Thursday, July 01, 2004

On July 1, 1879
Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. C.O., returned to the Birmingham Oratory after the trip to Rome during which he was elevated to the cardinalate. Fr. Henry Ignatius Dudley Ryder, C.O.,wrote about that day.

'No one I am sure who was privileged to be present, will ever forget that improvised service of thanksgiving for his safe return in which he took part immediately on his arrival. He was wonderful to look upon as he sat fronting the congregation, his face as the face of an angel—the features that were so familiar to us refined and spiritualised by illness and the delicate complexion and silver hair touched by the rose tints of his bright unaccustomed dress. Leaning his head upon his hand he began to talk to us and must have spoken for some twenty minutes or more. Every word seemed precious—I can only hope they have been preserved—and yet simple to the last degree; about home principally.

If I remember right he began with the words "It is such a happiness to get home." There was throughout what was often a peculiar charm with him, the impression of aloofness as though it were all a soliloquy or conversation you had innocently surprised.'

Fr. Ryder's hope was partially realized- someone did write down the Venerable's words, though apparently it was not him.

'My dear Children,—I am desirous of thanking you for the great sympathy you have shown towards me, for your congratulations, for your welcome, and for your good prayers; but I feel so very weak—for I have not recovered yet from a long illness—that I hardly know how I can be able to say ever so few words, or to express in any degree the great pleasure and gratitude to you which I feel.

'To come home again! In that word "home" how much is included. I know well that there is a more heroic life than a home life. We know the blessed Apostles—how they went about, and we listen to St. Paul's words—those touching words—in which he speaks of himself and says he was an outcast. Then we know, too, our Blessed Lord—that He "had not where to lay His head." Therefore, of course, there is a higher life, a more heroic life, than that of home. But still, that is given to few. The home life—the idea of home—is consecrated to us by our patron and founder St. Philip, for he made the idea of home the very essence of his religion and institute. We have even a great example in Our Lord Himself; for though in His public ministry He had not where to lay His head, yet we know that for the first thirty years of His life He had a home, and He therefore consecrated, in a special way, the life of home. And as, indeed, Almighty God has been pleased to continue the world, not, as angels, by a separate creation of each, but by means of the Family, so it was fitting that the congregation of St. Philip should be the ideal, the realisation of the Family in its perfection, and a pattern to every family in the parish, in the town, and throughout the whole of Christendom. Therefore, I do indeed feel pleasure to come home again. Although I am not insensible of the great grace of being in the Holy City, which is the centre of grace, nor of the immense honour which has been conferred upon me, nor of the exceeding kindness and affection to me personally of the Holy Father—I may say more than affection, for he was to me as though he had been all my life my father—to see the grace which shone from his face and spoke in his voice; yet I feel I may rejoice in coming home again—as if it were to my long home—to that home which extends to heaven, "the home of our eternity." And although there has been much of sickness, and much sadness in being prevented from enjoying the privileges of being in the Holy City, yet Almighty God has brought me home again in spite of all difficulties, fears, obstacles, troubles, and trials. I almost feared I should never come back, but God in His mercy has ordered it otherwise. And now I will ask you, my dear friends, to pray for me, that I may be as the presence of the Holy Father amongst you, and that the Holy Spirit of God may be upon this Church, upon this great city, upon its Bishop, upon all its priests, upon all its inhabitants, men, women and children, and as a pledge and beginning of it, I give you my benediction.'


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