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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wojtyla and Newman

Few saints have famously taken on the intellectual elite of an entire nation and proved themselves the wiser in the end. John Henry Cardinal Newman and Karol Wojtyla have done so in England and Poland respectively. And they have inspired others to do the same:

1) Newman’s influence reaches all the way to JRR Tolkien’s lifelong fidelity to Catholicism
2) Wojtyla’s influence on Jerzy Popieluszko I have written about elsewhere

Since I have just finished Humphrey Carpenter’s biography on Tolkien, I think it’s worth noting that the Birmingham Oratory which Newman established as a Catholic refuge for priests in England housed the foster-father of Tolkien himself (Father Francis Morgan). Indeed, Father Morgan financed Tolkien’s education at Oxford—the very same institution Newman had attended during his years of conversion to Rome.

John Paul II writes of that conversion:

Newman’s search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: ‘Therefore, I will trust Him... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about’

Where his intellectually elite friends at Oxford were “taken away”, Newman formed his own society of those who were unafraid to embrace the cross. The Pope continues, “In the end, therefore, what shines forth in Newman is the mystery of the Lord’s Cross: this was the heart of his mission, the absolute truth which he contemplated, the ‘kindly light’ which led him on.”

1 comment:

Francis Morgan said...