Any convert from Anglicanism has gotta have Bl.John Henry Newman right up there on the list of patron saints.
Here are ten reasons why I love him and why he is so important for our age.
- He started as an Evangelical – Did you know that he used to go out on “Beach Missions” when he was a teenager? These are peculiarly British tradition in which zealous young people head down to the beach and gather kids together and do a kind of Vacation Bible School with them.
- He was an Oxford Man – It’s pretty hard to resist the city of dreaming spires and inspired dreamers. Newman was certainly an inspired dreamer and as vicar of the University Church his church had one of the spires that is the hallmark of that city’s sky scape.
- He was a first rate theologian In the nineteenth century Europe was wrestling with the advance of the modern world and Newman was in favor of the church relating positively to the modern world while never forsaking the core truths of the faith. His work on the development of doctrine is crucial for our present struggles with modernity, and all priests and seminarians should read it so they can sniff out the wrong use of “development of doctrine” among the progressives today. This is one of the reasons Emeritus Pope Benedict was eager to beatify him.
- He had a monastic spirituality He stepped away from his fellowship at Oriel College and resigned his living as Vicar of St Mary’s to live in a converted cowshed in the bad part of town. As such he paved the way for a truly authentic Catholicism in England.
- He was a poet Beneath his incisive theological mind Newman had the heart of a poet. His writing alway surges with genuine feeling and his motto was “cor ad cor loquitur” –heart speaks to heart. He was also a mentor to the bright wings of Gerard Manley Hopkins who followed him into the church and soared above with his own poetry.
- The Liberals Distrusted him Although he was sympathetic to many of the ideals of the liberals, he was not one of them. He liked Lord Acton’s passion to connect with the intellectuals of the day and to make connections with the modern age, but he knew that going too far in that direction would destroy the faith.
- The Conservatives Distrusted Him This was during the time of Pius IX and the Syllabus of Errors. The conservatives were entrenched in an anti-modern mentality and they considered Newman to be a dangerously liberal influence. He was therefore marginalized by both sides. I’ve always considered it a mark of authenticity when the progressives and the conservatives throw stones at you.
- He thumbed his nose at the English establishment You gotta love somebody who rises to the height of the snobbish Oxbridge English establishment and then says, “Nah. You can keep it” and tootles off to live in a cowshed and become a Catholic. You have to realize that back then the Catholics had only just achieved full emancipation and to become a Catholic you were blacklisted from professions, couldn’t get a decent job and were cut off from polite society. He was a true pioneer and the proto-Anglican convert of the modern age.
- He cherished his friends He was known for keeping a wide circle of friends and for being a compassionate, loving and kind soul to all. His letters are full of warmth, generosity, good humor and genuine love.
- He was the model of a Catholic gentleman He did not complain and he did not explain. Despite being persecuted and hounded by the press, by his fellow Englishmen and former friends he held firm in a simple humility and tenacity–never responding with anger, name calling or ugliness.
Blessed John Henry Newman – ora pro nobis!
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