On Earth From Jerusalem in the Midst of Rome

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John Henry Newman writes about Santa Croce in Gerusalemme:



"This Basilica is so called, because St. Helena, not only brought the True Cross there, but earth from Mount Calvary on which the Chapel or the Altar there is built — thus if there be a centre of the Church, we shall be there, when we are on earth from Jerusalem in the midst of Rome." (Ascension Day, 1847)

Brother Ryan tells me that in one of Newman's letters written from Santa Croce, he speaks of the convenient staircase leading from his rooms directly into the basilica below. I have not yet been able to find that letter; it would have been written in 1847. In any case, this is the very staircase that I now use several times a day to go down into the sacristy and basilica. Brother Ryan has dubbed it la Scala Newman.

It is fascinating that, through the intervention of Blessed Pope Pius IX, the English Oratory began here at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Now, it is impossible for me to go downstairs without thinking of John Henry Newman and listening for ancient footsteps. As the staircase is often treacherously dark, I should also think of the poem Newman wrote at sea in 1833:

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.


Theirs was a magnificent friendship. Newman wrote in his Apologia: "And to you especially, dear AMBROSE ST. JOHN; whom God gave me, when He took every one else away; who are the link between my old life and my new; who have now for twenty-one years been so devoted to me, so patient, so zealous, so tender; who have let me lean so hard upon you; who have watched me so narrowly; who have never thought of yourself, if I was in question."

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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