Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

I WENT to sleep; and now I am refreshed.
A strange refreshment: for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense
Of freedom, as I were at length myself
And ne’er had been before. How still it is!
I hear no more the busy beat of time,
No, nor my fluttering breath, nor struggling pulse;
Nor does one moment differ from the next.
I had a dream; yes: — someone softly said “He’s gone;”
and then a sigh went round the room.
And then I surely heard a priestly voice
Cry “Subvenite;” and they knelt in prayer.

-- John Henry Newman, "Dream of Gerontius"

Some of these words of Cardinal Newman (1801 - 1890) were recalled Thursday by Fr. Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory and postulator of the cardinal's cause for beatification and canonization.

He recalled the lines after announcing that no physical remains of the great 19th Century English churchman were found in his grave in a small secluded cemetery. The discovery means Cardinal Newman's casket did not have a lead lining as had been expected.

The body of Cardinal Newman was to have been exhumed and moved to a prominent location in the Birmingham Oratory in anticipation of his beatification -- a not uncommon practice for Saints of the Church.

The inscription plate of Cardinal Newman's coffin was found in the grave:

From the Archdiocese of Birmingham statement:

"During the excavation the brass inscription plate which had been on the wooden coffin in which Cardinal Newman had rested was recovered from his grave. It reads:

'Eminent [issimus] et Reverend [issimus] Joannes Henricus Newman Cardinalis Diaconus S Georgii in Velabro Obiit Die XI August. MDCCCXC RIP'

English Translation:

'The Most Eminent and Most Reverend John Henry Newman Cardinal Deacon of St George in Velabro Died 11 August 1890 RIP'

Somewhere in heaven I think an old Englishman may be smiling at our earthly presumptuousness.

Hat-tip: Whispers in the Loggia

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