Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cardinal Newman to be Beatified

It appears that the anticipated beatification of John Henry, Cardinal Newman is at last to take place. According to stories in the Sunday Times (London) on 20 April and the Birmingham Mail on 21 April, he is set to receive the title "Blessed" later this year in a ceremony at the Vatican. (I believe he is now designated as "Venerable.") The Holy See has confirmed that at least one miracle can be attributed to the intercession of Cardinal Newman. An American deacon was miraculously cured of a crippling spinal disorder after petitioning the prayers of the good cardinal. Only one more bona fide miracle is necessary for him to be officially declared a saint.

For former Anglicans like me, this is very big news. Newman is perhaps the most famous Anglican convert of all time. After founding the Oxford Movement in the 1830's, he rocked the Church of England to its core in 1845 when he converted to Catholicism, eventually becoming a priest and, of course, a cardinal. He is often referred to as the “Father of Vatican II.” In a sense all of us who have crossed the Tiber from Canterbury and its offshoots stand on his shoulders. And very broad shoulders they are indeed! He is already a sort of de facto patron saint for many former Anglicans.

Back when I was considering entering the Catholic Church and fretting over the usual protestant difficulties concerning Mary, a priest directed me to a booklet of excerpts of Newman's writings, Mary as the New Eve (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3). It helped me to understand what lies behind the Catholic dogmas and practices concerning Mary that I found problematic. As I wrote elsewhere:

I learned that this idea – that Mary, because of her “yes” became the means of undoing Eve’s “no” – was not a new one. It was the subject of some of the writings of the Church Fathers, including St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 120-165), St. Irenaeus (120-200), Tertullian (160-240), and, later, Jerome (331-420). In other words Mary, like Eve, was a responsible moral agent, complete with the same free will that Eve perverted to her own ends. But Mary not only said yes, she did so with great joy and humility, and so, in the words of St. Irenaeus, “the knot of Eve’s disobedience received its unloosing through the obedience of Mary.” That is, she was not merely the vessel of the Incarnation, she actually cooperated in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

My “difficulties” with the Marian dogmas were certainly not unique to me. I eventually came to understand what Newman understood, that a thousand difficulties do not add up to a doubt. I am grateful to him for helping me along in the journey to Rome.

No comments: