THE STORY OF SAINT JOHN HENRY NEWMAN
John Henry Newman, the 19th-century’s most important English-speaking Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both churches.
Born in London, England, he studied at Oxford’s Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College, and for 17 years was vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin. He eventually published eight volumes of Parochial and Plain Sermons as well as two novels. His poem, “Dream of Gerontius,” was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.
After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Church’s debt to the Church Fathers and challenged any tendency to consider truth as completely subjective.
Historical research made Newman suspect that the Roman Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus established. In 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the OratoryBefore Newman, Catholic theology tended to ignore history, preferring instead to draw deductions from first principles—much as plane geometry does. After Newman, the lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.
Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. He was buried in Rednal 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.
Three years after Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In time, his name was linked to ministry centers at many public and private colleges and universities in the United States.
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman in London. Benedict noted Newman’s emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved, and those in prison. Pope Francis canonized Newman in October 2019. Saint John Henry Newman’s liturgical feast is celebrated on October 9.
A Prayer from Saint John Henry Newman
O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then in your mercy,
grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest,
and peace at the last.
Collect for Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman
O God, who bestowed on the Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer for a Happy Death
Oh, my Lord and Savior, support me in that hour in the strong arms of Your Sacraments, and by the fresh fragrance of Your consolations. Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me, and Your own Body be my food, and Your Blood be my sprinkling; and let my sweet Mother, Mary, breathe on me, and my Angel whisper peace to me, and my glorious Saints smile upon me; that in them all, and through them all, I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die, as I desire to live, in Your faith, in Your Church, in Your service, and in Your love. Amen.
Fragrance Wherever I Go:
Dear Lord, help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that all my life may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, O Lord!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you do;
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Lord, will be all from you; none of it will be mine.
It will be you shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise you in the way which you love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach you without preaching,
not by words but by example, by the catching force,
the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you. Amen
O Lord Jesus Christ, when you were about to suffer, you prayed for your disciples that they might all be one, as you are in the Father and the Father in you.
Look down in pity on the many divisions among those who profess your faith.
Heal the wounds which the pride of man and the craft of satan have inflicted on your people.
Break down the walls of separation which divide Christians.
Look with compassion on all souls and bring them together under the Holy Catholic Church.
A Marian prayer of Cardinal John Henry Newman:
O Mother of Jesus, and my Mother, let me dwell with you,
cling to you and love you with ever-increasing love.
I promise the honour, love and trust of a child.
Give me a mother’s protection, for I need your watchful care.
You know better than any other the thoughts and desires of the Sacred Heart.
Keep constantly before my mind the same thoughts, the same desires,
that my heart may be filled with zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart of your Divine Son. Instil in me a love of all that is noble, that I may no longer be easily turned to selfishness. Help me, dearest Mother, to acquire the virtues that God wants of me:
to forget myself always, to work solely for him, without fear of sacrifice.
I shall always rely on your help to be what Jesus wants me to be.
I am his; I am yours, my good Mother!
Give me each day your holy and maternal blessing until my last evening on earth,
when your Immaculate Heart will present me to the heart of Jesus in heaven,
there to love and bless you and your divine Son for all eternity.