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Blessed John Henry Newman PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 21 April 2008 11:14

John Henry Newman, the great English convert and theologian of the 19th century, is going to be beatified this year according to Sunday's London Times. While I have learned to be cautious about Church news that comes from the Times, this looks pretty solid.

The Vatican will announce the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman after accepting that he was responsible for a miracle in which an American clergyman was “cured” of a crippling spinal disorder.

Newman will be given the title “Blessed” after a ceremony later this year, leaving him one step away from full sainthood.

If the Catholic church attributes a further miracle to him, Newman could be canonised as early as 2009.

Praise God!

And after canonization, doctor of the Church? What less for the "Father" of the Second Vatican Council?

For the definitive collection of Newman links for your every Newman need, where else would one go but to Dave Armstrong?

We quote Newman at every Called & Gifted workshop. Partly because Newman laid the groundwork for the discussions on the dignity, mission, spirituality, and formation of the laity that occurred at the Second Vatican Council.

Take a look at this excellent article by Paul Chavasse on Newman and the Laity:

On the contribution of the laity to the development of doctrine:

Some one hundred years after Newman’s death, what can we say about his thoughts on the laity and their vital role in the life of the Church? Seen positively, many of Newman’s deepest insights have been taken up and have become an accepted part of modem ecclesiological thinking. This is undoubtedly because Newman’s research and thought were so soundly based on Scripture and the Fathers; his own “methodology” sprang from a true understanding of the Church’s Tradition. Any true renewal has to begin in this manner: a true growth based on what has gone before, seen in the needs that the present and future make apparent. The breadth of vision and understanding that Newman presents in his writings was such as to make him the “unseen guide” in so many of the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council and in its teachings on the laity in the Church. It will be profitable to see this in practice, by quoting one or two passages from the conciliar documents. For instance, the constitution Lumen Gentium contains the following reflection on how the faithful share in Christ’s prophetic message:

The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office: it spreads abroad a living witness to him, especially by a life of faith and love and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips praising his name (cf. Heb 13:15). The whole body of the faithful who have an anointing that comes from the holy one (cf. 1 Jn 2:20 and 27) cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people, when, “from the bishops to the last of the faithful” they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals. By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (magisterium) and obeying it, receives not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God (cf.1Th 2:13),the faith once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jude 3). The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life. [44]

This paragraph had originally been intended to form part of Chapter IV, on the laity, but was brought forward into the chapter on the People of God in order to mark the unity that exists between the laity and the hierarchy, which together form the People of God, who cannot err in matters of belief when they show that “universalis consensus” in matters of faith and morals. Objections and amendments to the text, which had wanted to highlight the role of the hierarchy more prominently, were not admitted, because the Council Fathers wanted to show that the sensus fidei was not to be considered as a particular prerogative of the hierarchy but as a power of the whole Church. There is a unity in bearing witness to the Faith that belongs to the totality of the Body of Christ. This concern of the Council Fathers is a most eloquent echo of the “pastorum et fidelium conspiratio” that Newman believed in and advocated so strongly.

Newman’s explanation of the importance of the consensus of the faithful and how that assists the Church is also to be found in the Council documents. Some of the bishops wished to say that the faithful are infallible because they reflect the teaching of the infallible Magisterium, but this was objected to as being an inadequate notion. Investigating Tradition, as Newman had done, it was obvious that the process of doctrinal development sometimes begins with the people: their consensus activates the infallible teaching authority of the Magisterium, which must discern and judge what has happened. The laity do not just reflect the teaching of the Magisterium, but they possess an active exercise of their prerogative that comes from their being constituted as the people of God. This is so made up of all the baptized because, irrespective of their hierarchical status or lack of it, they are the recipients of those motions or inspirations of the Holy Spirit that form the “dynamic element” in the Church, over against the “static element”, which is the hierarchy as such.

On the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the laity:

It is not only through the sacraments and the ministrations of the Church that the Holy Spirit makes holy the People, leads them and enriches them with his virtues. Allotting his gifts according as he wills (cf. 1 Cor 12:11), he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church, as it is written, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit” (1 Cor 12:7). Whether these charisms be very remarkable or more simple and widely diffused, they are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation since they are fitting and useful for the needs of the Church. [45]

This teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit being given to and for the good of the whole Church is also identical to that which Newman believed and proclaimed to be the case. His own criterion, which established the fact that the laity ought to be consulted, is precisely that they are open to and led by the workings of the Holy Spirit — the Divine Indwelling. This enables them, as devout believers, to appreciate ever more readily the Church’s Traditions and beliefs and, as we have already noted, guided by the same Holy Spirit, the laity has the gift of knowing the meaning of the Creed and the Deposit of Faith and in such a way that they can resist heresy and cling unswervingly to the truth.

Especially important in view of what Newman taught is the following passage:

For the exercise of the apostolate [the Holy Spirit] gives the faithful special gifts . . . so that each and all, putting at the service of others the grace received, may be “as good stewards of God’s varied gifts” (1 Pet 4:10) . . . . From the reception of these charisms, even the most ordinary ones, there arise for each of the faithful the right and duty of exercising them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the development of the Church. [49]

That “right and duty” Newman had perceived at work when the laity helped save the Church from the Arian heresy. In a later age, he hoped it would be developed and used again to defend the Church from outside attacks, and, within, to prevent the Church from becoming too clericalized and turned in upon itself, and he hoped that a well-deployed, educated, and faithful laity would be able to do more good in those many areas of secular life where even an army of priests could not penetrate so effectively.


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