It was the passionate contemplation of truth which also led him to a liberating acceptance of the authority which has its roots in Christ, and to the sense of the supernatural which opens the human mind and heart to the full range of possibilities revealed in Christ. 'Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on', Newman wrote in The Pillar of the Cloud; and for him Christ was the light at the heart of every kind of darkness. For his tomb he chose the inscription: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem; and it was clear at the end of his life's journey that Christ was the truth he had found. But Newman's search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: 'Therefore, I will trust Him.... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.'Newman's gift of friendship I have found in the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman a brilliant model of friendship. No one could describe Cardinal Newman as extroverted or light-hearted. Newman truly speaks heart-to-heart -- cor ad cor loquitur -- a phrase that he chose as his personal motto. There was nothing superficial about Newman's way of relating to so many different people. He looked at them and loved them for who they were. During his lifetime, Newman had an extraordinary capacity for deep friendship with many people, both men and women, as his 20,000 letters collected in 32 volumes attest. This personal influence has been exerted very powerfully upon millions of people who have read his works and discovered what friendship really means. He often wrote to his friends as carissimi -- dearest ones -- but his was a more innocent age, far less suspicious of strong expressions of love between persons of the same sex. Newman was not afraid to be very close to a few people. He once wrote in a letter: "The best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection for those who are immediately about". Are we able to foster such friendships today? Can such intimate friendships exist for us? Men and women often have intense friendships with members of their own sex, friendships that have no sexual component; yet we are at a loss to speak about them or even afraid to do so. Today "friend" is one you add to a social networking profile on the web; or it is a euphemism for a sexual partner outside marriage. Can a man nowadays even own up with pride to having a dear and close friend, another man to whom he is devoted? The French writer Francois Mauriac once wrote about friendship: "If you are friends with Christ many others will warm themselves at your fire... On the day when you no longer burn with love, many will die of the cold". I am certain that the "kindly light" and flame in Cardinal Newman's heart gave and continues to give life and warmth to millions of people. And the source of the unquenchable fire was Newman's deep friendship with Jesus Christ. We need Newman's kindly light and brilliant example today more than ever. Official prayer for the votive mass of Blessed John Henry Newman
O God, who bestowed on the Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fullness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.Lead, Kindly Light John Henry Newman penned his well-known poem, "Lead, Kindly Light", part of a larger work of religious verse and hymns entitled Lyra Apostolica, while on a voyage through southern Europe with his Oxford colleague, theologian Richard Hurrell Froude.
Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene -- one step enough for me. I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou Shouldst lead me on. I loved to choose and see my path, but now Lead Thou me on! I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, Pride ruled my will: remember not past years. So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still Will lead me on, O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till The night is gone; And with the morn those angel faces smile Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB, CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation