John Henry Newman

Who was John Henry Newman?

John Henry Newman
John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman was a theologian, philosopher, historian as well as a poet. His connection with theology was a long and conflicted one beginning from being an Anglican priest to a Catholic priest and finally a Cardinal. He was one of the most controversial figures in religious circles of England due to his involvement in the Oxford Movement and eventually became known in the entire nation.

The early life of John Newman

Newman was born on 21st February 1801 in Birmingham, eldest of the six children, to a father who was a banker. He attended Great Ealing School as a child where he spent most of his time reading several notable works. He remained greatly influenced by the works of Thomas Newton and Joseph Milner.

Newman went on to attend Trinity College and became a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford in 1822 after he graduated. Soon after, he was made vice-principal of Alban Hall in 1825 and vicar of St. Mary’s, Oxford in 1828. Oxford was also the place where he met clergyman John Keble and Richard Hurrell Froude whose ideas strengthened his belief in the continuation of Anglican Church’s old Christian tradition.

The Oxford Movement and John Newman

The Oxford Movement found its leadership in Newman when he became involved in the ideological movement to promote Catholic Elements in religious tradition in England in order to reform the Church. He contributed to the ‘Tract of the Times’ as an editor as well as a writer of around 24 tracts is worthy of appreciation.

His works during this time such as the Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church(1837), the classic statement of the Tractarian doctrine of authority; the University Sermons (1843), and Parochial and Plain Sermons (1834–42) proved to be influential for the people involved in the movement.

Works of John Newman

In 1832, Newman began travelled through southern Europe and that is where he wrote a lot of his short poems which were later published in Lyra Apostolica. His set of verses called ‘Lead Kindly Light’ later became popular as a hymn.

He continued his fight for the Movement until 1843 when it weakened and his Tracts were suspended and he grew into isolation. He published an advertisement in the Oxford Conservative Journal, although anonymous, served as a formal retraction of all his statements against the Roman Catholicism.

Newman was often referred to as a kind and charming personality and that reflected in his works. His longest work ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ is a representation of an unseen world while his works on religion bring a fresh perspective and direction to those looking for it.

Later life of John Newman

In September 1843, Newman resigned from St. Mary’s, Oxford, and delivered his last Anglican sermon in Littlemore Church.  He went to Rome to be ordained to the priesthood and continued to write articles and extracts for some publications.

Other notable works include his ‘Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine’ which proved to be an attempt at mediation between Roman Catholic Church teachings and those of the Protestant Church.

In August 1890, he suffered from pneumonia and died consequentially at the Birmingham Oratory. In 2019, Pope Francis canonized Newman as a saint in the Cardinal Church for his remarkable contribution to theology and literature.