Saints of the Day – Venerable John Henry Newman

Blessed John Henry Newman, c.1888Article

Born in London, 1801; died 1890. (I’m having trouble finding information to verify his feast day and status, so I would say this is very unofficial.) Newman was what all Christians should be – a pilgrim in a foreign land. By the influence and magnetism of his strangely mystic personality, he cast a spell over his generation. In his day, he was the best-known figure of the English Church, to which, beginning as an evangelical, he brought new inspiration and vitality, and from which, in the agony of his spirit and to the discomfiture of his friends, he turned to Rome.

John Newman was a man of authentic sanctity and of excessive sensibility, touched with genius, and bearing about him such grace and light as to seem almost of anohter world, so that to his contemporaries, as one of them declared, in him it was almost as though some Ambrose or Augustine of older times had reappeared.

He was the son of a banker, and at 15 declared himself to God. At Oxford, like Wesley before him, though in a more conventional way, he strove against religious indifference. As vicar of Saint Mary’s he preached his famous University Sermons, which circulated widely, provoked lively controversy, and led to an Anglican revival.

Later he resigned his post nad retired to Littlemore, a small parish near Oxford, where for a time he gathered his followers around him. Here in the quiet countryside was the nucleus of a spiritual fellowship, the influence of which penetrated far and wide. Here in withdrawal and retreat the hearts of many were refreshed. Three years later, however, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1879 he was made a cardinal, but though he reached such high preferment, never again was his influence so great as in those golden Oxford days with all their hope and promise.

It was on an orange boat bound from Palermo to Marseilles that he wrote his lovely him, Lead, Kindly Light. He had been ill with malaria, alone in Sicily, for weeks waiting for a boat, and its words reflect his mood of homesickness and depression. Indeed, we may read into its wistful lines the story of his life. But though the night was dark and he was far from home, from within burned an unearthly light and God was the only substance in this world of shadows.

There is a pathetic story of how in later years, as an old man, he revisited Littlemore, the scene of his lonely vigils. He came unknown, poorly dressed, the collar of his shabby overcoat turned up, his hat pulled down over his eyes as if to hide his features, and as he leaned over the lych-gate of the church he was weeping. The curate recognized him and offered help, but the old man said there was nothing he needed, and as he turned to go the tears streamed down his face. That picture is in character with so much of Newman’s life and sensitive spirit for he found no rest in this world, ever tasting the agony of intense spiritual struggle, but always also reflecting the grace and glory of a saintly life (Gill).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 May 2020. Web. 2 June 2020. <>