A Postulator's Jottings

The annual pilgrimage to Littlemore took place on Saturday October 5th. This was to commemorate the anniversary of the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of John Henry Newman, which took place at Littlemore on October 9th, 1845, at the hands of the Passionist missioner-priest, the future Blessed Dominic Barberi.

    This year the Mass was celebrated in the parish church by our Archbishop Emeritus, Maurice Couve de Murville, always a keen supporter of Cardinal Newman’s Cause.

    The Archbishop preached on Newman’s two conversions: as a teenager, when he embraced an almost Calvinist view of Christianity and came to understand the close relationship which exists between the individual believer and God; and secondly, in 1845, when he became a Catholic and embraced the fullness of revealed truth in the Church. The Archbishop reminded us of the reasons which led Newman to become a Catholic and the effects this had both on himself and others, then and now. Inter alia, he mentioned Newman as being a sensitive man. Often when this is said of the Cardinal it is not meant as a compliment: he was prickly, easy to take offence etc. etc – so the argument runs. However, the Archbishop said we should thank God that Newman is a sensitive saint – a man who could feel and respond to people and situations on a deeply human level – therefore something very positive and helpful to others in their anxieties.

    After Mass and lunch the pilgrims had a tour of the Anglican parish church and were warmly welcomed by the Vicar, the Revd Bernhard Schünemann. John Henry Newman, whilst Vicar of S. Mary’s, Oxford, built the church at Littlemore, and his own mother, Jemima, laid the foundation stone. The party then had a tour of The College, where Newman and his friends lived prior to becoming Catholics. This is now cared for by the Sisters of The Work, who made us very welcome. It was a particular joy to visit the Chapel – the altar is the table F. Dominic Barberi used for Mass on the day after Newman’s reception – and the Library, which now also houses an impressive collection of Newman memorabilia.

    The day ended with a stop at the Oxford Oratory, where we had prayers and Benediction in honour of S. Luigi Scrosoppi, an Oratorian canonised eighteen months ago and whose feast day it happened to be. All in all then, a most pleasant and inspiring day.

    This month we expect a visit from F. Drew Morgan, a priest of the Pittsburgh Oratory. He combines his work as a university chaplain with study of Cardinal Newman’s life and writings. It is hoped that F. Morgan will soon become a Vice-Postulator for Cardinal Newman, with special responsibility for the progress of his Cause in the United States of America.

    Finally, by the time this column is read, I shall be packing my bags to move to Rome for a few months. Each year the Congregation for the Causes of Saints organises a study programme for Postulators and it is my turn to take part in it. The course covers the theology and history of canonisations, the nature of holiness and the writing of saints’ lives. It also deals with the various canonical procedures which have to be gone through to present evidence of miraculous cures, as and when they occur.

    It promises to be an interesting and informative few months, although it will be strange being a student again after such an interval, with the prospect of an exam in the Spring! Prayers please!

    The next few Jottings will therefore be sent from Rome: I am sure it will not be too difficult to find something of interest to relate!

The Very Rev’d Paul Chavasse