Blessed John Henry Newman was declared a saint by Pope Francis on Sunday, 13th October 2019 in St Peter’s Square, Rome. This was a truly important event in the life of the Church in this country. In the official text for the Extraordinary Month of Mission, Pope Francis expresses the hope that the Church will consider herself to be in a permanent state of mission; so that she might bring people to faith in Jesus and in turn that they will find their place within the one true fold of the Redeemer.
Events at the Shrine of St John Henry Newman in Ss Philip & James’ Church, Brickhill, Bedford
- After Mass on Wednesday, 23rd October there will be Short Devotions.
- After Mass on Wednesday, 30th October, approx. 10.30am, Bishop Robert Barron’s documentary about St John Henry Newman (approx. thirty minutes and different to that previously shown).
Excerpts from our newsletters about John Henry Newman’s Life
1. Newman (21 Feb. 1801 – 11 Aug. 1890), born in London, was an Oxford University academic, poet and theologian. Originally an Anglican priest, and later a Catholic priest and cardinal, he was an important figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. In 1845 Newman officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University and was received into the Catholic Church. Following ordination as a priest he became an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham. In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services to the cause of the Catholic Church in England. In 1854 he was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, which became University College, Dublin.
2. When Newman was created cardinal on 12th May 1879 by Pope Leo XIII, he took as his motto in Latin Cor ad cor loquitur, which means “Heart speaks to heart.” This mirrors Newman’s commitment to education, to establishing Catholic universities and his passionate care for the sick and the poor. When Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on 19th September 2010, he praised his pastoral zeal for the poor and the bereaved, and noted Newman’s emphasis on the vital role of establishing Catholic ministry in universities. In our parishes of Holy Cross and Ss Philip & James we can identify in practical ways with these fundamental concepts by supporting both our Catholic Youth Minister at the local university campus and also the work of the SVP.
3. Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham on 19th September 2010 making him Blessed John Henry Newman. Following research by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Pope Francis approved Cardinal Newman’s canonisation for Sunday 13th October 2019, and this will be a day of great celebration and rejoicing in our parishes of Ss. Philip & James and the Holy Cross. The first miracle attributed to Newman’s intercession involved the complete and inexplicable healing of a deacon from a disabling spinal condition. His second miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman. The woman prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Newman following a life-threatening diagnosis, and her doctors have been unable to explain how or why she was able to suddenly recover.
4. Canonisation is the final step in the official process of declaration of Newman’s sainthood. To ensure objective scrutiny of holiness, evaluation can only begin five years after the candidate’s death. Individuals are declared “servant of God”, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints scrutinises evidence of candidates’ holiness, work, and signs that people have been drawn to prayer through their example. Following approval, and the Pope’s decision that candidates lived a life of “heroic virtue”, they are called “venerable”. At Beatification the title “blessed” is given when incidents attributed to candidates can be ‘verified by evidence’ and accepted as miracles. Normally, sainthood is recognised by canonisation following two Vatican-authenticated miracles. Our last canonisation was in 1970 when Pope Paul VI made 40 English and Welsh martyrs saints.
5. In our parishes of Holy Cross and Ss Philip & James we mark the canonisation on Sunday 13th October of Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890). We have become familiar recently with Newman as priest, academic, writer and theologian; with his work in promoting Catholic education; with his care for the poor; and with the stages leading to his canonisation. We recall Newman’s motto as cardinal, ‘Heart speaks to heart’, and ponder now: How can we as individuals open our hearts in prayer and action to celebrate Newman’s canonisation in the life of our parishes? We could pray using the CTS Newman Prayer booklet available in our church, offer support for the Youth Minister, the SVP, or the construction of the temporary replica of Newman’s chapel.
6. ‘Lead Kindly Light’, written when Newman became very ill while travelling abroad, is a prayer seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance while experiencing sadness and spiritual conflict. It suggests three levels of interpretation: Newman’s longing for his earthly home; a restless soul yearning for heavenly homecoming; and Newman’s search for clear direction in his own faith. In the first stanza, Newman calls on the Kindly Light, the Holy Spirit, to rescue him from his homesickness and his struggles with his mission in the Anglican faith, and to lead him on safe paths to heaven. In the second stanza, Newman recalls with sadness and remorse his proud and wilful past. In the final stanza, God’s powerful Love and Newman’s faith and hope overcome darkness, brokenness and doubt.
7. In 1828, Newman was appointed Vicar at Littlemore, a very poor hamlet near Oxford which had neither church nor school. He discovered that the majority of the children were uneducated and illiterate, and if people went to Church on Sunday, they had to walk three miles into Oxford. Newman took his duties as Vicar very seriously saying: “I have the responsibility of souls on me to the day of my death.” He rented a room where his congregation could meet. He began to catechize the children and to explain St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Newman cared for the poor, the sick and the overlooked. He eventually founded a church and a school. It was during his time in Littlemore that he converted to Catholicism.
8. Newman retired from Anglican ministry in October 1845 and was received into the Catholic Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi at Littlemore near Oxford. Bishop Nicholas Wiseman, of the then Midland District, offered Newman and his community of Oxford converts a home in Old Oscott House, near Birmingham, which had been used as a school since the seminarians moved to the New Oscott College in 1838. Following ordination in Rome, Newman established the first English Oratory there and renamed the house Maryvale. His plan was to study, write, educate, lead missions, help local clergy and care for the poor. Maryvale occupies a unique place in the history of the Catholic Church in England. Catholic worship has been celebrated continuously on the site for over 1000 years.
9. The ‘Kindly Light’ in Newman’s hymn led him through challenges to faith: from university academic to theologian, conversion from Anglican vicar to Catholic priest and cardinal, through steps from ‘venerable’ to ‘blessed’ and canonisation, from Oxford, to Littlemore and Oscott. In 1852, from the pulpit of Oscott’s seminary chapel, in the First Provincial Synod of Westminster, Newman delivered his famous sermon ‘The Second Spring’, a moving account of the recovery of English Catholicism from the dark days of penal times to its Victorian splendour. It characterised the expression of the restoration of Catholicism, and ‘Second Spring’ passed into common usage to describe Catholic life in Victorian England. In today’s secular world, we, too, are confronted with challenges to faith presented by change, development and progress.
10. Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise; in all his words most wonderful, most sure in all his ways! These familiar words of stanzas 1 & 7 of Newman’s hymn are taken from his longer poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’. Some consider that the theme of this hymn leads us from the fall into sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the story of mankind’s redemption by Jesus’ Passion, Death on the Cross, and Resurrection. This chimes with the idea of the height and depth of God. We can identify with the theme of Newman’s hymn in the words of the Sanctus at Mass, in Isaiah 6:1-3; Luke 19:38 and in Mark 11:9.
The Canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman is a moment of true celebration for the whole Church but perhaps most particularly, for the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is hoped that the Church will rise to the challenge of suitably celebrating this momentous event. We echo the prophetic words of Pope Benedict XVI who, whilst standing on the hallowed soil of Newman’s homeland, remarked that he was saint for our time; a man, who like us, was both truly ordinary and truly extraordinary. There are scholars who will comment on the seeming contradictions in Newman’s life; these are false dichotomies. Rather we should see these for what they are: complementary strengths. The one constant thread in the life of Newman was his search for the truth of Jesus Christ; it was this that led him to the one true fold of the Redeemer: the Catholic Church. He was not content to settle for shadows or pale imitations. Only the fullness of truth revealed by Christ and bestowed by Him to the Catholic Church was enough to appease his conscience. Saint John Henry Newman can be viewed as a catalyst to authentic mission, spiritual renewal and ultimately the numerical growth of our communities. Now that he is able to see Truth Himself, that is Jesus Christ, may St John Henry Newman pray for us!
“Westminster and Nottingham, Beverley and Hexham, Northampton and Shrewsbury, if the world lasts, shall be names as musical to the ear, as stirring to the heart, as the glories we have lost; and Saints shall rise out of them if God so will, and Doctors once again shall give the law to Israel, and Preachers call to penance and to justice, as at the beginning.”
Blesséd John Henry Newman, 13th July 1852, St Mary’s College, Oscott.
11. Newman reflected deeply on the nature and mission of the Catholic Church. He considered the ‘visible’ public face of authority the Church shows to the world, its hierarchy, infrastructure, Sacraments and organisational features without which it could not perform its mission to teach, baptise and make disciples. Newman also understood the Church as ‘invisible’: God’s Kingdom, the Church in heaven, souls in purgatory, and intangible bonds of grace uniting Christians. However, he recognised that in a changing world, society had increasing difficulty in accepting these concepts about Catholicism. People argued that they could do without Christianity because developments in science and technology had replaced religion. Nevertheless, Newman believed that the Catholic Church is the only true bearer of peace and salvation to our troubled world.
12. Thank you for reading the articles leading up to the canonisation on 13th October 2019 of Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890). He was priest, cardinal, academic, writer, theologian, and leader in Catholic education. You may be interested in looking at some of the published works by St John Henry Newman. Some are available to read online or download on Kindle at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/8264. For example: The Development of Christian Doctrine; Loss and Gain: the Story of a Convert; The Idea of a University; The Dream of Gerontius. There is a wealth of information on the internet about Newman. If you learned something about our new English Saint, spread the good news.
13. Fr. Ian Ker recently described how Newman saw his own life as one of disappointments and anxieties. Newman’s journey to sainthood was not an easy one. He underperformed as an undergraduate; he forfeited his role as tutor at Oriel College because of changes he proposed to teaching methods; he was condemned by heads of colleges and Anglican bishops because of his Catholic interpretations of the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England; he was accused by anti-Catholic bigots of being insincere in his interpretation of the Truth. Newman’s early years as a Catholic were beset by disappointments; there was opposition to his founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, the British government refused to validate the university’s degrees. However, success eventually came in the form of elevation to the College of Cardinals, and now in his canonisation.