N October 9, we celebrate Blessed John Henry Newman. Bl. John Henry Newman was a famous convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism in England during the 1800s. He was a nationally known Anglican priest who became a Catholic priest and cardinal.
Newman is mainly remembered for giving intellectual credibility to English Catholicism during the 1800s, for founding University College Dublin and the London Oratory, and for his writings (Parochial and Plain Sermons, Idea of a University, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, many prayers, and the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light”).
Newman had an intense conversion experience when he was 15. He became an evangelical Calvinist and believed the Pope was the antichrist. After graduating from Oxford, he became an Anglican priest at age 24 in 1825.
From 1828 to 1833, Newman’s views gradually became less Low Church and more High Church. However, he was still firmly Protestant: in an 1832 letter, he described Rome as “the most wonderful place on Earth,” but the Catholic Church as “polytheistic, degrading, and idolatrous.”
From 1833 to 1841, Newman was one of the main authors of Tracts for the Times, a series of pamphlets defending High Church ideas like apostolic succession, fasting, prayers for the dead, religious orders, vestments, the Eucharist, confession, etc. This movement was called the Oxford Movement or the Tractarians.
In 1843, Newman published a retraction of the hard things he had said about Catholicism in the Oxford Conservative Journal. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1845. His conversion alienated many of his colleagues, friends and family. In 1846, Newman was ordained a Catholic priest in the Oratorians. In 1879, he was made a cardinal.
Newman’s spiritual routine consisted of celebrating the sacraments, the Divine Office, the rosary, study, and spiritual reading, especially the Bible. His favorite saints were the Virgin Mary, St. Philip Neri, and St. Athanasius.
Personality-wise, Newman was a shy and spiritually sensitive intellectual. Many of his writings touched on the theme of beauty, and he often referred to Jesus as “The Beautiful One.” He deeply loved his friends and the truth.
When he died, Newman was buried in the same grave as his lifelong friend Ambrose St. John. The pall over his coffin said “Heart speaks to heart” (a quote from St. Francis de Sales) and the tombstone read “Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth” (a reference to Plato’s allegory of the cave).
“O my Lord Jesus, low as I am in Your all-holy sight, I am strong in you, strong through your Immaculate Mother, through your saints and thus I can do much for the Church, for the world, for all I love.”
“To be deep in history, is to cease to be Protestant.”
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!
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Written by Mr. John Burford, IV and Dr. Foster Lerner of Incarnation Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida; a parish of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (C) 2018.
John is the founder and owner of Magnolia Prep, an SAT and ACT tutoring business with branches in several major US cities. Foster holds a Doctorate in Medicine from Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, and is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in medicine.