John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was an English thinker, writer, and Anglican priest. Halfway through his long life, he converted to Catholicism in the midst of a period of great theological division and anti-Catholic sentiment in England. Newman’s theology emphasized a middle way between the revelation of Scripture and tradition and the role of reason and conscience in moral authority. He believed that both the wisdom of the Church and personal spiritual experience play important roles in one’s faith. His work made a lasting impact on the evolution of Catholic theology, and he has been called the “absent Father of Vatican II.” Newman was made a cardinal in 1879. In 1888, the Catholic club at Oxford University renamed itself the “Newman Society.” Today, Newman Centers exist at many colleges and universities in order to serve the spiritual needs of Catholic students. Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Newman during his visit to England in 2010. His feast day is October 9.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have a mission; I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons; He has not created me for naught.” — John Henry Newman
Questions for Reflection:
- College is often a time of change and growth in one’s faith. How was that true for you? Were you able to take theology courses in order to understand your faith better? If you did, how was that experience like?
- How did your faith take on a more intellectual quality? How did it become more personal?
- How has your faith continued to grow and change since then? How has your theological understanding broadened and clarified throughout your life?