We all look forward to the canonisation on Sunday of Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890). There is special interest in this event in this country because he was invited by the Irish Hierarchy in 1851 to help establish a Catholic University here and to be its first Rector. This proved to be much more challenging than anyone anticipated, but perhaps is best remembered because it led to his famous publication “The Idea of a University”.
A brilliant and outspoken academic he was no stranger to adversity. Through his conversion to Catholicism in 1845, he lost many friends, including most members of his own family, but it had an enormous influence on many others in Oxford and elsewhere who would later follow in his footsteps. As he had challenged Anglicanism so he challenged Catholicism promoting the idea of a greater voice in the Church for a faith filled, well educated and outspoken laity. He was looked upon with suspicion and perhaps jealousy by several members of the Hierarchy, both here and in England. He was no stranger to controversy but never shied away from speaking and defending the truth.
Now we celebrate Newman, the saint rather than Newman the academic. He had a passion for honesty and truth whatever the consequences. He showed great compassion and care for others, especially his close friends and fellow Oratorians and in his final years, in spite of failing health, spent long hours in the confessional guiding and encouraging all who came. No doubt too, he spent much time praying on his kneeler which we are privileged to have in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ardattin having been given to the church when it was built in 1956 by the Clancy family of Ballynoe House who had brought it with them from England.
Another link with Cardinal Newman is his esteem for a former Professor of Philosophy here in the Carlow College, St Patricks, Fr. Denis Kane. Newman invited Kane to deliver a course of lectures in the Church attached to the Catholic University in Dublin and was impressed by the delivery and content of the lectures. Both men shared a devotion to St. Philip Neri and on learning of Kane’s death in 1883, Newman sent a donation of £5 towards the erection of an altar dedicated to St. Philip Neri in Baltinglass, where Kane had been Parish Priest for thirteen years.
Prayer of Cardinal Newman
May the Lord support us all the day long,
Till the shades lengthen and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging,
and holy rest, and peace at the last.