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Mercy and Faithfulness have met...

November 9, 2010

Introduction: About this time last year we were all prepared for Pope Benedict’s visit to our country and there was a mixture of excitement but also apprehension for his safety due to some people who seemed determined to vocally disrupt his visit. In the end all passed off in safety and none of us will forget the events and the coverage given to his visit. One of the highlights must surely have been the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

It was shortly after this that I was asked to give a talk on an aspect of Catherine McAuley and with that event fresh in my mind I wondered what it would be like to compare Catherine and John Henry through their letters and thus this talk had its beginnings.

To meet Catherine and John through their letters I think it is best to place each of them in their individual settings to see if there were any similarities and to notice the differences in their lives. Then it becomes much clearer how these two outstanding figures relied on their trust in God and they can serve, most fruitfully as models for us all.

We know something of Catherine’s background already. We know something of Catherine’s background already. We know for instance that her father, James McAuley was a well respected builder and architect. He was also able to move towards prosperity through his deals in land. Her mother, Elinor Conway was an attractive woman with many social skills and refinements. It was from her mother that Catherine inherited many of her own social graces and manners. From her father, she inherited her qualities of leadership, her devotion to prayer and her practical sensitivity to the poor.

Catherine had both a sister and a brother to complete her family, Mary and James. Both did well, according to the ways of the world, with James becoming a surgeon at Kilmainham Hospital and Mary marrying another. We know too, that Catherine met with kindness from the Callaghans and through that experience was led to a much deeper appreciation of the Bible, through her constant reading to Catherine Callaghan. Therefore we believe that Catherine came into contact with some elements of the Quaker faith that gave much more precedence to the Word of God, than perhaps was given by the Catholics of her day.

At first glance, John Henry Newman’s background was very different to Catherine’s. He was born on 21st February 1801 in Bloomsbury, London, the first child of John and Jemima Newman. His father John was a banker in Lombard Street in London and the family were Church of England and John Henry took to the Bible at an early age and loved to spend time reading it and reflecting on its stories. His mother Jemima was of Huguenot stock and belonged to a family of famous paper makers. She brought with her into her marriage a small fortune which certainly eased the burdens of poverty for John Newman Senior. His banking efforts had failed and when he turned his hand to the brewing industry that too failed to secure finances. Therefore like Catherine, John would have had some experience of both wealth and poverty touching his family life.

John’s family was much larger than Catherine’s, in fact twice the size, as there were three boys and three girls in his family. John Henry was the eldest and he was followed by Charles Robert, Harriet Elizabeth, Francis William, Jemima Charlotte and Mary Sophia. He had the great sadness of losing his youngest sister, Mary at the tender age of 18 when she died in Brighton. His two other sisters Harriet and Jemima went on to marry a pair of brothers, Thomas and John Mozley. Thomas was an Anglican clergyman and John was a publisher. His brother Charles did not marry and his brother Francis was a renowned Greek and Latin professor, who married twice and with whom John had a difficult relationship for many years.

At eight years of age John went to Ealing School and around the age of sixteen he underwent a religious experience that was to influence him for the rest of his life. In 1817 he went to Trinity College, Oxford where he was a brilliant student. However because of pressures in his life John only gained a poor degree. In spite of this, in 1822, he was elected to the Fellowship of Oriel College. He was ordained into the Anglican priesthood in May 1825 and began his ministry as a curate in St Clement’s, Oxford. Later on he became Vicar at St Mary the Virgin, the University Church.

Here we can see how his path differed very much from Catherine’s but we need to remember that Catherine was also associating in her own way with those priests who had some influence in their own sphere, not least Archbishop Daniel Murray. In 1825 Catherine was exploring the educational system being run in France to see if she could gather ideas about teaching methods. It was around this time she also gained access into the Kildare Place Society – a Quaker run organisation – to see how they managed to teach large groups of children.

In 1833 John went on a trip abroad and fell dangerously ill – in fact his survival chances seemed to be non-existent. He made a promise during his illness that if was he spared he would investigate what work God had for him to do in England. As we know, he was spared and so he set about forming the Oxford Movement, a movement that was to safeguard the Church of England from three main dangers – spiritual stagnation, interference from the state and doctrinal unorthodoxy.

The main members were a group of eight men, including Newman. They were Edward Pusey, John Keble, Charles Marriott, Richard Hurrell Froude, Robert Wilberforce, Isaac Williams and William Palmer. The Movement saw interference from the State coming about as the Government took the decision to reduce the number of Irish Bishops in the Church of Ireland by ten following the 1832 Reform Act. Their interest in Christian origins led them to reconsider the relationship of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church. They saw Anglicanism as one of the three branches of the Church along with Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church forming together the one “Catholic” Church, “Catholic” here meaning universal. Members of the Oxford Movement called for a return to some of the traditional practices that dated back to medieval times and in a series of articles or “tracts” the movement argued for these practices to be reinstated. Finally in Tract 90 Newman stated that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, as defined by the Council of Trent, were compatible with the Thirty Nine Articles of the sixteenth-century Church of England.

In 1839 John Henry was studying the early Christian Fathers and found that the position of the Anglican Church in his day was similar to that of the heretics of that time! He decided that the best course for him was to retire partly from Oxford and take some time to study more. He moved out to Littlemore and for three years studied and prayed for guidance to find the right path. Finally in 1845 John felt that he could no longer adhere to his Anglican roots but that he must move to the Roman Catholic Church. He was received by Fr Dominic Barberi of the Passionist Fathers. It was probably the hardest and most painful decision of his life but one that he held to against all manner of attacks, criticism and ridicule both from the Anglican Church but even more sadly from within the Catholic Church that he had joined.

We can compare this situation with Catherine’s own pain of rejection by the Catholic Church when trying to establish Baggot Street and especially her treatment by Fr Matthew Kelly of St Andrew’s parish, Dublin, who felt he could demand the premises of Baggot Street for the Irish Sisters of Charity in 1830. Both Catherine and John showed their strength of character at this point. Catherine had to accept the fact that the Catholic Church would not allow her to continue her work as a lay woman and that she would have to become a religious to continue her life’s work. John had to decide that the only clear path left for him was to study to become a Catholic priest and for that he would have to travel to Rome.

Both for Catherine and John the establishments of religious orders beckoned. Catherine established the Sisters of Mercy on 12th December 1831 and John established the Oratorian Fathers in Birmingham in 1847. To begin with John did not have a purpose built Church or house as Catherine had managed but had to make do with a disused gin distillery in Birmingham. Later on he and the first group of Oratorian priests were able to move into Maryvale near Birmingham and in 1854 they moved once again, this time to Edgbaston, where they are still situated. Not as prolific as Catherine, John was able to establish yet another Oratory in London in 1849 with Fr Wilfrid Faber in charge. Like Catherine too, John met challenges from some of his own members – when they seemed more influential than the founder and it took them both considerable patience and trust in God to be able to see beyond these incidents and at times, misunderstandings.

Finally to end this brief look at their lives I would like to share a couple of descriptions about Catherine and John.

The first description we have of Catherine is by Georgiana Moore, later Sr Clare who described her first meeting with Catherine as follows:

She was upwards of 40, but looked at least 10 years younger. She was very fair, with a brilliant colour in her cheeks – still not too red. Her face was a short oval, but the contour was perfect. Her lips were thin and her mouth rather wide, yet there was so much play and expression about it that I remarked it as the most agreeable feature in her face. Her eyes were light blue and remarkably round with the brows and lashes colourless; but they spoke. In repose they had a melancholy beseeching look – which would light up expressive of really hearty fun; or if she disapproved of anything, they could tell that too. Sometimes they had that strange expression of reading your thoughts, which made you feel that even your mind was in her power and that you could not hide anything from her. Her nose was straight but thick. She wore bands made from her own back hair which were so well managed as to be quite free from the disagreeable look bands of the kind usually give. The colour was pale golden, not in the least sandy, very fine and silky. She was dressed in black British merino which, according to the fashion of the time, fitted tight to her shape. She was remarkably well made; round but not in the least heavy. She had a good carriage. Her hands were remarkably white but very clumsy, very large, with broad square tips to the fingers and short square nails.”

James Mozley, Newman’s brother-in-law gave this description of John in his days at Oxford:

"Newman did not carry his head aloft or make the best use of his height. He did not stoop, but he had a slight bend forwards, owing perhaps to the rapidity of his movements, and to his always talking while he was walking. His gait was that of a man upon serious business bent, and not on a promenade. There was no pride in his port or defiance in his eye. Though it was impossible to see him without interest and something more, he disappointed those who had known him only by name. They who saw for the first time ...found him so little like the great Oxford don or future pillar of the Church that they said he might pass for a Wesleyan minister. John Wesley must have been a much more imposing figure. Robust and ruddy sons of the Church looked on him with condescending pity as a poor fellow whose excessive sympathy, restless energy and general unfitness for this practical world would soon wreck him. Thin, pale, and with large lustrous eyes ever piercing through this vale of men and things, he hardly seemed made for this world. His dress—it became almost the badge of his followers—was the long-tailed coat, not always very new. Newman, however, never studied his 'get-up,' or even thought of it. He had other uses for his income which in these days would have been thought poverty. Newman walked quick, and, with a congenial companion, talked incessantly. George Ryder (who was a student of Newman’s at Oriel and subsequently became a Catholic too) said of him that when his mouth was shut, it looked as if it could never open; and when it was open, it looked as if it never could shut."


So turning to their letters – how do we get a feel for each of these powerful characters? In many ways they met with similar experiences and it is good for us to compare how each handled them. From as early as 1863 John Henry Newman saw the value of letters as a means of biography and he wrote to his sister Jemima:

“What I really should covet, though I dare say it would give you much trouble, or rather would be impossible in you to grant till your strength is restored to you, would be the loan of my own letters to you between 1833 and 1845. If you numbered them, you should have them all back safely. It has ever been a hobby of mine (unless it be a truism, not a hobby) that a man’s life lies in his letters.”
The Oratory, Birmingham May 18, 1863

Right from the beginning both Catherine and John had to face some quite tough obstacles and both had a deep need to trust in Divine Providence. For Catherine, no sooner had the order begun in 1831 when cholera hit Dublin hard and the Sisters were called upon to nurse the sick and the dying. Yet even in such desperate times as these, Catherine sought to make them more bearable by writing a rhyme for Sr Mary Anne Doyle about the trouble she was having with her knees by moving around on them from place to place.


You’ve hurt the marrow in the bone
Imploring aid and pity
And every Cardinal in Rome
Would say you saved the City.

Now that the story of your fame
In Annals may be seen
We’ll give each wounded knee a name
Cholera – and – Cholerene.” (1832)

Newman was to actually experience cholera himself when he had gone on his travels to Sicily. He wrote of his illness to Henry Wilberforce who was one of his pupils at Oriel College:

“All sorts of evils came upon me in Sicily – the fever, of which many were dying on all sides of me, and which in some places was so bad that they in their fright called it cholera...
The fever ran its course; and when the crisis came, I was spared – and immediately after gained strength in a surprising way. I was so reduced, I could not lift my hand to my mouth to feed myself – much less rise, or again sit up, in bed – in four or five days time I could with help walk about the room...”

Both Catherine and John were well aware of the constant presence of God and both had ways of keeping their intentions in the forefront of their minds. For John his private journals reveal lists of prayers and petitions written down and used by him from his teenage days. The Fathers of the Oratory in Birmingham still have three small notebooks, thumb soiled and worn, which were constantly used by him and which contain prayers he said and the intentions and names of people for whom he prayed. Catherine McAuley had a notebook too, on the cover of which she wrote aspirations and reminders to pray for the deceased, both in her family and in her order and the priests who had both guided and encouraged her. We can be sure that neither Catherine nor John forgot to keep a remembrance of all whom they held dear in their prayer lives.

Faith, not feeling, Newman claimed was the simple and sure means of contacting Christ.
He did not find it easy at all times, saying, “...It is not at all easy to keep the mind from wandering in prayer, to keep out all intrusive thoughts about other things.” And again he said “In order at length to pray well, we must begin by praying ill, since ill is all we can do. Is not this plain? Who, in the case of any other work, would wait till he could do it perfectly, before he tried it?” (Parochial & Plain Sermons 1 264)

Catherine was to write to her Sisters:

“Put your whole confidence in God. He never will let you want necessities for yourself or children.” Dec 20, 1837

Both Catherine and John could display an impish sense of humour. We are probably all very aware of Catherine’s but it may surprise some to find that John could just as easily see humour in situations and point it out to others. There are two examples where both Catherine and John Henry are involved in a joke about cake! Firstly, Catherine is petitioned, in verse, by her novices in April 1835:

Dear Reverend Mother, our cook & your namesake
Wants to compose a most beautiful tea cake
For materials of which ‘twill be needful to pay
And therefore for cash your petitioners pray.

Catherine answers in the same vein:

Dear Sisters,
Early this morning on leaving the choir
I did anticipate this – your desire
And sent out an order in time – to bespeak
What I hope you will find – a very nice cake.

John too could show a lightness of touch as in this little poem, also about a cake. He wrote it for Charlotte Bowden or Chat as he calls her, a daughter of his close friend John William Bowden from his under graduate days and a Tractarian:

Who is it that moulds and makes
Round and crisp, and fragrant cakes?
Makes them with a kind intent,
As a welcome compliment,
And the best that she can send
To a venerable friend
One it is, for whom I pray,
On St Philip’s festal day,
With a loving heart that she
Perfect as her cakes may be,
Full and faithful in the round
Of her duties ever found
Where a trial comes, between
Truth and falsehood cutting keen;
Yet that keenness and completeness
Tempering with a winning sweetness.
Here’s a rhyming letter, Chat,
Gift for a gift, and tit for tat.
May 26, 1863

Newman’s humour like Catherine’s was derived from his acute observation of people and situations and often in his letters he would describe scenes to amuse his fellow Oratorians. One such episode happened when he had gone to Ireland to establish a Catholic University. The cook that was employed continued to produce inedible meals and her sister who was the housemaid was lax in her duties. Finally Newman had to point out to them both the areas in which they were failing. He wrote back to the Oratorians in Birmingham, describing the result:

“Ever since I gave her warning, poor Margaret has changed her cooking so marvellously that it seems a fright does good. Before we had raw beef, raw mutton, raw veal – daily – in spite of warnings. From the very day she had warning, she and her sister were in great excitement. They came up to me separately, and , I believe, abused me – for I could not understand one word they said [...] Margaret ended in reforming – and not one day since has the dinner been badly cooked. As to her sister she had become a pattern of clean dusting – so as to make me laugh.”        DUBLIN 1850

However Catherine and John both experienced great sadness in their lives too and were well aware how grief could affect people. Catherine wrote to Sr Teresa White in Carlow in October 1837:

“We should praise and bless the hand that wounds us – and exhibit to all around us a calm quiet appearance and manner. I trust in God this will be manifest amongst you, afflicted as you are.
When I promised to go to my dear Sister Frances in time of trial, you may be sure, my Dear child, I did not mean the trial which death occasions, with which I am so familiarised that the tomb never seems closed in my regard.”
                                                                                                                                          Convent, Cork Oct 17, 1837

By this time Catherine had indeed had her share of partings – her sister Mary had died in August 1827, her brother-in-law William died in January 1829, Caroline Murphy, one of the first young women to join Catherine’s project in Baggot Street died in June 1831 while Catherine herself was undergoing her Novitiate in George’s Hill, Sr Aloysius O’Grady died in Baggot Street in February 1832 just after professing her vows, she was followed quickly by Sr Elizabeth Harley in April 1832, who had trained with Catherine in George’s Hill, then Catherine’s niece Teresa Macauley died in November 1833 just after professing her vows and another niece Catherine Macauley died in August 1837 having taken her vows in October 1836. In total seven close relatives and Sisters died in less than ten years – a hard cross to bear.

John also felt great sorrow at the parting from family members and close companions of his order. In one of his letters he writes to his sister Harriet about their sister Mary who died at the tender age of 18.

“I have learned to like dying trees and black meadows – swamps have their grace, and fogs their sweetness. A solemn voice seems to chant from every thing. I know whose voice it is – it is her dear voice. Her form is almost nightly before me, when I have put out the light and lain down. Is not this a blessing? All I lament is, that I do not think she ever knew how much I loved her.”
                                                                                                                                                                        Nov 23, 1828

Again when his sister Jemima died in 1879 John wrote to his sister-in-law Anne Mozley, poignantly:

“What I miss and shall miss Jemima in is this – she alone, with me, had a memory of dates – I knew quite well, as anniversaries of all kinds came round, she was recollecting them, as well as I – e.g. my getting into Oriel – now I am the only one in the world who knows a hundred things most interesting to me. E.g. yesterday was the anniversary of Mary’s death – my mind turned at once to Jemima, but she was away.”
Jan 6 1880
The next month he writes to John Rickards Mozley, his nephew:

“Looking beyond this life, my first prayer, aim, and hope is that I may see God. The thought of being blest with the sight of earthly friends pales before that thought. I believe that I shall never die; this awful prospect would crush me, were it not that I trusted and prayed that it would be an eternity in God’s Presence. How is eternity a boon, unless He goes with it?
And for others dear to me, my one prayer is that they may see God.

                                                                                                                                                                Feb 26 1880

These sentiments seem a little reminiscent of Catherine’s cry from the heart:

“Will we all meet in heaven? O what joy even to think of it! To Sr Teresa White Feb 3, 1841

Another area where the two founders seem to share a similar trait is in the problem of their members almost running ahead of them in the further foundations of the order. Catherine had her great friend and confidante, Frances Warde and John had the volatile Frederick William Faber. Here in their letters we can see two differing ways of dealing with this problem – Catherine had the lighter touch I believe and kept Frances on her side in the development of the order. John had his difficult times with Faber but in the end could appreciate his giftedness in other areas than his own. Faber described Newman as the one "who taught me all the good I know," and as "the greatest scholar since St. Augustine." Newman in turn, many years later, when near his own death, requested a hymn of Faber's to be played to him when his last hours came, generously maintaining 'Eternal Years' was better than his own ‘Lead, Kindly Light’. However in the earlier parts of their lives both Catherine and John had cause to write to their respective protégés.


For instance, Catherine had only just begun founding new convents when Frances Warde who had been missioned to Carlow, set about making a foundation in Naas in 1839.
In Catherine’s letter to Frances we hear a little of the wistfulness of Catherine as she sees her friend forging ahead, yet Catherine was always one to rejoice in the success of another:


To Sister Frances Warde, Carlow                                                                                                     May-August 1839

My Dearest Sister Mary Frances,
I cannot attempt to describe the joy your letter afforded me. I fear I am in danger of getting a little jealous – poor Baggot Street is outdone if you make a foundation already. I may retire from business – and certainly without making a fortune. Doctor Fitzgerald is delighted. The school exceeds all he hoped for. “I knew when I first cast my eye on her she was the girl who would do all.” He is really gratified – which is a great comfort to me....

We hear the Convent in Naas is beautiful – the garden laid out in the neatest style – and Father Doyle will have none but Sisters of Mercy. I long to hear if it is determined, and who are to go. This is a trial you have to pass through. Remember your venerated dear Doctor Nolan’s words, “It is my lot.” To reflect that it is the lot or portion which God has marked out will be sufficient – and in the cheerful performance of every part of our sanctification rests. There is every reason to think you have been an obedient child – to your Superior – since to the obedient victory is given. May God continue his blessings to you, and render you every day still more deserving of them.

Your ever fond
M.C. McAuley

In contrast we hear John Henry Newman rebuking his fellow Oratorian, Frederick William Faber, whom I imagine he always found quite difficult. In November 1850, Faber who was often ill became quite seriously ill. Despite his protests he was advised to take a rest, preferably for a good six months. It was arranged he should convalesce in the Holy Land, but on the way his sickness worsened and he disembarked at Malta, abandoning the rest of the journey. Heading back to England, he was, as he informed Newman by letter, able to visit many places including Rome. Here he began to feel much better, and obtained an audience with Pope Pius IX. It was almost as if he had stolen a march on Newman and John felt he had to disapprove of his actions in the strongest terms possible:


                                                                                                                                                            Oy Bm Dec 30/51
My dear F Wilfrid,
I am going to write you a very ungracious letter, that is, to express my sorrow at your return.
The truth is, I have been fuming ever since you went, at the way you have been going on. I wrote to Malta to protest against your preaching – the letter missed you, and next I heard of you as lecturing an Orat. Parv. (The Little Oratory, a devotional confraternity for laymen) in Italian. The tone of your letter from Palermo pleased me not at all - I had no confidence in your sudden restoration, and I thought your letter excited. Then suddenly you were making for Rome, which was forbidden you – and before a letter could hit you, you are, against all medical orders, in England.
St Philip used to obey his physician. Have you taken one of the few opportunities a Father Superior has for obedience? I saw his letter – he prescribed six months for you.
You are not recovered – the very impatience with which you have come back shows it. As far as I can see, you are still bound to obey your medical adviser, and explere numerum. Your life is precious.
This, I know, is very ungracious but I am bound to say it.
Ever Yrs affly JHN
P.S. As I am like to have to submit to necessity so must you.

Again Catherine and John met with problems of a more legalistic nature during their lifetimes. Catherine had great problems over the Kingstown Convent begun in March 1835 and for which inadvertently she became charged with the whole cost of renovation. The builder, James Nugent held her responsible even though the Parish priest, Fr Bartholomew Sheridan gave the impression that he was going to get a Government grant to pay for the alterations. In the end Catherine had to find the vast sum of over £400 to pay for as she called it “coarse plain work” that was done. However, even in this situation Catherine could always be relied on to find the amusing anecdote to tell her sisters:

“I am hiding from some law person who wants to serve a paper on me personally & sent in to say he came from Doctor Murray. I am afraid to remain five minutes in the small parlour. This has caused more laughing than crying, you may be sure, for every man is suspected of being the process man, and kept at an awful distance by my dear Teresa Carton.”
To Frances Warde, Jan 17, 1838

John Henry Newman was to have a difficulty of quite a different sort on his hands when he took on the arguments of Charles Kingsley in the 1860s. Kingsley was anti-Catholic in his early writings and upheld the beliefs of Darwin and evolution. In 1864 he entered into a controversy with Newman, about whether Newman taught that truth was no virtue among Roman Catholic priests. This controversy was made public by being printed in Macmillan’s Magazine and it led to an exchange of pamphlets, where Newman defeated Kingsley in his arguments and eventually he produced his great autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua. However, this work was not without its own pressures to bear and in a letter to a Dominican Sister at Stone he reveals the toll it has taken on him:
I never had such a time of it. When I was at Oxford, I have twice written a pamphlet in a night, and once in a day – but now I had writing and printing upon me at once, and I have done a book of 562 pages, all at a heat; but with so much suffering, such profuse crying, such long spells of work, sometimes 16 hours, once 22 hours at once, that it is a prodigious awful marvel that I have got through it, and that I am not simply knocked up by it. I am sure it is the prayers of my friends, which have sustained me, and you must go on praying that I may not feel the bad effects of such a strain on me afterwards.
June 25, 1864
Another person that Newman had struggles with was Henry Manning who was to become Archbishop of Westminster following the death of Wiseman in 1865. During the 1850s Catholics had begun to avail themselves of sending their sons to Oxford or Cambridge as the religious tests that everyone had had to sit up to that point had been abolished. Newman, who had of course attended Oxford as a young man, was supportive of this move and when asked by Bishop Ullathorne if he would take on a parish in Oxford to give encouragement to students, he saw no problem. Unfortunately for him, Henry Manning was opposed to this movement and he did not want Catholics taking up places at either Oxford or Cambridge. He used his influence to get heard in Rome but the decision was made that the Bishops in England should make a decision. They took the view that although Catholics should be discouraged from taking up places in the Universities they should not be prohibited entirely. In 1866 Ullathorne once more asked Newman to consider taking up a parish in Oxford. Newman saw an opportunity to expand the Oratorian Order and agreed so long as a second Oratory in England could be established here. Manning, by now, angered by the way things were going, managed to get a secret clause inserted into the agreement that would actually prevent Newman from living in Oxford. When all this finally came to light the plans to establish an Oratory in Oxford fell through. It wasn’t to be until 1990 when the Oratorian Fathers were finally invited back to Oxford to take over the running of a parish from the Jesuit priests. Newman was not above writing exactly how he felt to those he trusted and his pain is very evident in his letter to Bishop Ullathorne in January 1867:
“My dear Lord,
Fr Bittleston tells me that you seemed to be disappointed that I am not at Birmingham, when the Archbishop is there. If you will kindly tell me what day or hour would be convenient to him, I will call upon him then at your house.
I will say to your Lordship, frankly, that I cannot trust the Archbishop. It seems to me he never wishes to see a man except for his own ends. Last Spring he wrote to me flattering letters upon my Letter to Dr Pusey – and he followed them up by privately sending your Lordship for your approval an article intended for the Dublin Review in which I was severely handled for certain passages in it. I know other instances of such unsatisfactory behaviour.

Towards the end of their lives both Catherine and John shunned being the centre of attention and wanted more than anything else to point towards their trust in God as being the touchstone of their lives. John wrote to one friend who was reporting that he could be a saint:

“I have nothing of a Saint about me as everyone knows, and it is a severe (and salutary)
mortification to be thought next door to one.” Feb 11th 1850

And Catherine too, was to advise her sisters:

“If the Order be my work the sooner it falls to the ground the better. If it is God’s work it needs no one.”

Through both their lives it becomes apparent that Catherine and John wanted to shape their Orders through a providential trust in God’s love, a unity of spirit between their members and a loving acceptance of each individual member of their orders. May their examples spur us on to greater unity and understanding of how God’s providence is our true treasure and should be cherished above all things. May their example of Mercy and Faithfulness encourage us.