The Beatification – A Pilgrim’s Perspective
Once the Mass started, the noise of the crowd quietened to a whisper and I got a sense of the reverence people were showing for the occasion. The excellent music from the choir very much helped to set the atmosphere. Immediately after Pope Benedict concluded the prayer of beatification of John Henry Newman, there were loud cheers and applause.
As we’d been used to over the last few days, Pope Benedict gave another excellent sermon. He emphasized the teaching of Blessed John Henry Newman on prayer, how his motto “heart speaks unto heart” expresses the deep human longing to enter into communion with the heart of God, how faithfulness to prayer transforms us into the Divine likeness, how each of us has a unique mission which forms a part of God’s Divine plan. Pope Benedict also spoke on Blessed John Henry’s insights on the relationship between faith and reason, how this relationship forms the foundation of every flourishing educational environment. The way Pope Benedict talked of this endeavour in no way made the intellectual life of the Church sound exclusive, cold or cerebral, but made it sound like an essential part of a Church filled with God’s grace, how a thinking faith goes hand in hand with a loving faith. The Pope was keen to emphasize Blessed John Henry’s care for the poor, the bereaved and those in prison. So it was very clear that John Henry Newman is truly worthy to be counted among the blessed.
After the Mass I had a wander around the park and bumped into an EWTN crew who wanted to interview me. I was caught a bit off guard so I didn’t speak particularly coherently, but it got me thinking about what the day’s event meant for me. On reflection, I think I would say sometimes I’m tempted to believe that we live in a very godless age, but the day was a reminder that this is not true. I am living in Oxford, a city in which Newman spent a number of years of his life. I see the same sights as he saw and walk the same streets. No doubt there have been many other people who have walked these streets and lived quiet holy lives, even though they will never receive the attention that Blessed John Henry Newman has. We still live in a country in which it is possible to grow in holiness and to become blessed.