Tag Archives: Newman

Prince Charles on Newman

young newman

Prince Charles represented his mother, the Queen, and the whole United Kingdom at the Canonisation of John Henry Newman. Here is an extract from Prince Charles’s reflection on the occasion; the full text can be found at the Independent Catholic News.

Whatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society: his intense and moving spiritual autobiography and his deeply-felt poetry in ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ which, set to music by Sir Edward Elgar – another Catholic of whom all Britons can be proud – gave the musical world one of its most enduring choral masterpieces.

At the climax of ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ the soul, approaching heaven, perceives something of the divine vision:

a grand mysterious harmony:

It floods me, like the deep and solemn sound

Of many waters.

Harmony requires difference. The concept rests at the very heart of Christian theology in the concept of the Trinity. In the same poem, Gerontius says:

Firmly I believe and truly

God is three, and God is One;

As such, difference is not to be feared. Newman not only proved this in his theology and illustrated it in his poetry, but he also demonstrated it in his life. Under his leadership, Catholics became fully part of the wider society, which itself thereby became all the richer as a community of communities.

 

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13 October: John Henry Newman: Loss and Gain.

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Today in Rome Pope Francis will declare John Henry Cardinal Newman a saint of the Catholic Church, an English saint who was not a martyr but a hard-working priest and theologian. He tended the sick during epidemics in Birmingham as well as founding schools and Oratories and defending the faith through fearless enquiry.

All that and he found time to write novels, including Loss and Gain, The Story of a Convert. In the early pages he has these two contrasting passages about a familiar country walk. Draw your own conclusions!

“When we ourselves were young, we once on a time walked on a hot summer-day from Oxford to Newington—a dull road, as any one who has gone it knows; yet it was new to us; and we protest to you, reader, believe it or not, laugh or not, as you will, to us it seemed on that occasion quite touchingly beautiful; and a soft melancholy came over us, of which the shadows fall even now, when we look back on that dusty, weary journey. And why? because every object which met us was unknown and full of mystery. A tree or two in the distance seemed the beginning of a great wood, or park, stretching endlessly; a hill implied a vale beyond, with that vale’s history; the bye-lanes, with their green hedges, wound and vanished, yet were not lost to the imagination. Such was our first journey; but when we had gone it several times, the mind refused to act, the scene ceased to enchant, stern reality alone remained; and we thought it one of the most tiresome, odious roads we ever had occasion to traverse.” 

“”People call this country ugly, and perhaps it is; but whether I am used to it or no, I always am pleased with it. The lights are always new; and thus the landscape, if it deserves the name, is always presented in a new dress. I have known Shotover there take the most opposite hues, sometimes purple, sometimes a bright saffron or tawny orange.” Here he stopped. 

Loss and Gain is available on Kindle

Start reading it for free: http://amzn.eu/7WLLVaT  

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September 24: He knows what He is about. (Feast of John Henry Newman)

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There have been times of great perplexity, when I could have done with the following young newmanprayer from Cardinal Newman. Something of an antidote to ambition! Retirement is as much a time of discernment as when leaving school or college, and it may well be that Newman’s Kindly Light will lead into unexpected corners!

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 a mission. 
I am a link in a chain, 
a bond of connection between persons.

Therefore I will trust Him. 
Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. 
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; 
if I am perplexed, my perplexity may serve Him; 
if I am in joy, my joy may serve Him; 
if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. 
He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
Amen.

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4 August: One for the Road.

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I was just fidgeting to get comfortable in the crypt when she strode in, wearing stout trainers, bag on her back. A couple of coins chinked in the box, a candle was lit, and out she walked, on her way. A pilgrim, leaving her prayer behind?

A pilgrim was I too, even if I had walked little more than a mile to reach the cathedral.

Lead, kindly light, all pilgrims and travellers, especially during this holiday time. And may our hearts turn to you as you walk with us, unperceived.

MMB.

 

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January 6: a gift, a cracker.

keys.

I don’t recall meeting a Balthazar or even a Caspar, and the only Melchior I ever knew was from Slovenia, well west of Palestine. He was not rich enough to offer gold, frankincense or myrrh in any quantity, though he was good company.

I like to think the gifts the Kings – if Kings they were – offered were practical as well as symbolic. Gold coins to set the Holy Family up in Cairo when they got there; incense to cover the smells of stables and possibly worse, and myrrh for a tender young bottom.

Christmas cracker novelties are perhaps the ultimate in unpractical gifts. Not this one. The key that’s in the lock has a black case on its handle which came from a 2016 Christmas cracker. I can distinguish it in the dark and so let myself in. The key of my little kingdom.

It reminds me of the family gathering, a family to be grateful for. And though it’s black, it does its job in the dark, paradoxically I can say ‘lead kindly light’ … I think 6th January is the last day for us Latin or Western Christians to say Happy Christmas to each other – but it’s Christmas day for Orthodox Christians.

Happy Christmas, one and all!

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26 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: Introduction: I am far from home.

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Cross from a cave in the Tatra Mountains; many of this week’s pictures come from Poland. This one tells me that we are on pilgrimage, leading us through some dark places: “One step enough for me”.

One of Agnellus’ friends, who writes as Beauty Beyond Bones, was moved on Boxing Day to ask, Is Christianity Dead?

As editor of Agnellusmirror I felt moved to reply, and firstly sought a  response from Doug. He’s given a straightforward Scriptural reflection which is out today. Then, as our friend makes some observations on young people, I was well into addressing those when I was sent this link to the English version of the introduction to the Church’s next Synod on Young People . Pope Francis and the Bishops are inviting responses again, so read, share and respond!

I will be looking at the document during my discussion with BBB during the week.

WT.

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Light VI: Silent as light.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

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To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee.

Walter Chalmers Smith.

John Betjeman commented on the first line of this hymn, ‘Happily wisdom isn’t the only attribute of God – clever people can be very tiresome.’ He has a point: all the apocalyptic imagery here can be off-putting. Nevertheless, I return to the last line, ‘only the splendour of light hideth Thee.’ Light pollution can be physical but also mental and spiritual.

Like Newman, we should be wary of the garish day, and join Vaughan, deciphering the glimmers in the night sky – after all, until GPS came in the stars were used for navigation, even leading the Wise Men to Jesus. If it is dark outside, may we trust with Therese and John of the Cross, who   ‘had neither guide nor light, except the one shining in my heart’, who will lead us home.

 

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Light V. Amid the encircling gloom.

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1 Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
lead thou me on;
the night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
the distant scene; one step enough for me.

2 I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

3 So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still
will lead me on,
o’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
the night is gone,
and with the morn those angel faces smile,
which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

It’s well known that Newman wrote these lines at a time of loneliness and crisis in his life. Perhaps, in his illness, being indeed far from his physical home, he found the dark night more frightening than usual. But he made this prayer in that moment, one we can all make our own, verse by verse.

MMB.

Portrait of Newman by William Charles Ross, public domain.
William Charles RossNewman: https://archive.org/stream/newmanfran00barruoft#page/64/mode/2up

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Smiling Angel Faces

I cannot leave those angel faces without reflecting on the poet, Lemn Sissay. He was being interviewed on the radio, in the back of my ears which pricked up when he said that growing up, he thought the world smiled. People smiled at him, but he did not realise that his smile drew the smile on their faces.

He has not lost the knack:

All I can send is love
In all that this is
A poem and a necklace
Of invisible kisses.

Have a look at http://lemnsissay.com/ for the rest of that poem.

His child’s smile was one of those angel faces of John Henry Newman’s Lead Kindly Light.

Two angel faces smiled on me today; not children but a woman and a man of retirement age. T was walking into town, invisible under her umbrella till she called me. She was avid for news of a neighbour in care. Her interest was a chance to consider my support for our mutual friend. We parted when she met a young friend of hers who embraced her in the street and wanted to hear all her news.

H and I shared a few minutes of family news and he invited my wife and me to join him and his wife an afternoon of tea and talk.

If we do not recognise the angel faces that smile on us every day, perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and practise that smile, ready to unleash it as a weapon of peace and love between human brothers and sisters.

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Thérèse and her Parents and Other Saints

Soon after his story of Jesus telling his disciples to be like children, Matthew makes clear that they have not understood:

Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.    Matthew 19:13-14

So how do we forbid, or prevent, or hinder little children from coming to Jesus? How should we enable them to do so? Jesus warns us not to scandalise them, and to remember that

their angels  in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 18:10-11.

Teresa, Newman and Blake recall a youthful vision of glory, lost a while. Thérèse shares memories of her early days and remarks that with her character, if she had been raise by Parents lacking in virtues she would have been hindered from coming to Jesus: ‘I would have become very naughty and possibly I would have lost my soul.’ But Jesus was able to use her faults to ‘help her grow in perfection’.

Those parents are now to be officially recognised as truly virtuous when Pope Francis canonises them as Saints Louis and Zélie Martin. May the rest of us parents have the grace to help our children grow in perfection by encouraging the qualities that are the sunny side of their faults.

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