The Newman Association
Saint John Henry Newman
John Henry Newman

In the first half of his life John Henry Newman was an Anglican, who became a clergyman and scholar. When he died, he was a Roman Catholic Cardinal whose work and influence profoundly changed opinions and prejudices towards the Catholic faith. He was an extraordinarily sensitive and intelligent man, whose life spanned almost the whole of the nineteenth century.

Born in 1801, he grew up in a Church of England family and went to school in Ealing until his intellect led him to Trinity College Oxford at the age of only sixteen. He was a studious, rather serious young man whose shyness held him back from forging many friendships. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1825 and was a popular preacher.

As a Fellow of Oriel College, he was an important founder of the ‘Oxford Movement’ in the 1830’s. The rediscovery of Catholic doctrines and practices met hostility in the Church of England, and Newman’s scholarly researches led him towards the Catholic Church. In 1845, after many years of soul-searching, John Henry Newman decided to become a Catholic. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1847 and three years later founded the first shortlived Catholic University in Ireland. He introduced the Congregation of the Oratory into England, being based at the Birmingham Oratory for the rest of his life.

Newman played an important part in the First Vatican Council (1869-70). His key ideas included the development of doctrine – developed over generations, and he believed that this was at the heart of faith. Often misunderstood by his contemporaries, Newman’s ideas created suspicion among many Catholics at the time, but Pope Leo XIII recognised his orthodoxy, and in 1879 created Newman Cardinal Deacon of St George in Velabro.

It took many years for the quality of Newman’s theology to be widely appreciated, but many now call him “the father of Vatican II”. John Henry Newman died in 1890. He was canonised by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Rome on October 13th 2019. His feast day is celebrated on October 9th.

The following links will be helpful if you wish to find out more about John Henry Newman.

Birmingham Oratory & International Newman Friends:

International Newman Friends

“His fruitful use of the idea of development, in its application to the growth of Christian doctrine, and his profound insight into the nature and motives of religious faith, place him in the first rank of modern Christian thinkers” – Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Copyright @ The Newman Association 2014

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