On this date in 1890...
Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, C.O., went to his reward. He was eighty-nine years old, having been an Anglican for the first 44 years of his life and a Catholic for the other 45. Here is a description of his last few days:
" In the summer of 1890 it was clear that the end was not far distant. Father Neville( ed. the Oratorian Father who assisted the Venerable in his declining years) records that the Cardinal was displeased with the doctors for speaking as though he might yet live a year or two when they must know that it was a matter of months or even weeks. Death did come almost suddenly. But it was immediately preceded by a somewhat remarkable momentary rally on the evening of August 9, which Father Neville thus records:
'The Cardinal entered his room ... his footstep was slow yet firm and elastic; indeed, it was not recognized as his, his attendant was surprised that it was he; soon, when seen, his bearing was in keeping with his step;—unbent, erect to the full height of his best days in the 'fifties; he was without support of any kind. His whole carriage was, it may be said, soldier-like, and so dignified; and his countenance was most attractive to look at; even great age seemed to have gone from his face, and with it all careworn signs; his very look conveyed the cheerfulness and gratitude of his mind, and what he said was so kind; his voice was quite fresh and strong, his whole appearance was that of power, combined with complete calm.' …
That night he was taken ill of congestion of the lungs. He rose next morning, but had to go to bed again. Then happened a little incident which brings before us vividly his clinging and grateful memory of those who had ministered by their kindness to his suffering temperament in days of trial. I relate it in Father Neville's own words:
'A poor, an indigent person, a stranger to him, had once left for him at the house door a silk handkerchief with a message of respect. This was very many years before he was Cardinal, and when he seemed, so to speak, much set aside; at a time, too, when he was himself very poor. Both present and message were received by him as they were meant, and with a solemn gravity which checked even a smile. He kept the handkerchief as something he prized. When he went to bed expecting to die, he had it brought to him, and put it on, and, though the doctors said he might as well be without it, he died with it on. He had kept it quite thirty years, even more.'
The Cardinal received the last Sacraments on August 10, and passed away at a quarter to nine in the evening of August 11, having been unconscious for most of the day. The funeral was at Rednal (ed. the Birmingham Oratory's retreat house) on the 19th. He was buried in accordance with the instructions he had left, in the grave of his beloved friend Ambrose St. John, and on the pall was his chosen motto 'Cor ad cor loquitur.' On the memorial slab at his own desire were engraved the words 'Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem.' "- Wilfred Ward, Life of Cardinal Newman
As Msgr. Ronald Knox once noted, the words on that memorial slab, which Knox translates "Out of the shadows and images into truth", could be the epitaph for every Catholic.
Here is a link to his obituary in the Times of London
, and one to a collection of close to 200 obituaries published at the time of his death
. (What really amazed me was the existence of obituaries in Rod and Gun
and Horse and Hound
. I'm trying to picture Field and Stream
doing an obit of an ecclesiastic.....)
Important as this day is, I must admit that I am hoping that when he is canonized another day is chosen as his feast. This is because, as I noted below, today is the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, and to put it bluntly, competing with the Franciscans is a terrible idea.
Here is the prayer for his canonization:
Eternal Father, You led JOHN HENRY NEWMAN to follow the kindly light of Truth, and he obediently responded to your heavenly calls at any cost. As writer, preacher, counsellor and educator, as pastor, Oratorian, and servant of the poor he laboured to build up Your Kingdom.
Grant that through your Vicar on Earth we may hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the company of the canonized saints."
May You manifest Your servant's power of intercession by even extraordinary answers to the prayers of the faithful throughout the world. We pray particularly for our intentions in his name and in the Name of Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord.
Please report any favours received to:
The Postulator, The Oratory, Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 8UE, England
Thanks to Lane Core
, Karen Marie Knapp
, and anyone else who has mentioned this anniversary.
Finally, from the Venerable's own pen:
Prayer for a Happy Death
Oh, my Lord and Saviour, support me in that hour in the strong arms of Thy Sacraments, and by the fresh fragrance of Thy consolations. Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me, and Thy own Body be my food, and Thy Blood my sprinkling; and let my sweet Mother, Mary, breathe on me, and my Angel whisper peace to me, and my glorious Saints ... smile upon me; that in them all, and through them all, I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die, as I desire to live, in Thy faith, in Thy Church, in Thy service, and in Thy love. Amen.