Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
By Filomena Gonsalves
John Henry Newman was born in London, England in 1801 and died on August 11, 1890 at the age of 89. He was a very intellectual man and also a convert to the Catholic faith from the Anglican Church. His parents were in the upper middle class and he was the oldest of six children. However, his father’s fortune underwent a dramatic change for the worse and as the older brother he was obliged to come to the aid of his mother and siblings.
As was the case for most Anglican families, the Bible occupied a very important part of their lives; every family possessed a copy of the King James Version. With the help of his beloved grandmother and his aunt he became an avid reader of the Bible. Gifted with an exceptional memory he learned the whole chapter or even a book by heart. When he was about 15 a profound inner change took place in his life and he was very conscious of this inward conversion to God, and he had no intension of being careless about pleasing Him. He felt the calling to a simple life and eventually to the clergy of his own Anglican faith. He wrote many books and gave many sermons. He worked very hard to reform his church for his people were very lax in the practice of their faith at that time. He even built a church and school for his village.
Eventually his love for Christ and His church brought him to conversion to the Catholic faith. As result many of his contemporaries also converted to the faith and his works on the subject of justification contributed greatly in the agreement between Lutherans and the Catholic Church long after his death. But his conversion to the Catholic Church also cost him a loss of many of his friends. His family even disowned him. Even through all these hardships, John Newan recognized the Church as the true Faith and he considered all his sacrifices and sufferings as nothing compared to having the privilege of having Christ in the tabernacle. He endured injustices with humility and submissiveness. He was a great defender of the Church in his time. He fought against such heresies as moral relativism, liberalism, and humanism, all of which attack God as the Creator, Ruler, and supreme Truth. John Newman knew that the spiritual cancer of moral relativism was widespread and that many were believing the lie that “there is no such thing as the Truth; whatever works for each individual is just as good as anything else.” He worked tirelessly to shed light on ideological lies and brought the Truth of Jesus Christ to all those he met.
He also spoke a lot about forming one’s conscience: “Though conscience comes first it must of necessity be informed, enlightened and deepened by study, reflection and deep prayer.” He always urged people of God to look inward inside their hearts where God is at work with his grace. He said, “We walk backwards to heaven.” We do not see the truth at once and make towards it but we fall and indulge in error and find it is not truth. He said, “God makes a saint from a sinner. He takes him as he is. He uses him against himself, he turns his affection into another channel, He extinguishes a carnal love by infusing a heavenly charity.” God works on our hearts and continually helps us to choose to do good.
John Newman became a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. He also found an order of brothers called Oratorian Brothers. He helped hundreds of poor families and also helped people spiritually by counseling thousands through letters and also face-to-face.
He emphasized the importance of self-knowledge, humility, dependence on God’s providence, and the need to rediscover the conception of Christian life as a formal spiritual training.
John Henry Cardinal Newman has impelled me to want to get to know my Faith better to be able to defend it if need be. I am inspired by his life to appreciate my Faith and also to deepen it, to be a little more open to the idea of sacrificial love.
In this day and age we need more “Cardinal Newman’s” to articulate and defend our faith when it so much attacked from all angles. Above all Cardinal Newman’s love for God and his passion to defend and live the Truth has been very moving and inspiring for me.
Blessed John Newman, pray for us!