Saturday, September 18, 2010

Newman - Blessed Cardinal

I wish I were in England this week. 

John Henry Newman, or Cardinal Newman as he is more commonly called, will be beatified by Pope Benedict the XVIth Sunday.  I wish I were there to share in the moment.  I am particularly grateful to God that the required miracle of Cardinal Newman was done at the behest of an American Deacon.  This simply draws me closer to Newman.

Cardinal Newman's book "The Idea of A University" is my favorite book.  It is, in fact, the book that convinced me to become a religion teacher. I often reread it before the beginning of the school year to remind me of the integrity of Catholic education and how my vocation as a teacher fits God's grand plan. I sometimes recommend it to more intellectual high school seniors on their way to undergraduate studies.  I am so grateful to my high school religion teacher, Fr. Vincent Butler, SJ, for introducing me to Newman at an early age.

I still find myself turning to Newman often.  I am taken with how many times I have quoted him in the footnotes to my homilies here at St. Benedict's.  I reread his "Parochial and Plain Sermons" and his "University Sermons" frequently. My meager home bookshelves contain seven Newman volumes, all well-turned.

Last Christmas, I made it a point to visit the chapel and place of the university which Newman founded off St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, Ireland. I share Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ's profound respect for Newman's intellect, honesty and catholic vision. Hopkins taught Greek in the university's brownstone building. Hopkins died there as well.  [None other than James Joyce - certainly not known for his love for Catholicism! - attended the school too.]

Newman's "Apologia Pro Vita Sua" had a deep impact on me when I first came across it. It grounded me and convinced me of the intellectual power of Catholicism.  I have pointed more than one intellectual convert in the RCIA process to Newman's writings.  He is, I think it is true to say, the patron of those who seek the kindly light of Truth.  I often find myself reciting his poem "The Pillar of the Cloud" more commonly called, "Lead Kindly Light," in times of doubt and uncertainty.

Many of us believe that Cardinal Newman will also become a "Doctor" of the Church at some point.  This is a rare and prestigious title for canonized saints.  It is bestowed when the teachings and writings of the saint are of special merit. Newman, you will note, is already quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for his views on the primacy of conscience.

I encourage everyone to read something by Newman this week. He has been a profound influence on my spiritual, intellectual and professional life.

Blessed John Henry Newman - pray for us.

Pope Benedict's Homily -