Recent media coverage of GK Chesterton’s possible canonisation morphed into speculation as to when he would be made a saint. Misunderstanding the canonical process, many secular media sources saw a possible beginning as a confirmed ending.
Far from declaring anything, the Church is merely exploring the possibility of the writer’s holiness. GK Chesterton was a public figure, which, in part, explains the curiosity from secular sources at the prospect of his canonisation. One suspects that driving that curiosity is an interest in novelty rather than the science of sanctity.
But if not Chesterton, who is to become England’s next saint?
The last canonisation for England and Wales was in 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised 40 English and Welsh martyrs executed between 1535 and 1679. John Ogilvie, the only post-Reformation Scottish saint, was canonised in 1976.
In 2010, John Henry Newman was the last Englishman to be named Blessed. Newman would appear best placed to become Britain’s next official saint – not least given the backing and resources of a religious congregation, the Oratorians, to facilitate this.
Since his beatification in 2010, there has been a notable increase in the display of images of Blessed John Henry in English churches. It’s less clear whether there has been an increase in large-scale popular devotion to the man. Perhaps this is because much of Newman’s public life and witness is about the intellect. There were no stigmata, no public miracles, no levitations; instead there were builders’ bills, court writs and endless misunderstandings. As a result Newman’s holiness is understated, a quiet but steadfast devotion to God’s will.
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