When I told the university chaplain that I was interested in becoming a Catholic, he introduced me to a saintly lady whose first action was to suggest that I read something by John Henry Newman – we settled upon his autobiography, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua.
This was in 1996. Back then, Newman was a ‘mere’ Venerable. In 2910 Pope Benedict XVII beatified him during a visit to England. In February this year, Pope Francis authorised Newman’s canonisation. Today, the Vatican announced that it would be carried out on 13th October this year.
I am extremely happy at Newman’s elevation to the ranks of the Saints. However, while on the bus home this evening, I asked myself – what exactly does Saint John Henry Newman bring to the table?
It’s easy to see what he brings for priests – Newman was utterly committed to his priestly ministry.
It’s easy to see what he brings for theologians and scholars – Newman was expert in both disciplines.
What about for lay people, though; people like me? If I am academically minded this question is easily answered. But otherwise…? What is the JHN Factor that makes him a Saint worth paying attention to?
I have to admit, I don’t yet have an answer for that; at least, not a specifically Newmanian one. I suppose we could point to his virtues – patience, perseverance, etc, but as I write this nothing that speaks to me specifically of Newman comes to mind. I look forward to thinking more about Newman’s life and seeing what answers I can come up with.