The parish priest of the London Oratory and renowned liturgist, Fr Uwe Michael Lang, was the guest preacher at a Solemn Mass in the Ordinariate Use for the Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman on Thursday 9 October. The Mass, which was celebrated by the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Mgr Keith Newton, at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory (London, W1) was organised by the Friends of the Ordinariate.
During his sermon, Fr Lang, who serves on the Holy See’s Interdicasterial Commission “Anglicanae Traditiones”, which prepares liturgical texts for the personal ordinariates for former Anglicans, meditated on Blessed John Henry Newman’s prayerful and consistent witness to holiness. He also remarked that Newman would have “surely recognise[d] many of [the] profound and beautiful prayers that were so dear to his heart” which are used in the Ordinariate Use of the Roman Rite.
After discussing Newman’s “very personal relationship with his Heavenly patron, St Philip [Neri – founder of the Oratorians]” who countered the world through “purity and truth”, Fr Lang went on to say that Blessed John Henry saw in St Philip “a model of sanctification for any stage of our life.” Dwelling on the idea of sanctity, he said: “Blessed John Henry’s idea of holiness was nurtured by the Oratorian tradition. There is nothing spectacular or exotic about it. Rather, for most of us holiness needs to be worked at in the trials and ordeals of everyday life. As baptised Christians, we are called to perfection. ‘You… must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’, says our Lord (Mt 5:48). Perfection is a daunting word and it may even put us off if we consider our own feeble efforts to follow Christ faithfully in this life. But let us reflect with Blessed John Henry ‘what is meant by perfection’.” Fr Lang then quoted Newman, who wrote: “It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic – not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings – but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound – we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection. He then is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek perfection”.
Considering Blessed John Henry’s words, Fr Michael Lang continued: “Such perfection can found in our everyday lives: striving to live our faith consistently, in thought, word, and deed. As we all know, this is no easy task in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christ and His Church. Newman foresaw these developments with prophetic clarity and he worked tirelessly to give his fellow Catholics the means to respond to the great challenges ahead of them. His writings are an incomparable treasure, and now we are rejoicing in having him as our heavenly patron and intercessor. Blessed John Henry, pray for us!”
The Mass was set to Herbert Howells’ Collegium Regale, sung by the church choir. Hymns written by Newman also featured during the liturgy. As well as being the Feast of the patron of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the event marked the first anniversary of the official introduction of the Ordinariate Use at the same church.
A collection for the work of the Friends of the Ordinariate was taken during the Mass, and refreshments provided by the Friends were served after the liturgy.
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