We all love birthdays, but not many of us can expect people to celebrate our birthdays long after we are dead. So when we sang “Happy Birthday” and shared Blessed John Henry Newman’s cake, at Littlemore on the evening of 21st February, it gave us all an occasion to smile, and we hope also that he too was smiling down from heaven.
The library was full of his many friends, who had gathered at the invitation of the Sisters, to hear Fr. Guy Nicholls tell us about Newman’s love of beauty. We understand so much of what he thought because he wrote so much. We learned from Fr. Guy’s scholarship about his favourite things, in art, architecture, words and music, and as if to emphasize the latter, we had the joy of a local string quartet. They played several pieces, by Mozart and Newman’s real favourite Beethoven. Newman was quite an accomplished violinist, and it is likely that he had played these very works within these very walls, when he made his home here in the 1840s.
I had come from London, where he was born, and others had come from Birmingham, where he died, and many more from the Oxford area, to join with those who didn’t want to miss the chance to share in celebrating the day.
Newman was always delighted to see his friends, and whatever he was busy with, he would always drop that and extend the hand of friendship to whoever crossed his threshold. And the Sisters keep alive this tradition, by opening his one time home to all who need space and time to grow closer to Newman and to his divine master.
If you want to visit Newman College at Littlemore please contact The Sisters of The Spiritual Family The Work firstname.lastname@example.org