Cardinal John Henry Newman

Cardinal Newman

John Henry Newman was born on February 21st 1801 in London to John and Jemima Newman. Due to John Sr.'s position as a banker, Newman and his five younger siblings enjoyed a middle-class upbringing on Southampton Street in Bloomsbury. Like many people in England, at the time Newman and his family were members of the Church of England. His religious upbringing provided for his early exposure to the Bible and literature in general. It was not until he was about fifteen years old that he truly discovered his faith, and experienced what he would refer to as his first conversion: 

“When I was fifteen a great change of thought took place in me. I fell under the influences of a definite Creed … I believed that the inward conversion of which I was conscious … would last into the next life, and that I was elected to eternal glory. … I believe that it had some influence on my opinions … in isolating me from the objects which surrounded me, in confirming me in my mistrust of the reality of material phenomena, and making me rest in the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my creator.” Apologia 

Educated at Oxford, he graduated in 1821. In 1824 he was ordained as deacon and shortly after, in 1825, he was ordained and became a curate of St. Clement’s Church in Oxford. During his time as curate Newman was well known for his devotion to his parishioners with a particular focus on the poor, the sick, and the dying. He further took his dedication to humanity by becoming a lecturer and tutor at Oriel College. 

While at Oriel, Newman became very dedicated to scholarship and the study of early Christianity and in particular the early Church Fathers. During this time, Newman preached at the official Church of the University - St. Mary the Virgin Church - in the heart of Oxford. Many people traveled to hear him preach; scholars consider this moment to be the very beginning of the Oxford Movement.   

In December of 1832, Newman took to traveling in the South of Europe with Archdeacon Robert Froude and his family. As much as Newman enjoyed his tour, and in particular his stay in Rome, he became gravely ill with typhoid fever. Although he was quite delirious during his illness, he eventually recovered and his convictions led him to believe that God had more for him in England.  

Upon his return to England, Newman threw himself into his work to bring about new religious renewal in the country, with the aid of several of his associates. The group shared their views mainly through printed matter, particularly through pamphlets. The first of these publications was known as Tracts for the Times. However, the most efficient way for Newman to reach the people was continuously through his sermons and lectures. As a result, many of his younger listeners, especially university students, took up the motto Credo in Newmanum (“I believe in Newman”).  

In October of 1845 Newman completed his journey in faith and converted to Catholicism. He became a Catholic priest in 1847 and, ultimately, a Cardinal in 1879. 

Cardinal John Henry Newman was influential in the establishment of the Catholic University of Ireland. As a rector there from 1854 to 1858, Newman had a special interest in university education,  

“It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them and a force in urging them.” 

When Cardinal Newman died in 1890, he left behind a legacy of Catholic theological works, including sermons, essays, and books, as well as poetry, and hymns.

When Cardinal Newman was canonized on October 13, 2019, Pope Francis said, 

 “the holiness of everyday life, of which Saint Cardinal Newman speaks: ‘The Christian has a profound, silent, hidden peace, which the world does not see. [...]’ (Parochial and Plain Sermons, V, 5). We ask to be like this, gentle lights among the darkness of the world. Jesus, ‘stay with us and we will begin to shine as you shine, to shine in order to be a light for others’ (Meditations on Christian Doctrine, VII, 3).” 

Cardinal John Henry Newman