Thursday, June 16, 2005

On June 16, 1848...
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., wrote a letter to a friend, who was considering entering the Church:

My dear Mrs. Froude,—
I answer your kind and touching letter just received immediately. How could you suppose I do not feel the warmest attachment and the most affectionate thoughts towards you and yours?

And now first about myself, since you are kindly anxious about me. It is my handwriting that distresses you; but it has been so for years. I seem to have sprained some muscles. I can't put my finger on the place—but I never write without some pain. And it does not seem that there is any help.

'As to health, I never was better or so well. The only indisposition is that I am always tired, but that I think is merely owing to the growth of years. As time goes on too, one's features grow more heavy. At least I feel it an effort to brighten up. Or rather, I believe those long years of anxiety have stamped themselves on my face—and now that they are at an end, yet I cannot change what has become a physical effect.

And now you know all about me, as far as I am able, or can get myself, to talk of myself. I will but add that the Hand of God is most wonderfully on me, that I am full of blessing and privilege, that I never have had even the temptation for an instant to feel a misgiving about the great step I took in 1845, that the hollowness of High Churchism (or whatever it is called) is to me so very clear that it surprises me, (not that persons should not see it at once) but that any should not see it at last, and, also, I must add that I do not think it safe for any one who does see it, not to action his conviction of it at once.

'Oh—that I were near you, and could have a talk with you—but then I should need great grace to know what to say to you. This is one thing that keeps me silent, it is, dear friend, because I don't know what to say to you. If I had more faith, I should doubtless know well enough; I should then say, "Come to the Church, and you will find all you seek." I have myself found all I seek. "I have all and abound"—my every want has been supplied, and as it has in all persons, whom I know at all well, who have become Catholics,—but still the fidget comes on me, "what if they fall? What if they go back? What if they find their faith tried? what if they relax into a lukewarm state? what if they do not fall into prudent and good hands?" It is strange I should say so, when I have instances of the comfort and peace of those very persons for whom I feared on their conversions.

But I will tell you what I think on the whole, though you do not ask me, in two sentences; 1. that it is the duty of those who feel themselves called towards the Church to obey it; 2. that they must expect trial, when in it, and think it only so much gain when they have it not. This last indeed is nothing more than the spirit moving, "when thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation."

I would not bring anyone into the Church on the ground which you put as against the Church of England, viz: that all hopes are failing. Not that I do not value, not that I do not now feel, the stimulus which comes from bright prospects, but that one ought not to come, if it can be helped, on such inferior grounds. Now this world is a world of trouble. You must come to the Church, not to avoid it, but to save your soul. If this is the motive, all is right. You cannot be disappointed, but the other motive is dangerous.

I was thinking of you this morning, when I said Mass. Oh that you were safe in the True Fold. I think you will be one day. You will then have the blessedness of seeing God face to face. You will have the blessedness of finding when you enter a Church, a Treasure Unutterable, the Presence of the Eternal Word Incarnate, the Wisdom of the Father who, even when He had done His work, would not leave us, but rejoices still to humble Himself by abiding in places on earth, for our sakes, while He reigns not the less on the right hand of God. To know too that you are in the Communion of Saints, to know that you have cast your lot among all those Blessed Servants of God who are the choice fruit of His Passion, that you have their intercessions on high, that you may address them, and above all the Glorious Mother of God, what thoughts can be greater than these? And to feel yourself surrounded by all holy arms and defences, with the Sacraments week by week, with the Priests' Benedictions, with crucifixes and rosaries which have been blessed, with holy water, with places or with acts to which Indulgences have been attached, and the "whole Armour of God"—and to know that, when you die, you will not be forgotten, that you will be sent out of the world with the holy unctions upon you, and will be followed with masses and prayers; to know in short that the Atonement of Christ is not a thing at a distance, or like the sun standing ever against us and separated off from us, but that we are surrounded by an atmosphere and are in a medium, through which His warmth and light flow in upon us on every side, what can one ask, what can one desire, more than this?

Yet I do not disguise that Catholicism is a different religion from Anglicanism. You must come to learn that religion which the Apostles introduced and which was in the world long before the Reformation was dreamed of, but a religion not so easy and natural to you, or congenial, because you have been bred up in another from your youth.

Excuse all this, as you will, my dear Mrs. Froude, and excuse the rambling character of this whole letter, and believe me,
Ever yours most affectionately
JOHN H. NEWMAN.

2 Comments:

Blogger William Luse said...

I was wondering if you knew whether Mrs. Froude ever took that final step.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Nârwen said...

She did, in 1858, along with her children. Unfortunately, her husband William Froude did not.

1:44 PM  

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