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Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Leader of the House of Commons and a prominent Roman Catholic.

I will post more about him in due course. He is a kind and gentle man as well as a principled politician. His wife and children are blessed to have him as husband and father, respectively.

On Sunday, October 13, 2019, The Express published an article of his about the canonisation of St John Newman, which took place that day.

Excerpts from ‘The canonisation of a new British saint is a historic moment, says JACOB REES-MOGG’ follow, emphases mine.

The most historic fact is that St John Newman is the first British saint since 1401 who did not die as a martyr:

The last one was John of Bridlington, in 1401.

Rees-Mogg explains that, prior to the Reformation, nearly everyone in England revered the saints, although sometimes became angry with them. He offers the Catholic perception of sainthood:

Almost every individual would have had a particular saint to whom he or she prayed. Villages, towns, guilds – even the whole country – had saints who could be called upon. St George is the most famous now but St Edward the Confessor was much venerated, as were men such as St Thomas à Becket.

These saints would intercede for the individual or group, asking God to answer their prayers. They do not act individually but as a conduit between fallen Man and the inestimable divine.

It gives people a personal connection to God of an understandable and human kind, although in the Middle Ages the faithful sometimes took this a little far and could become cross if a saint’s intercession did not work. They might even throw the saint’s relics on to the floor

Not surprisingly, the Blessed Virgin is the most venerated and, historically, England had a particular devotion to her and was seen as “Our Lady’s Dowry”.

That said, the Prince of Wales, an Anglican, was among those who attended the canonisation ceremony at the Vatican.

Rees-Mogg tells us about John Newman’s life. He was the son of a banker and had a comfortable upbringing, yet one that involved Bible study at home:

Newman was born into a conventional Anglican family in 1801 where, as he said, he was “brought up from a child to take a great delight in reading the Bible”. This was a time before Catholic Emancipation, which came in 1829. When, aged just 16, he went to Trinity College, Oxford, it was not yet open to Catholics to study there.

He loved and was happy both at Trinity and later at Oriel College, where he became a fellow at the age of 21.

His incredible intellect led him to secular success and he won honour because of his spiritual virtue.

In the 19th century the Church of England was able to bring worldly as well as religious benefit to its leading figures. However Newman, after a period of intense struggle, gave all this up.

He had to resign his fellowship and office in the Church of England, which must have been especially difficult as it removed his income in middle age – as had happened to his own father when his bank had failed.

Rees-Mogg does not go into much detail about the years between 1822 and 1825, so here is a bit from the saint’s Wikipedia entry. Whilst at university, Newman was at the forefront of the Oxford Movement, which created High Church Anglicanism. The High Church revived pre-Reformation vestments and rituals. It was highly controversial at the time. Interestingly, Newman came to the Oxford Movement with strongly Calvinist leanings and held that the Pope was the Antichrist.

Newman’s father died in 1824, the same year that the young man was ordained an Anglican deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The following year, he was ordained an Anglican priest in the same cathedral. His first assignment was as curate at St Clement’s Church in Oxford.

Then, between 1825 and 1847, through his work both as a clergyman and fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, supplemented by his own writing and study, which involved travels to southern Europe, especially Italy, he began to shift theologically. In 1839, he began thinking about leaving Oxford and setting up a religious community. In 1842, he and a few friends left the city for the nearby town of Littlemore. They acquired a set of buildings in town and lived semi-monastic lives, writing and studying. The buildings later became Newman College.

In 1843, Newman took out an ad in the Oxford Conservative Journal, publishing an anonymous statement in which he renounced everything negative he had ever pronounced against the Catholic Church.

In 1845, he was received into the Catholic Church by an Italian priest in a rite held at Littlemore.

In 1846, Newman went to Rome. There he was ordained a Catholic priest, and Pius IX awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree.

In 1847, Newman returned to England as part of the Oratorian community. He is responsible for founding the famous London Oratory as well as the Oratory in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, in the Midlands.

Newman lost many friends and family members from his immediate circle during these years.

Rees-Mogg offers this succinct summary of Newman’s conversion:

Newman’s conversion was not led by any hostility towards the Anglican Church. He argued for as long as he could that it was essentially Catholic, even maintaining that the Thirty-­Nine Articles, a famously Protestant declaration, were not incompat­ible with Catholicism.

However, in the end his studies on the Ancient Church led him to the conviction that “in speaking against the Church of Rome I may be speaking against the Holy Ghost”. This effectively forced him to con­ vert, regardless of the risk to friendship, finances and status.

Once Newman had converted he was freer to devote himself to elucidating and propagating the Faith.

As for the two Oratories:

The success today of the Brompton Oratory, which is full every weekend and benefits from many vocations, derives from Cardinal Newman, whose first Oratory was at Birmingham. This continu­ing benefit of his work shows how the lives of the saints influence others for genera­tions. Newman spent his life searching for the truth and wanted to help others to find it too.

Rees-Mogg has this to say about saints and miracles:

Newman’s canonisation requires two authenticated miracles as proof of his sanc­tity. The first was that through his interces­sion, a man was cured of a spinal disease and the second a woman was healed of unstoppable bleeding.

Miracles are not caused by a saint but because a saint asks God to use His power.

Many people, even Christians, mock belief in miracles but, as Newman said, to anyone who can accept the most stupen­dous of all miracles – the Incarnation and Resurrection – lesser, almost minor mira­cles are easy to believe in.

Not surprisingly, a lot of hostile comments about Catholic belief followed Rees-Mogg’s article.

I offer this article partly for information and partly because my late mother, a lifelong Catholic, had always hoped that John Cardinal Newman would be canonised one day. That day has now arrived.

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