.- An American deacon whose cure from a crippling spine malady has been recognized as a miracle wrought though the intercession of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman will visit Newman’s Birmingham Oratory in November.
Deacon Jack Sullivan of Massachusetts and his wife Carol will be in Birmingham from November 11 to 12. He will tour Newman’s room and library and the Oratory church, built in the early twentieth century to memorialize the nineteenth century theologian and Catholic convert. The deacon will see the desk at which Cardinal Newman wrote his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a defense of his 1845 conversion to Catholicism.
The deacon will also visit Newman’s grave at Rednal and parts of Birmingham, such as Digbeth, where the cardinal worked in a poor neighborhood that was part of his first Oratorian parish, the Birmingham Oratory reports.
Deacon Sullivan will later visit Oxford, visiting Newman’s two colleges of Trinity and Oriel, and will also visit Littlemore, where Newman was received into the Catholic Church. The Brompton Oratory in London, which was founded by Father Newman, will be on Deacon Sullivan's itinerary too.
Deacon Sullivan will also visit Westminster Cathedral, where he will preach at Mass on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.
Sullivan's Connection to Newman
In June 2000 he had awoken to excruciating pain. A CT scan revealed that all or most of the vertebrae and discs in his back had turned inward and were squeezing his spinal cord. A neurosurgeon advised him to have immediate surgery to prevent paralysis.
After seeing a show about the cardinal on EWTN, he first prayed to Cardinal Newman for the pain to cease so that he could continue his diaconate training. The pain ceased for a year, but came back with a fury.
Sullivan had surgery in the spring of 2001 during which his surgeon discovered that in addition to his other injuries the protective membrane surrounding his spine had been torn in at least two places.
Sullivan could not walk and suffered agonizing pain, facing the prospect of not being able to return to his diaconate classes. On August 15, 2001, four days after his surgery, he again prayed to Cardinal Newman.
“I felt tremendous heat and a tingling feeling all over that lasted for five or 10 minutes,” Sullivan told EWTN. “After I experienced this, I immediately stood up straight. I was able to walk, not with a walker or cane, but on my own, without any difficulty or pain. I walked all over the hospital, just joyful. I never needed any pain medication after that.”
Deacon Sullivan said the visit to Birmingham Oratory will be “the greatest moment of my life.”
“To visit the place where Newman prayed, lived and worked will be a wonderful experience. I call Cardinal Newman my ‘intercessor and special friend.’ Birmingham was the center of Newman’s whole life,” he said.
Writing in “A Story of a Miracle,” Deacon Sullivan has said Cardinal Newman’s writings are relevant in view of present tendencies towards intellectualism and lack of doctrine in “this so called progressive and secular age.”
“The supremacy of God has given way to the supremacy of man especially in his sense of self-sufficiency. As Newman suggested, modern man needs to recapture his former sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God and our total dependence upon His love and mercy. I remember Newman suggests that what’s worse than the atheist is the Christian who thinks God thinks just like he does.”
Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Oratory and Actor of the Cause for Newman’s Canonization, said Deacon Sullivan’s visit will be a moment of “special grace.”
“God has chosen Jack’s healing as the means of Newman’s Beatification, which will be such an important moment for the Church of our times,” he commented.
The location and date of Cardinal Newman’s beatification is still undecided, the Birmingham Oratory reports.
The official website for the Cause for Cardinal Newman’s Canonization is at http://www.newmancause.co.uk.