Blessed John Henry Newman
Celebrated on October 9th
On this coming Sunday , October 13th , Our Holy Father , Pope Francis , will place Blessed John Henry Newman in the canon of recognised saints from which time it will be fitting to honour him as Saint John Henry Newman .
Blessed John Henry Newman was a priest, theologian, writer and preacher. His life spanned most of the 19th century. He was an Anglican for the first half of his life and became a Catholic in the second half.
Born in London in 1801, Newman studied at Oxford’s Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College and for 17 years vicar of the university church, St Mary the Virgin. He published eight volumes of Parochial and Plain Sermons as well as two novels. His poem, the Dream of Gerontius, was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.
After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Church’s debt to the Church Fathers and challenged any tendency to consider truth as completely subjective.
Historical research made Newman suspect that the Roman Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus established. In 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by St Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.
Before Newman, Catholic theology tended to ignore history, preferring instead to draw deductions from first principles. After Newman, the lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.
Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (his spiritual autobiography up to 1864) and Essay on the Grammar of Assent. He accepted Vatican I’s teaching on papal infallibility while noting its limits, which many people who favoured that definition were reluctant to do.
When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto ‘Cor ad cor loquitur’ (Heart speaks to heart). Newman died in 1890. He was buried in Rednal (near Birmingham) 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.
Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Newman on 19 September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park, near Birmingham. The Pope noted Newman’s emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison.