New Catholic Dictionary – Venerable John Henry Newman

Blessed John Henry Newman, c.1888Article

Cardinal, convert, and leader of the Tractarian Movement; born London, England, 21 February 1801; died Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands, England, 11 August 1890. He was educated at Ealing, and at 15 “converted” to the necessity or dogma and an Apostolic Church. In 1816 he matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, and in 1818 won a scholarship tenable for nine years. Despite a breakdown, which lowered his scholastic rank, he was elected fellow of Oriel. He was ordained, 1824, becoming curate of Saint Clement’s, Oxford, where he remained two years. During this formative period he acquired knowledge of Catholic doctrine from various Oxford clergymen, notably Whately and Hawkins. He was made vicar of Saint Mary’s, 1828. After quarreling with Hawkins, he resigned his tutorship, 1832, and took a Mediterranean cruise with Froude. Upon his return to England, the Tractarian Movement, of which he was the philosopher and the guide, began with Keble’s Assize sermon on “National Apostacy,” 14 July 1833. To bring about a restoration of the primitive Church, Newman undertook to write “Tracts for the Times,” from which the Tractarian Movement takes its name, until “Tract 90” (distinguishing the corruptions assailed in the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles from the acceptable doctrines of the Council of Trent), forced him, because of its Roman leanings, to resign his living at Saint Mary’s. He then designated his position the via media (middle way), maintaining from 1833 that England lay midway between Rome and Geneva, Catholicism and LutheroCalvinism. From 1839 the via media appeared, as he read history, a mere repetition of the subterfuges of past heresies. After 1841 he lived with friends at Littlemore in monastic seclusion, and Father Dominic, a Passionist, received him into the Catholic Church, 1845. Ordained at Rome, 1846, he returned to England, near the close of 1847, as an Oratorian, residing successively at Maryvale, Saint Wilfrid’s College, Cheadle, Saint Ann’s, Birmingham, and finally at Edgbaston where, but for four years in Ireland, when he wrote “Idea of a University,” he lived for 40 years. Early in his priesthood he established the London Oratory. The “scientific” history, cultivated by the “Rambler,” the proposed Oxford oratory, and the pope’s temporal power, then in the balance, were questions which brought him into confiict with other prominent Catholics, but his position was justified by his greater perspicacity and foresight. Opportunity to clear all mistrust came, 1858, with Kingsley’s careless attack, precipitating the “Apologia pro vita sua,” a “religious autobiography of unsurpassed interest,” revolutionizing “the popular estimate of its author.” Trinity made him honorary fellow, 1878. Pope Leo XIII elevated the aged Oratorian to the cardinalate in 1879. His infiuence in the Anglican as well as the Catholic communion was profound, inducing many hundreds to follow him. Universally considered one of the great masters of prose style in the realm of poetry, e.g., his “Dream of Gerontius,” he ranks next to Dante in expressing the Catholic penetration of eternity.

Among his works, the best of which were written after his conversion, are

  • Callista
  • Cathedra Sempiterna
  • Christianity and Scientific Investigation
  • Grammar of Assent
  • Lectures
  • Letters and Correspondence
  • Loss and Gain
  • Meditations and Devotions
  • On Consulting the Laity in Matters of Doctrine
  • Sermons to Mixed Congregations
  • The Second Spring

MLA Citation

  • “Venerable John Henry Newman”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 November 2018. Web. 26 February 2021. <>