Today is the Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman - theologian, poet, hymnographer, cardinal - a man dear to the hearts of English Catholics, Catholic university students, the Fathers and Brothers of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, and to former Anglicans now in full communion with the Catholic Church. Newman, who was an Anglican clergyman prior to his reception into the Church at the hands of Blessed Dominic Barberi in 1845, was, in 2011, appropriately named by Pope Benedict XVI as the patron of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham upon its erection by the Holy See. Newman founded the Oratory at Birmingham in 1849, the first of its English houses, and he lived, worked, and prayed here from 1852 until his death in 1890. As the photograph of the plaque above indicates, Pope Benedict visited the Oratory in 2010, shortly after beatifying Newman in nearby Cofton Park; the first such ceremony ever to be held on English soil. The photos were taken from a visit in August.
‘We are not our own, any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves; we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We cannot be our own masters. We are God’s property by creation, by redemption, by regeneration. He has a triple claim upon us. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter? Is it any happiness, or any comfort, to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way – to depend on no one – to have to think of nothing out of sight – to be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgement, continual prayer, continual reference of what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man – that it is an unnatural state – may do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end. No, we are creatures; and, as being such, we have two duties, to be resigned and to be thankful.
Let us then view God’s providences towards us more religiously than we have hitherto done. Let us try to gain a truer view of what we are, and where we are, in His kingdom. Let us humbly and reverently attempt to trace His guiding hand in the years which we have hitherto lived. Let us thankfully commemorate the many mercies He has vouchsafed to us in time past, the many sins He has not remembered, the many dangers He has averted, the many prayers He has answered, the many mistakes He has corrected, the many warnings, the many lessons, the much light, the abounding comfort which He has from time to time given. Let us dwell upon times and seasons, times of trouble, times of joy, times of trial, times of refreshment. How did He cherish us as children! How did He guide us in that dangerous time when the mind began to think for itself, and the heart to open to the world! How did He with His sweet discipline restrain our passions, mortify our hopes, calm our fears, enliven our heavinesses, sweeten our desolateness, and strengthen our infirmities! How did He gently guide us towards the strait gate! How did He allure us along His everlasting way, in spite of its strictness, in spite of its loneliness, in spite of the dim twilight in which it lay! He has been all things to us’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
O God, who didst bestow upon thy Priest Blessed John Henry Newman, the grace to follow thy kindly light and find peace in thy Church: graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon