When we moved the headquarters of the St Barnabas Society from Wolvercote to Littlemore last year we knew there was the strong possibility that Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman would eventually be made a saint but had no idea when it would actually happen. With the announcement from Rome that Pope Francis has approved a second miracle resulting from Newman’s intercession that day is suddenly much closer. In fact it is rumoured that it may be as soon as this coming October. The story of the St Barnabas Society is closely associated with that of Newman’s conversion so it is an event with which we shall want to be closely associated. Plans to mark it are already being put into place and details will be announced in due course. In the meantime your prayers for the Society are important. We believe that Blessed John Henry is providing us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise our profile and make the important work we do more widely known. We already enjoy a very special relationship with our patron St Barnabas for obvious reasons but to have the additional friendships in Heaven of Blessed John Henry and Blessed Dominic Barberi is just as important. The hand of Divine Providence was upon our shoulder when the Littlemore option presented itself and I am confident that these holy ones will have an important role now in ensuring that the Society flourishes in new and imaginative ways in the years that lie immediately ahead.
The artist Marcelo Lavallen’s time with us is now over and this week he will be returning to Boston, Massachusetts, which is his home. He will leave behind a wonderful legacy through his beautiful artwork which now adorns our chapel. The most recent addition is an icon of Newman and Barberi which will have a special place of honour there. It is a gift to the Society from an anonymous donor who has a devotion to them both and to Newman in particular. Marcelo’s original intention was to paint (write) an icon depicting the moment when Newman knelt at the feet of Barberi as he was drying himself before a roaring fire and asked to be received into the Catholic Church. Then he (Marcelo that is) had second thoughts. Instead he decided to depict Newman and Barberi embracing each other as friends with Newman dressed in the scarlet robes of a Cardinal and Barberi in his Passionist habit. It is a beautiful image which captures both their friendship on earth and the continuation of that friendship in Heaven. And while the canonisation of John Henry Newman is a cause for great rejoicing there are many (including our own Archbishop of Birmingham) who are still longing for the day when Blessed Dominic will be honoured in the same way. Certainly that is an intention that will remain close to our hearts at the St Barnabas Society where we shall be working and praying in support of his cause.
In the homily he gave at the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman, which took place at Cofton Park in Birmingham on 19 September 201,0 Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words:
“England has a long tradition of martyr saints whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognise today the holiness of a confessor who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry and especially to preaching, teaching and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars of these islands – St Bede, St Hilda, St Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.”
Undoubtedly Pope Francis will echo those sentiments when he declares Blessed John Henry Newman to be a saint hopefully later this year. May it be a special moment of grace for the whole Family of God here in the United Kingdom, for all who have a special devotion to Newman and most especially for those who have found the faith and courage to follow him on the road to conversion. “Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem – From shadows and images into the truth.”
Blessed John Henry Newman – pray for us.
Blessed Dominic Barberi – pray for us.
All holy men and women – pray for us.
Marcelo is very happy to discuss the possibility of commissions with clergy and others. He may be contacted by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His work is not limited to Church projects.