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Ad sanctos: The brass plate from Newman's exhumed coffin 

Before he died, Cardinal Newman left specific instructions. He wished to be buried at Rednal, outside Birmingham, in the ground reserved for the Fathers and Brothers of the Birmingham Oratory. "I wish with all my heart," he wrote on July 23, 1876, "to be buried in Father Ambrose St John's grave — and I give this as my last, imperative will." On February 13, 1881, he added a postscript: "This I confirm and insist on, and command."

Why this imperative? Did Newman have an intimation that his body might at some time  be exhumed, in accordance with the practice of the Church for the beatified? Did he fear that his remains might be translated for veneration in the City Church of the Oratorians at Birmingham? Did he wish to circumvent that, per impossibile

Apparently so. Why?

Newman was in no doubt about the intercession of the saints. His deep sensitivity to the spirit of a place, its genius loci, extended to the cemetery. His studies in the early Church had impressed upon him the centrality of the "holy places", where the saints were buried. Just as the catacombs, outside the city, were the natural gathering place of the faithful for prayer and mutual support, so did they become the supernatural ground of posthumous miracles and healing. The saints' burial places became the focal points of the nascent Church. And in the Early Church, the faithful wanted to be "buried near the saints".

The practice of burial ad sanctos shaped the history of the Christian Church for centuries to come. It was a practice inscribed in the Annals of the Christian Year. Newman was intimately familiar with, and imaginatively rooted in, these sources of Christian community, recorded in the lives of the Saints and remembered in the Church's Breviary. We, who are less familiar with these sources, may do well to consult a single page taken from the Lives of the Saints (ed. Alban Butler, 1894) under the entry for January 4:

St Gregory, Bishop (died c.541): 

St Gregory was one of the principal senators of Autun, and continued from the death of his wife a widower till the age of 57, at which time, for his singular virtues, he was consecrated Bishop of Langres, which see he governed with admirable prudence and zeal 33 years, sanctifying his pastoral labours by the most profound humility, assiduous prayer, and extraordinary abstinence and mortification.

An incredible number of infidels were converted by him from idolatry, and worldly Christians from their disorders.

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October 9th, 2010
7:10 PM
"suddenly ejected, banned from the Newman beatification ...and gagged. . . . Roman Catholic insiders suggest that it was the Birmingham Three’s defence of traditional teachings on sexual morality, and their belief that Church should challenge State" Let me get this, um, straight: they were banned for "defense of traditional sexual morality" and "challenging the State" (on civil unions and same-sex adoption)... ...MORE THAN THE RCC ALREADY DOES??? This "Roman Catholic insiders" allegation doesn't pass the smell test!

September 25th, 2010
12:09 PM
This article tells us nothing at all about the circumstances leading up to the removal of the three clerics from The Birmingham Oratory. We would be foolish indeed to accept that Fr. Fenlon was banished from his home for five years, on the strength of the opinions he expresses in the above piece. The authorities went to great lengths to separate the three, to date we have not learned the truth, that remains to be uncovered.

September 23rd, 2010
10:09 PM can anyone at all presume to know what was in Newman's mind at the last?....other than his last Will and Command...? With what smug certitude can anyone partially adhere to his last Command, while "...the church had her way also..." having part of his remains buried specifically where he chose not to have them buried? What rationalized hypocrisy this exhibits.

September 23rd, 2010
4:09 PM
At last a superb and scholarly piece on Newman's final wishes. The false and highly misinformed and regrettably inadequately challenged claim that Newman wished to be buried alongside his friend Fr. Ambrose St. John as an expression of their unspoken homosexual love is here exposed for what it is- a centrepiece of innuendo manipulated by others including so called Catholics to further their agenda to equate same sex unions [and ultimately gay 'marriage'] with union between a man and a woman - a dogma the Catholic Church can NEVER alter now matter how much others try to spin Newman as some kind of gay saint of conscience.

Jakob Knab
September 23rd, 2010
3:09 PM
In the summer of 1828 Newman set about to read the Fathers of the Church chronologically, beginning with St Ignatius of Antioch. And the young vicar of St Mary’s Oxford came across these famous lines: “I am God's wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread [of Christ]. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my sepulchre and may leave no part of my body behind, so that I may not, when I am fallen asleep, be burdensome to any one. Then shall I be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not so much as see my body. (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans; Ch. 4:2)

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