Deacon Jack Sullivan, whose cure from crippling back pain advanced the beatification of Servant of God John Henry Cardinal Newman, preached from the pulpit of Westminster Cathedral on the Feast of St. John Lateran. He talked about his miraculous cure and praised Cardinal Newman’s spiritual insights and “extraordinary” foresight.
Deacon Sullivan, a permanent deacon from the Archdiocese of Boston, discussed the Basilica of St. John Lateran’s history and described it as “a magnificent sign of victory” for the countless Christian martyrs in the early centuries of the Church.
“The basilica now stands as a stately and enduring sign of hope and light that the Church world-wide might continue to endure and prosper.”
He discussed the Gospel reading for the day about Jesus expelling the money changers from the temple before turning to Cardinal Newman.
Describing the nineteenth-century theologian and convert from Anglicanism as one of those called by Christ to “inspire and revitalize” the Church, Deacon Sullivan said the cardinal’s thoughts reflect the “enduring truth” about mankind and his quest for the Creator.
“When gazing upon the din and clamor of this world, Cardinal Newman was gifted with a most extraordinary sense of foresight, a supernatural vision enabling him to see far beyond the rather limited and worldly sight of his contemporaries,” the deacon declared. “As a sign of Christ's presence in the world, he could see clearly that which was beyond the horizon. He could see clearly far above the clouds, to that shining cross in the sky, to that heavenly dimension. And he brilliantly preached and wrote about what he saw.”
He cited Cardinal Newman’s discussion of the virtue of faith as a “practical perception” of the unseen world that understands that “this world is not enough for our happiness.”
John Henry Newman encouraged Christians to “cross over the threshold of worldliness” through “inner conversion.”
“And so he surrendered his will to follow the ‘kindly light of truth’, most often at great cost to himself,” Deacon Sullivan explained.
Noting that Cardinal Newman’s works often came in response to personal attacks or attacks against the Church, the deacon said these challenges enabled Newman to achieve his “remarkable” spiritual insights.
A Miraculous Cure
Discussing how severe pain and suffering can be a source of spiritual growth if patiently endured, Deacon Sullivan explained his own affliction.
In 2001 a serious spinal condition caused him what he described as “intolerable pain with utterly no prospect of relief.” He was on the verge of complete paralysis and in jeopardy of losing his job and failing to complete his preparation to become a deacon.
“Had God called me this far only to slam the door in my face?” Deacon Sullivan asked, saying he was “completely helpless.”
“But it was this state of mind that lead me to prayer. I called upon my very special intercessor and faithful friend: ‘Please Cardinal Newman, help me to walk, so that I can return to my classes and be ordained.
“Suddenly I felt a tremendous sensation of intense heat all over, and a strong tingling feeling throughout my body, both of which lasted for a long time! I also felt an overwhelming sense of joy and peace, as well as a strong sense of confidence and determination that finally I could walk!”
“Totally invigorated, I sprinted out of my room and then up and down all the corridors on my floor, with the nurse tagging behind shouting ‘slow down - slow down!’” he added.
The same day of his ordination, Sept. 14, 2002, was the day that the Fathers at Cardinal Newman’s Birmingham Oratory had voted to formally initiate the beatification process for their founder.
The deacon said this was a “wonderful sign” affirming Cardinal Newman’s intercession.
“In this Mass, as in every Mass, I thank God for this marvelous gift, with all my heart, and praise His Holy Name!” the deacon’s homily concluded.
The principle celebrant of the Mass was Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Cardinal Newman will be beatified in 2010, the bishops' conference reports.