Not for the first time, Peter Kwasniewski has placed us all in his debt. I am refering to his recent John Henry Newman on Worship, Reverence and Ritual (Os Justi Press, 513 pages, ISBN 9 781692 121020). In it, he gathers together a very large number of splendid texts by S John Henry which relate to continuity in liturgical praxis. But I would like to suggest that the erudite compiler has raised a deeper question.
The pieces Peter collects are arranged in chronological order of composition. This encouraged me, on drawing this substantial volume out of its packing, instantly to detect that some three quarters of its pages are taken from S JHN's 'Anglican period'. Turning then to the 'Editor's Note', I found this acknowledgement: "While the majority of writings contained herein are from Newman's Anglican period (particularly from the eight volumes of the incomparable Parochial and Plain Sermons), there is very little in their content that would even need to be rewritten, let alone retracted, by a Roman Catholic." I was instantly reminded of the Saint's own protestation of the continuities in his life and thought, expressed in his Biglietto speech: " ... to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion."
The deeper question which arises from the recent canonisation is this. Saint John Henry Newman is a very unusual, very atypical, Teacher to be given by God to the Universal Church. I am sure there are saints a-many whose views changed when they left haeresis for the light of the Gospel. And it is true that the overall corpus of S John Henry's teaching does need to be focussed, perhaps aligned, perhaps corrected, by the fulness of his views after his entry into full communion (as a a young man ... for example ... he had opined that the Roman Pontiff was Antichrist).
But has there ever been a Saint a significant part of whose authentic teaching was delivered outside the visible unity of the One Fold of the Redeemer?
You see, this Saint offers the Universal Church a body of teaching which, taken as a whole, is conspicuous, from his earliest Anglican teaching onwards, for its power to edify. And, not least, to edify the Catholic Church in the crisis in which she finds herself during this particular kairos. Newman is God's messenger for this, the seventh year of the pontificate of Pope Francis. Whether PF himself realises that or not.
We have the authority of Joseph Ratzinger for drawing upon the teaching of the Anglican Newman. In defence of his view that what has been sacred cannot simply be discarded, the doctrinal essence of Summorum Pontificum, the future Pope Benedict cited Parochial and Plain Sermons volume 2 (1835), Sermon 7, included in Dr Kwasniewski's selection from Newman.
The continuous direction and consistency in S JHN's teaching is a remarkable testimony to the working of grace within the separated Anglican community in which he grew up. And it is surely no surprise that he was beatified by the same Roman Pontiff who invited 'Anglican groups' to bring into full communion with the See of Peter the wise and gracious things which they had enjoyed in the centuries of separation, those days in terra aliena.
We, particularly (but by no means only) members of the Ordinariates, have an awesome duty.
Tertullian, poor fellow, slithered from Catholicism into haeresis. Yet he is sometimes cited Magisterially. A fortiori, how important it will be to cite both the Anglican and the Catholic S JHN and to do so with deferential respect and admiration.
Let me be clear about this: it is our duty to know and to quote and to promote those teachings which Newman gave when he was still an Anglican as well as the things he did and wrote after that rainy evening at Littlemore just outside Oxford on October 9 in the Year of Salvation 1845.
Peter: Thank You very much for this superb compilation of S John Henry's Magisterial writings upon Tradition and Worship. In your pages, the reader will find not only sound doctrine, and sensitive teaching, but the exquisite cadences of the greatest stylist of modern Catholic England.
In every sense of the word, you have given us a Treasure!!