Monday, 19 September 2011

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us

One year ago today, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Blessed John Henry Newman at an outdoor Mass celebrated in Cofton Park, Birmingham. This was a true high point in his spectacular visit to the United Kingdom. 

On Saturday morning 18 September, there had been the Mass in Westminster Cathedral, which spoke to many thinking of joining the Catholic Church. Saturday evening saw the Holy Father lead a Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park attended by around 80,000 people, including many Anglicans who are now part of the Ordinariate, for example as seen in these photos


Then, finally, there came the beatification of one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement; one who along with Pusey, Keble and others had sought to prove the catholic nature of the Church of England; one who later had taken the decision to join the Catholic Church, the same choice that was now being pondered so actively by many; one whose decision to leave behind him the familiar surroundings of his present ecclesial home and to move elsewhere was strikingly resonant.
Newman is an inspiration to both Anglicans and Catholics.  There is immense and justified pride in the massive achievements of a man who had a major influence on the Church of England, and who, in his own way, went on to bring an early form of “Anglican Patrimony” to the Catholic Church.  There is admiration for his writings both devotional and academic, for his work in education, for his pastoral skills, and for his contribution to the development of the Catholic Church in this country.

There was a time when some in the catholic wing of the Church of England would jokingly warn each other not to read Blessed John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua, or his novel Loss and Gain, as to do so gave one “Roman fever”.   Well, no doubt the Papal Visit and the Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman did inspire many to read or reread both the Apologia and Loss and Gain. Some of those people are now part of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, so it seems the friendly warning said in jest was not entirely baseless.
Being well aware of the importance of Blessed John Henry Newman in the Oxford Movement, and noting his status as Patron of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, we wanted to include an appropriate quotation from his works on the inside cover of the orders of service for the Mass celebrated when we were received into the Catholic Church. After some debate, we settled on this famous passage from the Apologia.

“From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.”

How appropriate this seems. It is entirely consonant with our experience so far.

To conclude then, a brief clip from of that great day one year ago when Blessed John Henry Newman was beatified, and also a reminder that two of the three permanent video links in the right hand sidebar are of Newman hymns, Praise to the Holiest and Lead Kindly Light.  Listen to those two inspiring hymns.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.


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