Well, it is done. John Henry Cardinal Newman is Beatified. Across America at universities there are many Newman Clubs where some of the Catholic student members likely feel more connected to a canonization than they ever expected to and yet they are likely to have known only a very little about his life and record. He is a man who lived for 89 year in a single century. That is much more unusual than living for 89 years and so historians who are drawn to the study of centuries (despite their best efforts not to be) will always be likely to note him as a source in studying the nineteenth century of the Christian era. He was a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and there are not very many of those. He was the author of a very long memoir called Apologia Pro Vita Sua: The History of My Religious Opinions. That gives the rest of his writing, speaking and organizing a different shape and flavor for history than the lives of great men who do not write memoirs. He belonged to the Birmingham Oratory and therefore he is likely to be remembered by his community that has preserved his documents and artifacts and remembered the anecdotes of his life. Then, as of a few days ago, a Pope had made a historic journey to his homeland to celebrate his legacy. We now have added to all of this his official elevation to the “honor of the altars” not the “glory of the altars” which is the step of canonization which has not yet been taken. His chapel will now become an official Catholic Shrine. I expect the process to canonization will proceed in good order. Attention will show a man who like other saints was faithful to his sense of the life and inspiration of Jesus Christ.
I may or may not do another post on this visit by Pope Benedict XVI and this man who was so compelling a human being in so many ways. Let us just consider the enormous effect which this visit has had on the Catholic community in Britain. I lived there as a child and found the air of anti-Catholicism thick enough. But for these days there has been a chance for the Roman Catholics there to see a fellow Teuton leading their worship on good terms with the Anglicans and beatifying a great Catholic son of their island.
In my own life it has also been a significant occasion. As an Anglo-Acadian, a former English major and a correspondent with Peers and others at the Westminster Parliament where Benedict XVI just spoke. For me there has not been much of an emotional response to these events but there has been an intellectual recognition that these things do matter.
The only possible victims in this happy event or the devotees of the American saint John Newman who was a multilingual pastor and builder and bishop. Perhaps his ethnic name of Johannes Naumann or something close to it can be used. However, he was not very well-known anyway. However, he is worth knowing.
The saints meant more to me perhaps when I tried a bit harder to imitate them. However, I still admire what I am less able to imitate. I do sort of hope this Beatification will move several efforts for peace and reconciliation forward.