Yesterday, along with four female saints, Saint John Henry Newman, the famous Anglican convert to Catholicism, was canonized by the Holy Father. There isn’t a convert I know that doesn’t look to the wisdom and spiritual guidance of Cardinal Newman. He is considered the greatest churchman of the 19th century and one of the greatest minds in the modern Catholic Church. To learn more about St. John Henry Newman, I would encourage you to read Cardinal Avery Dulles’ book, John Henry Neman.
Like many of the saints, St. John Henry Newman had a love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, although it took some time because of his Anglican upbringing and theology. Newman’s views on Our Lady changed drastically after his correspondence with Professor C.W. Russell of Maynooth University. Years later, Newman would say that Russell played a major part in his conversion to Catholicism.
Russell explained to him two important points – first, that the Rosary was a meditation on the Gospels – focusing on the Incarnation, Passion, and Glory of Jesus Christ, and second, he sent him St. Alphonsus Liguori’s book of homilies on Our Lady. Russell hoped that Liguori’s homilies would allow Newman to see how misinformed his thoughts were that the Catholic Church gave more honor to Our Lady than the Holy Trinity.
Although there is a lot more than can be said on this topic, I would like to move on because of time restraints and provide for you his words on Our Lady from his work titled Meditations and Devotions. To learn more about Newman and his devotion to Our Lady, I would encourage you to read this online post.
“Mary is called the Gate of Heaven, because it was through her that our Lord passed from heaven to earth. The Prophet Ezechiel, prophesying of Mary, says, ‘the gate shall be closed, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it, since the Lord God of Israel has entered through it—and it shall be closed for the Prince, the Prince Himself shall sit in it.’”
“We see then the force of our Lady’s title, when we call her “Holy Mary.” When God would prepare a human mother for His Son, this was why He began by giving her an immaculate conception. He began, not by giving her the gift of love, or truthfulness, or gentleness, or devotion, though according to the occasion she had them all. But He began His great work before she was born; before she could think, speak, or act, by making her holy, and thereby, while on earth, a citizen of heaven. “Tota pulchra es, Maria!” Nothing of the deformity of sin was ever hers. Thus she differs from all saints. There have been great missionaries, confessors, bishops, doctors, pastors. They have done great works, and have taken with them numberless converts or penitents to heaven. They have suffered much, and have a superabundance of merits to show. But Mary in this way resembles her Divine Son, viz., that, as He, being God, is separate by holiness from all creatures, so she is separate from all Saints and Angels, as being ‘full of grace.’”
“Mary has this title in her Litany, because the Son of God, who is also called in Scripture the Word and Wisdom of God, once dwelt in her, and then, after His birth of her, was carried in her arms and seated in her lap in His first years. Thus, being, as it were, the human throne of Him who reigns in heaven, she is called the Seat of Wisdom.”
“In this magnanimity and generosity in suffering she is, as compared with the Apostles, fitly imaged as a Tower. But towers, it may be said, are huge, rough, heavy, obtrusive, graceless structures, for the purposes of war, not of peace; with nothing of the beautifulness, refinement, and finish which are conspicuous in Mary. It is true: therefore she is called the Tower of Ivory, to suggest to us, by the brightness, purity, and exquisiteness of that material, how transcendent is the loveliness and the gentleness of the Mother of God.”
“Mary, in like manner, is pre-eminently faithful to her Lord and Son. Let no one for an instant suppose that she is not supremely zealous for His honour, or, as those who are not Catholics fancy, that to exalt her is to be unfaithful to Him. Her true servants are still more truly His. Well as she rewards her friends, she would deem him no friend, but a traitor, who preferred her to Him. As He is zealous for her honour, so is she for His. He is the Fount of grace, and all her gifts are from His goodness. O Mary, teach us ever to worship thy Son as the One Creator, and to be devout to thee as the most highly favoured of creatures.”
“Lastly, it is Mary’s prerogative to be the Morning Star, which heralds in the sun. She does not shine for herself, or from herself, but she is the reflection of her and our Redeemer, and she glorifies Him. When she appears in the darkness, we know that He is close at hand. He is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Behold He comes quickly, and His reward is with Him, to render to everyone according to his works. ‘Surely I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’”
Saint John Henry Newman…Pray for Us