Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cardinal Newman "saintly, but very human."

This week's issue of The Tablet has a thoughtful article on the long-anticipated beatification of John Henry Newman, which will apparently take place this year. Monsignor Roderick Strange, the rector of the Pontifical Beda College and author of a newly-published book on Newman, believes that the life story of the convert-cardinal confirms the verdict of Pope Benedict XVI that "holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned." However, holiness does consist in faithfully following God in spite of the challenges and setbacks one may encounter. In this sense, as Monsignor Strange writes, Newman provides an inspiration and a model:
In particular there is [Newman's] witness to holiness, his fidelity throughout a long, often difficult, life. As an Anglican, the hopes he had cherished for the Church of England collapsed and his reception into the Catholic Church brought about a terrible parting from many of his dearest friends.

Then during his Catholic years he had to endure persistent hardships: he was tried for libel and found guilty by a prejudiced jury; the university he founded in Dublin faltered because he was denied the support he needed to make the venture succeed; he was asked to become editor of the Catholic periodical The Rambler, but almost immediately, at the first hint of a problem, encouraged to resign; his plans for an Oratory in Oxford were mischeviously frustrated; and there were clashes as well with Manning and other famous converts such as Fr Faber and W.G. Ward.

Newman was not blameless in all these difficulties, but he remained faithful in following what he saw as God's will for him. In his Anglican days, he expressed the matter most simply: "The planting of Christ's Cross in the heart is sharp and trying; but the stately tree rears itself aloft, and has fair branches and rich fruit, and is good to look upon."

When Newman is beatified, we will have much to celebrate.
For the rest of the article, click here. Much of Monsignor Strange's focus is on Newman's journey from Anglicanism to Catholicism and on the implications that his beatification may have for relations between Catholics and Anglicans today. For my part, I'm delighted that Cardinal Newman's beatification is moving forward at last, and I'm looking forward to celebrating the event. AMDG.


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