'Lead, Kindly Light'
Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890), whose feast we celebrate on Oct. 9, was a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, a great scholar, a cardinal of the Church, and one of the most famous men in England in his own day. And yet all of that is secondary to his sanctity.
His notable achievements contributed to his sanctity, of course, but every other fact of his life — of anyone's life — is second to the question, "Was he holy? Was he a saint — that is, did he love God and neighbor? Did he resemble Jesus?"
As the French author Leon Bloy once wrote, "The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint."
Why? Because only saints are in heaven.
Oh, that doesn't mean that you have to be canonized to enter heaven. Not all the holy saints are ever recognized for their sanctity in this life. Remember: Humility and hiddenness are part of being holy. The inner life with God is always, to a certain extent, intensely personal and invisible to those around us.
No, only the holy will enter heaven, the perfected, the pure — and so thank God for purgatory!
But that does mean that our most important task in life is our own sanctification. Holiness can coexist with almost every state in life: wealth or poverty; celebrity or anonymity; power or powerlessness; men or women; adults or children; on and on the list goes. Just look at the canonized saints! Then remind yourself that we do not canonize all those who might deserve it, and set to work collaborating with the grace of God for your own sanctification. One roadmap's been given to you by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, for the shortest, easiest, surest way of becoming a saint in the four HAPP books, though it's worth remembering that, as Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI, who would beatify Newman during his visit to England in 2010) once said in Salt of the Earth, there are as many paths to God as there are people.
We must follow the light that God gives us, accept the graces He sends us, and be faithful to the vows of our baptism and confirmation, taking up the cross of the present moment in trust and persistence in order to someday see the glory of God in heaven.
So let us ask Blessed John Henry Newman to pray for us that we might walk the path to God. Let us ask his intercession that all obstacles to our sanctification may be overcome and we all meet each other in heaven at the end of our lives.
The Pillar of the Cloud
LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home —
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene — one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile. — Blessed John Henry Newman. At Sea. June 16, 1833.
Cardinal Newman's teaching on the difference between notional (merely head) knowledge and real (heart) knowledge deeply influenced the Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, and the whole HAPP program. To learn more, see The 'One Thing' is Three, pgs. 106-113.