Next weekend Pope Francis will canonise John Henry Newman. He will be the fifth Londoner to be canonised.
Newman was a convert to the Catholic Church, he lived from the year 1801-1890. He had been an Evangelical Protestant and then a priest of the Anglican Church. While an Anglican he was a founder and part of a movement in the Church of England that wanted it to discover its roots in the Catholic Church. He joined the Catholic Church became a priest and joined a religious order called the Oratorians.
He was a man of exceptional intellect, who wrote much and discussed religious ideas with the people in the 19th century. His books and writings have a huge influence on Christian thought even to this day, they are innovative, clear and creative. Towards the end if his life he was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.
Pope Benedict beatified him a few years ago on his trip to England. Pope Francis will recognise him as a saint of the Church next Sunday in St Peter’s Square.
One of the big elements of Newman’s life was his own personal search for God. This led him to the Catholic Church, to being a priest in the Catholic Church and to be one of its greatest teachers. He wrote many books, poems and hymns that explain the faith: how people come to faith, how they understand faith, how they can live their faith.
Today’s Gospel is all about faith. If your faith was the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry bush be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would do it.
Faith is a strange thing. Some believe and other people don’t believe. Some people find faith easy other people find it very hard. Some people lose their faith others could never lose it. Some people get good example and never get faith. Some people get no example and keep their faith. Some people have the hardest of lives and still keep their faith, others have the easiest of lives and lose their faith. Some people have a million questions. Other people have no questions.
Some people have the simplest of faiths others need to know things.
It’s a great mystery.
It seems as if Newman was one of those people who had a long road. He was one of those people who was always asking questions, always seeking answers, always wanting to understand, always wanting explanations.
Some people say you shouldn’t question. His life would seem to say the opposite. That search, that questioning, that reflection took him to a deeper faith.
That Gospel passage – where your faith the size of a mustard see you could say to this mulberry bush, be unrooted and planted an the see and it would do it – seems to me an invitation to find faith in life, a real faith, a true faith. Not something here today and gone tomorrow. Not a faith for good times. But a trust and confidence in God that can make us do great things in life, seemingly impossible things.
Newman found faith and that gift deepend in his life.
That faith was a profound experience of God in his life which shaped and changed his life. Once he had found God there was no turning back, nothing would do but he would follow that path.
Faith for many people can be a struggle. For others it can be as easy as breathing air.
All of us are invited to find faith. Having found faith it is sure to transform our life, there is no turning back.