Friday, 24 September 2010

Praying to Blessed John Henry for the Return of "Thoughtful Apostates"

On 20th September The Very Revd Gerard Deighan preached on the subject of Blessed John Henry Newman, in Newman’s own church, the Catholic University Church in Dublin, on the occasion of a Mass in honour of Newman’s beatification.

If you have not yet been able to read this brilliant sermon, posted on 23rd September on the Rorate Caeli blog, I urge you to make the time to do so. It is absolutely wonderful.

Unfortunately Rorate Caeli doesn’t seem to have a facility to link to the specific posting. Please follow the link to the blog, and scroll down to 23rd September.

As you would expect, the sermon covers the broad range of Newman’s life and thought, including the true understanding of his writings on conscience, and his implacable opposition to liberalism in religion. It also reflects on his work as a pastor of souls, and his gift for friendship. But in my present post I would like to tell you what happened when I read the following passage from the sermon, which deals with his faithfulness, as a priest and as a friend, in praying for others:

“I have in mind that prayer for which Newman is best remembered: his prayer of intercession. As a man of prayer he had no pretensions. He was no St Teresa or St John of the Cross. When he prayed, it generally involved poring over long lists which he made out, and kept scrupulously up to date, of the people he wished to pray for. In this he is a model to us. Firstly, a model of caring for others so much as to keep them in our thoughts, and in our hearts; but also a model of bringing our loving thoughts of others before God, and asking Him to care for them, and bless them, and heal them, or forgive them, or grant them eternal rest. Newman was a faithful intercessor while here on earth; and now that he is in heaven we can be sure his power of intercession is even greater. So here is my second concrete exhortation to you this evening: Pray to Blessed John Henry! Pray for all your needs, and for those of your friends and foes!”

Isn’t that beautiful? I smiled at the reference to the long lists he used to keep; how endearingly human that sounds! But as I read this passage, I was suddenly filled with tearful thoughts of loved ones (and I am often in tears when I think of them) who have moved away from the fullness of the Church to worship elsewhere; or who have ceased to be Christian, while retaining a firm belief in God. I long so much for them to return! And as I read, I was moved to pray to Blessed Cardinal Newman, to ask his intercession for those who are in that particular category of the lapsed or gone-astray. Until I can think of a better term, I will refer to them as the “thoughtful apostates”. They have thought, they have reflected, they have seen and been dismayed at the state of the Catholic Church, at the examples of banality and casual irreverence. At this stage or that in their reflections, they have made a false step in their thinking, and have continued to apply their reasoning along the erroneous path they have unwittingly taken. And this is where they are today: absolutely sincere; reverent and even prayerful; but separated from the fullness of the Church, or from the personal consciousness that the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves them with infinite love, is waiting patiently, so very close to them.

I will pray for the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman, whose intellectual powers are so much a feature of his sanctity, for the return of the “thoughtful apostates”.


Recorder said...

Stunning reports from Birmingham on the Beatification festival including the talks given before the Beatification and pictures of the Blessed Cardinal's vestments from the exhibition.

breadgirl said...

Hello Dorothy

Just yesterday I spent time with the daughter and grand daughter of a dear friend who died several years ago. This girl, from a solid Catholic background, has recently lost faith in the Church. She says not in God or Jesus and Mary, but in the Catholic Church. She is a good girl and she is rearing her children in a good Christian way, but without the Church. She puts it all down to the lack of caring she has experienced from her parish priest. She said that was not what she was used to when she was growing up because her parish priest spent himself for the people. She maintains that the last two parishes she resided in were devoid of caring, dedicated parish priests. She said she finds more caring and compassion among her co-workers and neighbours, most of whom are atheists. I find that very sad but the tragic thing is that, because I know the parishes of which she speaks, she is absolutely correct in her assessment of the two priests concerned. Blessed John Henry's help is urgently needed!

Having said all of that, most of our priest are hardworking, holy and caring men. We should treasure and support them and keep them in our prayers. And, once in awhile, remember to thank them and let them know that they are appreciated.

Thanks Dorothy for your excellent blog and may God bless you.

Dorothy said...

Thank you, Breadgirl, for this sad and touching account, which I fear is not an isolated case. Quite right about the majority of our priests, and the important of helping them to thrive by our prayers and encouragement. Our first assumption should always be of the very best; one would only very reluctantly form a different opinion.

breadgirl said...

Hello Dorothy

I am just stopping by to wish you a Happy Feast of St Francis Assisi for today, 4th October.

God bless you, Dorothy.

Dorothy said...

Thank you, Breadgirl. What a lovely thought!