Monday, October 7, 2019

Cardinal Newman on the Rosary

Since today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary we thought it appropriate to discuss Newman and the Rosary on the Son Rise Morning Show in our Santo Subito series. Matt Swaim and I will be on the air about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

We know that Newman thought devotion to the Holy Rosary was essential to Catholic daily life. He includes it in his "A Short Road to Perfection":

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first—Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

So one may ask, what does it mean to "say the Rosary well"? Newman provided some answers at a Sunday Mass on October 5, 1879.

Blessed John Henry Newman had received the Cardinal's Hat and vestments at the Consistory in Rome on May 12, 1879. He had left snowy England in April and had stayed in Rome until June because he had become very ill: first a cold, then pneumonia, then some malaria. Newman was 78 years old and he had been apprehensive about getting ill on such a journey. He recovered, however, after a huge dose of quinine, and made his way back to Birmingham.

Once home, Newman began to receive congratulatory letters and to observe several celebratory events at the Oratory in Birmingham, including a Mass in which he wore the cappa magna, a long cope (he was in choir as another priest celebrated Mass). He visited the missionary schools of the Oratory in September, and in October, he went to St. Mary's College in Oscott on the Sunday before the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary at a Mass celebrating that feast in anticipation. As Father Neville of the Oratory described the event for a book containing all these congratulations and honors, it was festive and solemn:

Cardinal Newman paid his long intended visit to St. Mary's College, Oscott, on Sunday, October 5, and by his presence added unusual solemnity and rejoicing to the celebration of the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

His Eminence was received by the President [Dr. Hawksford] and the Professors; in the hall the boys were assembled to welcome him. Dr. Ullathorne (the Bishop), Bishop Amherst, Bishop Knight and Dr. Ilsley were also there to greet him.

At eleven o'clock High Mass coram Cardinali was sung; Bishop Amherst, Bishop Knight and Dr. Ilsley being in the stalls. The Cardinal was assisted by the Very Rev. the President of Oscott and Fr. John Norris of the Oratory, the Rev. W. Greaney being master of ceremonies.

After the Gospel, his Eminence preached on the devotion of the Holy Rosary, taking for his text St. Luke, ii. 26: "And they found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger".

So here are Newman's instructions to to the boys of the College on why we pray the Rosary and how to pray it well by meditating on the great events of Jesus's life by thinking of them in the context of the Holy Family and our own families:

You know that today we keep the Feast of the Holy Rosary, and I propose to say to you what occurs to me on this great subject. You know how that devotion came about; how, at a time when heresy was very widespread, and had called in the aid of sophistry, that can so powerfully aid infidelity against religion, God inspired St. Dominic to institute and spread this devotion. It seems so simple and easy, but you know God chooses the small things of the world to humble the great. Of course it was first of all for the poor and simple, but not for them only, for everyone who has practised the devotion knows that there is in it a soothing sweetness that there is in nothing else. It is difficult to know God by our own power, because He is incomprehensible. He is invisible to begin with, and therefore incomprehensible. We can in some way know him, for even among the heathens there were some who had learned many truths about Him; but even they found it hard to conform their lives to their knowledge of Him. And so in His mercy He has given us a revelation of Himself by coming amongst us, to be one of ourselves, with all the relations and qualities of humanity, to gain us over. He came down from Heaven and dwelt amongst us, and died for us. All these things are in the Creed, which contains the chief things that He has revealed to us about Himself. Now the great power of the Rosary lies in this, that it makes the Creed into a prayer; of course, the Creed is in some sense a prayer and a great act of homage to God; but the Rosary gives us the great truths of His life and death to meditate upon, and brings them nearer to our hearts.

And so we contemplate all the great mysteries of His life and His birth in the manger; and so too the mysteries of His suffering and His glorified life. But even Christians, with all their knowledge of God, have usually more awe than love of Him, and the special virtue of the Rosary lies in the special way in which it looks at these mysteries; for with all our thoughts of Him are mingled thoughts of His Mother, and in the relations between Mother and Son we have set before us the Holy Family, the home in which God lived. Now the family is, even humanly considered, a sacred thing; how much more the family bound together by supernatural ties, and, above all, that in which God dwelt with His Blessed Mother. This is what I should most wish you to remember in future years.

He talks to the boys about the successes and failures they may encounter once they're finished with school and making their way in the world and offers the Rosary, prayed in their future family's home, as a means of solace and grounding:

I ask you when you go out into the world, as you soon must, to make the Holy Family your home, to which you may turn from all the sorrow and care of the world and find a solace, a compensation, and a refuge. And this I say to you, not as if I should speak to you again, not as if I had of myself any claim upon you, but with the claims of the Holy Father, whose representative I am, and in the hope that in the days to come you will remember that I came amongst you and said it to you. And when I speak of the Holy Family I do not mean Our Lord and Our Lady only, but St. Joseph too; for as we cannot separate Our Lord from His Mother, so we cannot separate St. Joseph from them both; for who but he was their protector in all the scenes of Our Lord’s early life? And with Joseph must be included St. Elizabeth and St. John, whom we naturally think of as part of the Holy Family; we read of them together and see them in pictures together. May you, my dear boys, throughout your life find a home in the Holy Family; the home of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. Elizabeth, and St. John.

At the International Centre of Newman Friends website, you'll find the text of this sermon and a picture of Newman's Rosary kept at the College in Littlemore, Oxford, where Newman lived after he left St. Mary's and Oriel College in Oxford, and where he was received into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845 by Blessed Dominic Barberi. 

Those words about home and family could be rather poignant: Newman had sacrificed the domestic home and family first by his vow of celibacy and then by his conversion. Even as an Anglican minister he had not married because of that vow, made when he was 15; by becoming Catholic he was estranged from his sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. 

As I mentioned on Friday, when Cardinal Newman's sight failed, he could not read either the Roman Missal to celebrate Mass nor the Breviary to pray the Daily Office. Father Neville of the Oratory explains in chapter 35 of Wilfrid Ward's biography that Newman memorized two Masses (of the Blessed Virgin Mary and For the Dead) and turned to the Rosary in place of the Breviary:

'Other religious privations had already come upon him. First that of the daily Office in the Breviary. He had always been greatly attached to the recital of the Office, and he rejoiced especially in the recurrence of the Sunday and other longer offices; his favourite parts of which never palled upon him as subjects for conversation. But the time came when he could no longer use the Breviary, and then, by the advice of Bishop Ullathorne, he substituted the Rosary in its stead. What the Rosary became to him under these new circumstances, those can imagine who know what his attachment to the daily Office had been; his ready reply to a condolence on his loss of the power to say it being, that the Rosary more than made up for it; that the Rosary was to him the most beautiful of all devotions and that it contained all in itself. In time, however, the Rosary had to be abandoned, a want of sensitiveness in his finger-ends disabling him from its use. From far back, in the long distance of time, memory brings him forward, when not engaged in writing or reading, as most frequently having the Rosary in his hand.'

BTW: you may order the CD pictured above from the Aid to the Church in Need UK shop here:

Let Blessed John Henry Newman and Aid to the Church in need founder Fr Werenfried van Straaten (RIP), inspire you in prayer. This unique recording of spoken word and music leads the listener in Our Lady’s devotional prayer, the Rosary. Each of the traditional mysteries of joy, sorrow and glory are introduced with readings from the writings of Cardinal Newman and Fr Werenfried, while the organ music and plainsong interludes, reverentially sung by the Oxford Oratory Schola, reflect the appropriate moods of the mysteries and give a musical uplift to the prayer.

No comments:

Post a Comment