On Wednesday, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave recognitio to a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. This now clears the way to Cardinal Newman now being declared a saint. Official word is still to come from Rome regarding the date of canonisation.
Born on 21st February 1801 in London, John Henry Newman was the eldest of six children. At age 7 he attended Great Ealing School where cultivated a love for literature. When he reached age 15 he converted to Evangelical Christianity, which often said saved his soul. On 13th June 18124 Newman entered Anglican Orders and began to teach. He became influential in the Oxford Movement.
In his Anglican days he was critical of Catholicism as was the general trend in Victorian England, and had been since the time of the Reformation. But in 1843 his stance changed and he publicly retracted his own writings against the Faith. Then in 1845 he converted to Roman Catholicism himself at great personal cost to himself by way of loss of friendships and social standing. He was ordained priest in Rome by Cardinal Giacomo Filippo Fransoni and returned to England as an Oratorian. He founded the London (Brompton) Oratory before setting down roots in Edgbaston with the founding of the Birmingham Oratory, where he spent the remainder of his life.
His writings as a Catholic priest often included defences of the Catholic faith in comparison with the Anglican Communion and the liberalism that was appearing in religion. He would also lecture on the topic and go on to teach once more.
He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1878, where he adopted the motto Cor ad cor loquitur (“Heart speaks to heart”) and died at the Birmingham Oratory on 11th August 1890.
Newman’s life and work demonstrate the ongoing and gradual encounter that a person can have in their heart with God. In hearing of Wednesday’s declaration Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said:
“This is wonderful news which will be greeted with thanks to God by people across the world. Newman’s exploration of faith, depth of personal courage, intellectual clarity and cultural sensitivity make him a deeply admired follower of Christ. He brings together so many of the best of Catholic traditions shared well beyond the Catholic Church. His canonisation will be welcomed especially in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.
For me the truly remarkable nature of this moment is that this is an English parish priest being declared a saint. During his life the people of Birmingham recognised his holiness and lined the streets at the time of his burial. I hope every parish priest in England will hold his head high today knowing Cardinal Newman is declared a saint.”