Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Slopes, Popes and Newman

[Photo of Cardinal Wojtyla from]

Slopes, Popes and Newman

Easter Week, after navigating the slalom course of Lent, traditionally marks the official end of the ski season.

I recently came across my smiling ‘Pope on a slope’ gold framed picture of John Paul II, in his white zip-up jacket. Snow covered, post-resurrection, getaways were doubtless as popular with him, as they are with so many people today.

His biographer, Tad Szulc, noted that on skiing trips, kayaking, and trekking the first two hours of every morning were kept free for him to pray and reflect . In his Message for the World Day of Tourism (2000), John Paul II speaks of how leisure enables us to understand more deeply the relationships between God and ourselves, other people, and the natural world. This contemplation should inspire us to resist all forms of destructive force present in every human and environmental ecology:

Tourism is also an occasion for solidarity. With its call for inner conversation and reconciliation with our brethren, the Jubilee invites believers and people of good will to establish a social order based on mercy, justice and peace. It spurs us to be aware of the responsibilities we will have towards nature and towards the situations of poverty and exploitation which affect so many people and numerous countries of the world.

Thus the Jubilee message encourages pilgrims and tourists to have eyes that can “see” reality beyond the superficial level, especially when there is an opportunity to visit places and situations where people live in precarious human conditions and their longing for equitable development is seriously undermined by factors of environmental imbalance or structural injustices.

As John Paul II had done, Benedict XVI highlighted the relationship between the ecology of socio-economic, familial and cultural structures and caring for the environment.

The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. (Mass of inauguration of Pontificate, 24th April 2005).

Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, quotes from John Henry Newman’s words to his mother, about his religious awakening, during his Mediterranean travels. By so doing, the present Pope identifies the accord between Newman, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

In some places a spiritual “desertification” has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those place “the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground which transforms into a desert.” (EG, 86).

Another letter by Newman to E L Garbett weaves together the strands of influence he has had upon three Popes when he observes that “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.” “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.” (Letters and Diaries XXI, 497).

Inspired by the Bible and Patristic Saints, Newman associates a transfigured landscape with conversion of an individual’s heart. He says in one of his Parochial and Plain Sermons(1,21)

“Work together with God, therefore, my brethren, in this work of your redemption…Glorious, indeed, will be the spring time of the Resurrection, when all that seemed dry and withered will bud forth and blossom.”

Fr Peter Conley

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