Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Feastday - Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

Today the Church celebrates, for the first time, the feast day of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. The date is not casual, being the date of his conversion in 1845.

It is true that in many cases the day of death is the chosen one as feast day. But in most cases the beatified person is a cradle Catholic. In Newman’s case it cannot be put into doubt that the main event of his life, the decision which defined Newman’s entire existence and so decisively colored all his achievements was neither his birth nor his death, but his conversion. This would be the case by every convert, but it is even more relevant in Newman’s case, the case of a man of vast prestige and theological reputation whose conversion helped to define an entire era. The choice of the October 9 as his feast day is therefore not only entirely fitting, but the only reasonable one.

By his conversion, Newman expressed the exact contrary of what the sensitive Anglicans complain about. The message that he sent is that there can be no meeting in the middle, no mixing of Truth and Heresy, no compromise whatsoever between the right and the wrong shop. One either belongs to the right shop or he belongs to the wrong one. Newman was so great because he had the courage to see this clearly, and to act upon it. To demand that Newman’s conversion be relegated into second place – as if it has been an accident of sort; a detail of his life not precluding his mutual admiration from Anglicans and Catholic alike – is tantamount to willingly ignore the essence itself of Newman’s teaching and work of a lifetime. To demand this is to want to take refuge in the usual, fuzzy and in the end perfectly insignificant “let us celebrate our similarities”-mentality. Such a mentality might be conducive to pleasant afternoon teas, but it doesn’t help in the least to discern truth from error.

Newman converted. He converted because he saw that the Church was the truth and Anglicanism was the error. He showed this in the most spectacular of ways, clearly renouncing in to every “meeting in the middle”. If you admire the man, you must draw the consequences from his conversion or at least understand its huge significance.