October 8, 2017

Bl. John Henry Newman, Convert and Cardinal

Blessed John Henry Newman

Optional Memorial - October 9th

John Henry Newman, one of the great Christian intellectuals of the 19th century, was born in London in 1801, and baptized in the Church of England. His spiritual quest having begun in adolescence, he became a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford in 1822, an Anglican clergyman in 1825 and Vicar of Oxford University Church in 1828. He studied theology at Oxford University where he became a leader of the Oxford Movement which examined the Catholic roots of the faith in England.

The Anglican Newman was a pastor of souls, a university teacher and a student of Christian history and thought. His scholarship was never purely theoretical. Informed by pastoral experience, it was shaped by his insight into the needs of the present. Newman's point of reference was the Church of the Apostles and 'the Fathers', the great teachers of the first Christian centuries. At school he felt the attractions of atheism, and sympathy with religious doubt. But also at school he underwent a true conversion granting him an abiding sense of God's presence.

At the same time, Newman acquired the conviction that Christianity is a doctrinal religion, and that doctrine and religious experience are in harmony, not opposed. In Christianity, Newman believed, mind and heart, dogma and experience, come together. Knowing the doctrinal and sacramental faith by virtue of his conversion, Newman desired to revive Christianity for a culture descending into unbelief.

In 1842, while writing his "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine", he began to mature his conversion to Catholicism. He was admitted into the Catholic Church in 1845 and ordained a priest in Rome on June 1, 1847. Following his ordination, and with the encouragement of Pope Pius IX, he founded the first Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham, dedicated to prayer and scholarship.

In 1852 he was appointed rector of the Catholic University of Dublin, Ireland, a post he held until 1854. Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879 and he died in 1890 at the Oratory of Edgbaston. The process for his beatification began in 1958. Newman's miraculous intercession in the cure of Dean Jack Sullivan, who suffered a serious complaint of the spinal column, was officially recognized by Pope Benedict XVI in July 2009. He was beatified on September 10, 2010.

Unlike so many in his own day – and in ours – John Henry Newman's faith was not a watered-down Christianity of private 'spirituality' and state-approved social 'responsibility'. He shows us how to move from religious doubt, beyond dilution and compromise, to the fullness of doctrinal and sacramental faith. Pastorally and educationally, in his published writings and in his correspondence, Newman's aim was to describe and arouse the Christian mind. His vocation was to help us meet the demands of thinking and acting with the mind of Christ and His holy Church.

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