Saint October 9 : Cardinal John Henry Newman a Convert from Anglicanism and Member of the Oxford Movement

Biography of JH Newman from the Newman Centre:
Newman: Gentleman, Scholar & Saint
By: Dr. Robert Di Pede
John Henry Newman, a significant figure in England’s religious history, has been referred to by many notable scholars in our own times as one of the greatest intellectuals of the nineteenth century. He was born in London in 1801 to Jemina Fourdrinier and John Newman (a London banker), who provided him and his five younger siblings with a comfortable middle-class upbringing. Early in life, he expressed serious interest in questions about God’s existence, in the history of Christianity, and in the meaning of phrases of the Nicene Creed. These interests led the tenacious and bright Newman at the age of 15 to become an Evangelical Christian, and they would continue to occupy him, personally and professionally, for the rest of his life, as he journeyed from Evangelicalism, through Anglicanism, to Catholicism.
Young Newman
Newman as a young man at Oxford
In 1816, Newman was sent up to Oxford University to begin his undergraduate education. He would remain associated with Oxford for nearly three more decades. Early in this period, Newman felt the inklings of an ecclesiastical vocation. Upon completing his Art’s degree in 1820, he undertook preparations for ministry in the Church of England, receiving ordination to the Anglican priesthood in 1825. From the mid-1820s, Newman also lectured at Oriel College, where his reputation grew both as a first-rate tutor and as a parish priest. The latter was not without controversy, however, for the provost of Oriel College, the Reverend Edward Hawkins (1789–1882), objected strongly to Newman’s pastoral approach to academic teaching, arguing that universities were to promote thinking that was strictly and solely rational. Conversely, Newman maintained that knowledge appealed to the heart, as well as the mind, and that good teaching called for more than a exclusively cool and distant approach to the objects of knowledge. Hawkins, whose relationship with the undergraduates had always been uneasy, eventually succeeded in ousting Newman, forcing him to resign from his position as tutor in 1832. Many years later, Newman would reiterate his position on the relationship between learning and affectivity when he was named a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, choosing as his motto Cor ad cor loquitur, that is, “Heart speaks to heart.”
St Marys Oxford
St. Mary’s Church, Littlemore was built on the initiative of Newman
Newman’s association with Oxford continued despite his infelicitous fate at Oriel College. He maintained academic and pastoral assignments in succession for several years, serving as fellow of Trinity, curate of St. Clement’s, and later as both tutor and vicar of St. Mary’s. During his tenure at St. Mary’s, from 1828 to 1843, Newman became well-known for his scholarly preaching, which drew large crowds of students, faculty, and members of the local community. His sermons are among the first of his writings to gain notoriety in an otherwise vast, comprehensive and highly influential bibliography produced over a lifetime, which continues to be published and studied right to the present day.
Two years after leaving St. Mary’s, following a rigorous period of intellectual questioning and spiritual soul-searching, Newman converted to Roman Catholicism. One of the themes central to his conversion was the relationship between doctrinal development and the continuity of tradition: “A truly great intellect,” he wrote after his conversion, “is one which takes a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near, and which has an insight into the influence of all these on one another; without which there is no whole, and no centre” (The Idea of a University, Discourse VI). Newman’s sense of continuity through development was nourished by years of serious study of the Latin and Greek Church Fathers, not the least of which was St. Augustine. He was officially received into the Catholic Church on October 9th 1845 and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood the following year.
Cardinal John Henry Newman is pictured in an 1860 or 1861 photo provided by the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory. Pope Benedict XVI is to preside at his beatification in Birmingham Sept. 19 during his four-day visit to Britain. His feast day will be Oct. 9 -- not the date of his death, which is typical for feast days, but the date of his passage from Anglicanism into the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/courtesy of Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory) (Sept. 15, 2010) See NEWMAN-DATE (UPDATED) Sept. 15, 2010.
Newman in the religious habit of the Oratorians (c. 1860)
As a Catholic priest, Newman remained active in the sphere of education. He established the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham in 1848, along with a parochial school, and was instrumental in founding the Catholic University of Ireland, where he served as rector from 1854 to 1858. Newman’s idea of what the character and vocation of a Catholic university ought to be was revolutionary for his times. In his now renowned treatise The Idea of a University, he boldly concluded: “If then a University is a direct preparation for this world, let it be what it professes. It is not a Convent, it is not a Seminary; it is a place to fit men of the world for the world” (Discourse 9). This novel vision of Catholic higher education clashed with that of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Ireland and Great Britain, who regarded the university–in a decidedly narrower sense–as an extension of the seminary, in relationship to which it was subordinate.
In spite of pressure from his ecclesiastical superiors, Newman did not abandon his vision of Catholic higher education, often reiterating in his letters and sermons the potential it had to improve the conditions of human life and society at all levels. Indeed, during his tenure as Rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, he successfully established four faculties alongside Theology–Law, Letters, Medicine, and Philosophy–thereby giving prominence to the lay character of the university. The breadth of Newman’s vision for the education of the Catholic laity was captured by a recent biographer in these words: “He wanted Catholics to accept responsibilities in the world, exert their influence for the good, assert themselves, broaden their minds, knowing all the time where truth lay; and he wanted them to be guided like fully responsible people by their educated and enlightened consciences” (Brian Martin, John Henry Newman: His Life and Work, p. 155).
Cardinal Newman
Portrait of Newman as Cardinal by John Everett Millais, 1881
In 1877 Newman became the first Catholic to hold an honorary fellowship at Trinity College, Oxford, where his bust now stands in the garden quad. Two years later, Pope Leo XIII appointed him to the College of Cardinals–a bold move in the ecclesiastical climate of the time considering Newman’s Anglican background. He died on August 11th 1890 and was buried in Warwickshire. His epitaph reads, Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem, “From the shadows and images to the truth.” In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman, declaring the 9th of October, which had been the date of Newman’s entrance into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, as his annual liturgical feast day.
 FULL TEXT Biographical Source:
For online access to full texts from Newman’s bibliography, visit
Martin, Brian. John Henry Newman: His Life and Work. N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Merrigan, Terrance. “John Henry Newman as ‘Father’ of Vatican II. The Newman Rambler: Faith, Culture & the Academy 11.1 (Winter 2014): 1-6.
Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. Various editions, 1853 and 1858.
Shrimpton, Paul. A Catholic Eton? Newman’s Oratory School. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005.