Skip to comments.Cardinal Newman and Oscott College
Posted on 09/18/2010 8:06:49 PM PDT by Salvation
John Henry Newman made his first visit to Oscott College within days of his reception into full communion with the Catholic Church in 1845. He, along with several companions from Littlemore, received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Nicholas Wiseman in the College chapel on the 1st of November that year. Wiseman, then Rector of Oscott, welcomed Newman and the other converts from the Church of England warmly, having been eagerly anticipating their reception into the Catholic Church. He offered the old Oscott College to Newman and his companions as a home, while they prepared themselves for ordination as Catholic priests. Newman described Old Oscott as dismally ugly, but it provided a base for his small community.
From Old Oscott, Newman was a frequent visitor to the new college. It was not always a happy experience, and he initially found the place cold and unwelcoming. Whilst he felt warmly towards Wiseman personally, he disliked Oscott. By the late 1840s, Oscott was the showplace of English Catholicism. Wiseman relished this, and could not help but show off his splendid establishment and, within it, his famous converts. Newman felt exposed to the gaze of so many eyes at Oscott, as if some wild incomprehensible beast, caught by the hunter, and a spectacle for Dr Wiseman to exhibit to strangers.
Following ordination to the priesthood in Rome on the 29th of May 1847, Newman returned to England. On the 1st of February 1848, he established the Oratory at Old Oscott, now renamed Maryvale. During that summer, the moves towards the restoration of Catholic bishops with full ecclesiastical authority in England took shape, with Thomas Walsh and Wiseman moving from Birmingham to London in order that Walsh could become the first Archbishop of Westminster. William Bernard Ullathorne moved from the Western District to Birmingham to become the first Bishop of Birmingham. The political crisis in Rome, caused by the republican revolution, stalled the plans until 1850, by which time Walsh was dead, leaving Wiseman to take up the Westminster post. Ullathorne, however, remained in Birmingham from 1848 until his death in 1889 and was, therefore, Newmans bishop for most of his Catholic life.
He struggled to understand Newman, confiding in Wiseman that, while we manage very well in conversation, he found his letters curt, trenchant and somewhat polemical in spirit. Newman, for his part, was wryly amused at the kind hearted bishop, believing that the way to be good friends with him was to begin with a boxing bout. It was due, in part, to Ullathornes influence that, in 1852, Newman was invited to preach at the first Synod of Westminster at Oscott. This gathering, the first of three national synods held at Oscott in the 1850s, marked the formal reinstitution of the Catholic episcopate in England after the long break since the Reformation. The 1852 synod was a key event in the triumphant revival of Catholic life, and Newmans role in it sealed his public reputation in the eyes of the Catholic Hierarchy.
The story of the Second Spring sermon preached by Newman on the 7th of July 1852 became part of the mythology of the Catholic Revival, giving its name to a popular description of what was happening to English Catholicism in the mid nineteenth century. It was an emotional occasion, with the preacher and most of his hearers in tears at his poignant description of the renewal of Catholic life. He evoked the mood of the time as he told, somewhat inaccurately, of Catholic life springing afresh almost miraculously from the darkness and oppression of penal times. Alluding to the dedication of the college to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Newman described Oscott:
And there on that high spot, far from the haunts of men, yet in the very centre of the island, a large edifice, or rather pile of edifices, appears, with many fronts and courts, and long cloisters and corridors, and storey upon storey. And there it rises, under the invocation of that same sweet name which has been our consolation in the valley.
By 1852 the Oratory was established in its permanent home in Hagley Road, Birmingham, and Maryvale was an orphanage in the hands of religious sisters. Newman continued to be a frequent visitor to Oscott during his long years in residence at the Oratory, and preached in 1859 at the funeral of Henry Weedall, the revered last Rector of Old Oscott and first Rector of the new College. Between 1860 and 1877, one of Newmans oldest friends and Oxford contemporaries, James Spencer Northcote, was the Rector of Oscott. This was, in many ways, a golden period for Oscott. The school was reformed in accord with the ideals that Northcote had imbibed from Thomas Arnold of Rugby. There were close links between Oscott and the Oratory, and William Barry, a seminarian from Oscott and later one of Newmans early biographers, described Newman as like an angel whose lot had been cast among mortals, but who went to and fro by himself, thinking, praying, adoring, in his own unique way.
After Newmans appointment as cardinal in 1879, Oscott was among the many places where he was officially congratulated. A ceremonial High Mass was celebrated by Ullathorne, with the clergy and students in attendance, at which Newman preached. The new cardinal then hosted a reception in the library. When he read the congratulatory address from Oscott, drafted by William Barry, who was by then Professor of Theology in the college, he was heard to murmur, I did not know Oscott was so much in sympathy with me. In his old age, when Ullathorne lived in retirement at Oscott, Newman would occasionally be driven across the city to visit his old friend. The two octogenarians would walk along the corridor outside the Bishops rooms, talking over the past days of battles won and lost. They met for the last time at Oscott in Spring 1888, which was almost certainly Newmans final visit to the College. Ullathorne died the following March. Newmans health was failing and he celebrated his last Mass at Christmas 1888. He died at the Oratory on the 11th of August 1890.
The final day of the visit is focused very much on the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, and the Pope will celebrate that beatification in Cofton Park in Birmingham - adjacent, fittingly, to Rednal where Cardinal Newman was buried. Pope Benedict will conclude the day by meeting with the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales in Oscott College.
Birmingham has 490 parks and open spaces (8,000 acres) and is one of the greenest cities in Europe, including six parks which have been designated country parks, with Sutton Park a National Nature Reserve and Site of Scientific Interest (SSI). There are also seven Green Flag awarded parks.
Cofton Park is 135 acres of rolling fields and trees and is situated on the slopes adjoining the Lickey Hills Country Park. It is mostly open grassland with a few football pitches. There are areas of small woodland and in the centre of the park sits the old farmhouse as it has done for around 200 years. There are also rows of oak and ash trees flourishing in straight lines where once there were the farmland boundaries of Lowhill Farm.
The land was initially acquired by Birmingham City Council in 1933 for the amount of £10,640 from trustees for William Walter Hinde, a longstanding Birmingham manufacturer. By his will, Mr Hinde bequeathed the residue of his estate for the purchase of land to be kept for ever as an open space for the benefit of the people of Birmingham.
Cofton Park is also home to Birmingham Parks Cofton nursery. The nursery provides displays of thousands of plants for bedding-out in the parks all over the City, civic occasions, the city centre floral display, Heart of England in Bloom and gardening shows such the Chelsea Flower Show and BBC Gardeners World Live.
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