Monday, February 21, 2011

John Henry Newman (1801-1890): "Anglo/Catholic", Cardinal, Theologian

John Henry Cardinal Newman, C.O., was an important figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century, becoming nationally known by the mid-1830s.

Originally an evangelical Oxford academic, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1826. He served as Vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford, for two years. As an avid student of the writings of the early Church, he was eventually led, along with others, to question the position of Scripture as the unchecked rule and standard of faith. Newman became one of the founders and leaders in the Oxford Movement within the Anglican Church, and a prolific tractarian. The Movement included noted Anglicans who wished to return the Church of England to many Catholic beliefs and forms of worship. Newman's most notable, and controversial, work was Tract 90, an attempt to reconcile the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church with the Anglican Church's 39 Articles. In 1845 Newman left the Church of England and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He was ordained as a Roman priest in 1847, became a member of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri [C.O.], and, despite a sometimes problematic relationship with the English Catholic Church, eventually was elevated to the rank of Cardinal in 1877 by Pope Leo XIII.

Pope Benedict XVI officially proclaimed Cardinal Newman "Blessed"on 19 September 2010, at Birmingham, during the Pope's visit to the United Kingdom.

Also a noted literary figure, Cardinal Newman's major writings include his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–66), the Grammar of Assent (1870), and the poem The Dream of Gerontius (1865), set to music in 1900 by Edward Elgar as an oratorio. He also wrote the popular hymns Lead, Kindly Light and Praise to the Holiest in the Height (taken from Gerontius).

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LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

At Sea.
June 16, 1833.

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