It is always a privilege to be able to share in the celebration of Holy Mass at the college at Littlmore, but this year it had a special significance. Since our last Trustees meeting in May the announcement has been made from Rome that Blessed John Henry Newman will be canonised by Pope Francis on Sunday, 13 October – an event at which the St Barnabas Society will be represented – and yesterday we were on the very spot where Newman’s journey to sainthood began in earnest. It was good to welcome Fr Gerard back among us and it seemed only right that he should be the principal celebrant. It was significant for me too as it was the 21st anniversary of my ordination to the Sacred Priesthood. Yes…21 again! As St Thomas Aquinas reminds us: “Sight is deceived!”
Newman never believed himself to be the stuff of saints. “I have no tendency to be a saint” he wrote. “It is a sad thing to say so. Saints are not literary men.” Yet the truth is that God calls men and women to sainthood from all conditions of life. It is not your family background, your social status or your choice of career that qualifies you for sainthood. It is the depth of your friendship with God and the way that depth of friendship is radiated, in such a way as to become a source of inspiration to others. Throughout his life Newman sought only God, whom he believed to be the centre of his life. The motto he adhered to from the time he was a young man was “Holiness rather than peace.”
Newman believed that the way to holiness was to be found in the faithful fulfilment of daily duties. He would have identified very closely with the words of John Keble’s famous hymn “New every morning.”
“The trivial round, the common task
Would furnish all we ought to ask.
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.”