Today, October 9, the Church celebrates the life of St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) who was declared a saint by Pope Francis on October 13, 2019. On this day the liturgy of the universal Church celebrates the memorial of this British saint who reminds us of God’s continuous action in the Church and society. With Newman’s canonization and liturgical celebration and over the passage of time millions more will learn about his exemplary life and teaching.
There are good biographies narrating his life, and countless books and articles on his theological work. There is, however, a need for publications such as those by Fr. Keith Beaumont to explain his teaching to the general public (unfortunately except for one of his books, the others are only in French). Recently we have published a short biography for children, Brave Leader, Big Heart, St. John Henry Newman’s Adventures. And today Aleteia has published a short article on St. John Henry’s teaching for children.
At his beatification on September 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said: “England has a long tradition of martyr saints, whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognize today the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching, and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, Saint Bede, Saint Hilda, Saint Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.”
Indeed, the life of John Henry Newman was one of scholarship, deep human wisdom and Christian love, fruit of a growth in Christian life. The pope went on to refer to Newman’s charity as a priest: “While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls.”
John Henry Newman was a pastor with a fatherly heart. He cared for those who sought his help and those who suffered illness. He gave himself generously to teach youth and college students. He was a true and dedicated teacher and mentor. He is an example as an educator not only for clergy but for all men and women. He is also a wonderful example for all of us of Christian charity.
Newman centers in secular universities throughout the United States, named after Cardinal Newman, will be places where many young people can learn more about their faith reading about Newman’s life and reading about his teaching. The book Holiness in a Secular Age, the Witness of Cardinal Newman can help university students in this regard.
The saints also show us the rich variety of the members of the Church. Newman himself had pointed out that God gives each person a mission to accomplish, and each one of us is granted the grace to correspond to this calling. Newman responded to his mission as pastor and educator.
Newman composed the following prayer: “O, my God, I will put myself without reserve into Thy hands. Wealth or woe, joy or sorrow, friends or bereavement, honour or humiliation, good report or ill report, comfort or discomfort, Thy presence or the hiding of Thy countenance, all is good if it comes from Thee. Thou art wisdom and Thou art love—what can I desire more? Thou hast led me in Thy counsel, and with glory hast Thou received me. What have I in heaven, and apart from Thee what want I upon earth? My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the God of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
Today we rejoice with the Church and give glory to God celebrating the holiness of one of his saints, John Henry Newman, and pray to Him through his intercession. St. John Henry, pray for us!