Today, the Holy Father beatified one of the nineteenth century’s sharpest minds, John Henry Cardinal Newman. Born in London on 21 February 1801, he was born into a family with a strong Anglican tradition. While always drawn to Scripture, which became his moral compass, his mind demanded more.
During a conversion experience in 1861 he received what he considered the most significant grace in his life, the one that brought about an acute awareness of the presence of God and the invisible world.
In his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, he confessed that this experience did have a great influence on his personality, “isolating me from the objects which surrounded me, in confirming me in my mistrust of the reality of material phenomena, and making me rest in the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator”. He also chose from Scott’s book two phrases that were to mark his whole life: “holiness rather than peace” and “growth, the only evidence of life”.
After a distinguished studentate at Oxford and a vibrant participation in the Oxford Movement against Liberalism, he developed his theory of the Via Media. This theory strove to prove that the Anglican Communion was the legitimate heir of primitive Christianity and the true Church of Christ. He believed that since England had been preserved from the Protestant heresies and the influences of Rome, the truth of Christendom could be found in Anglicanism itself. It was through his studies of history and the dogmatic integrity of the Catholic Church that his mind yielded to the truth of Catholic Christendom. On 9 October 1845, Newman was received into the Catholic Church by by Bl. Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist. He began a Catholic priest and founded the St. Philip’s Oratory in Birmingham. For more on Cardinal Newman.
Holy Father Speaks on Cardinal Newman
The Holy Father today raised the beloved Cardinal Newman to the status of Blessed. During his homily, BXVI commented that the holy Cardinal now joins “Saint Bede, Saint Hilda, Saint Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus” to name a few of the scholarly saints. Cardinal Newman believed in the laity and had a vision of who, through his guidance, he wanted them to become:
I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390).
Benedict speaking to those gathered in Westminster at the Cathedral of the Precious Blood, exhorted English Catholics to become the priestly people that they had been called to be:
Dear friends, let us return to the contemplation of the great crucifix which rises above us. Our Lord’s hands, extended on the Cross, also invite us to contemplate our participation in his eternal priesthood and thus our responsibility, as members of his body, to bring the reconciling power of his sacrifice to the world in which we live. The Second Vatican Council spoke eloquently of the indispensable role of the laity in carrying forward the Church’s mission through their efforts to serve as a leaven of the Gospel in society and to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7). The Council’s appeal to the lay faithful to take up their baptismal sharing in Christ’s mission echoed the insights and teachings of John Henry Newman. May the profound ideas of this great Englishman continue to inspire all Christ’s followers in this land to conform their every thought, word and action to Christ, and to work strenuously to defend those unchanging moral truths which, taken up, illuminated and confirmed by the Gospel, stand at the foundation of a truly humane, just and free society.
…Let us pray, then, that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness.
Click here to read more of Pope Benedict XVI’s homilies and exhortations to the people of ancient Britannia or as we say today, the United Kingdom.
Through the intercession of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, may our minds be enlightened by the truth that our hearts be inflamed with love for our Hope of Glory.