Next Sunday, Cardinal Newman will be declared a saint. It would be interesting to know how readers of this site react to him and to his value to the Church. I am aware that some of you know more of Newman than I do. I have confined myself to a brief account, but you will find much more available on the Internet at, for example:
Newman was born into an Evangelical Anglican family. For a time, he was an Oxford don. As vicar of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, his reputation was initially born from his magnificent sermons. Far from being brief and histrionic, these were lengthy and largely spoken in a monotone voice. But their matter was marvelous. Many of his sermon are available in print.
He was to become very involved with the Oxford Movement — which worked towards restoring to Anglicanism the elements of Christianity which were present in the first millennium. The Movement presented its case in a large number of “tracts” (Tractarianism). Newman was a major contributor. But his deep studies eventually led to his conversion. While being very concerned for his existing Anglican flock, he became a Catholic in 1845.
While he was preparing for ordination, he was asked to consider the Congregation of the Oratory. This could be described as a community of which the members lived a common life based on personal friendship, but without vows or other special regulations. That suited him well.
Notwithstanding his admirers, Newman was often involved in criticism — sourced by both Anglicans and Catholics. The most remembered occasion was the vicious claim of the writer Charles Kingsley. Kingsley had said: “Truth for its own sake has never been a virtue of the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not, to be.” But the eventual grand outcome was Newman’s spiritual autobiography: his Apologia pro Vita Sua
Pius IX deputed him to establish the Oratory in England and to establish what would become The Oratory School. At age 79 he was named a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He declared “The cloud is lifted from me forever.” And he took that opportunity to emphasize once more his condemnation of liberalism in religion. His motto, “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart) reminds us that we are all called to our personal relationship with God and with our neighbour.
We might ask ourselves in what respects Newman’s teachings have influenced the Church and remain effective today. Which, if any, have benefitted, and continue to benefit today? Which, if any, have damaged the Church today?