Dear Friends in Christ
This Sunday is a momentous day in the history of the Catholic Church in England. John Henry Cardinal Newman will be declared a Saint by Pope Francis, the first Englishman (non-martyr) since the Reformation. Newman lived between 1801-1890. He was brought up as an Anglican, and went to church but did not have a deep faith until - quite suddenly – when he was fifteen, he found a certainty: in that moment he described his faith as more certain than that I have hands and feet. He had a strong sense of the eternal love and mercy of God, and felt called to ministry. At twenty-three he became an Anglican Cleric, and at that time he was very dismissive and critical of the Catholic Church. For his time as an Anglican he was based in and near Oxford, where he preached at St Mary’s, the church attended by many students and professors.
However, he questioned more and more about the Anglican church, and as he questioned he found himself being treated in quite a hostile way. He studied Catholic theology, especially St Augustine, and he eventually left the Anglican church and became a Catholic. Two years later, aged forty-six, he became a Catholic priest. Later in his life he wrote Apologia Pro Vita Sua (A defence of one’s life) in which he explains the doubts, questions and struggles with which he wrestled, sometimes in very raw and personal ways.
So Newman is a Saint for those who struggle, who have doubts and ask questions; his journey in faith is full of personal challenge. Some of his projects failed. He was often heavily and personally criticised. Therefore he is a Saint whom we can ask for prayers in situations when we have doubts or face challenges, or when we fail and need to start again.
Many of John Henry Newman’s prayers and hymns will be familiar to us, and his Canonisation is an opportunity for us to discover, or rediscover, the profundity of his spiritual and theological writings. Pray above all to him that, through his intercession now as a Saint in Heaven, our Country, so dear to him, may be again evangelised and return to the True Faith of Rome, the Faith of Peter, the Faith of our Fathers!
God bless our land and all of us on this great occasion!
Msgr Kevin Hale