Revelations of the Beatified
Rev. David Lewis Stokes’s reflections upon the failed exhumation of Cardinal Newman is a rewarding read:
What really makes Newman our contemporary was his life-long sense that at the heart of modernity churns a moral vortex that promises to consume us all. Writing in 1875, Newman captured the century and a half to come:
“To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history, the many races of man, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts; and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes, the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race—all this is a vision to dizzy and appall; and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery, which is absolutely beyond human solution.”
Newman always sensed that we live out our lives in spiritual exile, pretending all-the-while to be at home. And he came to see in most political wrangling a wrestling with smoke and fog, having little relevance to the “aboriginal calamity” that has marred the human soul. For Newman, here we have no abiding city. We belong elsewhere.