Blessed John Henry Newman, whose feast is marked today, stands out as a singular example of holiness and virtue in the anglophone Church of the nineteenth century. His journey from the Church of England to the full communion of the Catholic Church is in a real sense an exterior sign of the interior conversion that, through prayer and study, he underwent throughout his entire life. This double-faceted approach is perhaps an interpretive key for us, who seek to grow in sanctification and grace, in the life of Christ found in His “one true fold”: the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, united in faith and practice with Successor of Peter.
First, by an acute desire to grow in holiness we are encouraged to know the faith, which unlocks the Church’s treasury of grace for us. By studying our faith we do not seek to become turned-in on ourselves or insular, but rather formed in the language and vocabulary of our Christian religion, and armed with the tools we need to bring ourselves to a more profound knowledge of the person of Christ that, in the image of Newman, we may spread His fragrance everywhere that we go.
Secondly, through a personal-passionate relationship with the Lord, we cannot help but respond to His wounded, Sacred Heart, as it speaks His love to our weak and feeble hearts. By growing in the life of grace, through knowing and being known by the Lord, we are called to respond in extraordinary ways in the course of our ordinary lives. Newman’s conversion did not stop when, on this day in 1845 he was received into the Catholic Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi (whose relic is on the altar today). So, too, our lives as Catholic Christians must be consistently oriented toward the change required of us, that we might become perfect in the image of our Redeemer.
May Blessed John Henry Newman intercede for us in this task. And, led by the “kindly light” of faith, of hope, and of charity, may we follow him in this life, and so join him in the life of the world to come. Amen.