Posts Tagged ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’

John Henry Newman 1801-1890

In 13 History on 2011/09/29 at 1:11 AM


John Henry Newman, the most illustrious of Anglican converts was constantly quoted in the writing of the theological documents of Vatican II (a continuation of Vatican I , which Newman had attended as a Cardinal). Perhaps, in our lifetime we will see him named a Doctor of the Church.

In an attempt to lead the Anglican divines to deeper commitment to God, he sought a “Via Media” in Anglicanism (a middle point between Catholicism and extreme Protestantism) for he believed Anglicanism lay at equidistant from Catholic Rome and Calvinist Geneva.  He sought to restore the primitive Church to England.

Believing that Anglicanism stood for the Fathers, whose teachings the Book of Common Prayer handed down, Newman went to the primary sources, the Early Church Fathers.

In his APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA, he wrote: “I looked into the mirror, and saw myself an Arian.”  Suddenly the Via Media disappeared.  Shocked, Oxford’s leading divine, began his journey home to the Catholic Church. Consequently, a great religious revival know as the Oxford movement began; he was its guide, philosopher, and martyr.

As a young man, Newman was the only one in his family that really believed the doctrine of the Trinity.  He could support each verse of the Athanasian Creed with texts from Scripture, despite his mother’s being a Calvinist, the indifference of his father and the Deism and Atheism of his brothers.

In 1824 he was ordained and became the Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Oxford University’s church.  From its pulpit he delivered his famous “Parochial Sermons.” They were not controversial, and there is little in them to which Catholic theologians would object.

He and some friends lived together at Littlemore in monastic seclusion. He was the one Englishman of that era who upheld the ancient creed with a knowledge that only theologians possess, a Shakespearean force of style and a saintly fervor.

With immense dedication he composed the “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,” in which he explained the apparent variations of Catholic Church dogma to which he formerly objected.

When Newman was received into the Church, his life, which would span almost ninety years, was divided in half: the more dramatic first half as an Anglican divine; and the second half he would spend under suspicion from one side or another, having his plans thwarted and his motives misconstrued.

In 1846, Newman was ordained.  Pope Leo XIII approved his establishing in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.  Eventually, he was made a Cardinal, and this unique elevation was hailed by the entire English nation and Catholics worldwide.

Three landmark items are worth noting:
1. His famous sermon, “The Second Spring” has a rare an delicate beauty. His “Dream of Gerontius” is Dante-like.
2. His becoming the Catholic apologist in a time of Agnosticism.
3. His immense correspondence, much of which is yet to be published.

See The Spirit of the Oxford Movement by Christopher Dawson in Book Corner category.