8 October 2019

Why October 9?

A friend once expressed a strong view about the tactlessness of selecting, for the liturgical commemoration of Blessed John Henry, the day of his conversion. I did see what he meant ...

... but here is an alternative reading. October 9 was the only day in Newman's life upon which he was in communion both with the See of Canterbury and with the See of Rome. Neat, yes? I feel quite proud of that. Of course, other days associated with Newman, including his obitus, were already occupied by other Saints.

Incidentally, the new (in 2010) Newman altar at Brompton is a very decent job. The centre of the reredos is a copy of Millais' famous fully frontal portrait of Blessed John Henry. Not bad, but not the original. A shame that a previous duke disposed of it to the Nation (it is back at Arundel with the status of a loan). The original would have been a distinguished addition to the other goodies which make the Oratory so superior to the little museum next door.


MaryP said...

But the See of Canterbury was vacant...invalidly occupied.

John Vasc said...

Yet the Millais copy is excellent, and well-lit. Any such original would certainly go the way of the dramatic Rex Whistler triptych of St Thomas More and St John Fisher with the grisly background of Tyburn; it was stolen in the 1980s.
How it came to be commissioned (in 1938) from the then 33-year-old Whistler is not known. There might have been a reason connected with Waugh, who knew him socially. Whistler is said to be the model for Charles Ryder in 'Brideshead Revisited', and a character in 'Scoop'.
As far as I know, it is Whistler's only religious painting, and it is fervent to a startling degree, for a non-believer (one who nevertheless sketched an image of the Blessed Virgin on the eve of his soldier's death in Normandy, a few weeks after D-Day). Alas, this tribute to the English Martyrs is not shown to great effect in a dark corner of a dark chapel, and this now rather darkened copy would benefit from a sympathetic restoration.