Benedict XVI’s Sermon for the Beatification of John Henry Card. Newman

John Henry Card. NewmanBenedict XVI has beatified John Henry Card. Newman.

Here is the workmanlike sermon he delivered at the Mass.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This day that has brought us together here in Birmingham is a most auspicious one. In the first place, it is the Lord’s day, Sunday, the day when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and changed the course of human history for ever, offering new life and hope to all who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. That is why Christians all over the world come together on this day to give praise and thanks to God for the great marvels he has worked for us. This particular Sunday also marks a significant moment in the life of the British nation, as it is the day chosen to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology. My thoughts go in particular to nearby Coventry, which suffered such heavy bombardment and massive loss of life in November 1940. Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms. Yet there is another, more joyful reason why this is an auspicious day for Great Britain, for the Midlands, for Birmingham. It is the day that sees Cardinal John Henry Newman formally raised to the altars and declared Blessed.

I thank Archbishop Bernard Longley for his gracious welcome at the start of Mass this morning. I pay tribute to all who have worked so hard over many years to promote the cause of Cardinal Newman, including the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and the members of the Spiritual Family Das Werk. And I greet everyone here from Great Britain, Ireland, and further afield; I thank you for your presence at this celebration, in which we give glory and praise to God for the heroic virtue of a saintly Englishman.

John Henry NewmanEngland has a long tradition of martyr saints, whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognize today the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching, and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, Saint Bede, Saint Hilda, Saint Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.

Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or "Heart speaks unto heart", gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, "a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk 16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf. Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a "definite service", committed uniquely to every single person: "I have my mission", he wrote, "I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling" (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).

John Henry Newman BeatificationThe definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing "subjects of the day". His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it" (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: "Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you" ("Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel", Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z,

    You are quick off the mark, this morning, I must say. The Mass was lovely and the choirs excellent. I kept thinking of what the British Bishops must think of all the rock-star attention the Pope has been getting. I hope it encourages them.

    The Pope is always so reverential and I wish American priests would initiate the quiet time after Communion. Most of the time, the priest sits down for a very short period, and one can never give thanks right after Communion. A great custom to import here…

    I still am not sure about the hybrid language Mass, with both English and Latin, although as a trad, I appreciate the Latin at the most sacred part of the Mass.

    Isn’t it great how many people sang (the British love to sing) and how many stood outside in what was obviously inclement weather.

    God bless this amazing Pope. Too bad the stations cannot cover the private visit to the Oratory. I am very fond of the Oratorians, as the Brompton Oratory was my parish when I lived in London and where I was married. The order is not only dedicated to fine liturgy, but to the poor.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, I should have added that I thought the sermon was a superb meditation of Blessed John Henry Newman,covering the basis for those who may not have read at least some of his works, honoring the saint who we can now add to the calendar on October 9th, as the Holy Father decreed today. The reference to education is very important at this time in England, as the Catholic schools are under attack, as they are increasingly here, yet again.

  3. spesalvi23 says:

    October 9th is the birtday of our youngest son, who wanted to recieve First Holy Communion one year ahead of his class, so he could becaome an altar boy.

    I’m a convert and my husband is from Boston.

    :-)) I felt very much at home during that Mass!!

  4. AnneIrl says:

    The whole visit is amazing, so wonderful to see so many people out to hear and to see our Holy Father. It was so uplifting. I am sure there will be a surge of interest in vocations and in the Catholic Church in the UK after this most gracefilled visit…And the media Sky news did a brilliant job in giving us the best of the visit and getting into the crowds getting great feedback from the ordinary people…God bless our Holy Father and I look forward to the rest of his day…

  5. nhaggin says:

    I was initially puzzled by the opening paragraph, particularly since he did not connect it into the rest of the sermon. I then recalled a passage from a different Newman; in his monograph A Study of Wagner, the music critic Ernest Newman writes this:

    It is usual for a Frenchman to begin a book on Wagner by exhorting his countrymen to forget and forgive the stupid squib in which the composer, in 1871, insulted the French nation in its hour of humiliation and distress.

    Perhaps the Holy Father felt similarly: as a German, and having previously honored British courage in his address at Holyroodhouse, he needed to do the same given that today is such a terrible anniversary.

  6. Athelstan says:

    Beautiful homily. Great choirs. Horrific (alas) sanctuary.

  7. Sid says:

    31 years ago, I read Dante, then Blessed John Henry Newman’s Apologia. I became a Catholic. I have prayed ever since for this day. The Holy Spirit waited until a great theologian was sitting on the Chair of Peter. Te Deum

    Now I pray for the Anglican Ordinariates.

  8. I suspect that the Anglican Ordinariates might now be put under Bl. Newman’s patronage. Maybe St. Therese’s, also, since she always took an interest and still seems to do so.

  9. Re: Battle of Britain — Remember that our pope’s family was anti-Nazi. Surely they listened surreptitiously to the BBC broadcasts, hoping desperately that London would hold out another day. As long as England held out, there was a good chance that the Thousand Year Reich wouldn’t last a thousand years, and that Festung Europa wouldn’t last. If England fell….

    So yes, the Pope has every reason to call the UK’s victory in the Battle of Britain “auspicious”. Heck, if not for that, they surely wouldn’t be holding a beatification ceremony for Newman in Birmingham. Benedict would probably have died young (and so would JP II); the popes would probably live elsewhere; and so would Queen Elizabeth and the royal family, were they alive.

    It’s customary for speakers to say they’re glad to be there, but this takes it to another level!

  10. RuariJM says:

    “…today is such a terrible anniversary.” – nhaggin

    It’s not as simple as that, nhaggin. We remember those who lost their lives – and those who survived, many of them irretrivably damaged.

    But the Battle of Britain is something remembered with not a little pride (in the best sense of the word), when Britain, the Free Polish Air Force (lest we forget), representatives from around the world, including volunteers from the USA, showed the world that the Nazi regime was not unbeatable. The theory of Blitzkrieg depended on air superiority and had been ‘tested’ by the Condor Squadron during the Spanish Civil war. It had seemed unstoppable in the march across Poland, the Low Countries and France.

    The RAF not only fought the Luftwaffe to a standstill, it beat it and the invasion of Britain was indefinitely postponed. It was a key part of ‘our finest hour’, in Churchill’s words; it is a key element in our national memory of what makes us British. We may be somewhat declined from the heights of the Empire but the immense courage and tenacity of our forebears is something we like to think still beats in our breasts today.

    A few of ‘the Few’ remain alive today. It is good that we honour them – and very good of His Holiness to remember them and mention them in his homily in Birmingham.

  11. rahook says:

    Does anyone have a link to the actual rite of beatification? I’ve always been curious about the words that are used.

  12. Andy Milam says:

    I guess I will open the preverbial can of worms.

    From a liturgical point of view, this was a disaster. Not only were the concelebration vestments awful, but also the arrangement of the temporary sanctuary. To not have the altar arranged in the way that the Holy Father has determined to be most acceptable and to use a muted crucifix and seventh candle is tacky at best and disprespectful at worst. I cannot and I will not support this action by the “liturgi-wonks” in charge of the Mass. I won’t even get into the use of wood, as opposed to some sort of stone. If the Brits can erect Stonehenge, then I am certain they can put a stone altar up for the Vicar of Christ.

    The Mass should be the source and summit of our worship and should be afforded as such. The Mass as presented today was not. It was nowhere near the preferences the Holy Father speaks about in “Spirit of the Liturgy.” TPTB should be ashamed.

    To me, and this is my own opinion, the use of girls/young women at the altar was deplorable. I cannot and I will not stand by and simply let this pass. While it is allowable, it is not preferable. And certainly was not in good taste, especially putting them into cassock and surplice. An analogy is this, it is allowable to run a yellow light in an automobile, but it is dangerous and certainly not preferable. If the chief way to promote vocations to the priesthood is by service at the altar, the Catholic Church in the British Isles has missed the boat. If I were a seminarian, in orders (or not), I would feel slighted by this reckless action.

    The Brits, by and large have proven one thing, they are not liturgically minded. Thank goodness Benedict can preach. And thank goodness for the papal MC’s surplices. That was about the only orthodox thing liturgically going on….

    It is time we start standing up and calling a spade a spade. We deserve better considering the fact that Papal Masses are to be the model. If that is the model, then I’ll take the Extraordinary Form, because what I saw certainly wasn’t illuminated by Extraordinary Form, to use Raymond Arroyo’s words.

    BTW, I think that we should start a petition to have Fr. Z take over the MCing of Papal visitations on EWTN. He has a wit and a gift that buries Mr. Arroyo. I’m just sayin’.

  13. TNCath says:

    Ending the sermon with the first verse of “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” was ingenious! I must agree with some of the others about the liturgical sloppiness. The singing of the Credo was lovely, though.

  14. Andy Milam: I watched a few minutes of the Beautification and I agree: the altar arrangement was not good; the space was hideous; don’t know about the music…didn’t listen.
    A real let-down, after Westminster Cathedral (top-notch in every way…)…the girl “serviettes” at the Hyde Park vigil and elsewhere were disappointing;
    but I guess this is the situation in which we live.
    Overall, the Pope’s visit and celebration of Holy Mass were very, very excellent.
    Considering…and I’m sorry, but Raymond Arroyo bugs the you-know-what outta me…but I’m just a crabby Anglo/Irish priest from America (Fr. Z. would, in fact, do a great job of narrating)!

  15. Lori Pieper says:

    Lovely homily by the Holy Father!

    I stayed up watching the Mass live in the States; it started at 5 a.m. and I fell asleep shortly after 6, right after the homily. Oh well, I’ll catch the on-demand video later, if it ever shows up.

    I was particularly touched by the fact that the Holy Father stressed that in addition to being an intellectual and a writer, Newman was a pastor, a simple parish priest who cared for the poor and sick. In fact, I understand it was a very poor parish of factory workers in Birmingham.

    I was a little surprised, even disappointed that the readings at Mass didn’t relate specifically to Cardinal Newman’s life or special characteristics as they usually do on the feast of saints. In fact, it was simply those of the Mass for today, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. On the other hand, the first reading and responsorial psalm referred to God’s care for the poor, so that is fitting for Newman’s life.

    But I wonder what the actual readings for his Mass will be? Have they been decided yet? Or does he not get his own Mass until he’s canonized?

  16. Andy Milam says:

    Nazareth Priest:

    When you, or anyone says, “…that is the situation in which we live…;” I can’t help but think, “Then do something about changing the situation. Pastors can be effective in that way.”

    I realize that I am coming off as crabby, but really, I am frustrated with the overall lack of courage with regard to priests and the liturgical renewal.

    I feel that we are on the same page, most likely and I don’t mean to sound like I am passing judgment, but how can we, the faithful, be authentic when the priests that are our leaders won’t make the changes that have been advocated by Pope Benedict. It would be very easy to use “The Spirit of the Liturgy” as a justification.

    I apologize again, but I love the Church and I love the Mass. When I see what I saw on the television, I get very angry, because I am not being afforded what is my right, a properly celebrated Mass.

    I pray for priests and I will pray for you too. Keep fighting the good fight and having never met you, I will add you to my clergy intentions in the rosary that I pray.

  17. nhaggin says:


    After reading your explanation, I think there might be an additional meaning that I doubt the Holy Father consciously intended: just as the allied air forces showed that Blitzkrieg was not unstoppable, so his visit has shown that the secularist juggernaut is not unstoppable.

    Apologies for my simplistic treatment.

  18. RuariJM says:

    No worries, nhaggin.

    Actually, you made me re-read wot I had wrote. I was not consciously putting in the meaning you have suggested but I think you may have a point – and quite a strong one, at that!

    It could be a wee lesson to me, too…

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Andy Milam

    The British are litugically minded and I would suggest visits to Masses around the country to see that. Masses at the Brompton Oratory and other places are fantastic in detail and correctness of liturgy. As to the outdoor Masses, what do you expect? One cannot compare an outdoor Mass with a normal liturgical setting and should not do so. If you have criticisms, confine yourself to other outdoor Masses, or the entire genre itself.

    As to altar girls, as much as I do not like this and think it was a mistake for John Paul II to allow this change, it is accepted in the Catholic Church at this time and we have to put up with it until it is changed again. So, why keep bringing it up?

    As to EWTN, the coverage was for the most part, awful. We considered watching the Italian television coverage when we could not get Sky. The BBC was the best. Poor Raymond Arroyo does not have a clue when to be quiet, although by Sunday, and probably because of many negative e-mails, he was getting the picture. However, the comments and guest, a priest from the Acton Institute, who I usually like, were pathetic.

  20. irishgirl says:

    Lori Pieper-EWTN is doing an ‘encore presentation’ of the Beatification Mass this coming Thursday (the 23rd). It will be in the afternoon sometime-can’t remember exactly when.

    I didn’t get to see it myself, since I have no TV at home.

    I hope that EWTN will offer a DVD of the Papal visit in the near future.

    Supertradmum-I didn’t hear Father Sirico’s comments during the broadcast of the Beatification Mass, but I did hear him on Satruday during the Holy Father’s London journey to the Hyde Park VIgil. Raymond Arroyo was reading an nasty article by John Cornwell (the author of the infamous ‘Hitler’s Pope’ book) that was in the ‘Financial Times’ of London that said ‘The Pope was hijacking Cardinal Newman’.

    Fathre Sirico was pretty mad in ‘telling off’ Cornwell-I had the impression that if Father met him in person, he would have ‘decked’ him good! His eyes were blazing with anger!

  21. Andy Milam says:


    While there are pockets, to be sure, I would argue that for the most part, the liturgical action in Britian is just as awful as it is in the USA. Which is not a good thing, btw. So, I would challenge you on that immediately. I daresay the Brits and the Yanks are on a level playing field as to the terrible-ness of the celebration of the Mass.

    Re: altar girls. Just because it is allowed, doesn’t mean that it is right. This idea of “just dealing with it until it is changed” has to go away. There will be no change until it is made clear that the faithful don’t want it. I will scream from the rooftops that this is a perversion of ministry at the altar, until it is changed. You ask, why keep bringing it up? Because change does not come through silence. Change comes through action. A great example is the loosening of the EF bonds….priests like Fr. Z, and I knew him when, worked tirelessly to make Summorum Pontificum a reality. But he didn’t help to make this change by being quiet. He is one of the first priests that I know of who had a universal indult to celebrate what is now known as the EF. It is through the action of Card. Mayer and Mons. Arthur Calkins and many others, including your blog host who by their speaking out have made the EF a reality. So, I will continue to tell anyone who will listen that girls serving at the altar is a perversion of the ministry. (The only indult is at a cloistered convent, for a conventual Mass.)

    One thing we do agree upon, the coverage from EWTN was horrid. We are in complete agreement. Fr. Z FOR CORRESPONDANT! That is my new battle cry.

  22. Lori Pieper says:

    Thanks, Irishgirl. I am actually planning to watch online. The Official UK visit site now has the on-demand version up (no commentary). is still preparing their on-demand video version (from the Vatican Radio feed), but it should be there soon.

    I was actually watching EWTN (on my computer) when I fell asleep.

    Sorry I missed the Fr.-Sirico-blasting-Cornwell moment on EWTN. I’d watch it again just for that! I wonder whether that part will be re-broadcast.

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