A few paragraphs of a homily from a Mass at the Birmingham Oratory for transfer of remains of Cardinal Newman


It is surely the lesson the month of November speaks to us about: it is the lesson that our
JHN3.jpgcommon end, be we who we may, is death and decay and the dissolution of all things. The month begins with All Saints and All Souls: we will all be swept up into that great mass of all the faithful departed, and we hope to become, sooner or later, one with the saints of God. But November ends with the Feast of Christ the King ­ to remind us who it is we must love and serve, to remind us whose is the Kingdom to which we truly belong, to remind us whose gentle and all persuasive rule calls us from the transitoriness of this life to the glory of the life of the Resurrection. That path to the Kingdom is not always easy: as Cardinal Newman himself wrote: “All God’s providences, all God’s dealings with us, all his judgments, mercies, warnings, deliverances, tend to peace and repose as their ultimate issue … after our souls’ anxious travail; after the birth of the spirit; after trial and temptation; after sorrow and pain; after daily dyings to the world; after daily risings unto holiness; at length comes that ‘rest which remaineth unto the people of God’. After the fever; after weariness and sicknesses; fightings and despondings, languor and fretfulness; struggling and failing, struggling and succeeding; after all the changes and chances of this troubled unhealthy state, at length comes death, at length the white throne of God, at length the Beatific Vision.”

The lesson we must learn is that, as the Cardinal also said: “He knows what He is about”, and that life’s trials and difficulties, its joys and its beauty all have the object of shaping us to be friends with God, to be at one with Our Lord: this is the aim and purpose of life. That is what John Henry Newman put into practice his whole life-long; it is what he taught others to do, it is what he is calling us to do today.

Cardinal Newman has left us but few earthly remains as focal points for our devotion, as if, and quite explicitly, to point us to that higher goal ­ as a son of St Philip should ­ to lead us away from himself and, as he put it in his hymn to St Philip, “towards the bright palace where our God is present throned in high heaven.” That is what we would want for us as for himself, and the poignancy of his all but empty grave speaks loudly of it.

The Very Reverend Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator for the Cause for the Beatification and Canonisation of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, delivered this homily on Sunday, November 2, 2008. For the full text see it here.