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“Lead Kindly Light”



Blessed John Henry Newman to be canonized

Blessed John Henry Newman, a well-known nineteenth century English theologian and cardinal, will soon be canonized. On February 13, the Vatican announced its approval of a second miracle in his cause for canonization, and it is hoped he will be officially canonized later this year.

John Henry Newman, the oldest of six children, was born in London in 1801. He attended Trinity College at Oxford University and was named a fellow of Oriel College upon graduation. Two years later, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England. During this time, he was a leader in the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Catholic elements of Anglican practice. The movement contended that true catholicity was found in the Anglican Church, being in between Luther and Calvin on the one side, and the Catholic Church on the other. Newman’s writings and leadership were admired by the Anglican Church at this period of his life, particularly his Parochial and Plain Sermons (1825-1843). He wrote the hymn “Lead Kindly Light” while recovering from an illness during this time.

However, it was in studying the Church Fathers and examining the 39 articles of the Church of England that John Henry Newman found himself questioning his own belief in the catholicity of the Church of England. He became convinced that the Catholic Church was truly continuous with the early Church, and converted to Catholicism on October 9, 1845. His conversion shocked many in the Church of England, and their reactions caused Newman great personal suffering; his sister, for one, never spoke to him again.

Newman was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church two years later. Following Newman’s ordination to the priesthood, he founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham, UK, and continued to write. His most famous works of this time are The Grammar of Assent (1845) and Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864). In 1879 John Henry Newman was named a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII, and he passed away in 1890.

Two miracles must be attributed to an individual who is not a martyr for that person to be declared a saint by the Catholic Church. The recently approved second miracle in the cause for Blessed John Henry Newman occurred in the case of a pregnant American law student. She experienced unstoppable internal bleeding, which threatened the life of her child, and was healed immediately after praying through the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman. Her child was born healthy, and the case was determined to be medically inexplicable.

The canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman has been greeted with great excitement, as his writings and life still inspire many. Some speculate that he may be declared the patron saint of scholars and students due to his powerful intellect and intense scholarly engagement. He was perhaps the most prominent convert to Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth century, and many who are not Catholic admire his dedication to the pursuit of truth, even in the face of suffering. His love for the truth is visible even in the epitaph on his tombstone: “Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem”—“Out of shadows and images into truth.”

In his personal life, Newman is often spoken of as a man of great tenderness. The motto he chose when he became a cardinal was Cor ad cor loquitor, “Heart speaks to heart,” an indication of his love for the human person. His brilliance as a scholar, uncompromising dedication to the truth, and personal tenderness are worthy of emulation for all. Through his intercession, may we joyfully learn to love the Lord as he did, and await the day when he is officially canonized a saint.

Therese Benz is a senior English major who is incredibly passionate about the saints. If you would like to discuss any or all of them with her, she can be contacted at tbenz@nd.edu.

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