Sunday, 9 October 2011

Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman

The feast of Blessed John Henry Newman falls on a Sunday this year, and was therefore not celebrated at mass.  Newman is very much a saint for our age.   What always appealed to me about him is how robust he was in exploring the relationship between faith and reason.  I have yet to read anything which in anyway dents his argument contained in the Grammar of Assent. (READ HERE)   Characteristically, when everyone else in the church was running around like headless chickens after Darwin's bombshell, Newman calmly observed that evolution in no way undermined a belief in God.   Science could only serve to enlarge our understanding of  God's creation.  Faith must be informed by reason and reason by faith.  End of story.  Teilhard, of course, had enormous respect for the great Cardinal.  And, I have no doubt that Newman would have been a sympathetic reader of Teilhard.   Like Teilhard,  Blessed John Henry's  spirituality had an intense focus on the Sacred Heart. +  His motto Cor ad Cor Locquitur  ( 'Heart speaks to Heart' ) says it all really but there are two prayers which encapsulates his thoughts on the Sacred Heart.  I reproduce them below.

( I must do I blog on 'Cor ad Cor Locquitur 'because it contains important insights into the Sacred Heart and is a light to illuminate our reading of this icon.)

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee in the oneness of the Personality of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Whatever belongs to the Person of Jesus, belongs therefore to God, and is to be worshipped with that one and the same worship which we pay to Jesus. He did not take on Him His human nature, as something distinct and separate from Himself, but as simply, absolutely, eternally His, so as to be included by us in the very thought of Him. I worship Thee, O Heart of Jesus, as being Jesus Himself, as being that Eternal Word in human nature which He took wholly and lives in wholly, and therefore in Thee. Thou art the Heart of the Most High made man. In worshipping Thee, I worship my Incarnate God, Emmanuel. I worship Thee, as bearing a part in that Passion which is my life, for Thou didst burst and break, through agony, in the garden of Gethsemani, and Thy precious contents trickled out, through the veins and pores of the skin, upon the earth. And again, Thou hadst been drained all but dry upon the Cross; and then, after death, Thou wast pierced by the lance, and gavest out the small remains of that inestimable treasure, which is our redemption. *

O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou sayest, Desidero desideravi With desire I have desired’. ­ I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee, to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me, O make my heart beat with Thy Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it, but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace.*

Cor ad Cor Locquitur, by Sr Johanna Szalachy FSO 

A while ago my wife visited Ambrose Cottage in Littlemore, Oxford and brought me back a postcard of a  most beautiful stained glass window in the cottage  designed by Sr. Johanna Szalachy FSO  -  entitled Cor ad Cor Locquitur.   I was going to send a copy to Ian, but thought it best not to interfere too much by suggesting designs.  I liked the way Sr. Johanna had used circles  within circles and hearts within hearts to express in artistic terms what Blessed John Henry says in his motto.  ( But, as you can see, Ian's design is also using the 'circle within circles' idea as a way of  representing the idea of the Sacred Heart. )  In Sr Johanna's design the Sacred Heart  is  the Heart of Jesus speaking to our heart.  When our heart is open to God's Heart  we are no longer self-centred.  When Heart speaks to Heart, we are re-centred in and on God.  And that love ripples and spreads like a stone dropped into water.  We are drawn into the vortex of God's divine energy of love.   When that happens the light shines in and through us and illuminates our world.

As Blessed John Henry expresses it in a poem on the Transfiguration:
Light of the anxious heart,
Jesus, Thou dost appear,
To bid the gloom of guilt depart,
And shed Thy sweetness here.*

To visit Littlemore - the place where he was received into full communion with the Catholic Church -  see HERE.

+ And to the  Immaculate Heart of Mary.  See, for example, his 'Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary': 'Heart , after God's own Heart; Heart , in union  with the Heart of Jesus...etc.' * Read HERE.

 *All are to be found in John Henry Newman, Prayers, Verses and Devotions, Ignatian Press, 2000

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