Deacon Sullivan delivers CTS lecture at Brompton Oratory

Deacon Jack Sullivan at Brompton Oratory

Deacon Jack Sullivan at Brompton Oratory

Hundreds came to the Brompton Oratory in London, on Tuesday to hear the powerful testimony of Deacon Jack Sullivan, whose healing through Newman’s intercession will culminate in his Beatification next year.

Deacon Sullivan was delivering the 2009 Catholic Truth Society Lecture in the London Oratory on the evening of his second full day in England, before his pilgrimage to the Oratory in Birmingham and tours of sites associated with Newman in Oxford.

Jack Sullivan was welcomed to the Oratory by Provost Father Ignatius Harrison. Sullivan’s historic lecture was given in the large and beautiful Oratory church, in which John Henry Newman himself preached.

The London Oratory was founded by Newman after Father Frederick William Faber first established a London community of Oratorians in early 1849.

They were initially based in King William Street (now William IV Street) near Charing Cross, before moving to their present location next to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

After opening words from Fergal Martin, General Secretary of the Catholic Truth Society, Father Ian Ker, the Newman scholar, gave an introductory address, speaking about the power and meaning of miracles.

He said: “In the past I have often been asked why it was that Newman had not been canonised.  I was asked this especially when Josemaría Escrivá was canonised: why not Newman? The answer I was inclined to give was that Escriva’s followers actually prayed for his Canonisation, whereas Newman’s enthusiasts perhaps prayed less. Well now it seems that the praying had been left to Jack Sullivan: he is the one in whose hands God had placed the prayer needed for Newman’s Cause to make progress.”

 “It has often been said that Newman would be uninterested in miracles. This is a mistake. Jack was healed at Newman’s intercession, and Newman regarded intercessory prayer as the great privilege of the Christian”.

Father Ker concluded: “I have long been convinced that Newman should be declared a Doctor of the Church. The word Doctor means ‘Teacher’: for a person to be a Doctor of the Church means that the faithful can approach his or her teaching as a reliable guide to Christian truth. And Newman is perhaps especially suited to be a Doctor of the troubled times in which we live. He undoubtedly inspired much of the thinking of the Second Vatican Council (October 1962 – December 1965). But his theology was also deeply informed by history, and this means that he gives us the resources we need for understanding the continuity of Vatican II with tradition. So often since the Council, its theological and pastoral developments have been treated as creating a rupture with the past. Newman, the great theologian of development, can show us that they do not. In this, he is pre-eminently the theologian of what Pope Benedict XVI has called the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’.”

Jack delivered his lecture in the sanctuary of the Oratory church. Behind him was the original High Altar, on which the London Oratorians celebrate Mass *ad orientem, *just* *as at the Oratory in Birmingham.

This contemporary testimony in London and Birmingham to the liturgical tradition of the Church gives concrete focus to Fr Ker’s characterisation of Newman as a collaborator with the Holy Father in the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’. Alongside Jack on the London Oratory sanctuary was placed a new copy of the portrait of Newman by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), recently obtained by the London Fathers.

In his lecture, Jack Sullivan vividly and movingly recounted to a full church the story of his miraculous healing.  He added: “When I asked my surgeon – one of the top spinal surgeons in the United States – how he could account for the remarkable nature of my
healing, he said: ‘Jack, there’s no medical explanation for what happened to you: if you want an answer, ask God!’

He explained at length the Vatican process for recognising a miracle.

 “First, medical documents, scans, and all available records are collected as part of a Diocesan Process. All the relevant people are interviewed – besides me and my wife Carol, they quizzed doctors, nurses, friends, work colleagues – quite an undertaking. Then all this was sent to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome. There, seven doctors – experts in their field – examined all the evidence and pronounced to a man that my healing was scientifically truly inexplicable. That was the first part. Then it all had to be sent to the  Theological Consultors, who agreed that this healing indeed came from Cardinal Newman’s intercession. Then the Cardinals of the Congregations of Saints accepted this finding, and Pope Benedict XVI himself approved the miracle in July of this year.”

Jack reflected on what others could learn from his miracle. He said:  “Heaven is a reality even though it’s a dimension that we can’t see or in normal terms experience. Heaven is real – I caught a piece of it, a little bit of it. Life after death is a reality – the evidence is in Newman’s response to my prayer. What more evidence do we need than the communion of saints?

They are in heaven with God enjoying eternal bliss. They are there for us as well. We need help to communicate with the Divine. They are there to help us. They know the bumps and the detours of our road in this life. They know what this life means and they have experienced the difficulties that we do.”

 “Because this dimension can’t be seen, we shouldn’t try to see it, we’re human, all we have it our senses. But, when we lift our hearts and minds to God in prayer, then we can meet him. We are not self-sufficient. We need all the help we can get. Every prayer is heard, every prayer is answered.”

Sullivan added: “God wants Cardinal Newman to be prayed to, to be thought about, to be emulated, here and now. Have faith in God’s Providence. Have faith in the Providence that God has in store for us. We will persevere because we know that God has promised us eternal salvation. God loves those who are poor in spirit and who turn to Him with tears in their eyes and say,  ‘God, please be with me.’”

Visiting the London Oratory, which has a world-famous choir and school, was the culmination of Jack Sullivan’s visit to the capital, before his arrival at the Oratory in Birmingham, the heart of his trip to the UK trip, fulfilling his long-held desire to spend time in Newman’s own home and with his community.

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