Bl. John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Cardinal Newman represents the best in Roman Catholic scholarship, which is the reason Catholic centers on college campuses in the United States are named for him. He began his career as an Anglican priest and a professor at Oxford. He ended his life as a Roman Catholic cardinal. His conversion cost him his position at Oxford, one of the greatest personal sacrifices he could have made.

Newman has been called the patron saint of critics who love the church. As much as he loved the Church of Rome, he deplored its lack of theological liberty. He firmly believed that theological issues should be worked through by theologians, rather than settled peremptorily by the Vatican bureaucracy. "It is intolerable," he wrote, "that we should be placed at the mercy of a secret tribunal, which dares to speak in the name of the pope, and which would institute, if it could, a regime of espionage, denunciation, and terrorism."

The laity, according to Newman, was always the truest measure of Catholicism. "The Church would look foolish without them." From his deep knowledge of church history and theology, he realized that the hierarchy needed the laity as much as it did theologians. In this icon he holds a scroll with another quotation from his writings. Even when the hierarchy does not listen to the laity or the theologians, their voice will emerge with the passing of time. The Spirit will insure this.

Newman was a sensitive man who loved people. He believed that "the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately around us." As a Roman priest, he introduced St. Philip Neri's Oratory into England -- a form of community life for priests, but without religious vows. At the end of his life he was buried at his own request in the same grave as one of his dearest friends, so that even death might not sever their companionship.

His feast day is October 9.


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