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VIGNETTES ON SAINTS




 

 

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

HOLINESS RATHER THAN PEACE

John Henry Newman is, beyond doubt, one of the greatest minds and noblest persons of the 19th century.  In him is a rare yet winsome combination of learning, originality, sound judgment, profundity and holiness.  He was the leader of the Oxford Tractarian Movement.  

John Henry immersed himself in the works of the early Fathers of the Church.  He became a master of Catholic Philosophy, Theology, Morals and Scriptures.  He was truly a 19th century Father of the Church.  During his time, he resuscitated the Fathers of the Church, revitalized sacramental life and restored sacred rituals.  

It was around 1832-1833 that Newman, the Anglican, on a journey through Africa, Italy, Greece and Sicily, stopped in Rome.  And for the rest of his life, the city laid a religious spell upon him.  In Sicily, he became seriously ill but he was so sure he was not going to die:  "I shall not die."  On his way home by ship, he earnestly prayed for guidance toward the truth: "Lead Kindly Light."  

In "Tracts for the Times,"  he wrote that the Church of Christ had three branches: the corrupted Catholic Church, the Greek Church and the Anglican Church.  In "Tract 90", he tried to reconcile 39 articles of the Anglican Church with the Council of Trent. . .an impossible undertaking even for the genius of Newman.  

Unable to resolve his doubts, he went on a long retreat in 1941.  For four years, he lived a life of silence, study, prayer and penance.  In 1845, he was received into the Catholic Church by Blessed Barbieri, a Passionist mystic who lived a life of suffering for the conversion of England.  

As an Anglican, Newman preached but without eloquence and, oftentimes, severe and melancholy in tone.  But Newman, the Catholic convert, bloomed "in irony, in humor, in eloquence and in imaginative force."  

Newman loved the Church and, in his great concern, wrote "A Form of Infidelity of the Day," anticipating St. Paul's "great apostasy" within the Church wherein many would hold the supremacy of reason over Faith.  

Newman predicted the total loss of the Church's temporal powers; he predicted the role of the lay in the renewal of the Church; he decried the abandoning of the Faith by many within the Catholic Church.  

Newman was always under the cloud of suspicion for heresy.  But he clearly and courageously explained the Catholicity of his stands.  He was very Augustinian in mind and heart.  "The final word is not with thought, nor with reason, nor with the head, BUT WITH LOVE, with the will and with the heart."  

 

 

 

 

 

(10-30-04)

 

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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