Newman revered by both Catholics and Anglicans

One of my prized possessions is a framed handwritten letter from Cardinal John Henry Newman to The Rev. W.H. James, dated September 3, 1874, sent from Cardinal Newman’s Oratory. It was given to me by a dear friend, Canon William V. Rauscher, from the estate of another friend, Canon Robert Lewis, both priests of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey. The note from Newman is a response to a letter of request sent by Father James in 1874 requesting permission to use his phrase “lead kindly light,” in some fashion.

The note reads as follows: “My Dear Sir, I have great pleasure in giving you the permission, as to my Verse ‘lead kindly light,’ which you ask, and I feel the compliment you pay me in asking it. Yours very truly, John Newman.”

This handwritten note has taken on more meaning for me since last week Pope Benedict XVI recognized the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan from Boston from a serious debility of the spine in 2001 following prayers for Cardinal Newman’s intercession. The acceptance of this miraculous healing by the Holy Father means that Newman’s beatification is all but certain. Cardinal Newman’s movement toward canonization holds significance to both Roman Catholics and Anglicans worldwide.

John Henry Cardinal Newman was declared “Venerable” in 1991, after detailed examination of his life and work by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The recent miracle attributed to his intercession recognized by the pope will surely lead to his beatification. A second miracle will be needed before he can be canonized a saint. The case of a 17 year-old New Hampshire boy who survived serious head injuries from a car crash is being investigated as a possible second miracle.

Cardinal Newman is revered by both Roman Catholics and Anglicans alike. He was one of the founders of the Oxford Movement of the 1830s, which sought to revive certain Roman Catholic doctrines in the Church of England by looking back to the traditions of the earliest Christian Church. In 1841, Newman published a paper demonstrating that the Thirty-Nine Articles, the doctrinal statements of the Anglican Communion, were consistent with Catholic teaching. Many in the Church of England protested, and Newman joined the Catholic Church in 1845 and was ordained a priest a year later.

A “Letter of Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the Centenary of the Cardinalate of John Henry Newman” issued on April 7, 1979, gives a short synopsis of the impact of Cardinal Newman. It reads in part: “The philosophical and theological thought and the spirituality of Cardinal Newman, so deeply rooted in and enriched by Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers, still retain their particular originality and value. As a leading figure of the Oxford Movement, and later as a promoter of authentic renewal in the Catholic Church, Newman is seen to have a special ecumenical vocation not only for his own country but also for the whole Church. By insisting ‘the Church must be prepared for converts, as well as converts prepared for the Church’ he already in a certain measure anticipated in his broad theological vision one of the main aims and orientations of the Second Vatican Council and the Church in the post-councilor period. In the spirit of my predecessors in the See of Peter, I express the hope that under this very important aspect, and under other aspects no less important, the figure and teaching of the great Cardinal will continue to inspire an ever more effective fulfillment of the Church’s mission in the modern world, and that it will help to renew the spiritual life of her members and hasten the restoration of unity among all Christians.”

It is both interesting and providential that the Beatification of this great English theologian will occur during the pontificate of Pope Benedict, who is a major theologian in his own right, and one Cardinal Newman has influenced. May the full unity of Roman Catholics and Anglicans come about through the intercession of Cardinal Newman as we pray together, “lead kindly light.”

Categories: That All May Be One

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