One of the books I’ll be trying to read while in Rome is John Henry Newman; Prayers, Verses and Devotions, from Ignatius Press.
Just as it seems like St. Philip Neri, my Patron for this year, may have had a hand in making Rome a suddenly reality (when I discovered that our lodgings are very near his Oratory, I could almost hear him laughing), finding this book–in perfect condition–in the “used book” bin at church seemed like a gift, too. Since Pope Benedict will be beatifying Newman on September 19, during his UK visit, I figured I ought to get to know a little about him.
Before I even opened the book, it suddenly hit me: Newman was an Oratorian. And who founded the Oratorians? Who pestered me all year until I finally constructed an oratory in my home, and then brought a second-class relic of his to rest upon it?
Why, that would be Neri, again.
In my prayers, each day, I always turn to Philip and say, “teach me what you know…”
You may think all of this means nothing, but after spending most of a year under Philip’s tutelage (I am a very poor student, but he is a most patient, cheerful and ironic master), discovering the brilliant Newman’s strong affection for the clever Neri, and learning that the Rome seminar includes a two-hour class on Newman’s beatification, well…call me foolish, call me silly, but I am increasingly feeling like I am being led around here by the nose.
To what end, I have no idea, but I am sure it is for my good, so I am willing to be led.
The Newman book is precisely what it purports to be; it is not a biography, it is simply excerpts from his writing in all forms. What better way to get to know a man, than following his thoughts? I like this, written as he traveled through Italy, very much:
When Heaven sends sorrow,
Warnings go first,
Lest it should burst
With stunning might
On souls too bright
To fear the morrow.
Because Neri is teaching me to laugh, I did chuckle a little, considering sorrow bursting with “sudden might” and my dislike of flying.
It’s an oddball life I lead, I know.
Our Passionist Nun friends in Kentucky (producers of one of the most charming invitations to religious life I’ve ever seen) have posted their own bragging rights about Newman, with The Man Behind Newman’s Conversion. Seems it was a Passionist that received Newman into the church!
Also, be sure to check out Sr. Mary Ann Walsh’s piece on Newman
Newman’s Feastday will be October 9
Don’t forget to check the Word of the Day!