While he was a faithful and holy Anglican priest, he was simultaneously drawn to many of the foundational beliefs, liturgy, and ceremonies of the Catholic Church. He felt prompted to study the early Church Fathers and all original sources of Christianity, which were fundamentally Catholic. He questioned some dogmas such as papal infallibility and wrestled to reconcile all of this to what he knew and lived in the Anglican priesthood. This interior conflict began a quest for the truth that would one day lead him to Catholicism.
Sometime around the movement reached a critical momentum.
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Liturgical reform among these priests breathed new life into Anglican worship. Through it, the Church of England began to experience a series of changes. Religious orders were formed in the Anglican Church. The Eucharist gradually became more central to the liturgy. Vestments were adopted, as in Catholicism.
Newman's defence of the Church: The Tracts for the Times - ABC Religion & Ethics
The Oxford movement acknowledged the beauty of symbolism and ritual in worship. Its reformers introduced Catholic elements into their services. This Anglo-Catholicism led to many disputes and conflicts among Anglican churches. Some of these even resulted in court cases. By this time, John Henry Newman was not only a holy, Anglican parish priest; he was also a prolific and accomplished writer, orator, scholar, poet, and musician.
He continued seeking. He prayed, studied, and used his gift of intellect to discern whether the truths of Catholicism held up against the radically anti-Catholic English rhetoric of his time. He discovered that there was a great deal of distortion in England regarding Catholicism. Much of what was said about it was not true, nor kept in proper context. Such misrepresentation fed historical negativity and closed-mindedness towards the Catholic Faith among the English. Newman wrestled with some concepts learned in his earlier days which opposed Catholic teaching and theology, so he continued to seek the truth through research, prayer, and discussion with his contemporaries.
He eventually came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church was the one founded by Christ. In , he converted to Catholicsm. He paid a great personal price for his convictions. He was maligned, publicly rebuked, shunned, and abandoned by family members, friends, and many within his Oxford circle. His own sister never spoke to him again after his conversion. But the Catholic Church quickly recognized his gifts and placed them at the service of God and the faithful.
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He was ordained a Catholic priest in and made a cardinal in , without ever having been made a bishop. The aspect of Catholicism that moved and astonished him the most was the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. He was simply taken aback by how much the Real Presence affected him once he understood it. He wrote about his surprise to a friend who later converted to Catholicism :. One is tempted to say what is the meaning, what is the use of it?
A thing can be understood at a logical and intellectual level, and yet not be fully accessed or made meaningful, until both heart and mind are moved. This was his mission, and it became his motto. One of the most well-known and highly-placed converts of the 19th century, he had particular gifts of sensitivity and scholarship.
This, in combination with his theological depth, allowed him to make truth accessible through his beautiful writing. He wrote thirty-three books and thousands of letters in his lifetime, revealing, among other things, his theological understanding, his deep faith, his gifts in building and maintaining relationships, and his great compassion. Despite the incredible demands of his position, he lived a life committed to the poor, the bereaved, the imprisoned and marginalized, the sick and the dying. He was known as a wonderful and inspiring preacher.
Many of his written prayers were circulated among the faithful and brought them closer to God. Three years after his death, the first Newman Club was founded at the University of Pennsylvania. Newman had believed and stated in his writings that Catholic students at secular universities needed societies to support their faith while in college.
He felt strongly that students attending secular colleges needed a ministry devoted especially to them. These Newman Centers—as they are now known—promote Catholic thought, fraternity, ministry, and faith life. They provide the Holy Mass and the sacraments for students, making possible the formation of Catholic young adults in secular universities. Dear Jesus Help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others; The light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine; It will be you shining on others through me. John Henry Newman brought his experience in the Anglican priesthood into his Catholicism, which was a unique benefit. Because of his confidence in the truth, he was able to resist the prevailing English attitudes which were hostile toward Catholicism.
He was the first bridge between these two churches. Newman was one of the most gifted and eloquent writers and preachers the Church has ever known. He continues to inspire people today with his beautiful prayers, books, and letters. He remains a central figure in his contributions to both Catholic and Anglican theology, prayerful writing and inspiration, education, and many areas of the Christian faith and life.
John Henry Newman is evidence that there are many paths on the journey to God, and that our lives often take us to Him in ways we did not expect. He modeled holiness during a long and complex spiritual pilgrimage. Over many years, the heart of Catholicism attracted this special saint, yet his life was formed in both communions.
He influenced each in his profound love of God and man and his many contributions to Christianity and Catholicism.
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While he did this, he lived out the example that truth and the search for it are critical in the life of every Christian, no matter the consequences. As a force for unity and conviction, Newman stands as an example to us all.
In this time of relativism, in which the teachings of the Church are being ignored or diluted in our society, he is a beacon of integrity, reminding us to stand firm in Christ through His Church. God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. This was certainly a bold and far reaching policy and needed to be developed a good deal.
It might seem like a random set of objectives. Yet even in its unformed early stage, it contained one fundamental theological assertion - the sacramental nature of the Church.
That the Church was the Eucharistic community gathered around the Bishop through whose lineage the faith was transmitted. One obvious flaw in the plan was the lack of episcopal leadership. The Church might not be as badly pressed as in Arian times, but at least then "there was the possibility of true-minded men becoming Bishops.
Meanwhile Newman continued to form societies for the defence for the Church, even though there were a variety of opinions among friends. There was simply no clear unanimity as to just what was the best course of action.
Newman's Quest for the One True Church
The idea of writing short "tracts" was Newman's own. As he recounts in the Apologia , "I Dean Church has described how by this time tracts had "become united in the minds of many with rather disparaging associations. But it was part of Newman's genius that he could take such an outmoded and quaint instrument and infuse new life into it. That is precisely what he did in the three tracts which were dated September 9, Newman preferred that the tracts be anonymous. This was clearly an attempt to enable "the Church" to speak, not though its bishops - as they were strangely silent - nor though individual theologians, but through Oxford, a recognised bulwark of the Church.