On Saturday evening, 17 September, the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Church of St Anne and Blessed Dominic, Sutton, St Helens, on the first anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.
A highlight of the Papal Visit was the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman by Pope Benedict in Cofton Park, Birmingham. Newman was received into the Catholic Church by the nineteenth century Passionist Priest, Dominic Barberi, who is buried at Sutton and was himself beatified by Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1963.
Dominic had met the then Anglican Clergyman John Henry Newman at St Mary’s, in the Oxford village of Littlemore. They had great respect for each other, Newman, probably recognising Dominic’s spiritual stature, wrote: ‘When his form (Dominic’s) came in sight, I was moved to the depths in the strangest way. His very look had about it something holy.’
Dominic arrived at Newman’s home in Littlemore on his way to Belgium on 9 October 1845. He had travelled for twelve hours tied to the outside of a stagecoach in the driving rain, treated as baggage for a cheap fare. As he tried to dry himself in front of the fire Newman entered, knelt at Dominic's feet and asked to be received in to the Catholic Church. From there Newman went on to be ordained priest, be created a Cardinal and become one of the great Churchmen of the nineteenth century.
Archbishop Kelly says: ‘The hymn above all others to which I am drawn over and over again is “Praise to the Holiest in the height” from Blessed John Henry Newman’s poem: “The Dream of Gerontius”, The Dream of an Old Man. It sings of the loving wisdom, the wisest love, the generous love of God which went as far as: “And in the garden secretly and on the cross on high, should teach his brethren and inspire to suffer and to die.” When I was asked by BBC TV immediately after Pope Benedict left St Mary’s College, Oscott, to sum up the visit I found myself saying: loving wisdom; wisest love. Words of Blessed John Henry Newman leading us to the cross, and words speaking of the heart of Blessed Dominic. It will be so right to spend Saturday evening at his shrine.‘
Father Ignatius Spencer CP is also buried in the Shrine. He was the youngest son of the second Earl of Spencer, who became first an Anglican clergyman, then a Catholic and a priest in Birmingham Diocese, and eventually a Passionist, being professed by Blessed Dominic at the first Passionist Monastery in England at Aston Hall near Stone in Staffordshire.
Ignatius, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, had played a big part in bringing the Passionists to England and had known Blessed Dominic for many years in Italy. After Dominic’s death he succeeded him as the Superior of the Order in this country and died in 1864 while Rector of Sutton Monastery.
On the other side of the altar lies Mother Mary Joseph CP, Foundress of the Passionist Sisters who had been received into the Church by Blessed Dominic
In time the town of St Helens may well have three Saints making St Anne and Blessed Dominic ‘the church of the three saints’. Blessed Dominic was beatified in 1963 and the Causes for Sainthood of Father Ignatius Spencer and Mother Mary Joseph have been introduced in Rome.
Introduction to Mass and Homily preached by the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, at Mass on the anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. 6.30 pm on Saturday 17 September 2011 at the Shrine of Blessed Dominic Barberi, St Anne and Blessed Dominic, Sutton, St Helens.
Introduction to Mass:
A few months before she died I was watching ‘Songs of Praise’ with my mother: they were singing Blessed John Henry Newman’s hymn: ‘Praise to the Holiest in the Height’. Suddenly my mother said: ‘Patrick, at my funeral if a hymn was not written by Cardinal Newman don’t sing it: I don’t want any froth and sentimentality. I want strong hymns.’ I obeyed her. But at the moment Pope Benedict declared John Henry Newman ‘Blessed’ and once more the thousands in Crofton Park sang out ‘Praise to the Holiest’ I knew my mother was singing too. I’ll tell you how she felt close to Blessed John Henry later. But without Blessed Dominic there is no full account of Blessed John Henry: so I had to be here this evening before joining all the Bishops for Mass in London tomorrow. And we will see how the word of God we will soon receive from Isaiah, Saint Paul and Saint Mathew are just what we need for this anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit.
I met Father Luke Dumbill on Saturday: I commented: you slipped in your Golden Jubilee of ordination very quietly in July. Then the other day Father Roger Daly phoned me to see if I can join him to celebrate his Golden Jubilee on 28th October. Meanwhile, and I am the same year in seminary as they were, I am planning something on a larger scale for my golden jubilee in February. I am much later than them because I was too young and had to wait. It seems I am a bit of an eleventh hour arrival. So it turned out because he happened to be in Rome on the given day, Cardinal Godfrey ordained me: and his secretary and Master of Ceremonies was, as it happened, Monsignor Worlock. It was on what we used to call Septuagesima Sunday: 70 days before Easter Day.
And the appointed Gospel happened to be the one we have received today. And in fact it turns out I am not an eleventh hour arrival: I could only have been ordained three days earlier: so it looks like a wrong story for me. But our Lord’s teaching today to me, to all of us, and it is Dominic’s and John Henry’s too: don’t expect what you deserve: accept the abundant, overflowing, utterly undeserved generosity, creativity, reckless, boundless giving who is the God who is love. The family of the Cross and Passion, of Blessed Dominic, of Ignatius, of Elizabeth lies in this confidence:
‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’
‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’
‘He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him.’
The family of the Cross and Passion knows each one of us may say with Saint Paul:
‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; the soul I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
And John Henry Newman, searching to follow a kindly light amid encircling gloom encountered Dominic and found selflessness, mercy, joy, peace.
And so he would give to tens of thousands sublime poetry with which to praise the Holiest for loving wisdom, for wisest love, for generous love: to proclaim of Christ crucified:
‘Simply to his grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, him the strong.’
And it was a man, lowly, gentle, joyful, with radiant eyes who, I discovered, had introduced my mother to the wisdom, the light, the height and the depth offered to us by Blessed John Henry Newman.
She used to meet on visits to St Mary’s College, Oscott, near Birmingham, where I spent 18 years, one of the greatest scholars of Newman, Monsignor Francis Davis. But his appreciation of God’s generous love, abundant mercy, overflowing goodness was not theory. In the1940s he heard that among German prisoners of war, conscripted into the German Luftwaffe, were seminarians. Every week he went by bicycle from Birmingham to Worcester to hear confessions, celebrate Mass, give spiritual direction and give lectures and set study: as one said at Frank’s funeral in St. Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham: ‘When well founded hatred towards us was the overwhelming atmosphere, a humble, gentle, joyful priest befriended us and made it possible for us to be ordained soon after the Nazi’s horror was defeated and peace accomplished.’ Dominic Barberi, John Henry Newman, Francis Davis, to my mother and so to me: ‘Loving wisdom, wisest love, generous love’.
And I must not expect ever only what I deserve from the landowner: I must never be envious or suspicious because he is generous. For his thoughts are not my thoughts:
‘His ways are not my ways,
Yes, the heavens are as high above the earth,
As his ways of loving are above mine,
His thoughts of generous love above mine’
‘Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise:
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways’.
Or in a fourth verse of the hymn, ‘Lead Kindly Light’, I did not know until a year ago this night when it was sung in Hyde Park
‘Meantime, along the narrow, rugged path,
Thyself has trod,
Lead.,Saviour, lead me home to childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever, after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.’