I once had the honor of spending time in Newman’s rooms at the Birmingham Oratory, which are much as the aged cardinal left them at his death in 1890. Over the altar, which occupies one side of the room, are tacked-up notes by which Cardinal Newman reminded himself of those for whom he had promised to pray. In the sitting room, a tattered newspaper map, also tacked to a wall, bears silent testimony to Newman’s interest in Kitchener’s efforts to lift the siege of Khartoum and rescue General Gordon from the Mahdi, a 19th century jihadist (Gordon died with Newman’s poem, “The Dream of Gerontius,” in his pocket). Perhaps most touching are Newman’s Latin breviaries, which he began to use as an Anglican, causing much controversy about such popish practices.
It is as a man of faith that the Church beatified John Henry Newman, however: the kind of man of faith who could write the following (which I take from another prayer card I’ve had for years, given me by Catholic Worker artist Ade Bethune):
God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught”¦Therefore I will trust Him, whatever I am”¦He does nothing in vain. He 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 spirits sink, hide my future from me””still, He knows what He is about.
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us and for the unity in truth of Christ’s Church.