Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Bishop Philip Egan wrote recently on Newman:-

“When I was in Rome recently for the Ad Limina, there was talk that the announcement of Newman’s canonisation is imminent. Let us pray for that. Newman was a great intellectual genius, thoroughly English, a poet and controversialist, a Christian apologist, an historian, a true gentleman and above all a very holy man. As an Anglican (1801-45), he helped the Church of England recover its Catholic heritage. As a Catholic (1845-90), he stood for the principles of historical development and for moderation against Ultramontanism. Newman’s thought has had a profound influence upon both the Anglican and Roman Catholic communions. At Vatican II, Bishop Butler said that he felt “Newman’s spirit brooding over the Council.” Indeed, Newman’s ideas are still very much current. Newman’s motto was cor ad cor loquitur (“heart speaks to heart”). His epitaph reads ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (“from shadows and images into the truth”). In an obituary, the Daily Telegraph said he was “one of the most distinguished and highly gifted Englishmen of the nineteenth century.” At his death, twenty thousand people gathered around the Oratory alone. Today, Newman’s stature remains undiminished, his influence on contemporary theology still growing”.

Fr. Jonathan Redvers Harris read from an extract from Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua at Mass to celebrate his feast on 9th October at St. David’s, East Cowes.

“FROM the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.

Nor had I any trouble about receiving those additional articles, which are not found in the Anglican Creed. Some of them I believed already, but not any one of them was a trial to me. I made a profession of them upon my reception with the greatest ease, and I have the same ease in believing them now. I am far of course from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer those difficulties. Many persons are very sensitive of the difficulties of Religion; I am as sensitive of them as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence; but I am speaking of difficulties intrinsic to the doctrines themselves, or to their relations with each other. A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, of which the answer is or is not given to him, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one. Of all points of faith, the being of a God is, to my own apprehension, encompassed with most difficulty, and yet borne in upon our minds with most power.

People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it, as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible, to imagine, I grant;—but how is it difficult to believe? . . . .

. . . I believe the whole revealed dogma as taught by the Apostles, as committed by the Apostles to the Church, and as declared by the Church to me. I receive it, as it is infallibly interpreted by the authority to whom it is thus committed, and (implicitly) as it shall be, in like manner, further interpreted by that same authority till the end of time. I submit, moreover, to the universally received traditions of the Church, in which lies the matter of those new dogmatic definitions which are from time to time made, and which in all times are the clothing and the illustration of the Catholic dogma as already defined. And I submit myself to those other decisions of the Holy See, theological or not, through the organs which it has itself appointed, which, waiving the question of their infallibility, on the lowest ground come to me with a claim to be accepted and obeyed. Also, I consider that, gradually and in the course of ages, Catholic inquiry has taken certain definite shapes, and has thrown itself into the form of a science, with a method and a phraseology of its own, under the intellectual handling of great minds, such as St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas; and I feel no temptation at all to break in pieces the great legacy of thought thus committed to us for these latter days”.

Newman visited the Isle of Wight twice. In 1861 he stayed at Ventnor with Ambrose St. John and travelled to Newport to offer Mass.

In September, 1865, he stayed for a few days in Ryde, offering Mass at St. Mary’s, before travelling to Swainstone Manor, Calbourne to stay with Sir John Simeon, the Catholic MP for the Island.

The IoW Catholic History Society have produced a pamphlet on Newman’s visit. It is available at £2-00.