of the priesthood because that was “at the heart of St. John Neumann’s life as a Redemptorist.”

In light of Neumann’s extensive service to immigrants, Woods said the gift was also symbolic of the new wave of immigration occurring in the United States, [It is?] and his order’s continued service to these often marginalized and over-looked groups.

The stole was discovered by Louis DiCocco, president of the St. Jude Shops and the St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio, who was contacted by the Obama administration for assistance in finding a gift for Pope Benedict.

“They wanted to find an antique chalice, but I suggested it was important to get something more personable,” DiCocco said. “I told them about this stole that was something that belonged to an immigrant who was so instrumental in serving immigrants and building Catholic schools. What better than the stole that represents the priest?”

St. John Neumann was born in 1811 in Bohemia, but traveled to New York to become a missionary priest.  After his arrival, he was sent to Buffalo where he lived off bread and water and joined the Redemptorist order until he was elected Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852.

As bishop, John Neumann built 50 churches and nearly 100 schools.  He died suddenly on January 5, 1860.

He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977 and is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants.

For more information about the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province, visit www.redemptorists.net.


UPDATE 10 July 0401 GMT:

I just got a very interesting e-mail from a priest friend and must share it:

I am not sure, but it seems that something is odd with this gift that the President is living to the Holy Father. It is said to be a stole that “belonged to” John Neumann, something of ‘great historical significance’ – but when you look at the photo of the stole here, it is obvious that it is an Almy special, [ROFL!  Absolutely right!  I didn’t really look at the photo too closely in the other article, but though that it was, at first glance, in pretty good shape!  But… really!] and then as you read further, you begin to pick up the fact that it really was only put on the body of the saint in 1989 and removed a few yeas later to be replaced with something that was more authentic to the period in which he lived.
            One has the impression that with an Ipod to the Queen and some CDs to the Prime Minister of England and now and Episcopalian-made ‘sash (as one report puts it) being given to the Pope, the Obama White House just does not have the protocol of gift giving to Heads of State down.
            I can hardly wait to see what Mrs. Obama wears to the audience.

ROLF!  Excellent…. excellent….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Fr. Ignotus says:

    Looking at the photograph on The Catholic Review’s web site,
    it looks like nothing more than an Almy stole that perhaps might have been placed on Neumann’s body at some point. [“Dead on!” as they say!]

    See one of the photographs on the Neumann Shrine homepage for evidence that they vested him this way at some point:

    So, it’s a Almy stole (or equivalent) that touched Neumann’s body and therefore is a 3rd class relic, I suppose.

    It’s certainly a better gift than an iPod or a collection of DVDs.

  2. mrteachersir says:

    I for one am sickened by this. St. John Neumann is a saint, but am I the only one to feel this way about Obama giving this gift to the Pope? St. John Neumann celebrated Mass at my parish when he came up here (some say he even founded it). My school is named after him. to think that now, his name is linked with Thu Wun is repulsive to me. There are many reasons, and not enough time to explain them.

  3. Brian says:

    St. John Neumann, pray for us.

  4. At least it’s not an iPod with recordings of his Notre Dame commencement speech… [Hey, maybe the Holy Father with give POTUS the iPod he got from Vatican Radio… with some of his own work.] (And take a look at this, for a chuckle.)

  5. Jonathan says:

    Maybe touching this relic will fill Obama with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to change – there’s that word again, change! – his opinions…

  6. paul says:

    This is beginning to give me the creeps. Why is the president constantly appointing pro-abortion “Catholics” to important high positions? Why did he meet with all those Catholic religious publication owners this past month? Now, why did a religious order give this stole to the president to give to the pope?? This is the most pro-abortion president ever elected. I think he is trying to divide the Catholic church- causing confusion amongst Catholics about the true teaching of the church regarding life issues. Very troubling situation.

  7. Joe says:

    “I can hardly wait to see what Mrs. Obama wears to the audience.”

    What does Father mean by this? Did this priest used to be a designer, or is he just into fashion? [I think it was… maybe… irony?]

  8. Everyone: Check out the UPDATE in the top entry!

  9. RosemarieDRE says:

    Let us pray that Pope Benedict subscribes to the theory that “it is the thought that counts.”

  10. Patrick says:


    Traditionally women granted an audience with the Pope wear dark colored dresses, unrevealing necklines and covered arms. Given the first ladies love of sleveless items, it will be interesting to see how she dresses. It has nothing to do with being a designer, just an interested spectator.

  11. Heather says:

    I love how he has to make a political statement with the gift…in other words, it’s not really a gift at all.

    Now we find out that it’s a 3rd class relic, that’s just too funny. Why didn’t he just get the Pope a DVD of “Going My Way”.

  12. RosemarieDRE: et us pray that Pope Benedict subscribes to the theory that “it is the thought that counts.”

    Or…. maybe not?

  13. Zubismom says:

    St. John Neumann please pray for our president and the USA.

  14. Jill of the Amazing Wolverine Tribe says:

    My guess is zero will give the pope a relic of himself. A clipping from his middle fingernail in a reliquary. Doubtless Jenkins of Notre Dame will have a hand in it.

  15. Peggy says:

    Oh, this president and his wife need such desperate help with international protocol. I am on the Michelle O protocol watch. We’ve seen her break protocol with the Queen of England. I saw a photo of the other first ladies with their dark dresses, sleeves, and mantillas–though the Indian woman did wear a bright color traditional to her culture, with a matching head-covering. It was a lovely photo.


  16. John Polhamus says:

    I think it’s entirely appropriate that the Culture of Death president gives a piece of Almy junk to the Holy Father, otherwise he might be mistaken for someone who cared, or posessed an ounce of descrimination or consideration. You GO, Barry-O!!

  17. You have to admit that the Pope is difficult to buy for :-)

  18. Jonathan says:

    Wait, what is this “Almy” and why is everyone laughing at it?

  19. Alban says:

    LOL! This LoCoco is a genius! The gift of a chalice (no doubt the POTUS would have had it engraved with a nifty befiting accurately translated Latinized phrase, such as “Yesit, weum canus!” ) could actually have been fitting. But by allowing the president
    to give the stole, it will yet again underscore his historical cluelessness and cultural insensitivity.

    He may as well have given His Holiness a can of wood-polish which accidentally touched the body of St Bernadette of Lourdes while the night-crew was cleaning the pews.

  20. A Random Friar says:

    In defense of the President, he is relying on the advice of some Redemptorists and any Catholic in his circle. ISTM that he is at least trying to be diplomatically correct here. To be honest, I doubt most US Catholics could pick out the anachronism. It reminds me of Sec’y of State Clinton’s “reset” button gaffe — she has no idea of what the button should’ve said in Russian, but relied on the Dept of State translators. The perils of a bureaucracy and relying on second-hand advice.

  21. Paul Madrid says:

    Jonathan: http://www.almy.com/

    I think you can see the style of stole in question on sale here. The white one:


  22. Matt Q says:

    When I read the banner, I was about give my usual one-liner, but then thought maybe for once this president… then reading Father’s update… I rolled my eyes and went right back to my original reaction. Obama is going to give the Holy Father what he gives everyone else–pointless crap!

    Secondly, why is this Redemptorist gushing all over himself that the president is giving the Pope something of THEIRS? He’s all excited about that?

    Father Ignotus pointed out the stole is a Third-Class relic. True, it is if in fact it actually was touched to the saint’s body, but it now also emphasizes the cheesiness of the gift. Like the Vatican doesn’t already have countless Third-Class relics ( on top of First and Seconds ) carefully put away around the place. If it were going to a bishop or someone like that, it would be a better gift, but to the Holy Father, that stole is actually back in the same category as the iPod to the Queen and the DVDs to the Prime Minister ( which probably can’t even play in England because they use a different encoding than we do. ) What an embarrassment!!

  23. Paul Madrid says:

    No, my mistake. On fifteenth glance I can see the differences. There’s different coloration.

  24. LEM says:

    This saint founded many Catholic schools which Obama does not support because they don’t fit into his teacher’s union agenda. When his administration cut the voucher program of the successful Catholic school in Washington D.C. recently that was beloved by the students & parents involved plus fiscally successful ($7,000 per student for an excellent education in contrast to $12,000 per student for a crappy D.C. public school education) even though the parents & those involved appealed to the President to save their school….it was a darn shame, perhaps even immoral to destroy such a good & fruitful opportunity for those inner city Black kids.

  25. Andrew, medievalist says:

    Vogue, Cosmo et al. will still gush over whatever Mrs Obama wears, although it might be the first time that the word ‘mantilla’ appears in their publications.

  26. I also think we for once should be fair to the President. From the first article it seems that he only took the advice of the President of the arts studio. Of course the original idea was lame – any antique chalice given to the Vatican would merely end up in an obscure chapel in Trastevere. For once they showed genuine concern about buying a good gift and they believed they had been counselled by an expert. They have been well and truly conned, but it is not the President’s fault.

  27. Andrea says:

    Ahhh! So now we know why (Australian) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd felt the need to mention the canonisation of Blessed Mary McKillop to the Holy Father. He didn’t want to be outdone by the US President.

  28. Bernard says:

    Let us recognize that by Providence we are given the sign of a Saintly American Bishop and powerful intercessor from the Cradle of Liberty brought to new prominence in a historic moment as the President of the USA offers, as if in supplication, a humble symbol of spiritual authority and sanctity to the Successor of Peter, and pray that President Obama will receive the necessary graces to lead our nation under God to Life.

  29. C.L. says:

    In (rare) defence of our Australian prime minister, he did give the pope an excellent and intelligent gift.

  30. Pelicanus says:

    A small point, but nonetheless:

    Commentators would do well not to use “England” as a synonymn for “the UK”.

    Not only is Gordon Brown not the “Prime Minister of England” – he isn’t even English. And Elizabeth’s ancestor James VI and I was King of Scotland before we lent him to the English after Elizabeth I finally got off the throne she murdered his pious mother for.

    Perhaps we could dignify Fr Z’s high quality and well researched posts with something of a similar calibre.

  31. Mac McLernon says:

    To be fair, it seems that they originally wanted to give an antique chalice… yes, it does seem like coals to Newcastle, but what does one give the Holy Father that he hasn’t already got (several times over)?

    The stole, however, is pretty ghastly. Maybe they felt that it belonged in the Vatican Museum as a warning of what could happen if you take your eye off the liturgical ball…

  32. shoofoolatte says:

    There’s a great website for watching what Michelle Obama is wearing – http://www.mrs-o.org … I too am interested in what she will wear to her audience with Benedict.

    What a beautiful family. Gush. Gush.

  33. Girgadis says:

    An article about this stole appeared in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer and
    at no time does the paper report the stole was actually worn by St. John
    Neumann. The Inky makes it perfectly clear that the stole was draped around
    the saint’s enshrined body for 20 years and was removed in 2007 when the body
    was redressed. With regard to the immigration reference, at least in this
    area, we have seen a sizeable influx of immigrants from Mexico, Indonesia and
    Vietnam. Some churches, including the one where St. John Neumann’s body is
    enshrined, offer Mass in Spanish on Sundays. The saint was known for his
    service to immigrants. According to the Inquirer, the DiCocco family was also
    called upon last year to provide a special chair for Pope Benedict XVI for
    the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
    in Washington, D.C. Sorry I can’t provide a link to the Inquirer because
    I’m all thumbs this morning but it did appear on the front page yesterday.

  34. Most Excellent Sledgehammer says:

    Well, it’s no DVD set…but it’s something. ;-)

  35. TNCath says:

    Sorry, but this gift of the Almy stole is like giving a reknowned chef a toaster or a gift certificate to McDonald’s. as we say in the South, it’s just “plain tacky.” Moreover, since when do religious orders entrust vestments to non-Catholic laity? Ok, I realize this is the President who is going to give this stole to the Pope as a gift, but, it is nonetheless an awkward and rather strange gift. How about, instead, a decorative rendition of that prayer by Archishop John Carroll that Father Z wrote about last week?


  36. I thought maybe a medical brief on aids and condom use ;>)

    I know, I know, off to to confession ;>(

  37. Go Pelicanus! Fr Z’s posts are intelligent and thought-provoking and this is no exception. I would’ve thought that these issues are covered by protocol and guidelines and overseen by a ‘Department of Foreign Affairs’. Surely there is at least a tradition of what to give or does you American government ‘start over afresh’ every time? I think the Australian Wine (the best of, I’m sure) was a good idea. My own suggestions as to what to give a Pope: art by one’s best artists, music by one’s best composers (especially if composed in honour of the recipient) or other cultural treasures that can be added to the Patrimony of the Church. At least good wine can be enjoyed! As for Mr Obama he is not the first American President to make a diplomatic gaffe around monarchs and religious leaders. I think it is a big jump to go from meeting mayors, senators and governors in small town America to the heads of nations, states and faiths that were ancient when America was unknown except to the Cheyenne and the Apache. When he meets the Pope I hope he remembers that one of the Pope’s predecessors negotiated with Attila the Hun. The Vatican is well-used to the transience of political leaders.

  38. Phil Atley says:

    I agree that it’s not a good choice for a gift but I do feel compassion and pity for the president (whose policies I absolutely abhor). He has been a victim of poor advice from the gift shop guru, abetted by Redemptorist foolish gushing (and before that, the foolishness of draping an Almey stole over the body of the saint). It’s a chain of foolish errors typical of AmChurch inattention to symbol and liturgical arts for decades. The president cannot be expected to know any of this and his staff turned to “experts” for advice and were failed by those “experts.”

  39. Broadsword says:

    “This is special too. Look. See, it’s still got the yellow tag on it. He never even played it.”

    “He just bought it…?”

    “Don’t touch it, don’t touch it!”
    “I wasn’t…I was just pointing…”

    “Don’t even point.” It can’t be played, never, never.”

    “Can I look at it?”

    “No. No, don’t even look.”

  40. Andy K. says:

    Br. Tom:
    The problem with Obama’s *perpetual* gift-giving gaffes and improper State protocol, is that he was ushered in as someone who would “repair” our relations with all the countries, and was so much smarter than our previous president, so this sort of thing “shouldn’t” be tolerated.

  41. observer says:

    Re: the update. The article that I read mentioned only that the stole had been on the remains of the saint for something like 20 years and was removed when the redressing occurred. The historical significance seems to apply to the saint, what his history was and that this stole was something linked to that – as a very nice kind of type of relic.

    We ought not to look so much to the window dressing with the usual “ah ha” reaction as to the historical “authenticity” over and above the sacred connection. Many people have had their prayers answered after praying by the remains draped in this stole.

    This seems to have been on relatively short notice anyway – the now expected “Obama way”!

    Perhaps a better source:


  42. dcs says:

    If there is a gaffe here (and I’m not sure that there is), it is not on the part of President Obama but on those he asked for advice. Yes, the stole is part of the set of vestments in which the relics of St. John Neumann were dressed (his relics are now dressed in vestments more appropriate to the time in which he lived), but I don’t think that is a secret. One can hardly fault the President or his advisers for getting advice about a gift to the Pope from prominent Catholics.

  43. Broadsword says:

    Perhaps in return, His Holiness may give P. Obama a small gold vial filled with Vesuvian sulfur… (Yes, yes, yes, I know Pope Benedict will be gracious.)

  44. Ann Lewis says:

    To be somewhat fair – President Bush made a mistake (or mistick?) or two himself in this department.

    Although the worst gift I’d heard of given to the pope (mentioned in the following article is the one Lyndon Johnson gave. Eegad.


  45. Patronus says:

    I think everyone’s complaining here about this gift sounds very jaded. Yes, I understand all the problems that have been raised, but I know I would be happy to receive this relic as a gift. I really don’t see anything wrong with it, and am puzzled as to what exactly should have been given the Pope. Also, keep in mind that the administraion had been leaning towards giving a different gift, but was told that this would be better.

    I surely don’t think this gift warrants being called “pointless crap.”

  46. Girgadis says:

    Although the worst gift I’d heard of given to the pope (mentioned in the following article is the one Lyndon Johnson gave. Eegad.

    Ann Lewis, LOLOL!!!

    I won’t ruin the surprise for those who want to check it out for themselves but that was

  47. Peggy says:

    It occurs to me as an Illinoisan that it would have been cool for Obie to have given some relic, artifact or artistic depiction of the early missionaries’ work or the Catholic Church in Illinois (which is largely French–maybe not appropriate for a German pope?). Say something related to Pere Marquette; the priests who founded one of the oldest churches, eg, Holy Family in Cahokia, IL–the vertical-log French structure which still stands; maybe something related to German Catholic immigrants’ arrival in IL and the US. But then he doesn’t care about the state outside of Chicago. He doesn’t know anything about the Church beyond name-dropping Cardinal Bernardin.

    What expression do you think Mrs. O will wear after yesterday’s photo of Obie giving a glance?

  48. Andy K. says:

    Knowing Obama, I’m surprised he didn’t copy LBJ…

  49. Someone above asked about what the First Lady will wear to the audience. I met Frank Shakespeare once, who was our ambassador to the Holy See under Reagan. He said there is very strict protocol on what women wear to private audiences with the Pope, and the first rule is: no bare arms.

    Sorry, Michele.

  50. I too am not impressed. Let me get this straight, the President is giving the Pope a 2nd class relic of an American saint? Regardless of how ugly and tastless the stole is, that the fault of the Redemptorists in Philly, this doesn’t make sense. Dumb, simply dumb!

  51. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Perhaps Obama is the victim of his own arrogance. He has fired or consistently ignores the gift-giving experts. State gifts are nothing new, a history as old as our nation. This is a symptom of a systemic contempt of anyone that doesn’t subscribe to The One’s agenda.

    This is not the last gaffe.

    As far as the relic, perhaps we can look past its ugliness, a third-class relic is a third-class relic no matter what it looks like.

    What DO you give a head-of-state who has everything?

  52. adwsem says:

    Fr. Rodolfo, you missed something. It’s not a 2nd class relic, it’s a THIRD class relic. :)

  53. Daniel H says:

    It would seem like Obama required the stole under the “let the buyer beware” system. It might give Pope Benedict and opportunity to explain his encyclical.

    Daniel H

  54. Daniel H says:

    That should have read:

    It would seem like Obama acquired the stole under the “let the buyer beware” system. It might give Pope Benedict an opportunity to explain his encyclical.

    Daniel H

  55. Allan says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Obama will wear the stole, not give it?

  56. Charivari Rob says:

    The thing that puzzles me more is – How much of gift is it if this relic was given or sold by (some part of) the Church in order to be given as a gift to the Church? You know – “I can’t think of a meaningful gift from me. What would you give as a meaningful gift? Can I use your idea? And your gift?”

    For that matter, is it even permissable to sell relics, or give them away to people (at least without establishing they will be treated with due reverence)?

    I do agree that it must be tough to select something appropriate to the State and the man, especially when the man has so much and probably needs or desires little.

    If it’s more a gift for the man, perhaps a boxed set of music to the Holy Father’s taste (piano concertos, maybe?) would be appropriate – as long as they get the compatible disc/player format.

    Maybe they could have gotten another Staples “Easy Button”. Hey, Father Z.! What’s the Latin for “Reset”?

  57. irishgirl says:

    Never mind the gifts-I just hope that the Holy Father gives a ‘good talkin’ to’ when he meets Obama!

    Remember Pope St. Leo and Attila the Hun! I’d like to see a vision of Sts. Peter and Paul brandishing swords to protect the Holy Father and show Obama that God means business!

  58. Nathan says:

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m waiting for the tie in to the Holy Father’s new encyclical by the secular press–“Presidential Visit shows support of Encyclical, quotes paragraph 34–Charity in truth places man before the astonishing experience of gift.”

    In Christ,

  59. Henry Karlson says:

    I think it is important to realize, however long it has been with the saint, it is a relic; it might only be a third class relic, but it is still a relic, and I would think people here would show more respect to the idea of relics.

    Can relics be given as gifts? Of course! It’s done all the time. The Vatican, in fact, has given many as gifts in their diplomatic actions — especially to the Orthodox.

  60. He might have given the Pope a necktie…

  61. RJM says:

    Well, it’s not the most beautiful liturgical vestment ever designed. But, it is the relic of a great American saint. I understand some of the ribbing that is taking place here, but it seems like there’s much more substantive things to criticize this President about. Hey, at least Obama did not try to give the Holy Father a signed copy of The Audacity of Hope.

  62. Henry Karlson says:

    So, a relic is the same as a necktie? Really?! Is this how it goes? Politics makes mockery of relics?

    Please, Fr. Z., think before you post!

  63. SMJ says:

    I hope that Mrs. Obama don’t wear white in the presence of the Holy Father… :-D

  64. Hmyer says:

    I have a different take on this ( and I don’t have any affection for Obama at all).
    The presidents staff tried to find a meaningful gift for the Pope. Apparently they
    failed but not because of malice or lack of effort and everyone including the venerable Father Z thinks
    this is ROTF funny. This says more about you people than it says about the president.

  65. Jodi says:

    What would have been a “good gift” that wouldn’t be criticized by everyone?

  66. Liam says:

    Mrs Obama wore the traditional attire: black, long sleeved, suitable decolletage, and a mantilla:

    Sour Grapes Award to them that complain about *that*.

  67. Liam says:

    Fr Ignotus

    Perhaps the Japanese Prime Minister heard the Pope needed a video camera to assist in the revival of the Holy Inquisition.

  68. totustuusmaria says:

    no doubt the POTUS would have had it engraved with a nifty befiting accurately translated Latinized phrase, such as “Yesit, weum canus!”


  69. Rufus McCain says:

    I like what Bernard said:

    “Let us recognize that by Providence we are given the sign of a Saintly American Bishop and powerful intercessor from the Cradle of Liberty brought to new prominence in a historic moment as the President of the USA offers, as if in supplication, a humble symbol of spiritual authority and sanctity to the Successor of Peter, and pray that President Obama will receive the necessary graces to lead our nation under God to Life.”

    Most of the rest of you really ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

  70. M.J.Andrew says:

    The first AP images of the meeting are here. I hope Mrs. Obama’s attire pleases your priest friend.

  71. Mary says:

    The first AP images of the meeting are here. I hope Mrs. Obama’s attire pleases your priest friend.

    Aw, she’s so pretty!

    I love the Holy Father’s expression in the first photo… kind of a squint-smile.

  72. elmo says:

    You pharisees can rest easy: Mrs. Obama is dressed very appropriately:


    I’m not a voter or a supporter of Obama but the ugliness surrounding this visit and the gift from the president to the pope is having the effect of making me more sympathetic to him.

  73. Peggy says:

    I was very pleased to see Mrs. Obie dress appropriately. I thought she looked lovely. See what happens when one does the right thing. I give her credit and thanks to some one who gave them protocol at least on that issue.

  74. Joseph says:

    as an Orthodox visitor, i’m appalled that any one would view a relic, of whatever class, as “crap.” and this post, and the comments provided, are proof positive that the left is not the only province of unchristian sentiments. apparently, love thy neighbor doesn’t apply to the president and, furthermore, his non-political wife. you people should be ashamed.

  75. Martin T. says:

    @Joseph Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    From this Roman Catholic….ditto.

    Little more than Obama bashing.

  76. Stacy says:

    Joseph and others–

    I offer my apologies to the snarkiness and pettiness of many individuals on this combox. Relics are indeed precious things. And when supposedly “good” Catholics have biting comments about items key to our faith, how can we respond when folks of other faiths do the same thing?? I would gladly give a weeks pay and vacation to have the blessing to be able to pray and venerate in front of a GENUINE 3rd class relic of St John Neumann.

    Perhaps it would be beneficial for some individuals to volunteer 1-2 years in the mission field in Africa–where there are NO relics, no beautiful churches, no comforts of civilized society, and none of the other trappings that they seem to be judging others by. Lord knows that the harvest in the mission field is abundant but the laborers are few. May they grow in wisdom and humility.

  77. SMJ says:

    It’s good that Mrs. Obama was dressed correctly. She only did what she was entitled to, since every woman (except the Catholic Queens) are (or at least, were) obliged to use black and cover their heads…

  78. Liam says:


    They were but no longer are so obliged.

  79. A. PeterJ says:

    The President deserves to be criticized and combated on his stance on many issues, especially the cause of Life. But the cheap potshots at his gifts and his wife’s clothes are reminiscent of the peanut gallery rather than thinking individuals. They are really unworthy of this blog. Even if some gush over every word and action of the President or his family, or treat everything he does as inspired, it’s no reason to go to this other extreme. My admiration for the commentators so far who had the guts to avoid this herd-mentality.

  80. elmo says:

    It’s even worse somehow that some of the snark is coming from Catholic priests. I expect more discernment, charity, and justice from these fathers.

  81. Mike says:

    I have to agree that this is pretty snarky. Yes, this wasn’t the greatest gift in the world, but O did make an effort to find an appropriate gift and as far as he knew this was one. I’d rather we discuss something of substance here than look like fools arguing over inconsequentials. How ’bout criticizing O’s lie^H^H^Hpromise to reduce abortions in the US.

  82. ben says:


    WHy don’t you write the shrine and ask them if they would be kind of enough to send you a 3rd class relic of St. John Neuman? I’m sure that the Redemptorists would respond kindly to your piety and touch a holy card to the saint for you.

  83. Paul Madrid says:

    I can’t speak for others, but, IMHO, a relic is an honorable gift, whatever class it may be.

    My concern was not the character of the relic being given but that the origin of the relic was misstated by the recommender of the gift:

    I told them about this stole that was something that belonged to an immigrant who was so instrumental in serving immigrants and building Catholic schools.

    But the stole never belonged to Saint John Neumann (otherwise it would be of the second class, not the third). As Rocco points out (and as others have pointed out with empirical evidence), it was a part of a “modern vestment set” placed on the remains at some point that was eventually replaced last year with Roman vestments.

    Given the misstatement in the news story, it’s possible that the misstatement could have been passed on to the Holy Father. Imagine: gift recommender says to the State Department “this belonged to Saint John Neumann,” the State Department trusts him and tells the President, the President tells the Holy Father so, and the Holy Father realizes, given the relic’s modern style, that someone has their facts wrong.

    Then again, the gift recommender may have only misstated to the press but told the State Department the whole story. That’s my hope.

  84. Girgadis says:


    Paul Madrid

    CNA did not report accurately on this gift. I’m a bit taken aback that the Philadelphia Inquirer,
    never exactly friendly to the Catholic Church, could get its story straight but a Catholic news
    source could not. Both Louis DiCocco and Father Kevin Smoley, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle
    Church (where the shrine of St. John Neumann is located) are clear that this stole was wrapped
    around the saint’s relic. Not to worry – if you read the article you will see that this gift was not misrepresented to the State Department. One thing the Inquirer did not get straight – in the link above, the stole is referred to as a robe.

  85. steve says:

    This was the stole that was on Saint John’s body when St. Peter’s lower church was renovated some years ago. It was part of a set of vestments that has recently been changed to Roman style vestments that this blog reported. In fact there were photos of Saint John’s body along with Msgr. Tomichek who had the Roman vestments made in the Phillipines, along with Cardinal Rigali who vested the saints remains. I hope this solves the riddle of the stole.

  86. Livia Fiordelisi says:

    this is a shameful, hateful website. Not Christian, not Catholic, not worth another moment of my time.

  87. Paul Madrid says:

    That’s good to hear, Girgadis. Thanks.

  88. observer says:

    Then again, the gift recommender may have only misstated to the press but told the State Department the whole story. That’s my hope.

    It’s not the gift recommender that got anything wrong – it’s the press reporting that was originally linked to here (the Catholic one)that did not have all the facts straight. The other more accurate report now linked to within these comments spells out the steps and certainly those steps were explained to Rome.

    The poor saint is probably turning over in his glass case – and remembering the scriptural admonition to treat the poorly dressed fellow the same as the richly dressed fellow in the court of brotherly love!

  89. Paul Madrid says:

    It’s not the gift recommender that got anything wrong – it’s the press reporting . . . .

    See, that’s the thing, observer. CNA gave a direct quote purportedly from DiCocco claiming that the stole “belonged to an immigrant who was so instrumental in serving immigrants and building Catholic schools.”

    So I wonder what happened there. Maybe DiCocco did say that, but meant it figuratively (i.e. it belonged to the saint in the sense of being on his remains for several decades without the saint ever owning it) and CNA took it literally (the saint said Mass in this). Then again, maybe CNA butchered the quote and based the piece on the butchered quote.

  90. Bernard says:

    The bones of St. John Neumann exude oil which permeates the clothing in which he is dressed, and one with devotion to St. John Neumann will testify this oil is the sweat of a Saint who tirelessly works miracles in the lives of whomever asks. The Faithful from the Philadelphia area cannot express but that their beloved Saint lives, that the unction from his sleep in Christ is not from a corpse, and that in repose his clothing as well as in life is incomparable to an article merely touched to a relic.

  91. observer says:

    Well, this has certainly drawn more attention to this particular saint – and in God’s providence, there is always greater reason than we know.

    May St. John Neumann intercede for our Holy Father and all of us in these very challenging times.

  92. fr mike says:

    It is interesting that the Democrats commenting here are stressing that there was no misrepresentation of President Obama’s less-than-expected gift to Our Holy Father.

    But isn’t this discussion playing right into the hands of the Democrats, who continue to run interference for a president who, as his first order of business, has sent hundreds of millions of American dollars overseas to be used to facilitate the practice of abortion on a global basis?

    Let all true Catholics, not the abortion-supporting Democrats, concentrate on the magnificent gift of Truth presented to Obama by Our Holy Father, and let us comment upon the fact that Obama could not care less about the Truth with which he has been presented.

  93. Bernard says:

    Thank you, Fr. Mike for refocusing the discussion. With little searching it can be gathered that the gift in reality was not less-than-expected, but we interested Catholics failed to research, post and publish accurate info quickly enough about the history of the immigrant Saint and the stole annointed with the miraculous oil from his Saintly bones to focus more attention on the Vatican meeting which publicly centered on Life issues. A better sense of apostolate and some precious time might have enabled faithful Catholics to recognize this opportunity to evangelize for Life. With a phone call I could find that unannounced, the Philadelphia media apparently did thorough interviews in public view over several days at the open-to-the-public and accessible by walk-in, web, or phone “religious gift shop” linked in the Washington Post story, however, it seems relatively little was published conceivably because as reported the White House would not “confirm or discuss” that the stole would be given. Who knew? In this Catholic moment had networked Catholics seeing what did get published been able to create a “buzz” with positive, sound information concerning the providential gift from the American people offered by the President, perhaps the gift would have had to be confirmed to avoid unfavorable press, and the sum of reporting gathered been published and fed to networks. As it was, the story generated enough focus on gifts, that the Holy Father was able to grab some extra prolife headlines by handing in sight of the cameras a surprise gift of the CDF document DIGNITAS PERSONAE on bioethics to the President, who publicly agreed to read it on the plane home (and I hope he will be questioned about that), thanks to the intercession of all American St. John Neumann and the humble stole. Referenced Washington Post story: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/godingovernment/2009/07/the_scoop_on_obamas_gift_to_pope_tomorrow.html

  94. observer says:

    Except, Fr. Mike, your now addition of shift of emphasis was not the topic of the thread. So, if there are any “democrats” of your interpretation, they are for a change, following the topic rather obediently – without the usual spin but with offered clarifications!

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