Miracle approved for Newman beatification

The miracle necessary for the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman  the best-known English churchman in Victorian England, has been approved by the Cardinals of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, writes Peter Jennings

Jack Sullivan, aged 70, who lives with his wife Carol in Marshfield, near Boston, Massachusetts, was cured of an extremely serious spinal disorder on 15 August 2001, the Solemnity of the Assumption, after his intense intercession to Cardinal Newman.

The Congregation is now working on the document including a résumé of the life of Cardinal Newman and the miraculous cure attributed to him of Jack Sullivan, a Permanent Deacon from the Archdiocese of Boston.

When completed, this will be taken by the Perfect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, to Pope Benedict XVI who alone has the authority to promulgate the decree.

The Pope, who is taking a personal interest in the Cause, was first introduced to the theology of Cardinal Newman as a young seminary student in Germany in January 1946.

Beatification come from beatus, a Latin word meaning happy, blessed, holy. Beatification is an act by which the Catholic Church, through an official decree by the Pope, permits public veneration under the title Blessed of a dead person whose life is marked by holiness and the heroic practice of the virtues.

This correspondent was able to give the joyful news of the miracle by telephone to Deacon Jack Sullivan at his home on 13 June.  Asked for this initial impressions upon receiving the news of the favorable recommendation of the cardinals, he responded by email 24 hours later: "When I first learned of the favorable recommendation of the Cardinals and bishops comprising the congregation for the Causes of Saints, I felt a sense of awe and immense gratitude to God and Cardinal Newman.”

Deacon Sullivan emphasised: "If it wasn't for Cardinal Newman's intercession when experiencing extremely severe spinal problems, it would have been virtually impossible to complete my diaconate formation and be ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston.  Nor would I have been able to continue in my chosen profession as a magistrate in our court system to support my family."

He continued: "My fervent desire to give all that I have in my parish ministry at both St Thecla's parish in Pembroke, Massachusetts, and my prison ministry at the House of Correction in Plymouth, Massachusetts, best expresses the intense appreciation I have for God's gift and Cardinal Newman, who directs my efforts.

"I have developed a very real relationship with Cardinal Newman in frequent prayer and  I try to pass on what marvelous gifts I have received to those I meet.

"Secondly, when receiving the news, I felt a very deep sense of the reality of God's love for each one of us especially during times of immense difficulties and suffering."

Deacon Sullivan added: "I realise that indeed there is such a thing as the Communion of Saints and a place of perfect peace which God has prepared for each one of us.  As the kindly light of truth guided the life of Newman amidst unspeakable challenges in his world, so too I feel the same sense of direction when reflecting on these awesome gifts by realising that God dispenses His favour especially on the lowly and those who are ordinary as beautifully described in our Lady’s praises in her Magnificat."

At present opinion is divided as to the venue for the beatification ceremony between a location in Rome or Westminster Cathedral in London. There are two indisputable reasons for having the ceremony in Rome. The first is the world-wide interest in Newman both as a theologian and writer but also as a holy, humble and pastoral parish priest who looked after the sick and poor of his Oratory Parish in Edgbaston.

Secondly, the fact that Newman is a Cardinal of the Roman  Catholic Church. When he was  created a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879, Newman requested permission to continue to live and work as a parish priest in Birmingham rather than move to Rome, as was the norm for cardinals at that time.  The Pope granted permission and Cardinal Newman died at the Oratory House in Edgbaston on 11 August 1890.

The intriguing question now is whether Pope Benedict XVI will make an exception and personally beatify, either in Rome or in England, the Blessed John Henry Newman.

*Peter Jennings is author of "Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman" (Family Publications, Oxford, 2005)

Tags: beatification, Jack Sullivan, miracle, Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman

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