Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Genteel Doctor

Blessed John Henry Newman - A pillar of Conscience

Today is, of course, the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman, so happy feast day to you all! 
Much has been said about Newman, at this stage there must be thousands of books and doctoral theses.  But one of the things which impresses me about him was his precision and subtlety.  He realised that the mysteries of God, while fulsome and magnificent, need to be understood in truth, in their accuracy, if I may say that.  Newman was no slob when it came to theology or spirituality, he was genteel and careful.  I suppose his study of the Arians will have helped him see that at times there is a fine line between the truth and heresy, between the responsible proclamation of truth and the wobbly misinterpretation and misrepresentation.   Newman teaches us that we must be careful. 

Being careful and accurate does not make us prudes or inauthentic, rather it reminds us that even in exploration and teaching of the faith we must adhere to virtue, in particular prudence, and reason.   Newman never involved himself in verbal or theological jujitsu, faith was too important, too deep, too adventurous for that.  He certainly basked in the mystery and sought to bring others out from beneath the umbrella into the full light of the blazing Son.  Nor does this care undermine passion and love - Blessed John Henry was a passionate lover of Christ.  And it does not undermine zeal - John Henry had zeal in buckets - just read his letters.  No, it helps us keep our heads so when we give our hearts we can do so with even greater understanding and generosity.

By the way, for those of you interested in relics, as you know Blessed John Henry's body disintegrated, so the only relics we have are locks of his hair preserved by friends, his clothes and his possessions.  However, one piece of bone survived the quicklime and is now preserved in the Oratory in Birmingham. 


No comments:

Post a Comment