On February 12, 2019 Pope Francis approved the Canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman setting the stage for him to be named Britain’s first new Saint in over 40 years. Born in 1801 in London, John Henry Newman become an Anglican Priest in 1824 and was an academic, poet and theologian at Oxford University. He was described as eloquent, scholarly, and innovative.
He played a huge role in what is known as the Oxford Movement in which he fought to have the Church of England return to Catholic beliefs and practices. He ultimately made the decision to leave the Church of England and converted to Catholicism on October 9, 1845.
In 1879 Pope Leo XIII named him a Cardinal for his efforts to bring Catholicism to England. Since the 1500’s, England had a widespread stance of Anti-Catholicism. Newman believed the best way to sway the public back to Catholic ways was through giving speeches and lectures to the public, and so began his nine, Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England, which he delivered weekly throughout the summer of 1851. These lectures were made available to listeners in the form of print outs before being published together as a book in 1852.
He went on to be named the rector of the newly established Catholic University of Ireland in 1854, which is now Ireland’s largest University, the University College Dublin. In his four years at this post he is credited with helping to found and establish the school, founding the Literary and Historical Society and published another collection of lectures called The Idea of a University.
On May 12, 1879 Newman was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XVII who assigned him to the Deaconry of San Giorgio al Velabro in Rome. After several years Newman returned to his home parish at the Oratory of Birmingham as his health began to decline. In 1889 he celebrated Mass for the last time on Christmas Day and spent the last months of his life ill before dying of pneumonia on August 11, 1890 at the age of 89. He was buried in Birmingham as more than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral.
It has been a long road for the Blessed Cardinal Newman, as the cause for his Sainthood was opened in 1958. He was declared Venerable by Pope St. John Paul II in 1991, after his life of “heroic virtue” was recognized. From there, Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010.
The Vatican has approved two miracles attributed to the intercession of Cardinal Newman. The first entails healing a Deacon from a crippling spinal condition, and the second involves an American pregnant law student who prayed to the Cardinal after receiving a life-threatening diagnosis and inexplicitly was healed.
Monsignor Roderick Strange is a Newman scholar who wrote, “John Henry Newman, A Mind Alive”. In it, he describes Blessed Cardinal Newman as such:
“He’s not just some figure from the distant past but somebody who really does have something that is significant for us, still today”.
“He was very complete man: “he was human, he was saintly, he was a theologian, he was literary figure, he was a musician (he played the violin) and he was a good parish priest.
In the coming months we will be offering Pilgrimages in honor of Blessed Cardinal Newman to various landmarks that played a role in his life.