Feast of Blessed JHN, Dinner with Mary & Preaching on the Train!



On Friday I was invited to attend a beautiful Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory in Warwick Street. This is the Ordinariate Church, the Parish is dedicated to the life of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The main celebrant was Mgr Keith Newton and the Mass was a solemn Mass in the Ordinariate use. It was beautiful and included some lovely prayers for the congregation to say in anticipation of receiving Holy Communion. Mass was ad orientem and the first time I have been to a Mass using the Ordinariate use. This new text for the Catholic Mass integrates centuries old Anglican prayers into the Roman Rite and was specifically devised for the personal ordinariates – the structures set up by Benedict XVI to allow Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Pope, while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican liturgical and pastoral traditions.



The Mass contains words from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, first unveiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy holy Name…”

Traditional elements of the Roman Rite, such as the Last Gospel and the preparatory Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, options within the Ordinariate Use, are also included. The rich, evocative language and sincerity of prayer are elements I find extremely appealing. They seem to deepen the personal engagement and sense of prayer one feels while praying the Mass. It was beautiful!


What could serve to make such a sublime event even better? Well, we were treated to a homily from the Rev. Dr. Stephen Morgan which left me hanging on every word. It was absolutely superb, and whilst a transcript can rarely serve as substitute for a personal delivery, I have begged Stephen to allow me to reproduce his talk here, as it is certainly worthy of wider dissemination. Please to enjoy (see below).


Unfortunately, Stephen had to hurry to catch his train back to beautiful Lyndhurst. I, however, managed to talk the wonderful Mary O'Regan into joining Fr. Jeff and I for dinner at a near by restaurant where we enjoyed a lively, intellectual and thoroughly Catholic conversation. Mary is responsible for helping John Carmichael write the excellent book Drunks & Monks, which I highly recommend. Pick up your copy from Amazon here! I also had a chance to talk to the leader of the Ordinariate, Mgsr Keith Newton after Mass, which was, as always, both a joy and a great privilege. I should have taken a selfie!


As I travelled home with Fr. Jeff, who was wearing his clerics, a succession of young men came and sat next to us and asked if they could talk to us about Jesus and religion. It was amazing for me, but a regular occurrence if you are a priest! The conversations were really moving insights into our interlocutors personal lives, at one point, I felt as if I was in a confessional and really uncomfortable, I would have left if I could have. I was shocked at how open these young men were and how desperate one in particular's life was. It really showed me how lives are being lived in great hunger for God. People want to know that religion is not as stupid as people like Richard Dawkins and everyone on the BBC seem to think it is. I prayed that night a big thank you to God for showing me this, for my friendship with Fr. Jeff and Mary, and for the opportunity to share His message with people in such an unusual place as the last train home from Liverpool Street to Southend!

This is Stephen's Homily:

When an individual is invited to choose a motto or a distinguishing phrase to sum up a life or a mission, a number of factors come into play.   In the present day, especially for those who have the privilege of working with families in planning the funerals of deceased family members, wit or at least attempts at it, or even occasionally inappropriate humour, are often upper most in people’s minds.   Corporate mottos seem veer between the narcissistic, the pretentious and the clichéd and a review of a selection of heraldic mottos chosen by the newly armigerous over the last ten years reveals some serious choices, some dreadful puns, not a few flippant ones and others plainly crass.   It has not always been so and, on his being made a Cardinal in 1879, Blessed John Henry Newman gave serious thought to the choice of his motto.   The expression he chose, cor ad cor loquitur – ‘heart speaks unto heart’ – captured in four short Latin words the whole of his approach to faith and offers a paradigm for the New Evangelisation.   It is a motto that, if properly understood, can speak very effectively to people in those places and societies like our own, where the struggle between the conviction of the heart and the scepticism of the mind is a common experience. Furthermore, Newman’s motto describes a way of enabling the proclamation of the Good News about Jesus Christ, whilst charting a safe course between the Scylla of that ultimately subjectivist religion of “feelings” – the "Church of nice" – on the one hand, and the Charybdis of arid, positivist, propositional legalism – or perhaps what Pope Francis has called ‘self-absorbed, promethean neo-pelagianism’,[1] on the other.

In choosing cor ad cor loquitur, Newman had thought that he was quoting a phrase from Sacred Scripture or, perhaps, from Thomas à Kempis.[2] In fact the expression, or something very like it, comes from St Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, where the sixteenth century saint was writing of the relationship between theology and prayer. He wrote:
Truly the chief exercise in mystical theology is to speak to God and to hear God speak in the bottom of the heart; and because this discourse passes in most secret aspirations and inspirations, we term it a silent conversing. Eyes speak to eyes, and heart to heart, and none understand what passes save the sacred lovers who speak.[3]
What an utterly beautiful description of prayer. It is neither primarily an intellectual nor an affective act: it is an act of the whole person to the whole person, and it is ordered precisely towards encounter with the person of Christ.

It is scarcely possible to read Newman’s great poem, The Dream of Gerontius, or to sing his hymns, such as Praise to the Holiest in the Height, Firmly I believe and truly or Lead Kindly Light, without recognising this same intense and personal Christ-centred imperative: a focus on Christ, gaining all its impetus, its energy from Christ. Nor can we read or sing those hymns without coming to know something of the depth of feeling with which his Christian Faith imbued Newman. These are works of profound emotion, deep personal insight and undeniable affective maturity. They point unerringly and unremittingly towards the person of God in Jesus Christ and yet they are also profoundly dogmatic, deeply theological and are marked by an undeniable doctrinal richness of astonishing complexity. These hymns speak of a religion where head and heart, reason and faith, are not opposed one to another but are complementary, the each strengthening the other. They are expressions of Christianity that manifest that truth which Pope St John Paul II named at the beginning of his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio, when he wrote:
‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.’[4]
If the Church is to engage in the evangelisation of those societies and cultures which were formerly predominantly Christian, our own and societies like it, it must propose such a vision of the Christian Faith: one where faith and reason are in a complementary harmony, one that points to ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1Cor.2: 2).

Writing in 1864, Newman recalled his first recollections of faith. He sketched a childhood of religious practice grounded firmly in the reading of the Bible and of perfect knowledge of the catechism – that is the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer. But, as he recalled it, it was a religion devoid of serious affective conviction: it pulled neither on the heart nor the head. At the age of fifteen, Newman was overcome by that ‘great change of thought’[5] that, as he later put it, he saw as his conversion to Evangelicalism. The particular character of that conversion, at least as he recalled it forty-eight years later, was one where he said:
I fell under the influences of a definite creed, and received into my intellect impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy, have never been effaced or obscured.[6]
Newman’s first conversion was, then, a conversion to an explicitly dogmatic conception of the Christian faith: a faith whose creeds, he believed, ‘were facts, not opinions’.[7] It would be a mistake, however, to read this as being a purely intellectual conversion. It was, rather, a religious experience of the whole man: it was knowing with the whole person. He recalled its effect on him as an event 
‘making me rest in the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator’.[8] 
This is a description of religious feeling that has more of the intimacy and intensity of the profound knowing of one another by the lover and the beloved, than it is of mere sentiment or belief in a doctrinal proposition. It is a profoundly affective statement and yet it is expressed in the language of faith and reason. What he described was a conversion of cor ad cor loquitur. 

In 2010, Newman’s motto was adopted as the theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Great Britain, a visit that the Holy Father explicitly set within his call for a new evangelization. After he had returned to Rome he wrote:
In addressing the citizens of that country, a crossroads of culture and of the world economy, I kept in mind the entire West, conversing with the intellect of this civilisation and communicating the unfading newness of the Gospel in which it is steeped. This Apostolic Journey strengthened a deep conviction within me: the ancient nations of Europe have a Christian soul, which is one with the "genius" and history of the respective peoples, and the Church never stops working to keep this spiritual and cultural tradition ceaselessly alive.[9]
        Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon, (2 Sam.1:20) but it was perhaps this very concern that caused him, most felicitously, to establish you in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and Blessed John Henry Newman.  

               From the pulpit of the University Church in Oxford, in early 1832, Newman preached his fifth University Sermon. He reminded his hearers that the truth of the Gospel: ‘has ever been upheld in the world not as a system, not by books, not by argument, nor by temporal power, but by the personal influence of such men . . . , who are at once the teachers and patterns of’[10] that Gospel.

               Later in the same sermon, Newman talked of: 
ardent Christians . . . [who] become bearers of light, bright torches in a world of darkness and gloom. Illuminated by the light of Christ, they have an overwhelming influence on others, enkindling the fire of Christ in their hearts . . . A few such highly-endowed men will rescue the world for centuries to come.[11] 
What Newman here described, and to what his history of relationships and his correspondence bear witness, is a method of evangelisation that is, in effect, a theology of evangelisation by friendship. Indeed, the Opus Dei priest and Newman scholar, Fr Juan Vélez has suggested that so strong is this theme in Newman’s work that, should he be ever declared a Doctor of the Church, it should be under the title doctor amictiae – doctor of friendship.[12]

                This evangelisation through friendship depends, not merely on personal magnetism, nor is it simply about one infecting another with a particular taste, enthusiasm or passion. Placed alongside Newman’s explicitly dogmatic faith, it points to the need to integrate the propositional with the affective, the truths of dogma with the claims those truths make upon the way we live our lives, such that the ‘overwhelming influence’ exerted by those luminous Christian witnesses Newman identified, becomes one which points to what Cardinal Nicholls has called the ‘the faith in its entirety, in its symphonic wholeness’.[13]  

                That notion of ‘symphonic wholeness’ neatly captures the idea of personal integrity that lies behind Newman’s theology of evangelisation through friendship and the motto cor ad cor loquitur. What Newman saw was that the strong claims of truth on the individual must change that individual’s behaviour, that behaviour must be in accord with the beliefs espoused if those beliefs are to be communicated to those with whom one comes into contact, and more especially to those with whom one comes into friendship. This is faith, religion, that is about as far from the notion of glib sentiment as it is possible to envisage, and it is a concept which is related to a further aspect of Newman’s thought to which cor ad cor loquitur alludes and which provides a further key to the New Evangelisation.

Writing his An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent[14] in 1870, Newman described and contrasted two distinct ways in which we give our agreement to propositions: in notional assent and in real assent.   The former is the assent we give to ideas which takes them ‘to be mere assertions without any personal hold on them on the part of those who make them’,[15] whereas the latter, the latter ‘representing as they do the concrete, have the power of the concrete upon the affections and passions, and by means of these indirectly become operative’.[16]   ‘Real assent’ is that assent which, when we give it to a proposition, changes the way we behave, the way we believe, the way we live and it is this ‘real assent’, which is, for Newman, the character of true ‘belief’.   This is what we are called to give to the dogmatic truths of Christianity: assent to them that changes our lives, and it is this real assent that is, Newman argued, a precondition for the communication of faith.

So Newman’s gift to the New Evangelisation, perhaps why Pope Benedict called him an apostle of the New Evangelisation, is the three characteristics of his approach to faith, that constitute his understanding of cor ad cor loquitur, the heart speaking to heart:  first, the recognition of the truth of the Church’s dogmatic teaching; secondly, the necessity of personal influence, sincerity and integrity, that is of deep friendship, as the medium of communication; and, thirdly, what he called real assent to those dogmatic truths as the foundation of that influence, sincerity and integrity.   This is the cor ad cor loquitur.   It is these three conditions that provide a paradigm for the New Evangelisation: that is an evangelisation new in its ardour, new in its methods and new in its expressions, aimed at making disciples of Jesus Christ in His body, the Church.
 
It seems to me that the key scriptural text for the New Evangelisation is to be found in the third chapter of the first letter of St Peter, beginning to read at the fifteenth verse:


This is a text that demands that we live lives of holiness and integrity, lives that makes us both patterns and teachers of the Gospel.   It is a text that demands both meek and patient attendance upon the question ‘What is the reason for the hope that is in you?;  it is a text that demands that we are able to communicate the truths of the faith upon which that hope is founded, to which we have given our real assent – to communicate our friendship with Christ.   It is a text that demands of us the ability to answer the question in the cultures, the multiciplicity of cultures in which the Lord has placed us.   In Britain – at least in England and Wales – that demands that we are able to speak in a voice that seems native within the cultural forms of holiness that, for all its faults, for all its maddening inconsistencies and compromises and fudges and curious blend of the medieval and post-modern structures, that seems native within the cultural forms of holiness that the Church of England (and, in my own little land, since 1921 Yr Eglws yng Nghymru) has managed to preserve.   There is there, something of the “genius” and “history” of these people, that Pope Benedict identified as being a crucial cross-roads of a word-wide culture. 

So long as the Catholic Church in this country was largely a chaplaincy to the Irish diaspora, not forgetting the few converts and the even fewer, brave, admirable recusant families, she was well equipped enough.   But the collapse of Anglo-Catholicism and of liberal-Protestant Nonconformity, and large-scale immigration from other Catholic countries, with their own religious cultures and even distinct, ancient rites, has meant that an Anglo-Hibernian Catholicism needs complementing.   I know, I just know, that John Henry Newman, reflecting upon the need for missionaries to Britain today, for a “few such highly-endowed men” in the light of his own motto would instantly see what Benedict XVI was about in establishing the Ordinariate.   He would recognise that yours is a crucial part of the New Evangelisation; yours is a crucial part of the future of the Catholic Church in this Country as she goes about fulfilling her Divine Master’s command; yours is indispensible to our being able to give an account – one at least that our country is able hear and not reject as entirely culturally alien – to our being able to give an account of the hope that is in us.

I’ve detained you too long from the rest of the mysteries – put it down to my own Methodist Patrimony – but finally, most of all, the New Evangelisation, grounded in that text from 1 Peter 3, It is a text that demands of us the constancy of true friendship with Christ Himself and with those that we encounter in His name.   He who calls us servants no longer but friends, for we know His business, are called by Him, given some definite purpose, commanded to call others friends, summoned to go out and bear fruit that will last, commissioned to an evangelisation of friendship and, as ever, Newman shows us with his usual crystal clarity that most of all, this demands of us that we speak and act authentically; it is call to cor ad cor loquitur.





[1] Pope Francis, Post-synodal Apostolic Exortation Evangelii Gaudium on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, 24 November 2013, paragraph 94, at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html , last consulted 3 March 2015.
[2] C.S Dessain et al. (eds.), The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, 32 vols., (London and Oxford, 1961-2008), vol. xxix, (“LD xxix”),  p.108.
[3] St Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, bk, IV, chap. 1.
[4] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides Et Ratio of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Relationship Between Faith and Reason, at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio_en.html , last consulted on 30 March 2014.
[5] Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Being a Reply to a Pamphlet entitled “What then does Mr Newman Mean?, (1st edn. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green, 1864), (“Apologia”),  p.58.
[6] Newman, Apologia,  p.58.
[7] Newman, Arians of the Fourth Century their Temper, Doctrine and Conduct chiefly as Exhibited in the Councils of the Church between A.D. 325, and A.D. 381, (1st edn. London: J.G. and F. Rivington, 1833), p.148
[8] Newman, Apologia, p.59.
[9] Pope Benedict XVI, Address at the General Audience, St Peter’s Square, Rome on 22 September 2010, at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100922_en.html , last consulted on 30 March 2014.
[10] John Henry Newman, ‘Personal Influence, the Means of Propagating Truth’, a sermon preached at St Mary the Virgin, Oxford on 22nd January 1832, in JHN, Fifteen Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford Between AD 1826 and 1843, (London: Longmans, 1871), sermon 5, (“USS5”), pp.91f.
[11] USS5 p.97.
[12] Juan Vélez, ‘Heart Speaks to Heart’, in MercatorNet, 10th September 2010, at www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/heart_speaks_to_heart , last consulted on 3 March 2015.
[14] Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, (Uniform Edition, London: Longmans, 1870), (‘Grammar of Assent’).
[15] Newman, Grammar of Assent, p.40.
[16] Newman, Grammar of Assent, p.89.

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