Peace and calm descended upon St. Paul after enduring severe suffering for the gospel. Yet he does not dwell upon his suffering: “all that matters is that one is created anew”. With that Paul draws his letter to the Galatians to a close.
Other great people have walked the path of St. Paul. Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was one of them. Newman took as his motto for his cardinal’s coat of arms, “Heart Speaks to Heart”. That phrase aptly sums up his prayer and his preaching. In his prayer, he spoke to the heart of God and in his preaching and the beauty of his prose, he spoke to the heart of people. Cardinal Newman always spoke heart-to-heart to all who heard him and read him, a true reflection of the ever living and loving heart of God. All of his work was perfectly attuned to each varied group.
Cardinal Newman was admittedly one of the finest apologists for the Catholic faith in the nineteenth century. There were many frustrations and misunderstandings in his life as he attempted to rekindle the Catholic faith in Victorian England. He was at his best in quietly directing them to return to their Catholicism, which in England had been suppressed and nearly obliterated for three hundred years. He directed many converts to the faith by personal instruction and by writing hundreds of letters over his long and eventful life.
Newman’s journey to the Catholic Church was a painful one. It was a great sorrow for Newman that by his conversion he lost a number of his closest friends and family who did not follow his lead. In one of his meditations, Newman wrote: “God knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirit sink, hide the future from me-still He knows what he is about”.
Newman’s own conversion from Anglicanism took place on October 9, 1845. He chose to be received by Blessed Dominic Barberi, Passionist. Years later Newman wrote: “Father Dominic was a most striking missionary and preacher, and he had a great part in my own conversion and in that of others. His very look had a holy aspect. No wonder then I became his convert and penitent”. Blessed Dominic said of Newman: “He is reputed to be the most learned ecclesiastic in England. In my judgement, he is one of the most humble and loveable men I have met in my life”.
Newman foresaw the age of the laity. He knew that the age of the laity would come about in the church. Among the lay folk that Newman knew and directed to the faith were many prominent women. Newman himself had three younger sisters. He was the oldest of six children, with two younger brothers. With the three young women in his immediate family he also got to know their friends, and ever after had a great empathy toward women and their view of things.
Newman from time to time found himself embroiled in certain difficulties even with the new English Catholic community. He was often misunderstood and thwarted in many projects and endeavors. Little wonder that Newman felt under a cloud. That cloud was lifted in 1879, when Newman was made a Cardinal by the new Pope, Leo XIII. This new Holy Father called Newman “My very own Cardinal”. It was a sign of the new era for the Church, rising again from the ashes, an oft recurring theme of Newman’s writings.
Cardinal Newman lives on in his writings. His sermon, “The Second Spring”, on the restoration of the English hierarchy in 1850, is recognized as one of the most beautiful and famous sermons in the English language. In his ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’, (A Defense of One’s Life) he shares with us the history of his own religious development.
Cardinal Newman, who lived to be eighty-nine, is truly an inspiration. In the pictures we have of him in his final years, there is patience and calmness in his face. He is a man who has gone through much sadness and pain. However, in the battles of life, he won! Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that when he beatified Cardinal Newman in 2010. Now we await Blessed John Henry Newman’s canonization.
May his motto be our’s: “Heart Speaks to Heart”.
Fr. Theodore Walsh, C. P.