Modern Day Saints

Blessed John Henry Newman (1801 - 1890)

John Henry Newman began his career as an Anglican churchman and scholar and ended it as a Roman Catholic cardinal. He was born in London on February 21, 1801.  At the age of fifteen, he enrolled in Trinity College, beginning an association with Oxford University that would last for nearly thirty years. He became an Anglican minister, and later, vicar of St Mary's, the church of Oxford University.

At the same time, he was more and more concerned about the increasing influence of liberalism in Oxford and throughout England. To combat these trends, Newman, together with some friends, founded the “Oxford Movement.” Its supporters denounced the Nation's detachment from the practice of the faith and fought for a return to primitive Christianity by means of a sound dogmatic, spiritual and liturgical reform. Newman became the Movement's primary spokesman, promoting its doctrinal and moral concerns through his editorship of the British Critic, his contributions to Tracts for the Times, and his weekly sermons at St. Mary's.

In 1839, Newman began to lose confidence in the cause. He soon became convinced that Rome, not Canterbury, was the home of the true Church. He expressed his new views in which he argued that the Thirty-Nine Articles, the doctrinal statement of the Church of England, could be interpreted in a way that supported Roman Catholic doctrine. He was censured by the Oxford authorities and this led to a rapid withdrawal from Anglican life. He was a major figure in the Oxford Movement to bring the Church of England back to its Catholic roots. In 1843 he moved from Oxford to a semi-monastic community at Littlemore and resigned his position at St. Mary's.

Two years after leaving St. Mary's, Newman began a new life as a Roman Catholic. He was officially received into the Church on October 9, 1845 and was ordained to the priesthood the next year. After his ordination Newman founded the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Birmingham. In his many pastoral and theological activities he worked above all for the intellectual and spiritual formation of the Catholic faithful, of his confreres and of new converts. Indeed, he was convinced that comparison with the cultural and social developments of the time demanded a faith that could demonstrate the reasons for hope. Newman also helped to create the Catholic University of Ireland, which he served as rector from 1854 to 1858. He continued to write as well; some of the major publications of his Catholic years were Parochial and Plain Sermons (1868), a new edition of his Anglican discourses; The Idea of University (1852), a collection of the inaugural lectures for the Catholic University and other academic essays; An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), a treatise on the philosophy of religion; and Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), his classic work of spiritual autobiography.

In 1877 he became the first person elected to an honorary fellowship of Trinity College; two years later, Pope Leo XIII awarded him a place in the College of Cardinals. On that occasion he renewed his protest against religious liberalism. He gave a precise description of this, a description whose prophetic character is obvious in our time.  "Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither.”

Today we see this Liberalism denounced by Newman being extended even more deeply in our culture. Cardinal Newman can remind everyone, Pastors and lay people alike, that the Truth is a very precious treasure to be accepted with faith, proclaimed with honesty and defended with force

Cardinal Newman died on August 11, 1890, and was buried in Warwickshire.

Canonization would make Cardinal Newman the first English person who has lived since the 17th century officially recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1991, Cardinal Newman was proclaimed "Venerable" by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints – the first stage in the canonization process. He was beatified on 19 September 2010 at an open air mass in Birmingham. A second miracle is necessary for his canonization.

In October 2005, Fr Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory who is the postulator responsible for the cause, announced that a miraculous cure had occurred. Jack Sullivan, a deacon from Marshfield, Massachusetts, in the United States, attributed his recovery from a spinal cord disorder to Cardinal Newman.

On 3 July 2009, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan in 2001 as a miracle, the result of the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God, John Henry Newman. This decision paved the way for Cardinal Newman’s beatification, which occurred on 19 September 2010. A second miracle must be confirmed before Newman can be canonized as a saint.

In his 2008 address at The Catholic University of America, speaking to representatives of U.S. Catholic schools and colleges, Pope Benedict XVI observed the Catholic identity that is and must remain at the heart of Catholic education:

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who had been Catholic educators, were inspired by the work of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Newman was a lifelong advocate for education that teaches students to reason and discover truth. He came to realize that a genuine commitment to truth, including the Truth revealed by God, requires a strong Catholic foundation and adherence to the teachings of the Church.

Since the 1960s, Catholics have witnessed a creeping secularism in Catholic education that has often corrupted teachings and behaviors – both inside and outside the classroom – and replaced authentic Catholic identity with bland conformity to a declining culture. It is with this concern, the Cardinal Newman Society was established in 1993 to promote and defend faithful Catholic education. Founded in 1993, the mission of The Cardinal Newman Society is to promote and defend faithful Catholic education. The Society supports education that is faithful to the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church, produces and disseminates research and publications on developments and best practices in Catholic education and keeps Catholic leaders and families informed.

The Cardinal Newman Society is a treasure to our Catholic culture and our educational system thanks to the inspiration and faith of Venerable Cardinal Newman.


Jim Fritz



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