Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification cause is moving ahead swiftly after doctors were unable to explain the cure of a Massachusetts deacon who prayed to the 19th-century cardinal.
According to the Rome postulator of the Cardinal Newman cause, a consulta medica (team of doctors) gave a “positive” judgment April 24th, inferring that the healing was inexplicable.
“We now hope and pray for a positive outcome for the remaining steps of the process to beatify our cardinal,” said Father Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory and postulator of the cause.
A meeting of theological consultors will now determine whether the healing was truly a miracle. They are expected to reach a decision in June or July, leading to possible beatification this fall or next spring.
Deacon Jack Sullivan, 69, a married father of three from Marshfield near Boston, was cured of a serious spinal injury after praying for Cardinal Newman’s intercession on the Feast of the Assumption in 2001. According to Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory for the Cause of Newman’s Beatification and Canonization, Sullivan’s healing was extraordinary and dramatic.
“He [Sullivan] was literally bent over double and was looking at the ground in tremendous pain,” Jennings explained. “On that particular day, he was in bed and was praying as he did every day to Newman that he could be healed, not for himself, but because he wanted to continue his diaconate studies and be ordained a deacon.
“On that particular morning, from being in that serious condition, he was suddenly able to stand bolt upright and could walk,” Jennings said. “He just got out of his hospital bed and walked straight down the ward — in fact, a few hours later, they sent him home.”
Cardinal Newman, who was born in London in 1801, is one of the Church’s most famous converts. A vicar in the Church of England, he was renowned for his courageous intellect and writing ability and converted in 1845, after having founded the Oxford Movement — a group of Anglican clergymen who tried to reform the Church of England by restoring ancient Christian doctrine and practice.
He subsequently founded the Oratories of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham and London, and was also the first rector at the Catholic University in Dublin. In 1879, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.
In 1991, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Newman venerable after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints deemed his life to have been one of heroic virtue.
Two reasons are given for the delay in his beatification. First, according to Peter Jennings, few people were praying for it. Not until devotees of the cardinal made him better known in the latter part of the 20th century did his cause began to significantly advance.
The second reason is Newman’s extensive writings.
“He wrote an awful lot so everything needs to be examined,” said Father Ian Ker, who has authored several books on Cardinal Newman. “There were over 30 volumes of letters, over 40 volumes of published works, so the first process [being declared venerable] took a long time.”
One of Cardinal Newman’s greatest legacies is relevance to the Church of today. Many consider him to have been ahead of his time, and to have foreshadowed the Second Vatican Council.
“He stands for the genuine teachings of Vatican II, but he also stands for strict continuity,” said Father Ker. “In other words, Vatican II is to be seen as a development.”
Father Ker also believes the new ecclesial movements are something not only derived from the council, but what Newman “would have been absolutely in favor of,” as he had led one himself in the Oxford Movement.
Newman’s cause is now progressing more quickly because Pope Benedict XVI has taken a strong interest in it, according to Jennings, who is the editor of a recent book titled Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman.
Ever since the Pope was a seminarian, Jennings said, the Holy Father has been “terribly enthusiastic” about Cardinal Newman.
Assuming the judgment of the theological consultors is positive, it is expected the beatification will take place in Rome rather than in England, owing to Newman’s large following and the fact that he was a cardinal. But given that beatification is never an automatic process, Father Chavasse called on those who are devoted to Cardinal Newman “to redouble their prayers.”
Edward Pentin writes