Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Newman's "Episcopal" Mitres: Shadows of What Might Have Been

Cardinal Newman, while he was a Cardinal of the Church, was not a bishop. This may strike some as strange for today we are accustomed to thinking of Cardinals as naturally bishops as well, but this is not necessarily the case. Historically there are Cardinals who were bishops, Cardinals who were priests, Cardinals who were deacons and even "lay Cardinals" (Cardinals who have received minor orders only). (Those interested in this may read more about it here.)

Cardinal Newman, a Cardinal who was a priest, was, as I say, not a bishop, but -- as I recall the story -- for various reasons it became thought that the Holy See had determined to raise him to the dignity of the episcopacy. This leads us back to the title of this piece. So assured did this seem, that mitres were made up for Newman and gifted to him for the purpose of this occasion.

In the end, this did not occur, but the mitres that were created for this occasion still exist and I recently had the opportunity to view those mitres while in England. Here they are:

Newman's initials are prominent upon their protective cases:

While Nemwan may not have been raised to the dignity of the episcopacy in the end, we can take joy in the fact that he may yet be raised to the dignity of sainthood.

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