Friday, May 30, 2014

Lead, Kindly Light: the Story of John Henry Newman


John Henry Newman was born in London February 21, 1801; the eldest of six children. His parents were Anglican and as a child Newman studied at Ealing, a private boarding school where he exhibited an unusual interest in theology, despite his young age.

His later studies were at Oxford and at the age of twenty-one he became a professor at Oxford and a minister in the Church of England (Anglican). His first book was The Arians of the Fourth Century (1833) and he had a great love for the Fathers of the Church. He also wrote poetry and one of his poems was set to music, the well-known hymn, Lead Kindly Light.

Newman and the Oxford Movement

Newman is the best-known member of the Oxford Movement – a group of men whose aim was to invigorate the Anglican Church through spiritual renewal and renunciation of liberalism in the 1830s. They also, at first, condemned what they viewed as the corruptions of the Roman Church. This was Newman's undoing, for in the end his studies of the Church Fathers ultimately led him to that very Church. He discovered that as far back as the Church Fathers, the doctrines of the Church were the same as those that the Roman Catholic Church taught. He said, "When one reads history, he ceases to be a Protestant."

Newman's Resignation from Oxford

In 1841, Newman published Tract 90 in which he claimed that the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England (written in 1563 during the reign of Elizabeth I) were essentially Catholic Doctrine as it had been both in the early church and at the Council of Trent.

A great controversy arose and he was eventually forced to resign both his teaching post at Oxford and his position at the University church of St. Mary the Virgin (Church of England).

Reception into the Catholic Church

In October, 1845, after many years of study and intellectual struggle he was received into the Catholic Church. Two years later he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in Rome and then joined the Oratorians in Birmingham, England. At the age of 78, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He died in 1890.

John Henry Newman's Writings

Some of Newman's well-known writings include:

• Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
• The Idea of the University
• Letter to Pusey
• Apologia pro Vita Sua (his autobiography)
In the story of his conversion, told in Apologia pro Vita Sua, he says, "From the time that I became a Catholic...I have been in perfect peace and contentment, I never have had one doubt...and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption."

Sources

Connor, Fr. Charles P. Classic Catholic Converts. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2001

Ker, Ian. John Henry Newman: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1988.

John Henry Newman. Apologia pro Vita Sua. New York:WW. Norton and Company, 1968. p. 184.

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