My friend Fr. C.J. McCloskey had a good piece on Newman. Newman’s vision of the laity at the center of a revival of religion may yet prove to be prophetic.
The Economist notes that the Pope’s visit to Britain is possible only because of the “amnesia” of the people there. The beatification of Newman on English soil, even a generation ago, would have been “intensely provocative.” Britain is now a post-Christian society. The conflicts that agitated people in the past simply make no sense to their grandchildren. Watching the magnates of the Anglican Church greeting Benedict and intoning solemn-sounding phrases in ancient cathedrals was odd, the regalia and pomp completely out of step with the emptiness of their churches on any given Sunday, by all reliable accounts. The Anglicans do sing nicely, though.
The recognition of Newman’s greatness in his own country is only possible because the people there no longer care about religion one way or the other, except, decreasingly, as a matter of custom and tradition. Newman’s message will take root in foreign locales, where the church is growing, not in the dead soil of Europe, the browning husk of Christendom.