Today Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman, one of my heroes. A formative period in my life was during the 1990-91 academic year which I spent at Oxford, and among other things I studied the Oxford Movement in which Newman was a prime mover. What impressed me then–and what still moves me today–is the fact that he managed to balance a deep reverence for the life of the mind while also remaining deeply rooted in faith.
I was a member of Oxford’s Newman Society, which gathered regularly to discuss matters related to the interface of faith and reason. (Jesuit connection: one of its founding members was Gerard Manley Hopkins.) Today, as many know, Newman’s name is on many college and university Catholic centers; the first was at the University of Pennsylvania as early as 1893, just two years after his death. Newman’s connection to higher education is clear, but perhaps even more moving to me is his witness as a man of faith struggling at all cost to live with integrity and great love. His own faith journey led him away from a prestigious position at Oriel College, Oxford and the University lectures at St. Mary’s Church into the Catholic fold, a move which alienated him from dear friends and colleagues. He was attacked in print and found himself in the position of having to write a defense: Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a moving read even today.
Newman is a model of discernment. I offer the following prayer, which Pope Benedict excerpted in his Beatification mass homily. It strikes me as deeply resonant with Ignatian spirituality.
God Has created me to do some definite service.
God has committed some work to me
which God has not committed to another.
I have my mission.
I may never know it in this life
but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain,
A bond of connection between persons.
God has not created me for naught.
I shall do good—I shall do God’s work
I shall be an angel of peace
A preacher of truth in my own place
while not intending it
if I do but keep the commandments.
Therefore I will trust God
whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve God.
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve God
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve God.
God does nothing in vain.
God knows what God is about.
God may take away my friends.
God may throw me among strangers.
God may make me feel desolate
make my spirits sink
hide my future from me—still
God knows what God is about.
(Prayer adapted from a version on the Penn State Erie Catholic Campus Ministry.)
I am so pleased to go on the Loyola Website and get in touch with
so many views and comments.
I have, you can say, grown up with the Jesuits. I have been in Kolkata, India, working in one of the apostolates of the jesuits “Leadership Training Service” for young people of all faiths.
It was a very exciting apostolate and today some of its members are with their own families, living the spirit and values of LTS.
All my life I have been fired with the zeal and spirit of the Sp.Exs of St.Ignatiius of Loyola and having ‘holy desires’ to do great things for Christ. Now at the age of 76, I have been led to a wonderful way of living Ign.spirituality…….do everything for the greater glory of God and His Kingdom. My life has become so simple and joyful, even in times of difficulties. Thank you Jesus and thank you Inigo of Loyola and Jesuits who have helped me and still do in my journey home.
I have heard about your wonderful contributions to our children. You conducted an LTS course at St Marys Nainital many years ago. My daughter Anushka Seth was a student there & she told me about it ( not knowing who you were )
I am happy to know of your welfare. May God bless you & keep you well, healthy and happy.