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Heart speaking to heart: the pope in England


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Last Sunday Pope Benedict, as the culmination of his trip to the United Kingdom, beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), whose motto was ''Cor ad cor loquitur.'' ("Heart speaks to heart.") This is the first time the Catholic Church has beatified an Englishman who wasn't a martyr since the time of the Reformation.

As a young Anglican tutor and preacher at Oxford University, John Henry Newman led the Oxford Movement, encouraging the Anglican Church in holiness and virtue and the faith of the early Church. In doing so, he increasingly moved away from Protestant understandings of Christianity. Midway through the journey of his life, in 1845, he became a Catholic. In doing so, he sacrificed position and prestige. He was one who "loved honesty better than name, and Truth better than dear friends."

Two years later, he was ordained a Catholic priest in Italy. He returned to England to start the Oratory of St. Philip Neri there. Towards the end of his life, when he was attacked in print, he responded with his spiritual autobiography, ''Apologia pro Vita Sua,'' a spiritual masterpiece that is comparable to St. Augustine's ''Confessions.'' In 1879, he was named a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He wrote at the time, "It is a wonderful Providence, that even before my death that acquittal of me comes, which I knew would come some day or other, though not in my life time."

As Newman had asked so eloquently, "How is it that we are so content with things as they are--that we are so willing to be let alone, and to enjoy this life--that we make such excuses, if any one presses on us the necessity of something higher, the duty of bearing the Cross, if we would earn the Crown, of the Lord Jesus Christ?"

His beatification is a remarkable vindication of his long and virtuous life and his prolific and profound spiritual and theological writings. With his teachings on the organic development of doctrine, the relation between faith and reason, the problematic relativism of modernity, the role of the laity, he is rightly considered the century-ahead-of-his-time Father of Vatican II, whom Pope Benedict, on the plane to Scotland, called "a figure of doctor of the Church for us and for all, and also a bridge between Anglicans and Catholics."

At the beatification Mass, Pope Benedict quoted Blessed John Henry on the laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it."

Pope Benedict, at the beginning of his pontificate just over five years ago, introduced a new papal policy regarding beatifications. In principle, beatifications were to be performed by local bishops rather than the pope himself, who alone would continue to perform canonizations, the ultimate infallible declaration of the Church that a person is a saint and thus in heaven. The one and only exception to this rule was made by Pope Benedict in the case of Cardinal Newman. Both Pope Benedict and Cardinal Newman are prolific theologians, preachers and writers. There is a close spiritual kinship between them.

To young people outside Westminster Cathedral, Pope Benedict echoed Newman's theme "Heart speaks unto heart." "I wish to speak to you from my own heart, and I ask you to open your hearts to what I have to say. I ask each of you, first and foremost, to look into your own heart. Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give. After all, we were made for love...We were made to receive love, and we have..."

"We were also made to give love, to make it the inspiration for all we do and the most enduring thing in our lives. At times this seems so natural, especially when we feel the exhilaration of love, when our hearts brim over with generosity, idealism, the desire to help others, to build a better world. But at other times we realize that it is difficult to love; our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy and pride. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the great Missionary of Charity, reminded us that giving love, pure and generous love, is the fruit of a daily decision. Every day we have to choose to love, and this requires help, the help that comes from Christ, from prayer and from the wisdom found in his word, and from the grace which he bestows on us in the sacraments of the Church."

Dwight G. Duncan is professor at UMass School of Law Dartmouth. He holds degrees in both civil and canon law.

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