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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Monday, July 20, 2009
19/07/2009
ENGLISH CONVERT TO BE BEATIFIED

Last week Pope Benedict approved the beatification of a nineteenth century English priest and Cardinal, John Henry Newman. Beatification is the ceremony in which Christ in the Church pro-claims that someone is in heaven, and can be fruitfully, publically prayed to, and learnt from. It is half-way to being declared a ‘Saint’. The ceremony is likely to take place in St Peter’s Square, Rome, early next year.

John Henry Newman was born in 1801. At the age of 15 he was converted from scepticism to Evangelical Christianity becoming an Anglican minister and Oxford University academic in his early 20’s. In his 30’s, partly through his reading of the Fathers (the first generation of disciples of the Apostles) he became more ‘High Church’ acknowledging the importance of the seven sacraments, the institutional Church and Church Tradition. He became a leader of the influential ‘Oxford Movement’ which brought a section of Anglicanism much closer to Catholicism.

Our own neighbour Church of St Andrews is a ‘high’, ‘Anglo-Catholic’, establishment. So much so that visitors easily mistake it for Roman Catholic – it is though Anglican and not in communion with the Pope and Roman Catholicism. Many, if not all of those Anglican ministers who became Catholic in the 1990’s, after the Anglican Church had claimed the authority to overturn Christian authoritative traditions such as keeping the priesthood for men (& motherhood for women!), were ‘High Church’.

These years began slowly to unravel Newman’s deep-seated distrust of Roman Catholicism, which he had seen as “idolatrous”, with the Pope as the ‘anti-Christ’. In 1845, to the great shock of Victori-an England, he became a Roman Catholic, a priest the following year and a member of the ‘Ora-torian’ congregation the following year, setting up an Oratory in Birmingham and then in London.

He then went into a couple of decades of struggles with former friends, secularist enemies who saw his intellect as a threat, and his own weaknesses: e.g. concerning the practical organization of a Dublin College. This period also saw some of his greatest writing, for instance The Development of Christian Doctrine, Idea of a University, Dream of Gerontius and Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

His approach was to defend the Church and its traditional teaching, as well as calling for an urgent development in the way it explained them. He got a somewhat belated recognition from Rome by being made a Cardinal in his late 70’s. He died in 1890. John Henry Newman, Pray for us.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:14 am