It is natural to prepare for a trip, a move or a change of job. There are arrangements and reservations to be made, people to contact, things to pack, etc. but, most importantly, to think about what one is going to do and why. The same applies to a religious event, especially that of the solemn declaration of sainthood. Let us consider this as we think of the upcoming canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman.
What is a canonization? It is a papal mass in which the pope officially declares one or more men and women to become saints of the Catholic Church. By this act the Church offers them as models of Christian holiness for the faithful and intercessors in heaven.
Newman (1801-1890) was born in London and lived in England for most of his life except for a good part of a few years in Dublin. He was an Anglican convert to Catholicism while teaching at Oxford University. He became a Catholic priest. He was a gifted thinker and writer, and the first rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.
What significance does a canonization have?
The making of a saint is God’s work. God wishes his children to be Christ-like, even more to be Christ himself. Every canonization reminds us that each person is called to live a holy life in the place where he has been placed by God. Newman will be declared a saint along with four women, three of them founders of religious congregations and the fourth a seamstress.
In one of his early sermons Newman reminds us that holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit within us: “while we thus labour to mould our hearts after the pattern of the holiness of our Heavenly Father, it is our comfort to know, what I have already implied, that we are not left to ourselves, but that the Holy Ghost is graciously present with us, and enables us to triumph over, and to change our own minds”
We should keep this in mind as the date for this event approaches, but also afterwards as we think of St. John Henry Newman and other saints. God is calling each one of us to respond to his graces, to strive harder to follow his Commandments and to grow in our friendship with him through prayer and the Sacraments.
Without this way of thinking we miss the point of a canonization. God wishes us to live holy lives and thus he gives us real examples of holiness from different walks of life. Newman was a student, a teacher, a priest, a writer and a violin player.
What can we read to help us prepare for Blessed Newman’s canonization and his teaching?
Certainly biographies and articles about Newman can help us as well as his own works. Meditations and Devotions, perhaps the easiest to understand and most beautiful of his writings, can be a good preparation for the great event of the declaration of his sainthood, and for our better understanding of Christian life. We can read from this online or obtain a printed copy.
In one of these he addresses the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
“My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all Thy tenderest human affections for us sinners. It is the instrument and organ of Thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection, all Thy Divine Charity towards us.”
Newman describes how all of God’s love is somehow concentrated in Jesus Christ, and how we receive that love in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
“Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness, Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.”
These meditations by the new saint will lead us to a more personal loving conversation with God. They can be a very good preparation for his canonization and ultimately for heaven, calling to mind that we are on a journey to God. We can also simply say: Saint Newman, help me from heaven to better follow and love our Lord Jesus Christ.