Monday, October 21, 2019

Confessions, Surprises, and Apologies

On Saturday evening last, Jessica Hooten Wilson, Associate Professor at John Brown University, presented "'Maddened Beauty': Imagination as Knowing in C. S. Lewis" at the Inklings Festival for Eighth Day Institute. It was an interesting lecture, but did not seem to fulfill all the promise of the abstract:

All over C. S. Lewis’s work (fictional and nonfiction), Lewis speaks of imagination as a way of knowing. We’ll consider The Abolition of Man, Experiment in Criticism, The Discarded Image, Reflections on the Psalms, and even Lewis’ biography Surprised by Joy to understand what this means for us. How might poetry and Norse mythology offer knowledge that arguments will never grasp? What’s the difference between irrational, rational, and transrational? Lewis compels us to cultivate our imaginations not as a path of escape but as a deeper road to understanding reality and as a higher road towards the knowledge, ultimately, of God.

We really did not "consider The Abolition of Man, Experiment in Criticism, The Discarded Image, Reflections on the Psalms", although she mentioned the Experiment in Criticism and The Discarded Image. Her focus was Surprised by Joy and how to understand the role of imagination in Lewis' conversion and his conversion story. She began by citing an important hint in the Preface to Surprised by Joy: "The book aims at telling the story of my conversion and is not a general autobiography, still less "Confessions" like those of St. Augustine or Rousseau." She noted that if Lewis told us that we should know what not to expect in Lewis' book.

Then she read the beginning of Rousseau's Confessions:

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.

I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.

Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.


Contrasting the beginning of St. Augustine's Confessions:

Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.

And how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord, since, when I call for Him, I shall be calling Him to myself? and what room is there within me, whither my God can come into me? whither can God come into me, God who made heaven and earth? is there, indeed, O Lord my God, aught in me that can contain Thee? do then heaven and earth, which Thou hast made, and wherein Thou hast made me, contain Thee? or, because nothing which exists could exist without Thee, doth therefore whatever exists contain Thee? Since, then, I too exist, why do I seek that Thou shouldest enter into me, who were not, wert Thou not in me? Why? because I am not gone down in hell, and yet Thou art there also. For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me; or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so. Whither do I call Thee, since I am in Thee? or whence canst Thou enter into me? for whither can I go beyond heaven and earth, that thence my God should come into me, who hath said, I fill the heaven and the earth.


Tracing Lewis' encounters with "Joy" in his childhood imagination, Hooten Wilson developed the theme of that longing for "Joy" that Lewis tried to describe and hold on to--the yearning, aching, desire for something beyond himself:

The first is itself the memory of a memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's "enormous bliss" of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to "enormous") comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what? not, certainly, for a biscuit-tin filled with moss, nor even (though that came into it) for my own past. [Greek: Ioulian pothô] --and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison.

The second glimpse came through Squirrel Nutkin; through it only, though I loved all the Beatrix Potter books. But the rest of them were merely entertaining; it administered the shock, it was a trouble. It troubled me with what I can only describe as the Idea of Autumn. It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamoured of a season, but that is something like what happened; and, as before, the experience was one of intense desire. And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible--how can one possess Autumn?) but to re-awake it. And in this experience also there was the same surprise and the same sense of incalculable importance. It was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would now say, "in another dimension".

The third glimpse came through poetry. I had become fond of Longfellow's
Saga of King Olaf: fond of it in a casual, shallow way for its story and its vigorous rhythms. But then, and quite different from such pleasures, and like a voice from far more distant regions, there came a moment when I idly turned the pages of the book and found the unrhymed translation of Tegner's Drapa and read

I heard a voice that cried,
Balder the beautiful
Is dead, is dead----

I knew nothing about Balder; but instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote) and then, as in the other examples, found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.


Then Lewis describes how that joy left him through bad education and poor choices for achievement (reading the right books, knowing the right people, etc) and how he rediscovered it when he began to read Norse mythology again, drawn by Arthur Rackham's illustrations for Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods.

But I admit that when she started talking about Lewis' childhood experiences of Joy, I thought of the beginning of another story of a conversion, Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua--also a work unlike either Rousseau's or Augustine's Confessions or Lewis' Surprised by Joy--but one that begins in imagination:

IT may easily be conceived how great a trial it is to me to write the following history of myself; but I must not shrink from the task. The words, "Secretum meum mihi," keep ringing in my ears; but as men draw towards their end, they care less for disclosures. Nor is it the least part of my trial, to anticipate that, upon first reading what I have written, my friends may consider much in it irrelevant to my purpose; yet I cannot help thinking that, viewed as a whole, it will effect what I propose to myself in giving it to the public.

I was brought up from a child to take great delight in reading the Bible; but I had no formed religious convictions till I was fifteen. Of course I had a perfect knowledge of my Catechism.

After I was grown up, I put on paper my recollections of the thoughts and feelings on religious subjects, which I had at the time that I was a child and a boy,—such as had remained on my mind with sufficient prominence to make me then consider them worth recording. Out of these, written in the Long Vacation of 1820, and transcribed with additions in 1823, I select two, which are at once the most definite among them, and also have a bearing on my later convictions.

1. "I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true: my imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers, and talismans … I thought life might be a dream, or I an Angel, and all this world a deception, my fellow-angels by a playful device concealing themselves from me, and deceiving me with the semblance of a material world."

Again: "Reading in the Spring of 1816 a sentence from [Dr. Watts's] Remnants of Time, entitled 'the Saints unknown to the world,' to the effect, that 'there is nothing in their figure or countenance to distinguish them,' &c. &c., I supposed he spoke of Angels who lived in the world, as it were disguised."

2. The other remark is this: "I was very superstitious, and for some time previous to my conversion" [when I was fifteen] "used constantly to cross myself on going into the dark."


Newman displays some of the same diffidence that Lewis does about disclosing so much about himself and risking irrelevance. But for both Newman and Lewis, those childhood glimpses of something beyond themselves lasted for a lifetime. Newman's recollections of fairy stories and a dream world, and angels in disguise in the real world did have a bearing on his later convictions, so much so that they inform his chosen epitaph: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (From shadows and images into truth).

Jessica Hooten Wilson is an elegant and winsome presenter; it was good of her to fill in when the scheduled speaker could not come because of his wife's illness; I look forward to her participation in the 2020 Symposium: For I Am Holy: The Command to Be Like God!!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Father George Rutler on Saint John Henry Newman


Father George Rutler, who presented at a Newman School of Catholic Thought at the Newman Center in 1995 (the 150th anniversary of Saint John Henry Newman's becoming a Catholic), wraps up my Octave of celebration on Newman's canonization with this message:

Last week’s canonization of Saint John Henry Newman will have universal influences that I trust will include our own parish. It should be remembered that his achievements, for the most part, hardly seemed successful at the time. He might even be called a patron saint of the disappointed.

Newman was so nervous in his university examinations that he got a “Lower Second Class” degree. He played the violin to relax, but the chords of his mind were taut, and he later suffered a nervous breakdown. He failed to attain a professorship of Moral Philosophy. Many Oxford dons derided his views, and eventually he resigned.

When Newman became a Catholic, former friends thought he had wasted his talents, and some Catholics questioned his free spirit and innovative genius. Not least among these were bishops. In Ireland, Archbishop Cullen impeded his foundation of a Catholic University there and opposed making Newman a bishop. In England, Cardinal Manning, a great man in some ways but not innocent of envy, regularly thwarted numerous projects. The English-language secretary of Pope Pius IX prejudiced the pope’s opinion of Newman, and with no little subtlety, Manning tried to prevent the new Pope Leo XIII from vindicating him with a Cardinal’s red hat.

Newman left a legacy of 32 volumes of letters, and in some of them he confided his frustrations. But his amiability and patience won over many. In old age, Newman’s Oxford college made him an honorary Fellow, and at Newman’s death Manning himself said, “The history of our land will hereafter record the name of John Henry Newman among the greatest of our people, as a confessor for the faith, a great teacher of men, a preacher of justice, of piety, and of compassion.”

Newman kept his balance by a steady faith in the uncompromising truth of Christ. This boldly defied the pastiche of true Christianity that was spreading in his time and which he prophesied would become endemic in our own age:

"What is the world's religion now? It has taken the brighter side of the gospel, its tidings of comfort, its precepts of love; all darker, deeper views of man's condition and prospects being comparatively forgotten. This is the religion natural to a civilized age and well has Satan dressed and completed it into an idol of the Truth. . . . Our manners are courteous; we avoid giving pain or offence . . . religion is pleasant and easy; benevolence is the chief virtue; intolerance, bigotry, excess of zeal are the first of sins. . . . [I]t includes no true fear of God, no fervent zeal for His honour, no deep hatred of sin, no horror at the sight of sinners, no indignation and compassion at the blasphemy of heretics, no jealous adherence to doctrinal truth . . .—and therefore is neither hot nor cold, but (in Scripture language) lukewarm.” (Sermon 24. Religion of the Day)

That sort of “Catholic-Lite” does not make saints, and Newman proved that.


In 2011, my late husband Mark and I visited the Church of Our Saviour in New York City, then under Father Rutler's care, and I took the picture of the first shrine to then Blessed John Henry Newman in the USA, created and installed with the typical Rutler style and finesse. Father Rutler has been pastor at the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel in Hell's Kitchen since 2013 and on the church's website you can see a photograph of the bust of St. John Henry Newman created by Christopher Alles:

The image of the newly canonized Saint John Henry Newman, which will be blessed at the 10 o'clock Mass on Sunday, October 13, is the work of our parishioner Christopher Alles, who also sculpted the angels atop the new baldacchino and has completed other artistic projects for the parish. He took inspiration from classic photos of John Henry Newman, along with reference to previous artists, to complete his portrait of this great Saint. The sculpture is deliberately designed to increase the sense of presence, with one hand holding a book and the figure paused in contemplation. The piece was cast in bronze by Independent Casting in Philadelphia. Mr. Alles is a New York-based artist who specializes in sacred art and architectural sculpture. We are grateful to friends of the parish who have so kindly and generously donated funds for the completion of this work, and to Christopher for his time and labor in providing this artistic and devotional addition to our church. He and his wife Emma are expecting their first child in December.

More views of the bust are available at the artist's website.

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Pause for Lewis and Eighth Day Books

As I continue to observe my personal Octave of celebrating Newman's canonization, I make brief pause to consider one of the leaders of another Oxford Movement, C.S. Lewis. This evening, the Eighth Day Institute, as one of the events of its Fifth Annual Inklings Festival presents Jessica Hooten Wilson, Associate Professor at John Brown University, lecturing on "'Maddened Beauty': Imagination as Knowing in C. S. Lewis."

The abstract:

All over C. S. Lewis’s work (fictional and nonfiction), Lewis speaks of imagination as a way of knowing. We’ll consider The Abolition of Man, Experiment in Criticism, The Discarded Image, Reflections on the Psalms, and even Lewis’ biography Surprised by Joy to understand what this means for us. How might poetry and Norse mythology offer knowledge that arguments will never grasp? What’s the difference between irrational, rational, and transrational? Lewis compels us to cultivate our imaginations not as a path of escape but as a deeper road to understanding reality and as a higher road towards the knowledge, ultimately, of God.

After her presentation, we'll proceed to celebrate Eighth Day Book's 31st (THIRTY-FIRST) anniversary at the book store. I'm bringing cupcakes and congratulations!

Of course, there's a Newman connection here, for he also "speaks of imagination as a way of knowing". For example, this famous quotation from the Tamworth Reading Room, his argument against Sir Robert Peel's library without any books of "controversial divinity":

The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion. A conclusion is but an opinion; it is not a thing which is, but which we are "certain about;" and it has often been observed, that we never say we are certain without implying that we doubt. To say that a thing must be, is to admit that it may not be. No one, I say, will die for his own calculations; he dies for realities. This is why a literary religion is so little to be depended upon; it looks well in fair weather, but its doctrines are opinions, and, when called to suffer for them, it slips them between its folios, or burns them at its hearth.

Newman specialists like Gerard Magill, Bernard Dive, and Ian Ker have authored studies of Newman and the religious imagination through the years (Magill focused on religious morality). This article from America Magazine summarizes various aspects of Newman's view of imagination as a way of knowing. As Father Robert P. Imbelli writes, Newman wants us to know Jesus Christ above all:

At the heart of Newman’s religious faith and theological vision stands the person of Jesus Christ. Here human yearning finds its consummation, and “all the providences of God” cohere around this vivifying center. Thus Incarnation is the central idea or principle that grounds and sustains Christian life and imagination. Moreover, Cardinal Newman views Incarnation not merely as remedy for sin, but as fulfillment of God’s creative and sanctifying purpose. In this he consciously resembles his great Oxford predecessor Duns Scotus.

But in Newman’s thought, the idea of Incarnation is no impersonal notion. It has all the concrete particularity of its historical embodiment in Jesus Christ. In Jesus men and women encounter the Word of God in person and are called to genuine newness of life.


O God, who bestowed on the Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Newman the Briton: Saint John Henry Newman


Note that The Catholic Herald will have another issue highlighting Newman's canonization, reactions to it, and the celebrations thereof. In the meantime, The National Catholic Register has an article by K.V. Turley, "John Henry Newman: A New Saint and a New Joy for England and Beyond".

He summarizes HRH Prince Charles's stunning praise of St. John Newman and then quotes the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy:

“This is the first British saint to be canonized in 40 years,” she said, “so we are celebrating this weekend.” She went on to say that the canonization marks “a high point in the relationship between the U.K. and the Holy See.”

The U.K. delegation for the canonization was led by Prince Charles and included two cabinet ministers, the special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, the lord mayor of Birmingham, and representatives of the Anglican communion and Newman’s Oxford colleges. Ambassador Axworthy sees such a varied delegation as a reflection of “Newman’s roots,” but she added that the occasion was one for “celebrating the impact of this quintessential Englishman on the wider world, recognizing the importance his writings still have for many individuals around the world today.”

Reflecting on the preparation for Newman’s canonization, Axworthy said it had meant for her “a lot of work! But also an opportunity to get to know the writings of John Henry Newman. From my student days, I was familiar with his role in the Oxford Movement, but now I have read much more about him, visited the three English oratories and been to Littlemore. I can see why he is such an influential figure. The way he wrote about his own faith, and the seriousness with which he explored his faith, seem unique.”


I thought it was impressive that she took such pains to know more about Newman, reading his works, visiting the oratories and the College at Littlemore.

The Vatican News website excerpted additional remarks from Axworthy, also showing her historical (she "read history at university") knowledge:

Ambassador Axworthy recalls that “the emancipation of Catholics came in 1829”, and the restoration of the hierarchy in England and Wales came about in 1850. After that, she says, there was a “return to respectability,” and as Cardinal Newman was around for most of the 19th century, he was “very much a part of that”.

She then goes on to say that Cardinal Newman was a “towering intellect” in the 19th century and that, though he was “initially vilified for it”, in time he wrote some “very reasoned accounts”. If you read the history around that period, continues Ambassador Axworthy, you can see that his "vilification turned to acceptance, and not just of him, but of Catholics in general."

So, she says, though he was “very important for Catholics in the UK”, both as an historical figure and for the history of English Catholicism he is also important to many Catholics worldwide.


Newman's canonization, like his death, is not the end of the story; it is the beginning. How this greater acceptance of Newman in England--as it leads to people reading his works, understanding his life, and following his example--will develop is important to the growth of holiness and virtue among the people of England, especially Catholics.

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tracey Rowland Searches for Newman's University

She searches for it, but doesn't find it very often.

Speaking at the Newman the Prophet: A Saint for Our Times conference held at The Angelicum in Rome before the canonization of St. John Henry Newman and the four women saints, Tracey Rowland, the St. John Paul II Chair of Theology at the University of Notre Dame (Australia) and a Member of the International Theological Commission, commented on what she sees:

First I would argue that most of our universities are what Newman would call factories, mints, and treadmills, that is, places where thousands of students, known to the university only by their student numbers, pass exams to qualify for employment in a particular field. Some small number of institutions do however retain an interest in the liberal arts and these cater mostly for students from upper middle class families where there is less concern about being trained for a particular job. However for many of these elite institutions the liberal arts are no longer linked to the transcendentals of truth, beauty and goodness, all of which are regarded as ‘bourgeois nonsense’. Instead in so many of these institutions the liberal arts have morphed into social theory subjects like gender studies and the objective is no longer to produce gentlemen but to form social activists, people who act like trained assassins against the last vestiges of Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian civilisation.

This leaves us with only a very small number of academic institutions anywhere in the world where something like Newman’s vision has any possibility of success. Most of these institutions operate at the level of liberal arts colleges that are specifically Catholic and have been established by visionary lay people who wanted their children and grandchildren to receive the kind of formation Newman set out in his Idea of a University. Some extremely small number of such institutions can be found at the higher university level. Excluded are numerous institutions with the adjective Catholic in their title where no attempt is made to offer a specifically Christian formation of every aspect of the soul, or a specifically Christian integration of the various disciplines, but where there are merely buildings named after local Catholic worthies, a chapel, a chaplain who is a priest if you are lucky, and lots of opportunities to improve the welfare of minority groups. The accountants who normally run such institutions might be members of the Catholic Church but the institutions themselves, their ethos, the content of their curricula, their marketing strategies, the beliefs of their faculty members, administrators, janitors and librarians and the bureaucratic idioms found in their policies are not only not Christian but in many cases simply the outcome of corporate ideology. Newman would not recognise these institutions as in any sense consistent with his own vision.


Sadly enough, Newman University, our local Catholic university--which has formed a partnership with the Diocese with its School of Catholic Studies to offer undergraduate degrees to the young men in the Diocesan House of Studies before they go off to seminaries in other dioceses--announced the need to eliminate degree programs to confront a budget shortfall. Where do they look for cuts? Theology and Philosophy. among other undisclosed majors:

At their September meeting, the board of trustees at Newman University approved cutting four majors and also decided to realign two other departments.

This comes after the board approved cost cutting recommendations from their financial task force. In an update from the university's newspaper, the Vantage, they confirmed the cutting of four majors while realigning theology and philosophy. . . .

No final decisions have been made regarding which majors are going to be cut, according to Clark Schafer, the Director of University Affairs at Newman University, but classes will still be offered for those particular subjects.


What will that mean for the School of Catholic Studies? What will that mean for Newman University's efforts to fulfill the vision of its patron, whom it just celebrated so joyfully when he was canonized last week?

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

My Saint John Henry Newman Octave


Just as I prepared for the canonization Sunday with a Novena of Rosary decades and prayers, I am going to celebrate Newman's canonization with an Octave! I am praying the Collect from his feast day Mass and continuing to read reactions to his being officially named a saint, and noting celebrations.

The Venerable English College in Rome, for example, hosted a brief exhibit highlighting Newman's trips to Rome:

The exhibition includes personal items used by John Henry Newman, a lock of Pope Leo XIII's hair, original letters and documents, and one of the first and most famous portraits of Newman when he was made cardinal.

The free exhibition is hosted by the British Embassy to the Holy See and the Venerable English College, explores blessed John Henry Newman's four visits to Rome. These were in 1833 as an Anglican clergyman, in 1846 as a seminarian, in 1856 as Provost of the Birmingham and London Oratories, and in 1879 in order to be made cardinal.

Taking place from Thursday the 10th of October until Monday the 14th, the exhibition includes items loaned by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide, the International Centre of Newman Friends, the Anglican Centre, the Beda College, and the Venerable English College.


Here's a video of the exhibit. This CNA article describes his first visit to Rome as an Anglican and his mixed feelings:

Newman’s first time setting eyes on Rome was in 1833. An Anglican clergyman still years away from conversion, he wrote that he found the city to be “the most wonderful place in the world,” and said even his “dear Oxford” is dust compared with Rome’s “majesty and glory.”

Newman also saw the Vatican Museums during the trip and was impressed by the beauty of Rome’s churches, art, and sculpture.

But his anti-Catholic views also worked against his enjoyment of the Christian aspects of the city. He called Rome “cruel,” because though he was awed by walking in the footsteps of the Apostles and saints martyred in Rome, he found the experience to be overshadowed by what were called Catholic “superstitions.”  


This visit, which lasted five weeks, also marked Newman’s first time at a Mass. He attended a Mass said by Gregory XVI for the feast of the Annunciation at the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

St. John Henry Newman and Ireland


From Dermot Quinn, associate professor of history at Seton Hall University, in First Things:

Ireland has produced many saints, and John Henry Newman is the latest. Newman was not Irish, of course, but his canonization is as much an Irish as an English event, an opportunity to reflect on the state of Catholicism in a country where he intermittently spent several years between 1851 and 1858.

Newman’s time in Dublin was unhappy and has been generally reckoned a failure. He was rector of a university that divided the Irish bishops, he thought naively that Oxford could be recreated on St. Stephen’s Green, and he fell out with his patron, Archbishop Paul Cullen. Yet he wrote that his “dear friend” Charles Russell of Maynooth had “more to do” with his conversion “than anyone else.” His university eventually flourished in other hands. He built what is still one of the loveliest churches in Dublin, and his most mature account of higher education, The Idea of a University, was delivered as a series of lectures in the Irish capital. Newman left a mark on Ireland, and Ireland on him.

Newman arrived in Ireland in the middle of one devotional revolution and is being canonized in the middle of another. In 1851, Ireland was rediscovering its Catholic faith. Now, it seems to be losing it. In 1851, the institutional foundations were being laid (Newman’s university among them) for a century and a half of evangelical triumph: churches built, parishes formed, schools opened, seminaries packed, priests ordained, missionaries dispatched, hospitals established, nuns veiled, and rulers at the ready.


Please read the rest there.

Re: Newman's comment about Father Charles Russell of Maynooth: he dedicated Loss and Gain: The Story of a Convert to him. In the Apologia pro Vita Sua, Newman commented on how Father Russell had helped him:

The last letter, which I have inserted [Note 1], is addressed to my dear friend, Dr. Russell, the present President of Maynooth. He had, perhaps, more to do with my conversion than any one else. He called upon me, in passing through Oxford in the summer of 1841, and I think I took him over some of the buildings of the University. He called again another summer, on his way from Dublin to London. I do not recollect that he said a word on the subject of religion on either occasion. He sent me at different times several letters; he was always gentle, mild, unobtrusive, uncontroversial. He let me alone. He also gave me one or two books. Veron's Rule of Faith and some Treatises of the Wallenburghs was one; a volume of St. Alfonso Liguori's Sermons was another; and to that the letter which I have last inserted [Note 2] relates.

See Section 1 of that chapter at the Newman Reader for the letter.

BTW, the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason at Newman's University Church, Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, will celebrate its founder's canonization next Sunday:

Please join us for the first of many events in the year ahead as we celebrate Ireland’s newest saint. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will preside at our 6:15pm mass on Sunday, 20th October, with uplifting music by the Newman Vocare Ensemble and the Carolan String Quartet. Following the mass, Declan Kiberd will give a talk entitled “A Saint for Today” beginning around 7:30pm. The evening will wrap up with a festive reception in the rear of the church. All are welcome!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Son Rise Morning Show "Santo Subito" Wrap Up

As promised, Matt Swaim and I will wrap up our Son Rise Morning Show Santo Subito series this morning at 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. 

I celebrated the day by ordering holy cards, which happily for me feature the prayer I said so often while attending St. Paul's Parish-Newman Center at Wichita State University! I also attended a Solemn Mass in the evening at Newman University! Students there had been in a lock down Saturday night to watch the canonization live (3:00 a.m.!) after an period of Eucharistic Adoration under the stars. Ah, youth!


I prayed the Glorious Mysteries with St. John Henry Newman's meditations, the CD from Aid to the Church in Need UK package having arrived on Saturday! and listened to one of my late husband's favorite devotional CDs, Heart Speaks to Heart!



The BBC reports that thousands of Britons attended the ceremony (video from the Vatican)held in the square of St. Peter's Basilica and that tens of thousands of pilgrims were there. The booklet for the Mass and canonizations may be accessed here.

Pope Francis gave a homily on the Gospel (Luke 17:11-19, the story of the ten lepers) at Sunday's canonization Mass, mentioning the five new saints only at the end. Pope Francis's allusions to St. John Henry Newman were indirect in his homily, quoting one of his Parochial and Plain Sermons, a passage from the Meditations and Devotions, and a phrase from "The Pillar and the Cloud/Lead, Kindly Light"; he mentioned the three religious sisters briefly and highlighted St. Marguerite Bays most directly, though also briefly:

To cry out. To walk. To give thanks. Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession. Three of them we religious women; they show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world. Saint Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving. That is how the Lord made the splendour of Easter radiate in her life. Such is the holiness of daily life, which Saint John Henry Newman described in these words: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not… The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence… with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, V,5).

Let us ask to be like that, “kindly lights” amid the encircling gloom. Jesus, “stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest; so to shine as to be a light to others” (Meditations on Christian Doctrine, VII, 3). Amen.’


Before the canonization, Charles, the Prince of Wales, praised Newman, as excerpted in this CNA story:

The Prince of Wales said Saturday that the canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman is a cause for celebration among all Britons, those who are Catholic and those who “cherish the values by which he was inspired.”

“His faith was truly catholic in that it embraced all aspects of life. It is in that same spirit that we, whether we are Catholics or not, can, in the tradition of the Christian Church throughout the ages, embrace the unique perspective, the particular wisdom and insight, brought to our universal experience by this one individual soul,” Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, wrote in an Oct. 12 column for L’Osservatore Romano 
(in Italian).

“Whatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society: his intense and moving spiritual autobiography and his deeply-felt poetry,” the prince wrote.

He even quoted The Dream of Gerontius!

Vatican News provides the entire text. Prince Charles highlighted Newman's Englishness: 

That confidence was expressed in his love of the English landscape and of his native country’s culture, to which he made such a distinguished contribution. In the Oratory which he established in Birmingham, and which now houses a museum dedicated to his memory as well as an active worshipping community, we see the realisation in England of a vision he derived from Rome which he described as ‘the most wonderful place on Earth’. In bringing the Oratorian Congregation from Italy to England, Newman sought to share its charism of education and service.

He loved Oxford, gracing it not only with passionate and erudite sermons, but also with the beautiful Anglican church at Littlemore, created after a formative visit to Rome where, seeking guidance on his future spiritual path and pondering his relationship with the Church of England and with Catholicism, he wrote his beloved hymn, ‘Lead Kindly Light’. When he finally decided to leave the Church of England, his last sermon as he said farewell to Littlemore left the congregation in tears. It was entitled ‘The Parting of Friends.’

As we mark the life of this great Briton, this great churchman and, as we can now say, this great saint, who bridges the divisions between traditions, it is surely right that we give thanks for the friendship which, despite the parting, has not merely endured, but has strengthened.


You might recall that Prince Charles represented Queen Elizabeth II at Pope St. John Paul II's funeral, postponing his wedding with Camilla Parker Bowles! His understanding of Newman--or his speech writers--seems just as extraordinary. He attended Newman's canonization Mass yesterday.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Will Newman Be Named a "Doctor of the Church" Today?

Pope Pius IX granted Father John Henry Newman an honorary Doctorate in Divinity (D.D.) in 1850; Trinity College (his alma mater) named Doctor John Henry Newman an honorary Fellow in 1877; Pope Leo XIII named him a Cardinal Deacon in 1879; Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010; Pope Francis will canonize him today at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Rome--will Pope Francis also name him a Doctor of the Church?

His famed biographer Father Ian Ker thinks that St. John Henry Newman should be added to the roster of Doctors of the Church, which now numbers 36. Who are the Doctors of the Church and how did those 36 gain that title? According to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio writing for the Crossroads Initiative:

The title “Doctor of the Church,” unlike the popular title “Father of the Church,” is an official designation that is bestowed by the Pope in recognition of the outstanding contribution a person has made to the understanding and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures and the development of Christian doctrine.

As of 2019, the official list includes thirty-six men and women who hail from all ages of the Church’s history. Of these, four are women (Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen) and twenty-four are quoted in the
Catechism of the Catholic Church (Those who are not quoted are Saints Ephraem, Isidore, “the Venerable” Bede, Albert the Great, Anthony of Padua, Peter Canisius, Robert Bellarmine, John of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, Gregory of Narek and Lawrence of Brindisi).

There are three requirements that must be fulfilled by a person in order to merit being included in the ranks of the “Doctors of the Catholic Church”:

1) holiness that is truly outstanding, even among saints;

2) depth of doctrinal insight; and

3) an extensive body of writings which the church can recom­mend as an expression of the authentic and life-giving Catholic Tradition.


Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada also believes that St. John Henry Newman fulfills those criteria, according to this article in The Tablet:

John Henry Newman should be considered a Doctor of the Church who ranks alongside early Christianity’s great thinkers, a senior cardinal has argued.

In a powerfully argued speech ahead of Newman’s canonisation, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and a respected theologian, said the new English saint was eligible thanks to his contribution to the development of Christian teaching. Doctors of the Church are saints who have helped deepen understanding of the faith. Just 36 men and women have been elevated to the position in Christian history.

“It seems to me that the English master ranks among such Doctors of the Faith as Athanasius and Augustine, whose lives were confessions of faith at the cost of great sacrifice, and who provided decisive insights on either its content or its act,” the 75-year-old Canadian cardinal said during a speech at the Casino Pio IV, in the Vatican gardens.

Newman will be canonised in a ceremony in St Peter’s Square tomorrow, along with four others. To mark the event the British Embassy to the Holy See hosted an event to celebrate his life. . . .

The praise for Newman was echoed by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who told the gathering that the Victorian priest as a “modern-day Saint Augustine”. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, added that Pope Paul VI had described Newman as an “invisible presence at Vatican II”

Please read the rest there.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Newman and the Four Women to be Canonized

Yesterday I mentioned that four women will be canonized with Newman tomorrow at St. Peter's Basilica--or that Newman will be canonized with four women--and The Catholic Herald, in the midst of its celebration of Newman, does offer background on these saints, three religious and one laywoman:

Pope Francis will canonize four women alongside John Henry Newman this Sunday. These women – a stigmatist, a mystic, a Roman orphan, and Nobel Peace prize nominee – also proclaimed Christ through their lives and their miracles in a unique way.

In its profile of Mother Mariam Thresia of India, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family , the Herald offers this quotation:

“Our main charisma is family apostolate. We have schools, hospitals and counseling centers etc. But our main focus is the family apostolate. Making the families like a Holy Family of Nazareth,” Sister Dr. Vinaya of the Congregation of the Holy Family said.

Having just read Newman's homily on the Feast of the Holy Rosary and its connection with the Holy Family, I can see how he and Mother Mariam have this in common.

The Swiss Marguerite Bays was a laywoman serving her parish community and handing on the faith--Newman would praise her for that:

This 19th century Swiss laywoman and stigmatist, who dedicated her life to prayer and service to her parish community without marrying or entering a religious community. As a Third Order Franciscan, she lived a simple life as a dressmaker and carried out a lay apostolate as a catechist.

Newman would have similarly lauded both Mother Giuseppina Vannini and Sister Dulce Lopes for their service to the poor and suffering.

But what connections would the women have found with Newman and his life and works? Since two of the sisters founded religious orders, they would have shared the common concerns involved in that process. Newman's own service to the poor in Littlemore and Birmingham is a common bond. His support for the Catholic laity and his desire that we know our faith certainly connects Marguerite Bays's good works in her parish.

Of course, what the five share is their love for God and their love for their neighbor, fulfilling Jesus's greatest commandments.