FEAST DAY: October 9
John Henry Newman, one of the leading Roman Catholic and Anglican theologians of the 19th century, was canonized Oct. 13. His search for truth and writings on his beliefs were instrumental in changing the definition of religion in his time and beyond.
In his 40 books and more than 20,000 letters, Cardinal Newman expresses a strong belief in the importance of a personal relationship with God. His writings inspired hundreds of Anglican clergymen to join the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century and influenced the work of the Second Vatican Council in the 20th. In his memory, Newman Centers were first established to serve Catholic students at non-Catholic universities in 1888 and continue serving students around the world today, including on more than 2,000 U.S. campuses.
Born in London, England, on Feb. 21, 1801, Cardinal Newman experienced “an inward conversion” at age 15 that he described “as more certain than that he had hands or feet.” Following graduation from Trinity College of Oxford, he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1821. As the vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin, for 17 years, Cardinal Newman became a popular pastor, poet and preacher and a highly regarded theologian.
Cardinal Newman led the Oxford Movement in an effort to reconnect the Church of England with its origins by studying the writings of the first Church Fathers. His research convinced him that the Roman Church was the original Church established by Christ. His preaching and writing of the “Tracts for the Times” promoting Catholic teachings and rituals created intense hostility from some Anglican clergy.
Cardinal Newman left Oxford in 1842 and was formally received into the Catholic Church on Oct. 9, 1845. Ordained a priest in October 1846 in Rome, he returned to England where his lectures against anti-Catholic rhetoric led to charges of libel. When found guilty, his many supporters raised funds that exceeded the cost of the fine and his legal expenses.
In 1854, Cardinal Newman became rector of the new Catholic university in Dublin where he completed some of his most effective writing. Named a cardinal in 1879, after refusing to be named a bishop, he chose “Cor ad cor loquitur” – “Heart speaks to heart” as his motto. Cardinal Newman died of pneumonia in Birmingham, England, on August 11, 1890.
Did you know?
The Diocese of St. Cloud is home to two Newman Centers: Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud and the Catholic Newman Center at University of Minnesota–Morris.