Born in London in 1801, Blessed John Henry Newman was for over twenty years an Anglican clergyman and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, having been an undergraduate at Trinity College, Oxford. His studies of the early Church led him progressively towards Catholicism, and in 1845 he embraced “the one true fold of the Redeemer”. In 1847 he was ordained priest and went on to found the Oratory of St Philip Neri in England. He was a prolific and influential writer on a variety of subjects. In 1879 he was created Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. Praised for his humility, unstinting care of souls and contributions to the intellectual life of the Church, he died in Birmingham on 11 August 1890. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 September 2010.
Newman’s writings are published online at the Newman Reader.
The Holy See has now approved his feast day, which takes place on 9 October (the anniversary of his conversion to Catholicism). The text of his Mass can be seen: here.
From Pope Benedict’s beatification homily
In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness. Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. …
Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a “definite service”, committed uniquely to every single person …The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.
I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education … [W]hat better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The Present Position of Catholics in England).
Newman's 'College' in Littlemore - a place of pilgrimage
The ‘College’ in Littlemore, formerly a village, but now part of wider Oxford, was the place where Blessed John Henry was received into full communion with the Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi. It was here that Newman retreated to a life of prayer and scholarship, before his final decision to make his submission to the Catholic Church.
In 1987 the Spiritual Family of the Work accepted the offer of the Birmingham Oratory, owner of “The College” at Littlemore, to act as custodians of the place where Newman was received into full communion with the Catholic Church. A registered Charity, The Society of The Work, was established and an International Centre of Newman Friends set up in 1988.
Newman's oratory has again become a place of prayer and worship, with the officium, daily hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and regular masses.
A substantial and specialized collection of Newman-related literature has been built up on the site of Newman's own library, together with a standing exhibition of Newman memorabilia (prints, etchings, photographs, sculptures and original letters).
Visitors are welcome to visit Newman's room and chapel and the museum and library for studies and research.
'The College' is open from Monday to Friday from 10.30 am to 12 noon and from 2 pm to 5 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday (except the last Sunday of the month) from 2 pm to 5 pm.
For further details and other arrangements, e.g. celebration of Mass, guided tours and/or talks for groups, school parties, private retreats (six rooms available), use of the library for academic purposes, information and arrangements for visiting places connected with Newman in Littlemore and Oxford etc. please contact:
The International Centre of Newman Friends c/o The Society of The Work,
Ambrose Cottage, 9 College Lane, Littlemore Oxford OX4 4LQ.
Tel: 0044 1865 779743,
Fax: 0044 1865 773397,
The Oxford Oratory
As founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri (the 'Oratorians') in England, Newman wished to establish an Oratory in his beloved Oxford. Although Newman purchased land for this, various problems mitigated against the project and the plan did not come to fruition in his life time. However, in the 1990s the Oratorian Fathers were eventually able to come to Oxford and were entrusted with the parish of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in the city centre.
The Oxford Oratory now has an altar dedicated to Blessed John Henry Newman and on his feast day, 9 October, a major relic of Newman is exposed in the church for veneration. There are plans in due course to build a new chapel dedicated to Newman alongside the church.
John Henry Newman was born on 21st February, 1801, in London, the eldest son of a London banker. His family were ordinary church-going members of the established Anglican Church, without any strong religious tendencies, though the young John Henry did learn at an early age to take a great delight in the Bible. He was sent to Ealing School in 1808, and it was there, eight years later, that he underwent a profound religious conversion, which was to determine the rest of his life as a quest for spiritual perfection. In 1817 he entered Trinity College, Oxford, where he was a very successful student. Five years later he was elected to a coveted Fellowship of leading Oriel College. He was ordained and worked, first as a curate in the poor Oxford Parish of Saint Clement's, and then, from 1828, as Vicar of the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. There, his spiritual influence on parishioners and members of the University was truly enormous, particularly through his preaching, embodied in the Parochial and Plain Sermons. He worked as a College Tutor, and a little later began to research the first of his many theological works, The Arians of the Fourth Century. Newman was to be one of the foremost religious writers of his century.
In 1833 he went on a tour of the Mediterranean with a friend who was in very poor health. While in Sicily Newman himself fell desperately ill with fever. On his recovery it struck him that God had spared him to perform a special task in England. On his return home he eagerly set about organising what was to become known as the Oxford Movement. The Movement, which spread rapidly, was intended to combat three evils threatening the Church of England - spiritual stagnation, interference from the state, and doctrinal unorthodoxy.
When studying the history of the early Christian Fathers in 1839, Newman received an unexpected shock, for it appeared that the position of his own Church bore a close resemblance to that of the early heretics. He was also worried when many of the Anglican Bishops denounced one of his works a few years later - some not just denouncing him, but also espousing erroneous positions themselves. He decided to retire partly from Oxford, and, joined by a few others a little later, he moved to quarters at the nearby hamlet of Littlemore. For three years he lived a strict religious life, praying for light and guidance. By 1845, as he was writing his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, he saw his way clear, and on 9th October he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father, now Blessed, Dominic Barberi. He had at last found 'the One True Fold of the Redeemer'.
Conversion meant ostracism by friends and relatives. Undaunted, Newman set out for Rome to study for the priesthood. While there he became attracted by the idea of the Oratory - a Congregation of priests founded by Saint Philip Neri in the sixteenth century. He founded the first English Oratory at Maryvale, near Birmingham, in 1848, moving soon afterwards to Alcester Street, close to the town centre, where he converted a disused gin distillery into a chapel. They moved to a new and more permanent base in nearby Edgbaston three years later, and were engulfed by work among the poor Catholics of Birmingham, which was soon to become one of the new cities of the English Industrial Revolution.
In 1851 the Bishops of Ireland decided that a separate University should be established for Catholics, and invited Newman to become its founder and first Rector. It was a demanding task for an older man, but despite the strain of fifty six crossings to and from Ireland in seven years, he succeeded in establishing what is known today as University College, Dublin. From this period dates the important work The Idea of a University on the nature and scope of education, and the role of the Church in the context of a university.
When he returned to England, Newman faced a life of trials, as he was suspected and even resented by some in authority. Several projects which he took up, including a magazine for educated Catholics, a mission at Oxford, and a new translation of the Bible, met with rejection or failure. On the other hand, many of his publications in this period were well-received: the Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864), a biographical account of Newman's conversion; the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1875), which considered the relationship between conscience and the authority of the Church; and the Grammar of Assent (1870), on human reasoning and the act of faith, which although not always well understood by his contemporaries, would become generally acknowledged as an major contribution to both philosophy and theology.
During old age, Newman continued in Birmingham, quietly writing, preaching and counselling (from the age of twenty three he had been above all a pastor - 'a father of souls') until, when seventy eight, a big surprise came. As a tribute to his extraordinary work and devotion, Pope Leo XIII made the unprecedented gesture of naming Newman, an ordinary priest, a Cardinal. After a life of trials the news came as a joyful relief and Newman declared 'the cloud is lifted for ever'. Cardinal Newman died on 11th August 1890 and received a universal tribute of praise. The Times wrote: 'whether Rome canonises him or not he will be canonised in the thoughts of pious people of many creeds in England.' The Cork Examiner affirmed that, 'Cardinal Newman goes to his grave with the singular honour of being by all creeds and classes acknowledged as the just man made perfect.'
(Biography from the Birmingham Oratory's former website for Newman’s cause, used with permission).
(Biography from the Birmingham Oratory's former website for Newman’s cause, used with permission).