On Sunday 14 October, Blessed John Henry Newman was declared a Saint of the Church by Pope Francis in Rome. He is the first English person since 1970 to be recognised as a saint and young people from two schools in our diocese which are named after him represented the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton at the Mass. Pope Benedict XVI recognised the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan in 2001 as a miracle resulting from the intercession of John Henry Newman.
John Henry Newman was a priest of the established church, the Church of England, and a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. He was a Vicar of the University Church, a renowned preacher and an influential leader of the Oxford Movement which was seeking to restore within the Anglican Church the Catholic tradition which had been allowed to falter. He was led by events and his own arguments to doubt the position in which he had felt secure and, after careful study, in obedience to his conscience he left the Church of England to become a Catholic. It is difficult for us now to grasp the enormity of that act in the eyes of his contemporaries. He had abandoned a position of honour and prestige to join a small, despised minority. Many people regarded him with contempt and, while some friendships endured, many cast him adrift.
Catholics were bewildered to have such a distinguished man in their midst, some were suspicious of him and those in authority were unsure how to make the best use of him. They would invite him to undertake projects, but then fail to put at his disposal the resources he needed for those projects to succeed. His search for truth led him to examine in detail the foundations of the Catholic faith in the history of the church. It also drove him to look closely at his own experiences and feelings, sensing in them the call and promptings of God. He was utterly convinced that in all our experiences in the world there is a sign, a shadow, an impression, like a fingerprint of the presence of God. He faced many trials and controversies and in 1879, out of the blue, as it were, Pope Leo XIII decided to make him a Cardinal and his final years were more tranquil.
Throughout his life John Henry Newman was unwavering in his care of the poor and, on the day of his funeral, thousands lined the streets of Birmingham to offer their love and respect to him as his hearse passed by. As the Woldingham community lives out the Sacred Heart Goal of Social Awareness during this academic year, the care for those facing poverty must be the hallmark of our lives too as it is certainly one of the most effective ways of witnessing to our faith that we can give in our society today.
In the words of Saint John Henry Newman, we can all make a difference by using our unique gifts and talents in serving God and one another as “God created me to do him some definite service, he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission, I may never know it in this life but I will be told in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons, he did not create me for nothing. I shall do good, I shall do his work.”
Prayer of Saint John Henry Newman
May the Lord support us all the day long,
till the shades lengthen and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed and the fever
of life is over, and our work is done.
Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging,
and holy rest, and peace at last.
Fr Gerry Devlin, Chaplain