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The Humour of John Henry Newman

Everything Under the Cross
The Humour of John Henry Newman

Zachariah Heritage, a novice at the Birmingham Oratory, looks at the humour of Cardinal Newman.

Saint Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory, was the saint who kept a jokebook close at hand to soothe his spiritual ecstasies; who shaved off half his beard and went around Rome to make a fool of himself; who refused to be made a cardinal, but kept the red hat he was sent and used it for practical jokes. Yet John Henry Newman himself was no stranger to humour:

“In Saint Philip and in Newman, this humour was one of the sweetest fruits of humility: a sense of lowness, as sinners, but sinners who have been redeemed, and who now have a joyful trust in God. We see this most clearly as Newman reflects upon his old age. He variously describes himself as an old ‘cart-horse’ or as a ‘musical snuff box’, ‘a very little rheumatic and a little lame’, ‘a bird with clipped wings’. But this would not trouble him, he said, ‘if I don’t aspire to long or high flight’.”