Saint John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman was from an ordinary Anglican family and born during an intellectual revolution that set to oppose science and reason against faith and religion.

While a youth, Newman found a deep and strong evangelical faith, but importantly a knowledge of God that never left him. He entered Trinity College at the age of sixteen where he studied classics, theology, philosophy and some of the newer sciences such as geology.

He was elected a Fellow at Oriel College and was appointed a pastor as Vicar of St Mary’s, a role he had for 15 years. During this time the Oxford Movement began. This movement, made of Anglican intellectuals, began to explore ancient Catholicism and promoted the idea that since the Church was founded by the Apostles, and Bishops transmitted the teachings handed on to them from the Apostles, the state has no right to interfere in Church matters. This movement led Newman even deeper into reading the Early Church Fathers.

During this time Newman became known as one of the greatest preachers in the country and many people came from far and wide to hear his sermons.

Continuing to read the Early Church Fathers, Newman and his friends came to realise that the doctrinal position of the Anglican Church resembled some of the early heretical movements opposed to true Christian teaching. They came to realise the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Christ.

Newman was received into the Catholic Church on the 8 October 1845, falling at the feet of Blessed Dominic Barberi and making his Confession. His conversion to the Catholic Church had huge consequences for his life. He was now rejected by the establishment, lost friends, and was ostracised by his family.

Newman and his friends formed a small monastic like community before being sent to Rome to complete studies for the priesthood and be ordained. While in Rome, St John Henry Newman came across the Oratory of St Philip Neri and determined to start an Oratory in England.

As an Oratorian, Newman spent his time in pastoral work, preaching, and teaching. He continued to write and became well known for showing once again the union between reason and faith. Newman continued to live a good quiet Oratorian life, when to the surprise of himself and many others, Pope Leo XIII made him a Cardinal, giving him special permission to remain living at the Birmingham Oratory. Newman continued his work and died in 1890. When his body was taken to the place of burial, he was followed by thousands of Birmingham poor.

A Prayer of St John Henry Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.