From all eternity God’s wisdom has planned our individual salvation. He has so ordered His creation that even apparently chance occurrences can play a part in the unfolding of our salvation.
In the complex and multi-faceted kaleidoscope of daily life, countless instances of human interaction (mostly unplanned by us) all combine in a dynamic synergy of cause and effect.
From our limited vantage point, in place and within time, we rarely appreciate the providential coherence of those interactions.
On 26th August we commemorate a 19th century missionary priest and preacher, Blessed Dominic Barberi, of the Passionist Order. Fr.Barberi felt called to work in England. In 1841 he arrived on these shores and for eight years he preached missions and gave retreats throughout the country, and established several houses of his own Passionist Order.
Blessed Dominic is well remembered for being the priest who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. Newman was an Anglican clergyman and thoroughly English in every way. He and Blessed Dominic could not have been more different. Yet divine Providence had ordained that their two lives should cross and interact, with wonderful effect.
On the evening of 8th October 1845, in torrential rain, Fr.Barberi arrived at the small cottage in the village of Littlemore outside Oxford to which Mr.Newman had retreated when he withdrew from ministry in the Church of England. The next day, 9th October, after Newman had completed a general confession lasting several hours, Fr.Dominic first absolved him from heresy and schism, and then absolved him from his sins. He then received him into what Newman had been given the grace to recognize as “the one fold of the Redeemer”.
The spiritual fruits of Newman’s ecumenical journey have already been abundant. Thanks to the influence of his life and writings, many thousands have been led by grace into the Church Christ founded.
If Blessed John Henry Newman were one day declared a saint, would there not be a vast outpouring of praise and thanksgiving ascending in prayer from earth to heaven?
God will never be outdone in generosity. His loving response to our prayer would surely be a flood of sanctifying grace pouring down upon the People of God.
We could expect that many who are lapsed would return to the faith of our fathers, by grace and personal influence.
We should hope that many who do not yet know Christ would be drawn to the light of His Gospel, by grace and personal influence.