Today, the 9th of October, is the feast day of Blessed John Henry Newman. It was Newman who, after converting to Catholicism from Anglicanism and finding no suitable form of religious life to enter into (Newman the Oratorian, pg. 71), decided to found an Oratory of St Philip Neri in Birmingham.
Newman’s life is fittingly summarised by his motto, Cor ad cor loquitur (Heart speaks unto heart). It is a tale of his interior searchings and longings for the True God. Thus, his life reflects in a particularly vivid way that most basic desire of every human heart: the desire for God. At Bd Newman’s Mass of beatification, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote of the motto: “[it] gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God” (Benedict XVI, 19 September 2010). And the means to true communion with God is prayer: “a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Once this process of intimate communion with the Heart of God has begun, the soul must choose God alone as its master (cf. Lk 16:13).
God, as Master of our lives, gives to each of us a particular task. Newman’s prayer about his own vocation is timeless: