On 25 September 1843, John Henry Newman preached his last sermon as an Anglican. It was titled “The Parting of Friends.” He then retired to Littlemore, living a quiet and cloistered life, and after two years was received into the Catholic Church. His final sermon spoke of the steadfastness of God, and of how changes come into the lives of His children. He spoke on that occasion of the many great men and women in the scriptures whose circumstances were foreshadowings of that time when Christ’s work on earth would be complete, and He, too, would have to part from those who loved Him. The future Cardinal ended his final Anglican sermon with these words:
"And, O my brethren, O kind and affectionate hearts, O loving friends, should you know any one whose lot it has been, by writing or by word of mouth, in some degree to help you thus to act; if he has ever told you what you knew about yourselves, or what you did not know; has read to you your wants or feelings, and comforted you by the very reading; has made you feel that there was a higher life than this daily one, and a brighter world than that you see; or encouraged you, or sobered you, or opened a way to the inquiring, or soothed the perplexed; if what he has said or done has ever made you take interest in him, and feel well inclined towards him; remember such a one in time to come, though you hear him not, and pray for him, that in all things he may know God's will, and at all times he may be ready to fulfil it."
One of those who was there on the occasion, later wrote:
"How vividly comes back the remembrance of the aching blank, the awful pause which fell upon Oxford when that voice had ceased, and we knew that we should hear it no more. It was as when, to one kneeling by night, in the silence of some vast cathedral, the great bell tolling solemnly overhead has suddenly gone still… Since then many voices of powerful teachers may have been heard, but none has ever penetrated the soul like his."
Cardinal Newman’s voice did continue, and continues still. As Christ’s departure from the world was for the greater good of God’s divine plan of salvation, so John Henry Newman’s departure from Anglicanism was for that great good of giving witness to the truth of the Catholic faith, and his voice continues to guide and comfort. Even more now, with his beatification, does Cardinal Newman intercede and lead others into the grace he himself experienced. The “parting of friends” has helped in the healing of Christ’s Body, the Church.
Almighty God, who didst bestow on thy Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow thy kindly light and to find peace in thy Church; grant, we beseech thee, that through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.