Patronal Feast – S. John Henry Newman
The reliquary bust of S John Henry Newman in the Lady Chapel at Warwick St.

Patronal Feast – S. John Henry Newman

Today is the Ordinariate’s Patronal Feast, of S John Henry Newman, our great forerunner. On this day, in 1845, Newman was received home into the bosom of Holy Church, at the hands of Bl. Dominic Barberi, at Littlemore, the quasi-monastic house he had established to pursue the common life with friends, so many of whom had already crossed the Tiber ahead of him.

Looking back on his time at Littlemore, he wrote in his diary:

Doubtless if my life here for these last years were placed in the light of God’s countenance, it would be like a room when a sunbeam comes into it, full of hidden unknown impurities – but still I look back to it as a very soothing, happy period. I came into this house by myself, and for nights was the sole person here, except Almighty God Himself, my Judge […] And now, so be it, I shall go out of it by myself, having found rest.

LD xi. p113.

How characteristic of Newman that the light of God’s countenance – what is, elsewhere, that “kindly light” of The Pillar of Cloud – should be appreciated as no mere convention of Victorian sentimentality, but as the keen and piercing glance of the Divine Wisdom. How the time at Littlemore, and his reception into the Holy Church of God, is seen in this light as a true apocalypsis of his whole life which, like holy Job, he enters and leaves alone, having dwelt alone with God in the night of this mortal life. The Church, in this telling, is truly the heaven of which She is the foretaste. How appropriate that such a man should be the patron of those of us to whom the Lord has given the same (second) chance of beatitude. S John Henry, pray for us!

O God, who didst bestow on thy Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow thy kindly light and find peace in thy Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth. Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end

The Collect for S John Henry, from the Ordinariate Use.
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