[Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, on Newman's death]

{749} Words spoken by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster at the Solemn Requiem at the Oratory, South Kensington, 20th August 1890.

WE have lost our greatest witness for the Faith, and we are all poorer and lower by the loss.

When these tidings came to me, my first thought was this: in what way can I, once more, show my love and veneration for my brother and friend of more than sixty years? It was not in my power to stand beside his grave. For a time I was in doubt whether this last sad and solemn rite should be in my own Cathedral church, or here, as I may say, in his own home. I believe he would have wished it to be here, where the sorrow for his loss is a domestic sorrow, as of sons for a father. With their filial and private grief it is, then, most fitting that we should unite our personal and universal sorrow.

I am not come to pronounce orations or panegyrics. I would not, if I could. I could not, if I would. The memories of an affectionate friendship, as I have said, of more than sixty years, and the weight of old age put it beyond my power.

Few now are living who cherish such a record of the Past as I can. When I was twenty years of age and he was about twenty-eight, I remember his form and voice, and penetrating words at Evensong in the University Church at Oxford. Having once seen and heard him I never willingly failed to be there. As time went on, those quiet days passed into the conflict and tumult of the following years. My field of work was far away; but I knew his thoughts by letter, and when trials came I was not absent from him. Littlemore is before me now as fresh as yesterday. Then came the great decision, in which the toils and prayers of so many years were fulfilled and rewarded.

The next time we met was in 1848. It was in Rome. He was in the Oratorian habit; simple, humble, and dead to the world. Again, four years passed, and I heard once more the well-known voice, sweet as of old, but strong in the absolute truth, prophesying a "Second Spring" in the first Provincial Council of Westminster. Why should I go on? You have known him since then in the midst of you. My last vision of him is when, as a brother and colleague, he leaned upon my arm at the door of this church in a Funeral rite well remembered by many of you, and by some of you never to be forgotten while life lasts. The last time I wrote to him, some months ago, I remember saying that his length of days was a pledge of the {750} love of God. Such is but the beginning and close of a friendship that can have no end.

If any proof were needed of the immeasurable work that he has wrought in England, the last week would be enough. Who could doubt that the great multitude of his personal friends in the first half of his life, and the still greater multitude of those who have been instructed, consoled, and won to God by the unequalled beauty and irresistible persuasion of his writings—who could doubt that they, at such a time as this, would pour out the love and gratitude of their hearts? But that the public voice of England, political and religious, in all its diversities, should for once unite in love and veneration of a man who had broken through its sacred barriers and defied its religious prejudices, who could have believed it? He had committed the hitherto unpardonable sin in England. He had rejected the whole Tudor Settlement in religion. He had become Catholic as our fathers were. And yet for no one in our memory has such a heartfelt and loving veneration been poured out. Of this one proof is enough. Some one has said: "Whether Rome canonises him or not, he will be canonised in the thoughts of pious people of many creeds in England." This is true; but I will not therefore say that the mind of England is changed.

Nevertheless, it must be said that, towards a man who had done so much to estrange it, the will of the English people was changed; an old malevolence had passed into goodwill. If this is a noble testimony to a great Christian life, it is as noble a proof of the justice, equity, and uprightness of the English people. In venerating John Henry Newman it has unconsciously revealed and honoured itself.

It is too soon to measure the work that has been silently wrought by the life of Cardinal Newman. No living man has so changed the religious thought of England. His withdrawal closes a chapter which stands alone in the religious life of this century. It has, for the most part, been wrought in silence; for the retiring habits of the man, and the growing weight of age, made his later utterances few. Nevertheless, his words of old were as "the hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces," and as the light that works without a sound. It has been boldly and truly avowed that he is "the founder, as we may almost say, of the Church of England as we see it. What the Church of England would have become without the Tractarian movement, we can faintly guess; and of the Tractarian movement Newman was the living soul and the inspiring genius." This sentence will be implacably resented and fiercely attacked; but it is true as the light of day. This intellectual movement was begun and {751} sustained by one man. But for this movement, Erastianism and Rationalism would by this time have reigned supreme in the National religion. The penetrating influence of this one mind has pervaded also the bodies separated from the Established Church, and most opposed to it. They have been powerfully attracted, not to the Tudor Settlement, but to primitive Christianity. And the same sweet voice and luminous words have been working among them, all the more persuasively because he had rejected all things of this world, even more than themselves. He spoke to them as a simple voice of truth, which could neither be warped by prejudice nor bribed to silence.

In 1861 the following words were published in a letter to Father Newman, as he then was. "You have been a master-builder in this work, and I a witness of its growth. You remained long at Oxford, still, with all its disfigurements, so dear to both of us; but I was removed to a distance, and had to work alone. Nevertheless to you I owe a debt of gratitude, for intellectual help and light, greater than to any one man of our time; and it gives me a sincere gratification now publicly to acknowledge, though I can in no way repay it." I little thought in 1861 that I should have the consolation of repeating these words, as it were, over his grave.

I have no heart at such a time as this to go into details. It is for others, who will hereafter give their mind to record minutely the history of this great life, and all that it has done. But we cannot forget that we owe to him, among other debts, one singular achievement. No one who does not intend to be laughed at will henceforward say that the Catholic religion is fit only for weak intellects and unmanly brains. This superstition of pride is over. St. Thomas Aquinas is too far off and too little known to such talkers to make them hesitate. But the author of the Grammar of Assent may make them think twice before they so expose themselves. Again, the designer and editor of the Library of the Fathers has planted himself on the undivided Church of the first six centuries, and he holds the field; the key of the position is lost. Moreover, his hymns are in the hearts of Englishmen, and they have a transforming power. He has taught us that beauty and truth are inseparable; that beauty resides essentially in the thought, so that nothing can make that to be beautiful which is not so in the plainest words that will convey the meaning. The English people have read the thoughts through his transparent words, and have seen the beauty of Eternal Truth as it shone forth in his mind.

Thus far I have spoken of his work upon the world without; what can I, or what need I, say of his work inwardly upon the {752} Church? You all know it, and have felt it. His writings are in your hands. But beyond the power of all books has been the example of his humble and unworldly life; always the same, in union with God, and in manifold charity to all who sought him. He was the centre of innumerable souls, drawn to him as Teacher, Guide, and Comforter through long years, and especially in the more than forty years of his Catholic life. To them he was a spring of light and strength from a supernatural source. A noble and beautiful life is the most convincing and persuasive of all preaching, and we have all felt its power. Our Holy Father Leo XIII. knew the merits and the gifts, both natural and supernatural, which were hidden in his humility, and to the joy of all he called him to the highest dignity next to his own.

The history of our land will hereafter record the name of John Henry Newman among the greatest of our people, as a confessor for the faith, a great teacher of men, a preacher of justice, of piety, and of compassion.

May we all follow him in his life, and may our end be painless and peaceful like his.

[from The Life of Cardinal Manning, vol. II, E. S. Purcell, Macmillan & Co. 1896.]

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