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No. 6465

July 23 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)

Newman letters to dying nun discovered


PRIVATE LETTERS between a dying nun and John Henry Newman have come to light after remaining hidden for nearly 150 years.

They show that the Victorian theologian tried to console Sister Mary Frances Dominica Bowden after she discovered she was suffering from tuberculosis.

The letters, found in the archives of a convent in East Sussex, show that the pair were “extremely close” and reveal how distraught Newman, then the provost of the Birmingham Oratory, was at the nun’s eventual death.

Newman knew Sister Dominica because her father, John William Bowden, was his best friend during his years at Oxford University.

As an Anglican vicar, he had baptised the future nun “Marianne” and later watched with great interest as she converted to the Catholic faith in 1847, two years after he had joined the Catholic Church himself. When John Bowden died in 1844 Newman admitted, in his Apologia, that he “sobbed bitterly over his coffin”. A year later he converted to the Catholic faith, shocking Victorian society.

Newman later preached at the Mass in the convent in Westbury, Wiltshire, in which Sister Dominica professed her vows as an enclosed nun of the Order of the Visitation.

In his sermon he explained that he had known her “almost from your birth” and that from “your very infancy... God has chosen you and claimed you as his nun”.

The correspondence between the pair began soon afterwards and although only Newman’s letters remain they display remarkable affection, even though at the time she was in her 30s and he was in his 60s. In some of the letters Newman even chats about his day trips to the seaside and grumbles about growing old and struggling to pay the bills.

Their tone suddenly changes, however, when Sister Dominica tells him that she is gravely ill.

He tries to console her by saying he is praying for her and offering Masses for her recovery.

“I wish you spoke of yourself as stronger, but you are in the hands of that dear Lord to whom you have dedicated yourself, and He will never forsake you,” he wrote in one letter.

“You know I recollect you as a child, and know that He who has made you has from the first and before you knew it yourself drawn you to Him as His own.

“I remember how your dear father, when you were quite a little thing, always said that you would be a nun. I am never long saying Mass for you.”

In another letter, Newman said: “Till you tell me that you are really better, I propose, please God, to say a Mass for you once a week – and have begun this morning.” When she later told him that she thought she was dying Newman admitted to almost weeping. “Your letter of this morning brought tears to my eyes,” he said in a letter of July 1867. “First, because you spoke so affectionately of me and said that wherever you are, you will not forget me. When God brings you to His Presence then at length you will know how weak I am though so old and how I need your prayers and what good you can do me by them.

You are one of those to whom God has been most good,” he continued. “He has shielded you from evil all your life long.

He has brought you into his holy Church and then made you one of his elect children and spouses and now if it is His wish will take you hence it is in order to bring you to Himself for all eternity.

“Oh how much better will you understand this than poor human words can say it, when it has taken place.”

The following October 9 Sister Dominica died at the age of 36.

Newman’s last letter to the Westbury convent was to the Mother Superior, expressing his shock at the death.

“I was not prepared for your letter,” he writes. “Dear SM Dominica has been so much better or, at least, seemed to have still so much strength that I thought she would have longer to wait till she entered into her rest.

“She was young and I am old and she is taken before me,” he added. “May I follow her and my soul be with hers!”

Mother Jane Margaret Clifton, the Superior of the only remaining convent in Waldron, said many of the Sisters in Westbury contracted tuberculosis at that time partly because of the swampy location of their building.

She said it was clear from the letters that Newman was “very fond” of Sister Dominica and in one of them told her she was one of 10 good friends.

“Sister Dominica was a very outgoing person, she was very contemplative, a very cultured lady and a very educated lady for that age,” she said.

“Newman was extremely close to her. They were good friends.”

The Order of the Visitation was founded in the 17th century by St Jane Frances de Chantal and St Francis de Sales, from whom Newman borrowed his motto, Cor ad Cor Loquitur, after he was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.

Raphael tapestries ready to go to London


FOUR precious tapestries by the High Renaissance artist Raphael will be displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum to coincide with the papal visit in September.

The works, originally made for the Sistine Chapel in 15157, will be displayed for the first time alongside the cartoons (tapestry designs) on which they were based, which belong to the Queen and form part of the V&A’s permanent collection.

They usually reside in the Vatican’s Arazzi (Tapestry) Gallery but were wheeled out last week – for the first time since 1983 – for one night only and hung on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

Professor Arnold Nesselrath of the Vatican Museums said the tapestries and cartoons were “two complementary parts of one whole”. He said: “The Queen has the cartoons, we have the tapestries, and you can’t understand one without the other.”

The Raphael tapestries are hung on the walls of the Sistine Chapel for the first time since 1983. They were originally commissioned to hang in the chapel early in the 16th century CNS photo


Hebrew Treasures from the Vatican and

Major British Collections 25 June to 10 October 2010

Pope celebrates traditional Mass in private, claims SSPX leader


THE POPE sometimes celebrates the traditional Latin Mass in private, the leader of the ultra-traditionalist Society of St Pius X has said.

Giving a lecture in Bahia in Brazil, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who leads the society, told his followers that the Pope sometimes celebrates Mass in the Extraordinary Form in private.

He said: “More on the subject of why Pope Benedict celebrates the Tridentine Mass in a private manner in certain circumstances, and that fact that this has not been made public; it makes sense when I remember that at a conference in Italy given for 28 diocesan priests, one of them told me he heard from his bishop that it would be enough for the Pope to celebrate the traditional Mass in public and he would close the cathedral, ban the diocese and would break with the Holy See.”

Bishop Fellay, who is leading the negotiations between the society and the Holy See, which started last year, described Benedict XVI as a progressive man who was at heart “a Catholic, a lover of tradition”.

Rumours that the Pope celebrates Mass in the Extraordinary Form have abounded since the Holy Father liberated the older form of the Mass in 2007. Within 10 days of the publication of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum there were reports that the Pope was celebrating the old Mass. At the time Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, denied that Pope Benedict XVI was doing so. He said the confusion must have originated from video footage taken to mark the Pope’s 80th birthday. It showed him celebrating Mass in his private chapel facing away from the congregation.

Fr Lombardi said it was evident from the footage that the Pope was actually celebrating the Mass in the Novus Ordo. Camden Town London N W1 7 N B Sunday to Wednesday 10 am – 5 pm Thursday 10 am – 9 pm Friday 10 am – 2 pm

Journalist manages a day of total silence

World Cup hero vows to go on a pilgrimage


WESTMINSTER Cathedral played host to a day-long silent prayer in support of the Pope last week.

Catholic journalist Joanna Bogle remained silent from the first Mass of the day at 8am to the closing of the Cathedral 12 hours later.

At every Mass the sponsored silence was announced, and a box of donations placed by the entrance of St Joseph’s Chapel. Afterwards Mrs Bogle wrote: “People were invited to join me in prayer, and/or to make donations. And they came, generously giving of their time and funds, kneeling to pray, shaking my hand, whispering encouragement... old friends, people who know me from EWTN, people of all ages, a family with small children all eagerly dropping in their coins, a dear elderly priest who prayed for a long while...”

She said she was “almost sorry” when the Cathedral finally closed for the day.


ANDRES INIESTA, scorer of the extra-time goal that won Spain the World Cup, has pledged to walk the Way of St James, the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela.

The Barcelona midfielder made the promise to visit the remains of the saint before the start of the t o u r n a m e n t , when he and his team-mates each handed sealed envelopes to the Spanish sports daily Marca. The envelopes, opened after the final on July 11, contained promises to be kept in the event of a victory for La Furia Roja, as the Spanish team are known.

Iniesta was quoted as saying after the final: “I said I would walk the St James Way and I will do it. I didn’t say when.” When-

ever he chooses to do it, the 26-year-

old is likely to be accompa-

nied by many fans.