A Postulator's Jottings

The Newman calendar each year brings with it certain fixed dates and the celebrations attached to them. Every February 21st we commemorate John Henry Newman’s birth, which took place in London in 1801. At the Oratory the anniversary is usually marked by a service of prayer, music and reflection – this year graced by the presence of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. Around the country other celebrations take place, especially since the day has now been designated by our Bishops as a National Day of Prayer for the Healing of the Sick through Cardinal Newman’s intercession.

    Another anniversary falls in October when we commemorate the anniversary of Newman’s reception into the Catholic Church, which took place on October 9th, 1845 at Littlemore at the hands of Fr Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist missionary, himself to be beatified in 1963 by Pope Paul VI. This anniversary is usually marked by a pilgrimage to Littlemore itself, on the Saturday nearest the date. For those who do not know it, the property there, acquired by Newman all those years ago and where he went to live, to pray and to study prior to his becoming a Catholic, is still owned by the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory. However, its day-to-day running is in the capable hands of the Sisters of The Work. They have built up an impressive collection of Newman memorabilia in what was the future Cardinal’s Library, and it is also possible to visit the little Chapel, arranged much as it was in the 1840s, when Newman was there. The Altar is the table used by Blessed Dominic to say Mass on in October, 1845 – the Mass at which John Henry Newman received his First Holy Communion as a Catholic.

    The Sisters are always pleased to welcome visitors and pilgrims on behalf of the Oratory Fathers, whether individuals or groups. A visit there would make a pleasant outing for a summer’s day. Contact and other details can be found at the Littlemore website: www.littlemore.org.uk.

    One final anniversary is that which falls on August 11th – Cardinal Newman died on that day in 1890. Each year there is a Mass at the Oratory in Birmingham to commemorate the event. This year, as the date falls on a Sunday, the Mass will be at 3p.m. The celebrant and preacher will be the Rt Revd Cuthbert Johnson, OSB, the Abbot of Quarr and a longstanding devotee of Cardinal Newman. The same day – August 11th – it will be possible to visit Cardinal Newman’s grave at the Oratory House, Leach Green Lane, Rednal – the gates will be open from 11a.m

    It would be wonderful to have a larger crowd than ever this year at the special Mass on August 11th, especially as we are being encouraged to promote the Cause for the Cardinal’s Beatification and to stimulate greater devotion to him.

    Mentioning Newman’s death brings to mind the words of a prayer of his for a happy death, which is included in one of his sermons and which has become a firm favourite of many. We say it every evening at the Oratory.

    'May He support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy, may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.'

The Very Rev’d Paul Chavasse