Loving his Eucharistic Lord and wishing to dramatize the Blessed Sacrament and to center spiritual life in his diocese around It, Saint John Neumann dreamed of bringing the Forty Hours Devotion to the United States.

At first the idea was received coldly: "You can't do that! If you left the Blessed Sacrament exposed in churches for forty long hours, don't you know what would happen? The ignorant and the impious would profane and dishonor It."

The idea might have died there except for what happened one night. The Bishop had been writing letters for hours and he grew so weary that he fell asleep at his desk. When he awoke an hour or so later his papers were a charred mass. Whether a puff of wind had blown a letter into the flames of a candle, or whether the candle had overturned, he could not tell. Only one letter remained intact, except for charred edges. Picking it up he saw that it was the only letter that he had written that evening about the Forty Hours Devotion.

At this discovery he dropped to his knees. It seemed to him that a voice was telling him: "As this writing was saved from the flames, so shall I preserve My Son, present in the Blessed Sacrament, from profanation and dishonor. Wait no longer. Carry out your plan."

The Bishop again eagerly took up his pen. Letter after letter he wrote on through the night, ordering the celebration of the Forty Hours Devotion in every church of his Philadelphia Diocese.

The World's Greatest Secret
Fr. John M. Haffert