I had the good fortune of acquiring a beautiful copy of the 1907 Longmans, Green and Co. edition of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions. These were gathered from Newman’s personal papers and published posthumously in 1893 by Fr William P Neville, then a young priest of the Birmingham Oratory. In later years, Neville would be notable as one of the last surviving persons with a personal recollection of Newman.
It being the 114th anniversary of Newman’s death, it seems apt to reproduce part of the last chapter (entitled ‘Conclusion’) which includes a note written by Newman in anticipation of his death in 1863(!); as it happened, Newman would survive until 1890, outliving most of his close friends. The decade or so prior to 1863 was particularly difficult for Newman, encompassing the difficulties with the establishment of the Catholic University in Dublin, the Achilli libel trial, the hostility of Cardinal Wiseman and the controversy surrounding ‘The Rambler’ magazine – it is therefore easy to understand why Newman, at the age of 53, might feel like his days were ending.
Written in Prospect of Death
March 13th, 1864, Passion Sunday, 7 o'clock a.m.
I WRITE in the direct view of death as in prospect. No one in the house, I suppose, suspects anything of the kind. Nor anyone anywhere, unless it be the medical men.
I write at once—because, on my own feelings of mind and body, it is as if nothing at all were the matter with me, just now; but because I do not know how long this perfect possession of my sensible and available health and strength may last.
I die in the faith of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. I trust I shall die prepared and protected by her Sacraments, which our Lord Jesus Christ has committed to her, and in that communion of Saints which He inaugurated when He ascended on high, and which will have no end. I hope to die in that Church which our Lord founded on Peter, and which will continue till His second coming.
I commit my soul and body to the Most Holy Trinity, and to the merits and grace of our Lord Jesus, God Incarnate, to the intercession and compassion of our dear Mother Mary; to St. Joseph; and St. Philip Neri, my father, the father of an unworthy son; to St. John the Evangelist; St. John the Baptist; St. Henry; St. Athananius, and St. Gregory Nazianzen; to St. Chrysostom, and St. Ambrose.
Also to St. Peter, St. Gregory I., and St. Leo. Also to the great Apostle, St. Paul.
Also to my tender Guardian Angel, and to all Angels, and to all Saints.And I pray to God to bring us all together again in heaven, under the feet of the Saints. And, after the pattern of Him, who seeks so diligently for those who are astray, I would ask Him especially to have mercy on those who are external to the True Fold, and to bring them into it before they die.