Newman, “the infidelity of the future,” and the challenges of today – Catholic World Report

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Bemoaning the status quo does nothing; engagement is required. Thus, to prayer and fasting one must add as an essential element the bold and joyful witness of the Christian life, contributing to what John Paul II called “the new evangelization”.

Detail from “Portrait of Newman” (1881) by John Everett Millais [Wikipedia]

Editor’s note: The following homily preached on January 16, 2023 for the day of recollection for the faculty of the Donahue Academy at Ave Maria University.

In our opening session this morning, I suggested considering the socio-cultural environment in which we are called to make saints for the Kingdom of God. Let me tease out some of the implications of that point, calling to my side none other than St. John Henry Cardinal Newman.

On October 2, 1873, the future cardinal was invited to preach on what should have been a joyous occasion – the opening of the first seminary in England since the Reformation. The title of his sermon was “The Infidelity of the Future”;1 to say that the future Cardinal rained on the parade would be an understatement. After tipping his biretta in the direction of the momentous nature of the happy event, Newman used the rest of his time proffering a series of dizzying predictions about what those seminarians would face in the coming years of their priestly ministry. I suspect not a few priests present made a mental note: “Don’t ask Newman to preach for your silver or golden jubilee!”

Let me share with you some of the more salient passages from that sermon.

Referring to the “perilous times” which he saw on the horizon, St. John Henry noted:

I know that all times are perilous, and that in every time serious and anxious minds, alive to the honour of God and the needs of man, are apt to consider no times so perilous as their own. At all times the enemy of souls assaults with fury the Church which is their true Mother, and at least threatens and frightens when he fails in doing mischief. And all times have their special trials which others have not. And so far I will admit that there were certain specific dangers to Christians at certain other times, which do not exist in this time. Doubtless, but still admitting this, still I think that the trials which lie before us are such as would appal and make dizzy even such courageous hearts as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory I, or St. Gregory VII. And they would confess that dark as the prospect of their own day was to them severally, ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it.

So, what was so bad about the age he envisioned?


Newman, “the infidelity of the future,” and the challenges of today – Catholic World Report

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