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on Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

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by Father Ian Ker     ¤

"When the Catholic Church canonises somebody they're talking about heroic virtue, heroic sanctity, that a person was heroic, they're not talking about somebody being faultless. I think sometimes people used to say 'O well, Newman had this fault and that fault, so he couldn't be a saint.' That's actually not relevant because no-one is perfect and indeed all the saints have faults.  What the Church is looking for is a heroic quality, it's not looking for impeccability, it's looking for heroism and Newman heroically followed the kindly light of truth through his life."

(Feast Day - 9th October)

Sermon - The Tears of Christ at the Grave of Lazarus (PPS, vol. 3, no.10)

Martha said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe."

Christ went to raise Lazarus, and the fame of that miracle was the immediate cause of His seizure and crucifixion (Jn 11,46)... He felt that Lazarus was wakening to life at His own sacrifice; that He was descending into the grave which Lazarus left. He felt that Lazarus was to live and He to die; the appearance of things was to be reversed; the feast was to be kept in Martha's house (Jn 12,1f.), but the last passover of sorrow remained for Him. And Jesus knew that this reverse was altogether voluntary with Him. He had come down from His Father's bosom to be an Atonement of blood for all sin, and thereby to raise all believers from the grave, as He was then about to raise Lazarus; and to raise them, not for a time, but for eternity...

Contemplating then the fulness of His purpose while now going about a single act of mercy, He said to Martha, "I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die." Let us take to ourselves these comfortable thoughts, both in the contemplation of our own death, or upon the death of our friends. Wherever faith in Christ is, there is Christ Himself. He said to Martha, "Believest thou this?" Wherever there is a heart to answer, "Lord, I believe," there Christ is present. There our Lord vouchsafes to stand, though unseen—whether over the bed of death or over the grave; whether we ourselves are sinking or those who are dear to us. Blessed be his name! nothing can rob us of this consolation: we will be as certain, through His grace, that He is standing over us in love, as though we saw Him. We will not, after our experience of Lazarus's history, doubt an instant that He is thoughtful about us and that he stands at our side.

Sermons on Subjects of the Day (6) - Faith and Experience

"Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it"

This was the perplexity of believers in the old time, as we read in the Psalms and Prophets, viz. that the wicked should prosper, while God's servants seemed to fail: and so in Gospel times. Not that the Church has not this peculiar prerogative with it, which no other religious body has, that as it began with Christ's first coming, so it will never fail till He comes again.

Nevertheless, for a time, in the course of single generations, nay, I may say in every age and at all times, it seems to be failing, and its enemies to be prevailing. It is the peculiarity of the warfare between the Church and the world, that the world seems ever gaining on the Church, yet the Church is really ever gaining on the world... Kingdoms rise and fall; nations expand and contract; dynasties begin and end; princes are born and die; confederacies are made and unmade, and parties, and companies, and crafts, and guilds, and establishments, and philosophies, and sects, and heresies. They have their day, but the Church is eternal; yet in their day they seem of much account...

Much there is to try our faith at this moment, who cannot see the future, and therefore cannot see the short duration of what shows proudly and successfully now. We at this day see a number of philosophies, sects, and parties, thriving and extending, and the Church seems poor and helpless... Let us pray God to teach us: we need His teaching; we are very blind. The Apostles on one occasion said to Christ, when His words tried them, "Increase our faith" (Lk 17,5). Let us come to Him honestly: we cannot help ourselves; we do not know ourselves; we need His grace. Whatever perplexity the world gives us... let us come to Him with pure and sincere minds; imploring Him to reveal to us what we know not, to incline our hearts when they are stubborn, and to make us love and obey Him honestly while we seek.