A couple weeks ago I promised to share more details with you regarding Bl. Dominic and John Henry Newman. This is part of an article from our most recent newsletter.
Many of you are familiar with the writings of John Henry Cardinal Newman, the former Anglican theologian and Oxford professor who became a Catholic in 1845. In a day or two (depending on what part of the globe you dwelling as you read this post!) Pope Benedict XVI will beatify Cardinal Newman, raising him to the honors of the altar. What makes Newman’s beatification particularly important for Passionists is that our own Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God had a profound influence on Newman and was the one privileged to receive him into the Catholic Church.
Newman himself had said of the Catholics: “If they want to convert England, let them go barefooted into our manufacturing towns—let them preach to the people like St. Francis Xavier—let them be pelted and trampled on, and I will own that they can do what we cannot.” God answered by sending Blessed Dominic Barberi, who has been called “the shepherd of the second spring”. This humble yet brilliant man, came barefooted. He preached to the poor, he was pelted and trampled upon. He was called “the stuttering Papist,” “Friar Demonio,” and other abusive names. Even children shouted obscenities at him, pelting him with rocks, or pulling at his habit when he walked by.
Dominic wrote at the time: “My God, for what distress and sorrow You have reserved me! I spent so many years before coming to this Island preparing myself at all times for suffering. And now it seems to me that if I had ever foreseen all that awaited me, I should never have had the courage to step aboard ship!”
Dominic’s conviction that he was called to England began early in life as we learn from his diary: “Toward the end of …I was on my knees before God …praying and beseeching Him to provide for the necessities of His Church, when I heard an interior voice (which only those who hear can understand) in actual words which did not leave a shadow of doubt as to its being from God. The voice told me I was destined to announce the truths of the Gospel and to bring stray sheep back to the way of salvation….As I felt I could not doubt that the communication came from God, I could not doubt for an instant that it would be fulfilled.”
The next year, he again wrote in his diary: “One day [in 1814],,,I went for a few minutes into the church to pray before the altar of the Blessed Virgin, and while I was on my knees, the thought occurred to me—how was the prophecy of last year to be fulfilled? Was I to go as a lay Brother to preach, and to whom was I to go? … While I was thus racking my brains, I understood … that I was not to remain a lay Brother, but was to study, and that…I was to labor…in the northwest of Europe and especially in England….”
Dominic would go on to be ordained a priest in 1821.
Thus convinced that he had received a mission from God to evangelize England, Dominic began a long crusade of prayer for England. He begged others also to pray. The Passionist superior general sent him forth at last in 1841. Dominic first established the Congregation of the Passion in Belgium and from there, in England. He was to labor there only about 8 years before his death. The crowning of his years of prayer, labor and suffering came when on Oct. 9, 1845, he received John Henry Newman and others into the Catholic Church.
Here is a description of the blessed night – Dominic arrived at Aston Hall in Littemore late at night, dripping wet, for he had been sitting on the top of the coach exposed to the continual rain. On entering the house he went at once to the fireplace to dry himself. The door opened quietly and Newman entered. In a moment he was a Dominic’s feet, praying for admission into the Catholic and Roman Church! “What a spectacle it was for me to see Newman at my feet! All that I have suffered since I left Italy has been well compensated by this event. I hope the effects of such a conversion may be great.” Thus did the humble and joyous Dominic write to his superior general, Father Anthony Testa in Rome.
Dominic was to live only four more years. On Friday, Aug 27, 1849, he suffered a heart attack enroute to another Passionist monastery. Fearing cholera, the passengers of his train demanded that he be put off at once. Through the compassion of a physician he was helped into a room as his excruciating pain increased. Throughout the ordeal, Dominic kept whispering, “Thy will be done!” At 3 p.m. that Friday afternoon, Dominic breathed his last. He was 58 years of age.
Later, Newman wrote of Blessed Dominic: “Father Dominic was a marvelous missioner and preacher, filled with zeal. He had a great part in my own conversion and that of others. His very look had about it something holy. When his form came within sight, I was moved to the depths in the strangest way. The gaiety and affability of his manner in the midst of all his sanctity was in itself a holy sermon. No wonder then that I became his convert and his penitent. He was a great lover of England.”
Don’t miss this excellent interviewby Marcus Grodi of Bl. Dominic on EWTN’s The Journey Home!