Today (in England) is the memorial of Blessed Dominic Barberi, probably best known as the Italian missionary priest who received Blessed John Henry Newman into the "one true fold of Christ" as Newman always said, on October 9, 1845. This essay, written by Fr. Adolfo Lippi for The International Centre of Newman Friends, describes the circumstances of that event:
“Dalgarins (sic) invited a certain Fr. Dominic of the Mother of God, a Provincial of the Passionists, to go to Aston Hall in Littlemore, telling him that he was being called to a work in the service of God: and unwittingly, he agreed. He was always conscious that every delay could possibly result in some great harm to the office to which he called. However because of a terrible storm he set out in a covered coach. He endured five hours of driving rain and, as it so pleased God, completely exhausted he arrived at Littlemore at night. Without delay he entered in the solitary dwelling of those fervent men who were famous throughout England, and with great humility Newman fell at his feet, telling him that he would not move from there until he was blessed and received into the Church of Jesus Christ.”
Father Lippi goes deeper into the connections between the Passionists and Newman, however, including Father Ignatius (George) Spencer:
There is another Passionist, who undoubtedly moved Newman’s spirit: George Spencer, the Anglican pastor of a noble family (the same as Lady Diana) who had already entered the Catholic Church in 1830. He had met Barberi in Rome and was certainly influenced by him who had preached a crusade throughout Europe for the return of England to the Catholic Church. Years later Leo XIII spoke about St. Paul of the Cross and meetings that the Pope had with George Spencer, who became Fr. Ignatius of the Heart of Jesus, at the nunciature in Brussels. George Spencer became a Passionist in 1846, two years before Newman published his novel [Loss and Gain]. . . .
The novel Loss and Gain was written by Newman after his conversion. Undoubtedly Newman was thinking about Spencer when Charles, the protagonist of the novel, meets his friend Willis who had become a Catholic before him and had become a Passionist with the name of Fr. Aloysius. There is a phrase, inspired by St. Augustine, which reveals some of the admiration of Newman for Spencer and, at the same time, conceals it. Precisely on the last page of the novel, Charles, the protagonist, says to his friend Willis who had become a Passionist, that he admired the first fervor of the new convert: “No, Willis…you have taken the better part betimes, while I have loitered. Too late have I known Thee, O Thou ancient Truth; too late have I found Thee, First and only Fair.”
And Father Lippi goes on to cite three quotations from Blessed John Henry Newman about his first confessor in the Catholic Church. Read rest here. More details about Blessed Dominic Barberi from a previous post on this blog here. The photo of the ex voto from three English converts, referring to George Spencer, is from Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris.