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St John Henry Newman was born here

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posted by alias (J&M) on Wednesday 16th of December 2015 06:42:15 PM

Born in the City of London, 21 February, 1801, the eldest of six children, three boys and three girls; died at Edgbaston, Birmingham, 11 August, 1890. His father was John Newman, a banker, his mother Jemima Fourdrinier, of a Huguenot family settled in London as engravers and paper-makers. His French pedigree is undoubted. It accounts for his religious training, a modified Calvinism, which he received at his mother's knees; and perhaps it helped towards the "lucid concision" of his phrase when dealing with abstruse subjects. His brother Francis William, also a writer, but wanting in literary charm, turned from the English Church to Deism; Charles Robert, the second son, was very erratic, and professed Atheism. One sister, Mary, died young; Jemima has a place in the cardinal's biography during the crisis of his Anglican career; and to a daughter of Harriet, Anne Mozley, we are indebted for his "Letters and Correspondence" down to 1845, which contains a sequel from his own hand to the "Apologia." A classic from the day it was completed, the "Apologia" will ever be the chief authority for Newman's early thoughts, and for his judgment on the great religious revival known as the Oxford Movement, of which he was the guide, the philosopher, and the martyr. His immense correspondence, the larger portion of which still awaits publication, cannot essentially change our estimate of one who, though subtle to a degree bordering on refinement, was also impulsive and open with his friends, as well as bold in his confidences to the public. From all that is thus known of him we may infer that Newman's greatness consisted in the union of originality, amounting to genius of the first rank, with a deep spiritual temper, the whole manifesting itself in language of perfect poise and rhythm, in energy such as often has created sects or Churches, and in a personality no less winning than sensitive. Among the literary stars of his time Newman is distinguished by the pure Christian radiance that shines in his life and writings. He is 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 fervour worthy of the saints. It is this unique combination that raises him above lay preachers de vanitate mundi like Thackeray, and which gives him a place apart from Tennyson and Browning. In comparison with him Keble is a light of the sixth magnitude, Pusey but a devout professor, Liddon a less eloquent Lacordaire. Newman occupies in the nineteenth century a position recalling that of Bishop Butler in the eighteenth. As Butler was the Christian champion against Deism, so Newman is the Catholic apologist in an epoch of Agnosticism, and amid the theories of evolution. He is, moreover, a poet, and his "Dream of Gerontius" far excels the meditative verse of modern singers by its happy shadowing forth in symbol and dramatic scenes of the world behind the veil. He was brought up from a child to take great delight in reading the Bible; but he had no formed religious convictions until he was fifteen. He used to wish the Arabian tales were true; his mind ran on unknown influences; he thought life possibly a dream, himself an angel, and that his fellow-angels might be deceiving him with the semblance of a material world. He was "very superstitious" and would cross himself on going into the dark. At fifteen he underwent "conversion", though not quite as Evangelicals practise it; from works of the school of Calvin he gained definite dogmatic ideas; and as he rested "in the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator." In other words, personality became the primal truth in his philosophy; not matter, law, reason, or the experience of the senses. Henceforth, Newman was a Christian mystic, and such he remained. From the writings of Thomas Scott of Aston Sandford, "to whom, humanly speaking", he says, "I almost owe my soul", he learned the doctrine of the Trinity, supporting each verse of the Athanasian Creed with texts from Scripture. Scott's aphorisms were constantly on his lips for years, "Holiness rather than peace", and "Growth is the only evidence of life." Law's "Serious Call" had on the youth a Catholic or ascetic influence; he was born to be a missionary; thought it was God's will that he should lead a single life; was enamoured of quotations from the Fathers given in Milner's "Church History", and, reading Newton on the Prophecies, felt convinced that the pope was Antichrist. He had been at school at Ealing near London from the age of seven. Always thoughtful, shy, and affectionate, he took no part in boys' games, began to exercise his pen early, read the Waverley Novels, imitated Gibbon and Johnson, matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, December, 1816, and in 1818 won a scholarship of 60 pounds tenable for nine years. In 1819 his father's bank suspended payment, but soon discharged its liabilities in full. Working too hard for his degree, Newman broke down, and gained in 1821 only third-class honors. But his powers could not be hidden. Oriel was then first in reputation and intellect among the Oxford Colleges, and of Oriel he was elected a fellow, 12 April, 1822. He ever felt this to be "the turning point in his life, and of all days most memorable." In 1821 he had given up the intention of studying for the Bar, and resolved to take orders. As tutor of Oriel, he considered that he had a cure of souls; he was ordained on 13 June, 1824; and at Pusey's suggestion became curate of St. Clement's, Oxford, where he spent two years in parochial activity. And here the views in which he had been brought up disappointed him; Calvinism was not a key to the phenomena of human nature as they occur in the world. It would not work. He wrote articles on Cicero, etc., and his first "Essay on Miracles", which takes a strictly Protestant attitude, to the prejudice of those alleged outside Scripture. But he also fell under the influence of Whateley, afterwards Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, who, in 1825, made him his vice-principal at St. Mary's Hall. Whateley stimulated him by discussion, taught him the notion of Christianity as a social and sovereign organism distinct from the State, but led him in the direction of "liberal" ideas and nominalistic logic. To Whateley's once famous book on that subject Newman contributed. From Hawkins, whom his casting vote made Provost of Oriel, he gained the Catholic doctrines of tradition and baptismal regeneration, as well as a certain precision of terms which, long afterwards, gave rise to Kingsley's misunderstanding of Newman's methods in writing. By another Oxford clergyman he was taught to believe in the Apostolic succession. And Butler's "Analogy", read in 1823, made an era in his religious opinions. It is probably not too much to say that this deep and searching book became Newman's guide in life, and gave rise not only to the "Essay on Development" but to the "Grammar of Assent." In particular it offered a rejective account of ethics and conscience which confirmed his earliest beliefs in a lawgiver and judge intimately present to the soul. On another line it suggested the sacramental system, or the "Economy", of which the Alexandrians Clement and St. Athanasius are exponents. To sum up, at this formative period the sources whence Newman derived his principles as well as his doctrines were Anglican and Greek, not Roman or German. His Calvinism dropped away; in time he withdrew from the Bible Society. He was growing fiercely anti-Erastian; and Whateley saw the elements of a fresh party in the Church gathering round one whom Oriel had chosen for his intellectual promise, but whom Oxford was to know as a critic and antagonist of the "March of Mind." His college in 1828 made him Vicar of St. Mary's (which was also the university church), and in its pulpit he delivered the "Parochial Sermons", without eloquence or gesture, for he had no popular gifts, but with a thrilling earnestness and a knowledge of human nature seldom equalled. When published, it was said of them that they "beat all other sermons out of the market as Scott's tales beat all other stories." They were not controversial; and there is little in them to which Catholic theology would object. Their chastened style, fertility of illustration, and short sharp energy, have lost nothing by age. In tone they are severe and often melancholy, as if the utterance of an isolated spirit. Though gracious and even tenderhearted, Newman's peculiar temper included deep reserve. He had not in his composition, as he says, a grain of conviviality. He was always the Oxford scholar, no democrat, suspicious of popular movements; but keenly interested in political studies as bearing on the fortunes of the Church. This disposition was intensified by his friendship with Keble, whose "Christian Year" came out in 1827, and with R. Hurrell Froude, a man of impetuous thought and self-denying practice. In 1832 he quarrelled with Dr. Hawkins, who would not endure the pastoral idea which Newman cherished of his college work. He resigned his tutorship, went on a long voyage round the Mediterranean with Froude, and came back to Oxford, where on 14 July, 1833, Keble preached the Assize sermon on "National Apostasy." That day, the anniversary of the French Revolution, gave birth to the Oxford Movement. Newman's voyage to the coasts of North Africa, Italy, Western Greece, and Sicily (December, 1832-July, 1833) was a romantic episode, of which his diaries have preserved the incidents and the colour. In Rome he saw Wiseman at the English College; the city, as mother of religion to his native land, laid a spell on him never more to be undone. He felt called to some high mission; and when fever took him at Leonforte in Sicily (where he was wandering alone) he cried out, "I shall not die, I have not sinned against the light." But during the earlier stages of that journey it was not clear, even to the leader himself, in what direction they were moving — away from the Revolution, certainly. Reform was in the air; ten Irish bishoprics had been suppressed; disestablishment might not be far off. There was need of resistance to the enemies without, and of a second, but a Catholic, reformation within. The primitive Church must somehow be restored in England. He took his motto from the Iliad: "They shall know the difference now." Achilles went down into battle, fought for eight years, won victory upon victory, but was defeated by his own weapons when "Tract 90" appeared, and retired to his tent at Littlemore, a broken champion. Nevertheless, he had done a lasting work, greater than Laud's and likely to overthrow Cranmer's in the end. He had resuscitated the Fathers, brought into relief the sacramental system, paved the way for an astonishing revival of long-forgotten ritual, and given the clergy a hold upon thousands at the moment when Erastian principles were on the eve of triumph. "It was soon after 1830", says Pattison grimly, "that the Tracts desolated Oxford life." Newman's position was designated the Via Media. The English Church, he maintained, lay at an equal distance from Rome and Geneva. It was Catholic in origin and doctrine; it anathematized as heresies the peculiar tenets whether of Calvin or Luther; it could not but protest against "Roman corruptions", which were excrescences on primitive truth. Hence England stood by the Fathers, whose teaching the Prayer Book handed down; it appealed to antiquity, and its norm was the undivided Church. Meanwhile, Oxford was shaken like Medicean Florence by a new Savonarola, who made disciples on every hand; who stirred up sleepy Conservatives when Hampden, a commonplace don, subjected Christian verities to the dissolving influence of Nominalism; and who multiplied books and lectures dealing with all religious parties at once. "The Prophetic Office" was a formal apology of the Laudian type; the obscure, but often beautiful "Treatise on Justification" made an effort "to show that there is little difference but what is verbal in the various views, found whether among Catholic or Protestant divines" on this subject. Döllinger called it "the greatest masterpiece in theology that England had produced in a hundred years", and it contains the true answer to Puritanism. The "University Sermons", profound as their theme, aimed at determining the powers and limits of reason, the methods of revelation, the possibilities of a real theology. Newman wrote so much that his hand almost failed him. Among a crowd of admirers only one perhaps, Hurrell Froude, could meet him in thought on fairly equal terms, and Froude passed away at Dartington in 1836. The pioneer went his road alone. He made a bad party-leader, being liable to sudden gusts and personal resolutions which ended in catastrophe. But from 1839, when he reigned at Oxford without a rival, he was already faltering. In his own language, he had seen a ghost; the shadow of Rome overclouding his Anglican compromise. Two names are associated with a change so momentous — Wiseman and Ward. The "Apologia" does full justice to Wiseman; it scarcely mentions Ward. Those who were looking on might have predicted a collision between the Tractarians and Protestant England, which had forgotten the Caroline divines. This came about on occasion of "Tract 90" — in itself the least interesting of all Newman's publications. The tract was intended to keep stragglers from Rome by distinguishing the corruptions against which the Thirty-Nine Articles were directed, from the doctrines of Trent which they did not assail. A furious and universal agitation broke out in consequence (Feb., 1841), Newman was denounced as a traitor, a Guy Fawkes at Oxford; the University intervened with academic maladroitness and called the tract "an evasion." Dr. Bagot, Bishop of Oxford, mildly censured it, but required that the tracts should cease. For three years condemnations from the bench of bishops were scattered broadcast. To a mind constituted like Newman's, imbued with Ignatian ideas of episcopacy, and unwilling to perceive that they did not avail in the English Establishment, this was an ex cathedra judgment against him. He stopped the tracts, resigned his editorship of "The British Critic", by and by gave up St. Mary's, and retired at Littlemore into lay communion. Nothing is clearer than that, if he had held on quietly, he would have won the day. "Tract 90" does not go so far as many Anglican attempts at reconciliation have gone since. The bishops did not dream of coercing him into submission. But he had lost faith in himself. From 1841 Newman was on his death-bed as regarded the Anglican Church. He and some friends lived together at Littlemore in monastic seclusion, under a hard rule which did not improve his delicate health. In February, 1843, he retracted in a local newspaper his severe language towards Rome; in September he resigned his living. With immense labour he composed the "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine", in which the apparent variations of dogma, formerly objected by him against the Catholic Church, were explained on a theory of evolution, curiously anticipating on certain points the great work of Darwin. It has many most original passages, but remains a fragment. On 9 October, 1845, during a period of excited action at Oxford, Newman was received into the Church by Father Dominic, an Italian Passionist, three days after Renan had broken with Saint-Sulpice and Catholicism. The event, although long in prospect, irritated and distressed his countrymen, who did not forgive it until many years had gone by. Its importance was felt; its causes were not known. Hence an estrangement which only the exquisite candour of Newman's self-delineation in the "Apologia" could entirely heal. His conversion divides a life of almost ninety years into equal parts — the first more dramatic and its perspective ascertained; the second as yet imperfectly told, but spent for a quarter of a century sub luce maligna, under suspicion from one side or another, his plans thwarted, his motives misconstrued. Called by Wiseman to Oscott, near Birmingham, in 1846, he proceeded in October to Rome, and was there ordained by Cardinal Fransoni. The pope approved of his scheme for establishing in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri; in 1847 he came back, and, besides setting up the London house, took mission work in Birmingham. Thence he moved out to Edgbaston, where the community still resides. A large school was added in 1859. The spacious Renaissance church, consecrated in 1909, is a memorial of the forty years during which Newman made his home in that place. After his "Sermons to Mixed Congregations", which exceed in vigour and irony all other published by him, the Oratorian recluse did not strive to gain a footing in the capital of the Midlands. He always felt "paucorum hominum sum"; his charm was not for the multitude. As a Catholic he began enthusiastically. His "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties" were heard in London by large audiences; "Loss and Gain", though not much of a story, abounds in happy strokes and personal touches; "Callista" recalls his voyage in the Mediterranean by many delightful pages; the sermon at the Synod of Oscott entitled "The Second Spring" has a rare an delicate beauty. It is said that Macaulay knew it by heart. "When Newman made up his mind to join the Church of Rome", observes R. H. Hutton, "his genius bloomed out with a force and freedom such as it never displayed in the Anglican communion." And again, "In irony, in humour, in eloquence, in imaginative force, the writings of the later and, as we may call it, emancipated portion of his career far surpass the writings of his theological apprenticeship." But English Catholic literature also gained a persuasive voice and a classic dignity of which hitherto there had been no example. During the interval between 1854 and 1860 Newman had passed from the convert's golden fervours into a state which resembled criticism of prevailing methods in church government and education. His friends included some of a type known to history as "Liberal Catholics." Of Montalembert and Lacordaire he wrote in 1864: "In their general line of thought and conduct I enthusiastically concur and consider them to be before their age." He speaks of "the unselfish aims, the thwarted projects, the unrequited toils, the grand and tender resignation of Lacordaire." That moving description might be applied to Newman himself. He was intent on the problems of the time and not alarmed at Darwin's "Origin of Species." He had been made aware by German scholars, like Acton, of the views entertained at Munich; and he was keenly sensitive to the difference between North and South in debatable questions of policy or discipline. He looked beyond the immediate future; in a lecture at Dublin on "A Form of Infidelity of the Day" he seems to have anticipated what is now termed "Modernism", condemning it as the ruin of dogma. It is distressing to imagine what Newman's horror would have been, had his intuition availed to tell him that, in little more than half a century, a "form of infidelity" so much like what he had predicted would claim him as its originator; on the other hand, he would surely have taken comfort, could he also have foreseen that the soundness of his faith was to be so vindicated as it has been by Bishop O'Dwyer, of Limerick, and above all, the vindication so approved and confirmed as it is in Pius X's letter of 10 March, 1908, to that bishop. In another lecture, on "Christianity and Scientific Investigation", he provides for a concordat which would spare the world a second case of Galileo. He held that Christian theology was a deductive science, but physics and the like were inductive; therefore collision between them need not, and in fact did not really occur. He resisted in principle the notion that historical evidence could do away with the necessity of faith as regarded creeds and definitions. He deprecated the intrusions of amateurs into divinity; but he was anxious that laymen should take their part in the movement of intellect. This led him to encourage J. M. Capes in founding the "Rambler", and H. Wilberforce in editing the "Weekly Register." But likewise it brought him face to face with a strong reaction from the earlier liberal policy of Pius IX. This new movement, powerful especially in France, was eagerly taken up by Ward and Manning, who now influenced Wiseman as he sank under a fatal disease. Their quarrel with J.H.N. (as he was familiarly called) did not break out in open war; but much embittered correspondence is left which proves that, while no point of faith divided the parties, their dissensions threw back English Catholic education for thirty years. For twenty years Newman lay under imputations at Rome, which misconstrued his teaching and his character. This, which has been called the ostracism of a saintly genius, undoubtedly was due to his former friends, Ward and Manning. In February, 1878, Pius IX died; and, by a strange conjuncture, in that same month Newman returned to Oxford as Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, "dear to him from undergraduate days." The event provoked Catholics to emulation. Moreover, the new pope, Leo XIII, had also lived in exile from the Curia since 1846, and the Virgilian sentiment, "Haud ignara mali", would come home to him. The Duke of Norfolk and other English peers approached Cardinal Manning, who submitted their strong representation to the Holy See. Pope Leo, it is alleged, was already considering how he might distinguish the aged Oratorian. He intimated, accordingly, in February, 1879, his intention of bestowing on Newman the cardinal's hat. The message affected him to tears, and he exclaimed that the cloud was lifted from him forever. By singular ill-fortune, Manning understood certain delicate phrases in Newman's reply as declining the purple; he allowed that statement to appear in "The Times", much to everyone's confusion. However, the end was come. After a hazardous journey, and in broken health, Newman arrived in Rome. He was created Cardinal-Deacon of the Title of St. George, on 12 May, 1879. His biglietto speech, equal to the occasion in grace and wisdom, declared that he had been the life-long enemy of Liberalism, or "the doctrine that there is no truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another", and that Christianity is "but a sentiment and a taste, not an objective fact, not miraculous." Hitherto, in modern times, no simple priest, without duties in the Roman Curia, had been raised to the Sacred College. Newman's elevation, hailed by the English nation and by Catholics everywhere with unexampled enthusiasm, was rightly compared to that of Bessarion after the Council of Florence. It broke down the wall of partition between Rome and England. To the many addresses which poured in upon him the cardinal replied with such point and felicity as often made his words gems of literature. He had revised all his writings, the last of which dealt somewhat tentatively with Scripture problems. Now his hand would serve him no more, but his mind kept its clearness always. In "The Dream of Gerontius" (1865), which had been nearly a lost masterpiece, he anticipated his dying hours, threw into concentrated, almost Dantean, verse and imagery his own beliefs as suggested by the Offices of Requiem, and looked forward to his final pilgrimage, "alone with the Alone." Death came with little suffering, on 11 August, 1890. His funeral was a great public event. He lies in the same grave with Ambrose St. John, whom he called his "life under God for thirty-two years." His device as cardinal, taken from St. Francis de Sales, was Cor ad cor loquitor (Heart speaketh to heart); it reveals the secret of his eloquence, unaffected, graceful, tender, and penetrating. On his epitaph we read: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (From shadows and symbols goes the truth); it is the doctrine of the Economy, which goes back to Plato's "Republic" and which passed thence by way of Christian Alexandria into the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, the poetry of the Florentine, and the schools of Oxford. John Henry Newman thus continues in modern literature the Catholic tradition of East and West, sealing it with a martyr's faith and suffering, steadfast in loyalty to the truth, while discerning with a prophet's vision the task of the future.

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