Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birthday of John Henry Newman

Blessed John Henry Newman was born on Saturday, February 21, 1801 in London. His parents, John Newman and Jemima Foudrinier, had married in 1799; he was their first child, baptized on the 9th of April that year in St. Benet's Fink (a church built by Christopher Wren which was destroyed in the mid 1840s). They were living at 80 Old Broad Street in London; if Google maps depicts the same 80 Old Broad Street today, there is an "EAT" restaurant and a T-Mobile store there now, across the street from the Liverpool Street underground! They were living in The City of London because John Newman was a banker.

When he was born, Europe was in the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars and Thomas Jefferson had just been elected the third President of the United States of America. One of Newman's earliest memories was the celebration of Admiral Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in the autumn of 1805--he recalled the candles in the window of his parent's second home.

More here.

Last month at the Birmingham Oratory founded by Blessed John Henry Newman, one of the priests of the Oratory died (on January 18): the Oratory honored Father Gregory Winterton for his many years of service, highlighting two particular contributions he made:

There are two areas of his life at the Oratory for which Fr Gregory will be long remembered: Firstly, for his work as Parish Priest. For many years Fr Gregory was a familiar figure riding his old bicycle through the streets of Ladywood and Edgbaston. When poor eyesight meant he could no longer use his bicycle, his fast, military style of walking became equally familiar. He was assiduous in visiting the sick and housebound; spent long hours in his confessional; prepared engaged countless couples for marriage and converts for reception into the Church. He loved (like St Philip) the youth, and was a keen supporter and Chaplain of the Legion of Mary. Until well into old age he was a regular pilgrim to Lourdes and attended Oratorian reunions in Rome, Spain and Mexico. His acts of kindness and generosity (often of a financial nature!) were both legion and legendary.

The second great area of his work concerned the Cause for Cardinal Newman’s canonisation. Opened in 1958, the Cause had not made much progess apart from the publication, at regular intervals, of Newman’s vast ‘Letters and Diaries’.

In 1973, Pope Paul VI enquired whether it would be possible to beatify Newman during the course of the 1975 Holy Year. Of course things were nowhere near ready but, galvanised by Papal interest, Fr Gregory devoted increasing amounts of time to furthering the matter. Founding ‘The Friends of Cardinal Newman’ in 1976, giving talks and lectures to deepen knowledge and love of the Cardinal, producing pamphlets and prayerbooks, his work proved successful and interest grew year by year. Combined with the work of Fr Vincent Blehl as Postulator, significant developments occurred, a particular milestone being the Declaration by Pope John Paul II of Newman’s heroic virtues in 1991. After that another eighteen years elapsed before Cardinal Newman’s beatification at the unforgettable Mass at Cofton Park on September 19th 2010. The moment when Fr Gregory was presented to Pope Benedict XVI and, later that same day, when they met at the Oratory House, provided unforgettable pictures: two men in their eighties—one (the Pope) a devoted student of Newman, the other (Fr Gregory) the tireless advocate of Newman’s holiness. It was the culmination of half a life-time’s hard work for Fr Gregory.

At the end of his long life, dedicated to God as a faithful priest and son of St Philip, we pray for Fr Gregory in the words of the Church’s liturgy: “Lord, you gave Gregory, Your servant and priest, the privilege of a holy ministry in this world. May he rejoice for ever in the glory of Your Kingdom, through Christ Our Lord. Amen”

Please note the correspondence between their lives and Oratorian careers: both men died when they were 89 years old; both were ordained Anglican clergy; both became Catholics and Catholic priests (Father Winterton when a little younger than Blessed Newman); Newman spent the last 42 years of his life as an Oratorian; Father Winterton the last 49! May Father Winterton rest in peace, soon to meet his order's English founder!

Happy birthday, John Henry Newman--and pray for us!

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