Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources 

Remarks of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Cardinal Newman Cong.Orat on Father Ignatius

Press Coverage of Father Ignatius’ Cause for Beatification

Remarks of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Cardinal Newman Cong.Orat


from the ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’ Chapter 3

This feeling led me into the excess of being very rude to that zealous and most charitable man, Mr. Spencer, when he came to Oxford in January, 1840, to get Anglicans to set about praying for Unity. I myself, at that time, or soon after, drew up such prayers; their desirableness was one of the first thoughts which came upon me after my shock; but I was too much annoyed with the political action of the members of the Catholic body in these islands to wish to have any thing to do with them personally. So glad in my heart was I to see him, when he came to my rooms with Mr. Palmer of Magdalen, that I could have laughed for joy; I think I did laugh; but I was very rude to him, I would not meet him at dinner, and that, (though I did not say so,) because I considered him “in loco apostatæ” from the Anglican Church, and I hereby beg his pardon for it. I wrote afterwards with a view to apologize, but I dare say he must have thought that I made the matter worse, for these were my words to him:—

“The news that you are praying for us is most touching, and raises a variety of indescribable emotions …  May their prayers return abundantly into their own bosoms … Why then do I not meet you in a manner conformable with these first feelings? For this single reason, if I may say it, that your acts are contrary to your words. You invite us to a union of hearts, at the same time that you are doing all you can, not to restore, not to reform, not to re-unite, but to destroy our Church. You go further than your principles require. You are leagued with our enemies. ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ This is what especially distresses us; this is what we cannot understand; how Christians, like yourselves, with the clear view you have that a warfare is ever waging in the world between good and evil, should, in the present state of England, ally yourselves with the side of evil against the side of good … Of parties now in the country, you cannot but allow, that next to yourselves we are nearest to revealed truth. We maintain great and holy principles; we profess Catholic doctrines … So near are we as a body to yourselves in modes of thinking, as even to have been taunted with the nicknames which belong to you; and, on the other hand, if there are professed infidels, scoffers, sceptics, unprincipled men, rebels, they are found among our opponents. And yet you take part with them against us … You consent to act hand in hand [with these and others] for our overthrow. Alas! all this it is that impresses us irresistibly with the notion that you are a political, not a religious party; that in order to gain an end on which you set your hearts,—an open stage for yourselves in England,—you ally yourselves with those who hold nothing against those who hold something. This is what distresses my own mind so greatly, to speak of myself, that, with limitations which need not now be mentioned, I cannot meet familiarly any leading persons of the Roman Communion, and least of all when they come on a religious errand. Break off, I would say, with Mr. O’Connell in Ireland and the liberal party in England, or come not to us with overtures for mutual prayer and religious sympathy.”

From Newman’s Correspondence


Oriel College: January 8, 1840.
One kind word from you will make me forget anything, but really you frightened and depressed me much.

I have had a visit today from Mr. Spencer, the R.C. priest, under the following circumstances. Palmer (of Magdalen)—[ho panu proxenos]—asked me to dine with him. On second thoughts I considered that this would not be right in the case of one in loco apostatæ who had done despite to our orders, &c. So I wrote to say I could have no familiar and social intercourse with one so circumstanced. Palmer was annoyed. Poor fellow! he has put himself in a false position. People will assume be is one of us, and come to him for introductions to us; and he does not know even a number of us, and does not know the feelings, &c, of those he does know. So he has been hard pressed to entertain the said Mr. S. Ward saw Palmer of Worcester unsuspiciously pacing down to dine with him yesterday, which, considering the said Palmer always talks of Mr. Spencer, &c., as ‘those fellows,’ was amusing. Well, to return. Palmer called to expostulate with me, and proposed divers plans, such as my coming in the evening, &c. I said I did not like to put myself out of the way—that if R.C.’s and A.C.’s met together, it should be in sackcloth, rather than at a pleasant party, &c. Then he asked if I should object to Mr. Spencer’s calling on me. I said that I had no right to ask such a thing from Mr. S.—that it was pompous in me, &c. So it was arranged then; and today he called with Palmer, and sat an hour. He is a gentlemanlike, mild, pleasing man, but sadly smooth. I wonder whether it is their habit of internal discipline, the necessity of confession, &c., which makes them so. He did not come to controvert—his sole point was to get English people to pray for the R.C.’s. He said he had been instrumental in setting on foot the practice in France towards England, that it was spreading in Germany, and that we should be soon agreed if we really loved one another: that such prayers would change the face of things. He called on Routh, and had a similar talk with him. Yesterday he dined in Hall at Magdalen, at a venison feast, in company with Calcott and Thompson of Lincoln, Lancaster, &c. At least, so I believe. Wood is to take him to Littlemore tomorrow. Oakeley and he breakfast at Palmer’s with him tomorrow morning.

From the Sayings of Cardinal Newman

It was a fresh start on the part of a holy man, Father Spencer, of the Passionists, himself a convert, who made it his very mission to bring into shape a system of prayer for the conversion of his country; and we know what hardships, mortifications, slights, insults, disappointments he underwent for this object. We know, too, how, in spite of this immense discouragement, or rather, I should say, by means of it—for trial is the ordinary law of Providence—he did a great work—great in its success. That success lies in the visible fact of the conversions which have been so abundant among us since he entered upon his evangelical labour, coupled as it is with the general experience which we all have in the course of life of the wonderful answers which are granted to persevering prayer. Nor must we forget, while we bless the memory of his charity, that such a religious service was one of the observances which he inherited from the Congregation which he had joined, though he had begun it before he was one of its members; for St. Paul of the Cross, its founder, for many years in his Roman monastery had the conversion of England in his special prayers. Nor, again, must we forget the great aid which Father Spencer found from the first in the zeal of Cardinal Wiseman, who not only drew up a form of prayer for England, for the use of English Catholics, but introduced Father Spencer’s object to the Bishops of France, and gained for us the powerful intercession of an affectionate people, who in my early days were considered, this side of the Channel, to be nothing else than our national enemies.

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Press Coverage of Father Ignatius’ Cause for Beatification

Catholic priest, related to British royal family, moves closer to canonization

By Simon Caldwell

Catholic News Service (

LONDON (CNS) – The British royal family could soon have its first saint after the Catholic Church took a step forward in the canonization process of a priest related to Princes William and Harry.

An inquiry into the possible sainthood of Father Ignatius Spencer was sent to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes March 1 after an exhaustive 12-year investigation by British Catholic officials.

A tribunal in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, England, concluded Feb. 26 that there was nothing in either the work or 22 volumes of writings by Father Spencer to suggested he did not live a life of heroic virtue.

The first step in the canonization process is the declaration of a person’s heroic virtues then beatification. In general, the church must confirm two miracles through the intercession of the sainthood candidate before canonization.

“The next stage is to hope and pray for a miracle that can be attributed to the intercession of Ignatius,” said Passionist Father Ben Lodge, the postulator of the cause from Kent, England, in an interview with Catholic News Service March 2.

Father Spencer is related to the princes through their mother, Princess Diana of Wales.

Born in Admiralty House in 1799, he was the great-great-great-uncle of Princess Diana and was also the great-uncle of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Father Spencer grew up at the family home in Althorp, where Princess Diana was buried after she was killed in a Paris car crash in August 1997.

But he turned his back on a life of immense wealth and comfort when he converted to Catholicism — a move which shocked his contemporaries. He joined the newly formed Passionists, changed his name from George to Ignatius, and worked for the conversion of England to the Catholic faith until his death in 1864.

“He was also heroic in following his vow of poverty,” he said.

“He gave up being a member of one of the wealthiest families in the country in which he had a massive income and ended up going out to Ireland to work with the victims of the potato famine,” said Father Lodge.

Father Lodge said Father Spencer was about 150 years ahead of his time in his commitment to the “unity in truth” of all Christians, a theme later embraced by the Second Vatican Council. Father Spencer’s greatest achievement was “preparing the ground” for the ecumenical movement of the late 20th century, Father Lodge added.

Father Spencer’s other great love was cricket, a sport which he described as “my mania,” and he often organized matches among seminarians while he was the dean of St. Mary’s Seminary in Oscott.

Father Spencer’s body is entombed in St. Anne’s Church in St. Helens alongside Blessed Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist priest beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1963.

Sainthood of Liverpool priest rests on miracle

By Andrew Ashton


A POSSIBLE change in the Vatican’s stringent rules on declaring miracles

could lead to the canonisation of a Liver-pool priest, according to the postulator for the sainthood of Fr Ignatius Spencer. Following the conclusion of a 12-year investigation process by a metropolitan tribunal in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, papers have now been sent to the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins. The son of the 2nd Earl of Spencer, Fr Spencer converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism and joined the Passionist order in 1841 and spent his life working for the non-confrontational conversion of England. Postulator Fr Ben Lodge said that the diocesan report had found nothing untoward to halt the process and said that it was now in the hands of God. “The next stage is to hope and pray for a miracle that can be attributed to the intercession of Ignatius,” he said. “Rome sets very high standards of proof regarding miracles,” he added. “That is currently restricted to medical miracles. But there is talk and hope that Rome could widen that remit to include moral miracles. “The big thing about the whole process is that it is recognising a man who was a hundred years ahead of his time for his work on Christian unity.” he added.


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