‘Newman converts’ come home to Rome for canonization

October 13, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The canonization of St. John Henry Newman Sunday drew “Newman converts” to Rome from throughout the English-speaking world, all of whom followed Newman’s writings across the Tiber River and into the Catholic Church.

Elayne Allen, 24, is one such “Newman convert.” She came into the Catholic Church in December 2017. Allen decided to become a Catholic after a friend loaned her a copy of Newman’s “An Essay on the Development of Doctrine.”

Allen traveled to Europe for the first time so that she could be present at Newman’s canonization Oct. 13.

“It was … deeply personal and gratifying to see someone who’s impacted my thinking and prayer life so much become a saint. The grace God has given me through this saint made me think of the beautifully intricate and various ways God chooses to reveal himself to us,” Allen told CNA after the canonization Mass.

Newman was canonized by Pope Francis along with Mariam Thresia, Marguerite Bays, Giuseppina Vannini, and Dulce Lopes, during a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance.

“The Church’s universal mission kept returning to my mind. I thought it a splendid image of the Church’s catholicity that Mother Vannini, who grew up as an Italian orphan, and John Henry Newman, widely considered among the Church’s greatest theologians since Thomas Aquinas, honored side by side,” she said.

Allen, who had been had been raised attending non-denominational evangelical churches, was introduced to the writings of Newman as a student at Baylor University during a class on 18th and 19th century literature.

“I had never even heard of Newman … the existence of a formidable Catholic intellectual tradition was completely alien to me,” she said.

“I quickly found Newman to be a demanding but electrifying writer. He is known for sentences that occupy an entire page, piling one qualifying or descriptive clause after another. His lucid, crisp but recondite prose utterly absorbed me.”

Allen credits Baylor’s Great Texts program for providing her with an introduction to Catholicism and Church history. By the time she reached graduation, she was reading early Church history on her own with an eye on both Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

“My reading pointed to Rome or Constantinople. It seemed evident that the Church is an institutional body protected the Holy Spirit to safeguard doctrine, but I wasn’t certain which communion was most consistent with Scripture and early ecumenical councils,” she said.

That is when a friend gave her a copy of “An Essay on the Development of Doctrine.”

Allen said she was “elated by the…simplicity and vigor” in “Newman’s groundbreaking explanation of the way ideas crystallize over time through contact with various circumstances, contexts, and even errors.”

“He says the ‘deposit of faith,’ the earliest revelations of Christianity, imply a variety of interconnected doctrines that require time and contact with living reality to be realized. Newman crucially argues that, while the power of human reason can detect and discern these developments, Christ promises the Holy Spirit as the ultimate protector against error,” she explained.

“I soon became convinced that the Catholic Church, even with all its excesses and eccentricities, is the only communion where doctrine actually develops and knew that I wanted to become Catholic,” Allen said.

She was received into the Catholic Church on Dec. 6, 2017. She continues to ask regularly for Newman’s intercessions and has “not been able to stop reading his work.”

“I read ‘The Grammar of Assent’ earlier this year, a challenging but rewarding book. His ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’ revealed to me his spiritual sensitivity and the turmoil he faced before and after his conversion,” she said.

As a recent convert, Allen says she has also enjoyed discovering the beauty of the Church in Rome for the first time this weekend.

“It’s positively overwhelming and enchanting to be here. It’s made me realize the ways in which God chooses to use human artifice and genius to demonstrate His glory. Breathtaking artwork and written works crafted by men and women to glorify Him are ever-displayed throughout Rome,” she said. “It has been a treasure to behold!”



Marathon man: The Catholic faith, and family, of Eliud Kipchoge

October 13, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Nairobi, Kenya, Oct 13, 2019 / 08:02 am (CNA).- On Saturday, Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge broke a finishing tape, and a barrier long-thought to be completely unbreakable. Kipchoge became the first person to run a marathon in less than two hours, finishing a 26.2 mile course in Vienna in 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds.


HISTORY! pic.twitter.com/qjLfofhL5s

— Eliud Kipchoge (@EliudKipchoge) October 12, 2019


Sometime after the run was over, away from the spotlight, Kipchoge did what he is reported to do after every race: he knelt down, bent his forehead to the ground, and made the sign of the cross, in thanksgiving for a good run.

In his hometown, his friends and family say that Kipchoge’s extraordinary accomplishment might have something to do with his deep Catholic faith.

Kipchoge’s cousin, Fr. Kennedy Kipchumba, told ACI Africa Saturday that the runner’s accomplishment was “a moment of joy and jubilation, with a summary of: God fulfills His promise.”

“I was part of the close to 3,000 people who were following the race from a big screen and with all of them, we ended up bowing to God to thank him for this much he offered to us,” Fr. Kipchumba said.

After Kipchoge’s feat, his family, included several priests, celebrated Mass in thanksgiving.

“Everybody came to Church, to say thank you to God. We celebrated Mass to thank God. We celebrated as a community; we had the family, Fr. Benjamin Oroiyo who is also a family member, Fr. Benedict Rono and we were also joined by the Deputy Governor of Nandi County, area Member of Parliament, among other local leaders,” Fr. Kipchumba said.

The Mass was celebrated in a small village chapel, St. Peter’s Kapsisiwa, an “outstation” of St. Joseph’s Sangalo Parish in the Diocese of Eldoret.

Kipchoge, 34, was raised in the small village of Kapsisiwa, 200 miles from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The area around Kapsisiwa is a highland of rolling green hills, where Kipchoge began running as a child. The runner now lives with his wife in the west Kenyan city of Eldoret, close to his hometown.

“The main person in the family is the mother, whom we brought from her house” for the Mass, Kipchumba explained.

Kipchoge’s mother, Janeth Rotich, is seen as a moral and spiritual supporter of her son.

“I wake up at 3 a.m. every day to pray for Kipchoge. I pray the rosary,” she has told local reporters.

Kipchoge left Kenya on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Monday, Oct. 7 to attempt a sub-2 hour marathon in Vienna. But before he left, the parish he attends when in Nairobi offered Mass for him.

On the eve of his departure, special prayers were offered for him by the congregation of St. Paul’s University Catholic Church.
“Kipchoge is a friend of students’ choir at St. Paul’s University Chapel. Last Sunday we had Mass celebration for Eliud Kipchoge,” the chaplain of Nairobi University, Fr. Peter Kaigua told ACI Africa Saturday.

Kaigua described the historic marathoner, Kipchoge as “an inspiration to the youths, a mentor to the young people and a humble man; through him the young people get to know that their dreams can be met.”

“Before offering Mass for him last week, we used to talk about him in the university with students. We therefore opted to offer him Mass before going for the marathon race so that God can help him realize his dream,” Kaigua added.

“The day for Mass, young people had t-shirts printed in his name,” Kaigua told ACI Africa.

During the Mass, Kaigua said that Kipchoge’s run “will push his body and his mind to unknown levels and if he ever needed God, and Mother Mary and all the Saints, this is the time — that is why we are here, praying hard. As Eliud also famously said, ‘you cannot train alone and expect to make a fast time… 100 percent of me is nothing compared to one percent of the team.’ We are, therefore, going to be Eliud’s pacemakers in prayer.”

“The university acted as his ‘spiritual pacesetter.’ His winning is a sign that prayer for young people has been answered,” the priest told ACI Africa.

When Kipchoge crossed the finish line, he said that felt himself to be “the happiest man to run under two hours to inspire many people; to tell people that no human is limited, you can do it.”

“I am expecting more athletes from all over the world to run under two hours,” he added.

Priest, religious, and laity in his native Kenya have praised Kiphchoge as a man of great inspiration. Some interpreting his success in the context of the Church’s “Extraordinary Missionary Month,” whose theme is “Baptized and Sent.”

“Eliud Kipchoge, baptized and sent! I saw his mother with a white Rosary on her neck. This is just how faith is handed on in the family set up. The mother passes it on to the child,” Fr. Samuel Nyattaya of Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese told ACI Africa.

The priest said he felt “so happily surprised at the demonstration of his Catholic faith!”

“I believe that God is happy to see us putting efforts to maximize our potential. God must have been so happy to see this courageous Kenyan encouraging the entire world with his belief,” Sr. Sr. Margaret Mutiso, a member of the Daughters of Sacred Heart, told ACI Africa.

Kipchoge “is advocating for a peaceful world where all live together in harmony and we’re not limited to do that,” she added.

For his part, Kaigua said that the university parish in Nairobi is already “planning to celebrate another Mass for him in his presence immediately, as soon as he is back in the country.”

The priest, and the marathoner, surely have something to thank God for.



A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.