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Saturday, 4 July 2009

John Henry Newman

One of the most beautiful prayers I ever read in my youth was John Henry Newman's:

Lord Jesus, help me spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me and be so in me that everyone I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my heart. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be the light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be You shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching-not by my words but the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for You.

The beauty of that message is so profound and, though the understanding of it changes over time, it is the same message that emanates from every faith or spirituality - the message of knowing we are all more than our outward appearance; more than flesh and bone, and that the love that flows through us is the reality of who we are, and in that love we are all One.

A man who could write with such beautiful understanding; a man who walked his spiritual path sincerely (and took the major step of conversion to a different faith - a step which is always a major step for any person, regardless of the our views of the direction they choose to take), is surely a man worthy of great respect.

Isn't it, therefore, a sacrilege to deny that man one of his last requests? He requested that he be buried with his dear friend Ambrose St. John and that request was honoured until some ignoble minds decided that such a move might give rise to suspicions about his relationship with his friend. What kinds of suspicions are these? To the pure everything is pure. To those who read of the man's life and spiritual journey, everything is beautiful - whether or not we would take the same course. His relationships are clearly built from love and his sexuality is not our business. Love is what is important to this man. How he chose to express that love is irrelevant.

From what dark minds does impurity emanate? The dark minds that claim a soul (or a corpse) and readjust it, manipulate it to fit their view of what is or isn't alright? This, coming from the same institution that has turned a blind eye to all kinds of ugliness (paedophiles, abusers of children, the degradation of women, the missionary zeal that trampled over the sacredness of ancient cultures) is one more nail in the coffin of such a claustrophobic and controlling mind-set.

I don't suppose John Newman has any desire to be canonized. After all, canonization means quite simply giving someone the stamp of approval so other people can imitate their virtues. Having studied saints for more than 30 years and loving so many of them, I have to say that a large number of them are totally unworthy of imitation - their zeal for their beliefs is merely pandering to their ego and, without a doubt, if Jesus were incarnated today, His anger at the way in which 'His Father's house' has been turned into a den of thieves and whited-sepulchres!

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