[I thought we could use something on the lighter side, so I pulled out this piece from last fall on the patronage of the ordinariates. I hope it is clear that tongue is firmly in cheek in several places.]
Cardinal Newman is, at last, set to be beatified and that is a wonderful thing, but in the euphoria around his beatification and the subsequent euphoria over the announcement of Anglicanorum Coetibus, several writers have advocated linking the two events, suggesting that Newman should be recognized as patron of the new Anglican structures. I won’t say that Newman isn’t the right patron, but we should give the other contenders their due.
First and foremost, the feelings and efforts of the Queen of Heaven should be given their due in this. England is known as Mary's dowry. At her behest, the Holy House was rebuilt at Walsingham, which became England's great seat of Marian devotion. The cult of Our Lady of Walsingham, under which Our Lady is Patroness of the English Speaking Peoples, is something that Catholics on both sides of the Tiber share and Walsingham has long been a place where both Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics have offered their prayers for the breach of the Reformation to be closed. The novena for the conversion of England ends on her feast. Let's not forget the words of that other great Oratorian convert. Fr. Faber:
Faith of our fathers! Mary's prayers
Shall win our country back to thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We would be true to Thee till death.
In short, ladies first.
Second, England already has a patron saint, St. George, and though he is not English, I think most Anglophones and philes believe that he's done quite well by them. To look at it another way, saints who slew mythical beasts have had as rough a time during the last 40 years as the Anglo-Catholics who are looking toward the ordinariates. Maybe it's time for St. George to have a new day in the sun as well.
Third, chronologically, I suppose I should mention Joseph of Arimathea, whose cultus associated with Glastonbury has allowed the pottiness that is the gift of a certain type of Anglican mind to reach its hothouse extreme. Did his travels as a merchant bring him to England with the adolescent Lord so that his feet could tread on the green hills? Who knows, but it does have a place in hearts beyond the BNP.
Fourth, Cardinal Newman is about to join the ranks of the blesseds from a country that already has scores of saints, many of whom are established heavy-hitters, though their light has often been a bit dimmed since the Reformation. What of Alban, the proto-martyr; of Augustine who first brought aid and succor from Rome; and of Hilda, who settled the affairs of the Church with English good sense? What of St. Thomas, who gave his life for the liberty of the English Church and whose shrine made Canterbury one of Europe's great centers of pilgrimage?
Fifth, let's not forget the martyrs of the Reformation. What of St. Thomas More, the great lawyer whose intercession just might be detected in this solution that is as much canonical as it is theological? What of all the fruit of Tyburn's tree whose blood has contributed to making this particular peace?
Sixth, moving outside of the UK and thinking of my own country, what of Mother Seton, the pioneering Episcopal convert whose deathbed cry was, "Be children of the Church, be children of the Church."
Seventh, in an age where cable and the internet have created an unprecedented stage for those who write and argue, it is understandable that Cardinal Newman, who excelled at writing and arguing, should have quite a following among we would-be Newmans of the blogosphere and the talk show circuit, but does popularity on the 'net cast a wide enough net for patronage of something more broad and diverse?
Finally, is Newman an attractive figure for Anglicans who are moving toward reunion? When I was an Anglo-Catholic, I like many others had rather ambivalent feelings about Newman. Yes, he was right, but he wasn't always terribly nice about it. Newman left the Oxford Movement before Anglo-Catholicism really got started. After Newman's conversion, Anglo-Catholics went to the slums to reach the poor and to jail to defend their faith. Cardinal Newman is not part of that story and his defection is a deep wound that, for many, has never really healed. For some Anglo-Catholics, talking of Newman is a bit like talking about an ex-wife or a lost child. It's not that there isn't love there, but there is pain as well.
We will all rejoice when Cardinal Newman deservedly gets off the shelf next month, but with all of the worthy possibilities to be considered, are we sure that he’s our man? What do you think? Who else is in the running? (And, please, keep it light.)