When John Henry Newman Crossed Over

Today, we remember the 174th anniversary of the conversion of John Henry Newman from Anglicanism to Catholicism. What makes this anniversary special is that next week, in a move that most fully encapsulates the old saying “truth is stranger than fiction,” Pope Francis will be canonizing the very same Newman who would have disagreed with and criticized nearly every one of his major papal acts — above all, his erroneous Hegelian-Darwinian notion of the development of doctrine, which bears almost no resemblance to the dogmatic conservatism Newman defended. Indeed, Pope Francis in his indifferentism and relativism has cast aspersions on the very act of converting from one religious body to another — an act of which Newman was a notable exemplar and a pertinacious proponent.

Given Newman’s increasing prominence among modern theologians, as well as the confusions of our day that have prompted more than a few people to wonder if they should become Catholic at all or should remain Catholic, it is important that we learn about, and learn from, Newman’s background and his journey to the one true Church.

The Anglicans of Newman’s Day

The Anglicans of the nineteenth century were a highly polarized body of believers with conflicting theological and historical visions of what they considered their church. A powerful minority, led by a cluster of intellectuals and fervent preachers, saw their ecclesial roots in the ancient Fathers and early medievals and pushed for an Anglicanism of increased liturgical ritual and patristic studies, bringing out the common heritage shared by Anglicans, Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox. An equally vociferous minority emphasized the distinctively Protestant (and therefore anti-Catholic) elements of the founding fathers of Anglicanism and would have nothing to do with High Churchmen who were dangerously courting the Whore of Babylon. In addition, there was the constant “scandal” of a small but steady stream of prominent Anglicans leaving their community to enter the much dreaded Church of Rome. Many of these converts became tireless apologists. In addition to these religious issues, society was being agitated more and more by the emergence of new philosophical and scientific theories that appeared to discredit the Christian faith as it had always been understood. Despite the square shoulders and stiff upper lip it presented to the world, Victorian England was a battleground of old and new modes of behavior, ancient and modern theologies, traditional and progressive social movements. Our cherished picture of a reserved, polite, and graceful age should not blind us to the ferment that was taking place within.

John Henry Newman, a noted scholar of patristics and a famous preacher, was one of the most eloquent and learned spokesmen of the High Church view, which he defended in many years’ worth of sermons, lectures, and pamphlets, including the controversial Tracts for the Times to which he contributed [1]. His most famous work from this period, the Parochial and Plain Sermons in eight volumes, is an enduring classic that stands among the greatest works of Christian literature ever written. Newman’s theology is so thoroughly grounded in the abiding traditions of the Christian faith that, with very few exceptions, all that he says in these sermons can be embraced by a Catholic. With historical hindsight, it is possible to see in them the ideas and beliefs that would push him ever closer to the Catholic faith until he finally embraced it.

This momentous event shook the Anglican establishment in October of 1845. Shortly before, Newman had resigned his curacy at the Oxford church of St. Mary and had left Oxford for good. Many regarded his conversion as a logical consequence of the thoughts he expressed in No. 90 of Tracts for the Times, which contains the kernel of a properly Catholic understanding of the Church [2]. The members of the Oxford Movement greeted the news with sorrow: in their eyes, the most eloquent spokesman of Anglo-Catholicism had abandoned his flock when it most needed his shepherding. In the charged religious atmosphere of the day, no other news elicited — or could have elicited — a more universal response. Whether one stood firmly against his school or confidently with it, John Henry Newman had captivated the Victorian mind since the beginning of the 1830s. We can get a clearer sense of his conversion’s far-reaching significance if we look at it through the eyes of three men: his friends John Keble and Edward Pusey and the Catholic bishop Nicholas Wiseman.

Keble and Pusey reacted similarly. As leaders of the Oxford Movement, they sympathized with his path yet suffered much from his defection and could never fill the absence it left behind. Bishop Wiseman, later a cardinal, had watched the Oxford Movement from 1835 with keen interest, gaining an ever stronger reverence for the embattled Newman. Ten years later, Wiseman had the honor of conferring the sacrament of Confirmation upon him.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on”

While the story of Newman’s inner journey up to 1833 — his flirtation with evangelicalism, his brief sojourn among Whately and the Noetics, his successful vicariate at St. Mary’s, the origin of the Tracts for the Times, and so on — is important for a full understanding of Newman’s spiritual maturation, the more interesting portion of his pre-Catholic years begins in 1833 and continues until 1845, the dates bounding a period of volatile controversy at Oxford underscored by painful interior realizations. The gifted preacher of thirty-two years of age could never have foreseen the tumultuous path that would in time lead him from one defense of Anglicanism to another, and at last to the breakdown of all defenses in the light of Catholic truth.

We should pause to consider how this man of outstanding public eminence consigned himself to the mockery and misunderstandings of a whole body of fellow countrymen in order to follow the promptings of his conscience. One of his greatest virtues, recognized from the start by friends and conceded by foes, was Newman’s restless thirst for the truth, wherever it would lead him. From his conversion to evangelical views at the age of fifteen to the authoring of his philosophical masterpiece Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent at nearly seventy, and thereafter to his death, Newman manifested an irrepressible desire to know the truth and to act upon it, regardless of hardships, in order to love God more perfectly. This love alone enabled Newman to withstand calumny and alienation; this tireless searching culminated in his entry into the Catholic Church. He described his feelings: “it was more like … when a vessel, after much tossing at sea, finds itself in harbour.”

To arrive at that safe port on October 9, 1845, Newman had to go through many storms of argument. The basis for the Oxford Movement can be found in two concepts characteristic of Newman’s theology: the significance of apostolicity and catholicity, and the dogmatic critique of liberalism. As Newman relates, “I ever kept before me that there was something greater than the Established Church, and that that was the Church Catholic and Apostolic, set up from the beginning. … She [the ‘Anglican Church’] must be dealt with strongly, or she would be lost. There was need of a second reformation.” “Let me state more definitely what the position was which I took up. … First was the principle of dogma: my battle was with liberalism; by liberalism I mean the anti-dogmatic principle and its developments” [3]. The greater part of Newman’s later thought may be seen as the germination of these seminal ideas; his conversion was their direct and logical consequence.

After the summer of 1834 and the appearance of Tract 38, Newman’s vision of Anglicanism took on sharper lines and a new name: the via media or “middle road.” Formulated in subsequent tracts and comprehensively expounded in the Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church viewed relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, the via media position maintained that Anglicanism fulfills the providential purpose of taking the virtuous middle road between the extravagances of Rome and the errors of classical Protestantism, thus retaining the three crucial concepts that the Oxford Movement upheld: objective dogma, the sacramental system, and anti-Romanism. Newman subscribed to the via media idea (which remains the semi-official platform of High Church Anglicanism to our day) until the summer of 1839, when he began a careful study of the Donatist and Monophysite heresies. This study plunged him into urgent questions regarding episcopal succession, papal authority, and ecclesial unity and finally convinced him that the “middle road” theory had to be abandoned. Plagued by doubts and wishing to give an all-out defense of the Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the very Protestant Thirty-Nine Articles (the doctrinal Magna Carta, so to speak, of Anglicanism), Newman in February of 1841 published the most controversial of all the Tracts, Number 90. The Anglican establishment immediately attacked the tract for its “extremism,” and the author, buffeted by censure, removed to Littlemore.

During the next two years of research and prayer, Newman’s anti-Romanism, and along with it his Anglicanism, steadily grew weaker. “No Protestant had spoken harder things of the Roman see and its doings than Newman had,” wrote William Anthony Froude many years later,  “and I was still for myself unable to believe that he was on his way to it. But the strongest swimmers who are in the current of a stream must go where it carries them, and his retirement from active service in the Church of England showed that he himself was no longer confident” [4]. Newman officially retracted the anti-Catholic statements contained in his publications, vacated his position at St. Mary’s for good, and after much hesitation as to what he should do next, set himself to the task of writing the now famous Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. As he gathered evidence for the unity of the Catholic Church throughout the ages and unfolded his argument from chapter to chapter, Newman lost confidence in the validity of the Anglican version. The ink practically still wet on his manuscript, he called upon Fr. Dominic Barberi, who had recently welcomed two of Newman’s companions at Littlemore into the “one true Fold of the Redeemer,” as Newman called the Catholic Church in one of the thirty letters he mailed to his closest friends on the day of his general confession [5]. On March 15, 1845, Newman wrote to his sister Jemima: “I began by defending my own Church with all my might when others would not defend her. … I in a fair measure succeed. At the very time of this success, before any reverse, in the course of my reading, it breaks upon me that I am in a schismatical Church” [6].

The news of his conversion spurred reactions of frustration and bewilderment among his Anglican acquaintances. Anne Mozley declared, “Such was our guide, but he has left us to seek our own path: our champion has deserted us — our watchman, whose cry used to cheer us, is heard no more” [7]. Newman’s sisters Jemima and Harriet severed communications with him and left them thus broken for twenty years, testifying to the intensity of religious conviction within his family. (Although diversity was not then taken as the Positive Value it is now held to be, one can note with historical interest the remarkable variety of beliefs in Newman’s family: among his siblings were evangelical Protestants, High Church sympathizers, and even an agnostic. None of them understood John Henry, the Catholic odd man out.)

Newman, who had rarely seen eye to eye with the members of his family, had driven a final wedge between himself and the companions of his childhood, a fact that caused him intense anguish.

The Poet and the Patrician

John Keble, whom Newman in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua honored as the “true and primary author … of that movement afterwards called Tractarian,” could have guessed by 1843 that his friend was on his “deathbed, as regards … membership in the Anglican Church” [8]. Keble, on the other hand, the author of The Christian Year, remained a country clergyman of that institution, from the delivery of his firebrand sermon on “National Apostasy” in July 1833 to his death in 1866 [9]. Keble distrusted the tendency of contemporary intellectuals to criticize religious doctrine with the feeble powers of unaided reason; he prized simplicity and lack of novelty, as witnessed by his advice to a young preacher: “Don’t be original” [10]. The tender piety and moral earnestness of his poetry and sermons derived from his intense personal faith, which was steadily nourished by the study of ancient Christian authors.

“He furnished the Movement with a front to the world” — so wrote Newman of Edward Pusey, the patrician scholar who would, like Keble, also remain an Anglican for the duration of his life. Although his mind encompassed an astonishing amount of theological learning later employed to maximal effect in the Tracts, Pusey joined the Oxford men mainly in order to reinforce their bold statements with his knowledge of Christian antiquity and to add to them his own weighty influence in university circles. Pusey’s sermons and prayer books stirred among the faithful a genuine renewal of traditional devotions, with many Catholic religious works imported from the continent and translated by Pusey himself, at least when he felt that their contents were not objectionable for a Protestant’s use. He desired above all to reinforce the layman’s awareness of his chief responsibilities before God: to perform good works and to strive for personal sanctity. Dr. Pusey approached the “second Reformation,” as the Tractarians called it, from a decidedly devotional angle. The six ideas Pusey expressly put forward as his foremost concerns conclude with these three, which are of special relevance to Catholics today, in view of the meanderings and desecrations of the past half-century:

  1. Regard for [liturgical] ordinances, as directing our devotions and disciplining us, such as daily public prayers, fasts and feasts, etc.

  2. Regard for the visible part of devotion, such as the decoration of the house of God, which acts insensibly on the mind.

  3. … Reverence for and deference to the ancient Church, instead of the Reformers, as the ultimate expounder of the meaning of our Church. [11]

As fellow leaders of the Movement, Keble and Pusey had grown close to Newman in the 1830s and into the first years of the ’40s. Judging from the swelling tide of converts to Rome, Pusey “had been for some time preparing himself and others for the blow” [12]. In spite of their premonitions, Pusey and Keble fell into tears when the news reached them. Keble wrote to his dear friend Newman:

I cannot bear to part with you, most unworthy as I know myself to be; and yet I cannot go along with you. I must cling to the belief that we are not really parted — you have taught me so, and I scarce think you can unteach me. … And so, with somewhat of a feeling as if the Spring had been taken out of my year, I am always your affectionate and grateful, J. Keble. [13]

As a way of mitigating the shock, Pusey persuaded himself that Newman had received some sort of “mysterious dispensation,” a supernatural calling to leave the “Established Church.” Pusey’s magnanimity bursts forth in an article for the English Churchman: “Yet, God is with us still, He can bring us even through this loss. We ought not indeed to disguise the greatness of it. It is the intensest loss we could have had. They who have won him know his value. … He has gone as a simple act of duty with no view for himself, placing himself entirely in God’s hands” [14].

Clearly, Pusey and Keble realized the importance of what had happened, not only for themselves, but for the English ecclesial establishment and, ultimately, for England. The greatest theologian of the Oxford Movement and surely the one whose name had traveled farthest had entered the Church he once denounced. The pillar of Anglican theology had come to see the “Established Church” as a state-legislated fiction cut off from the living stream of catholicity. Despite his misgivings, Pusey remained a lifelong correspondent. Keble, on the contrary, found that Newman’s decision placed too much strain on their friendship and thereafter ceased to correspond for twenty years — until the appearance in 1862 of Newman’s Apologia, a work that turned many old and separated Tractarians back to their spiritual father.

The Good Bishop

The turmoil that rent the souls of Newman’s confidants was entirely absent from a man more distant from the battlefield, though intimately familiar with the war plans. Bishop Nicholas Wiseman regarded the event with jubilation and a sense of long awaited victory, almost relief. The story of the bishop’s view of the Oxford Movement sheds much light upon Newman’s fruitful yet often troublesome relationship with the Catholic Church in England, notably with her not always supportive hierarchy and her tightly enclosed world of old Catholic families.

By taking an active role in the Oxford controversy through his essays and correspondence, Wiseman came to know the strengths and weaknesses of the cords that bound the Tractarians to their community and speculated with excessive eagerness about future hordes of converts. More than a hint of naïveté emerges in Wiseman’s oft-declared belief that England would soon “sue for pardon at the feet of Rome” [15]. “Let us have but even a small number of such men as write the Tracts, so imbued with the spirit of the early Church … enter fully into the spirit of the Catholic religion, and we shall be speedily reformed, and England quickly converted” [16]. Wiseman possessed such confidence in the inevitability of mass conversion that he played a sort of game with the Tractarians, encouraging some to convert while attempting to stall others — including Newman — when he felt that they could contribute more to the deterioration of Anglican conviction from within.

By the early 1840s, Wiseman had awakened to the reality of English resiliency. He knew that the Anglicans would outlive his and others’ efforts to secure a Roman triumph and had discovered that his direct influence on non-Catholics was modest. Fothergill writes: “Wiseman had long given up hope of its [the Oxford Movement] infusing Catholic ideas into the whole Anglican Church and precipitating a general conversion. Individual conversions were all that now could be hoped for, but if only Newman would come over there was no knowing how many might not follow him” [17]. Acutely aware of Newman’s strategic importance, Wiseman found the news of October 1845 exhilarating. Years of prayer and effort had reached their culmination; not only did Newman “secede,” but dozens followed suit. Many of his supporters were, in fact, waiting to see what Newman would do. One thinks of the words of William George Ward: “You Catholics know what it is to have a Pope. Well — Newman is my Pope. Without his sanction I cannot move” [18]. Yet the force of Catholic evidence overwhelmed Ward to the point where he could wait no longer; he and his wife went over three months before their Oxford pontiff did. Whereas Dean Church lamented, “We sat glumly at our breakfasts every morning, and then someone came in with news of something disagreeable — someone gone, someone sure to go,” Wiseman could exult in the deluge of converts.

Nevertheless, this High Church exodus presented difficulties for Wiseman and his flock, occasions of confusion and distrust — particularly in the sometimes less than enthusiastic reaction of the Catholic community itself to the influx of converts. The beleaguered Catholic Church in England did not wish to draw much attention to itself for fear that its recently gained political liberties would be trimmed under suspicion of interference in public affairs — and the sudden presence of an exceptionally notorious High Churchman in their midst was the most attention-getting thing that could have happened. Nor did many “conservative” Catholics feel comfortable with Newman’s imposing gifts and controversial personality.

In the weeks after he confirmed Newman and nine other former Anglican clergymen on October 31, Wiseman began to comprehend the full scope of the issue. “Wiseman was at once confronted with a very real problem, namely, how to meld the converts and the ‘old’ Catholics into a coherent whole. … A large number of old Catholics were as unsympathetic to Newman and his followers inside the Church as they had been distrustful of him while still an Anglican” [19]. Wiseman’s critics registered their skepticism by noting that some converts had created still further havoc by reverting back to Anglicanism; the episode of Sibthorpe, a well -known convert who soon after reverted, was fresh in their minds. Wiseman’s “desire to integrate the converts into Catholic life and thereby raise the general intellectual level of the Catholic body was not shared by his fellow bishops. Their welcome to the neophytes had been decidedly chilling” [20]. Over time, Wiseman lost some of his initial excitement and settled into a more sober assessment. The question arose among Catholics: could Newman, a longtime “Oxford Protestant,” really enter wholeheartedly into the Church, or would he remain a half-Catholic at best, destined to bear the impression of the Thirty-Nine Articles throughout his life? (Sadly, even today one can find ignorant Catholics who attack Newman as a crypto-Protestant or a precursor to Modernism.) Wiseman bravely chose to defend Newman and face the critics within his own flock. From that October onward, Wiseman’s support of the 44-year-old convert made him the target of severe criticism and the focus of much contention. At a time when Newman’s earlier masterpieces continued to incline readers towards the “primitive Church,” Wiseman had the foresight to recognize that great works were yet forthcoming from the preacher’s pen.

The Apologia Pro Vita Sua

With their coreligionists, Pusey, Keble, and Wiseman responded forcefully to Newman’s conversion the moment his letters arrived in the post. In time, however, the initially passionate reactions lost their force, and the emotion surrounding Newman’s decision subsided. Within the flight of a decade, the English had largely grown accustomed to his novel status as Oratorian priest and Catholic apologist and continued to buy and read his brilliant works, such as the Discourses to Mixed Congregations and The Idea of a University. While the Establishment had parted ways with Newman and thereafter paid him little heed, his memory was not so quick to vanish inside the hearts of many Englishmen. Like a smoldering ember it flamed up from time to time, when the billows of controversy or publication stirred it to life — as occurred when the blunders of a man named Charles Kingsley brought him once again to the forefront of public attention.

The nature of Kingsley’s accusations, or really, slanders, and the tale of how the Apologia Pro Vita Sua [Defense of His Life] came to be written are well documented by Newman himself, who took pains to spell out his opponent’s views accurately before refuting them. The controversy initiated by Kingsley offered Newman the great opportunity he had awaited during his years as a Catholic. In a work that took England by surprise and succeeded in re-establishing many fallen lines of correspondence, Newman presented a clear portrait of his own history, defending his integrity against the critics of both religious bodies and crafting a defense of his conversion of nineteen years earlier. The Apologia confirmed Newman as a figure of warm heart and keen mind, and did more than perhaps any other single work to scatter questionable assumptions about Catholics. If Newman, a Catholic priest, can tell his story with such kindness and affection for his Anglican past, then certainly not all, or even many, Roman clerics are caught up in the machinations and corruptions imputed to them — such was the fashion whereby many in England learned for the first time how to understand, and even to admire, Newman’s journey to Catholicism.

Although it is not written as a theological work per se, the Apologia is Newman’s great testament to his religious convictions, distilled by thought and prayer over the whole period from his Oxford days to 1864. None knew better than he the trials through which he had passed and the steps of his journey toward the Catholic Church; none could express them with such consummate grace and vigor. He presented his views with candor and sensitivity. “I mean to be simply personal and historical: I am not expounding Catholic doctrine, I am doing no more than explaining myself, and my opinions and actions,” he writes at one point [21]. “I am not setting myself up as a pattern of good sense or of any thing else: I am but giving a history of my opinions, and that, with the view of showing that I have come by them through intelligible processes of thought and honest external means” [22]. He made room, however, for apologetics in the course of what purported to be an autobiographical essay: “I must detain the reader for awhile, in order to describe the issue of the controversy between Rome and the Anglican Church, as I viewed it. This will involve some dry discussion; but it is as necessary for my narrative, as plans of buildings and homesteads are at times needed in the proceedings of our law courts” [23]. In the manner of a missionary devoted to his calling — and very much unlike the pope who is going to canonize him — Newman never failed to make a good use of opportunities for explaining and defending the Faith to outsiders, with a view to their conversion. He is in this sense a model ecumenist, far ahead of his time, although it should be added that he was by no means indecisive or flimsy when it came to the divine mission of the Catholic Church and the need to belong to her visible body: “I pray to God to bring us all together again in heaven, under the feet of the Saints,” he writes in his will. “And, after the pattern of Him, who seeks so diligently for those who are astray, I would ask Him especially to have mercy on those who are external to the True Fold, and to bring them into it before they die” [24].

In the Apologia we find a further clarification of one of Newman’s lifelong themes, the role of the teaching Church in shaping the human mind, which otherwise would be consigned to the darkness of ignorance and error. “I say, that a power, possessed of infallibility in religious teaching, is happily adapted to be a working instrument, in the course of human affairs, for smiting hard and throwing back the immense energy of the aggressive, capricious, untrustworthy intellect ” [25]. This infallibility, for Newman no less than for the First Vatican Council that was to meet only six years after the publication of Apologia Pro Vita Sua, is primarily the Church’s, not the pope’s — or rather, it is the pope’s only insofar as he receives and teaches the truths already consigned to the Church in the Deposit of Faith given by Christ and the apostles, and unfolded over the ages in eodem dogmate, eodem sensu, eademque sententia: “in the same dogma, the same sense, and the same meaning,” to use the words of St. Vincent of Lérins cited in Vatican I’s constitution Dei Filius. That is to say, whatever further explication or explanation is offered must remain recognizably the same dogma; its content and force must remain the same, not contradicting what has been taught and accepted before. Development means seeing further along the same line, not flipping to the contrary. This is the function of an infallible authority in the Church, against the “aggressive, capricious, untrustworthy intellect” of the infidel, the heretic, the schismatic, or — to cite Newman’s lifelong opponent — the liberal.

Newman and Pope Leo XIII

As mentioned earlier, Newman saw two prongs in his battle for authentic Christianity: the defense of the catholicity and apostolicity of the Church and the refutation of liberalism in all of its burgeoning social and religious forms. In these aspects, his thought is deeply harmonious with that of his contemporary, Pope Leo XIII, who famously battled the discrediting of religion by pseudo-scientific theories, resisted the Masonic-humanistic ideology of worldwide socialism and unbridled capitalism, and defended the antiquity, visibility, and universality of the Catholic Church as signs of her divine mission. The sympathy between these two great men was cemented historically by the privilege of the cardinalate bestowed by Leo on Newman in May of 1879. (One wonders what Leo XIII would think of Francis’s batches of cardinals.)

We should also note how two of Newman’s great concerns — the link of conscience to objective truth and the immense danger of setting society loose from its religious foundations — feature prominently in encyclicals of recent decades (e.g., Humanae Vitae, Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae), and how these very concerns are now sidelined and even contradicted by the present Vatican regime. As I wrote at LifeSite: “Surpassing the Jewish leaders excoriated by Christ (cf. Lk 11:47), Pope Francis, the canonizer of Paul VI, John Paul II, and John Henry Newman, both kills the prophets and builds them splendid tombs.”

Notwithstanding his ill informed traditionalist critics and his mendacious liberal manipulators, John Henry Newman is an increasingly vital presence at the heart of the Church, one who is an ally and an intercessor for all that we hold dear, and all that we see under attack. We offer thanks to Almighty God for the stirring example of his holy life and the luminous content of his work, which renew our own commitment to the Catholic Faith and help us to spread the Gospel in a world bereft of truth and peace.



For those who love Newman already as well as for those who seek to know him better, I have put together a collection of my favorite Newman texts on liturgy and prayer. Unfortunately, due to disputes with KDP/Amazon, the book is only currently available in the United Kingdom and continental Europe (Germany, Italy, etc.). I am working towards American availability. Here’s the description of the book:

The life and thought of John Henry Newman were permeated with the ceremonies and hallowed texts of Christian liturgies, which he celebrated for over six decades, starting as an Anglican deacon in 1824 and ending as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. It comes as no surprise that allusions to liturgical worship are ubiquitous in his writings. The “ordinances” of the Church, her rich panoply of rites handed down through the centuries, are, for Newman, doors or windows into the heavenly society for which we were created and to which God is calling us throughout our lives. As Newman says in a number of places, we are given our time on earth to begin to live, through personal prayer and corporate worship, the life of the blessed in heaven.This volume gathers over seventy texts from a large number and wide range of Newman’s writings, from the Tracts for the Times and Parochial and Plain Sermons to the Letter to Pusey, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, and Grammar of Assent. Forty-four of Newman’s incomparably great sermons are included in full. That Newman deserves his reputation as one of the finest spiritual writers of modern times and the greatest prose stylist of nineteenth-century England is abundantly demonstrated in these spirited and subtle reflections on the duty of reverence, the benefits of ritual, and the privilege of divine worship.


[1] It is from this series that the High Church reform, usually called the Oxford Movement, derives another of its nicknames, Tractarianism.

[2] See Louis Bouyer, Newman: His Life and Spirituality (New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1958), 239.

[3] John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968), 50–51.

[4] Short Studies on Great Subjects (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), “The Oxford Counter-Reformation,” 206.

[5] Letter to Henry Wilberforce, quoted in Ian Ker, John Henry Newman: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 316. Fr. Barberi has since been beatified by Holy Mother Church in recognition of his exemplary life as a priest, confessor, and missionary.

[6] Bouyer, Newman, 241.

[7] Brian Martin, John Henry Newman: His Life and Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 72.

[8] Apologia, 26; 121.

[9] As Owen Chadwick comments, Keble “helped to form the moral ideal of the movement more by his person than his thought. It was to be a movement of pastoral and moral care … reach[ing] out so forcibly from Oxford because it understood the needs of the country parish. Keble represented this anchor in the parochial clergy.” The Mind of the Oxford Movement (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), 35.

[10] Chadwick, 36.

[11] Chadwick, 51.

[12] Maisie Ward, Young Mr. Newman (London: Sheed & Ward, 1948), 454.

[13] M. Ward, 452.

[14] M. Ward, 456.

[15] Quoted in Brian Fothergill, Nicholas Wiseman (London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 123.

[16] Quoted in M. Ward, 448.

[17] Fothergill, 124.

[18] Wilfrid Ward, William George Ward and the Oxford Movement (London: Macmillan, 1889), 239.

[19] S. W. Jackman, Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman: A Victorian Prelate and His Writings (Dublin: The Five Lamps Press, 1977), 28; Fothergill, 127.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Apologia, 13.

[22] Apologia, 36.

[23] Apologia, 89.

[24] Prayers, Verses, and Devotions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 446.

[25] Apologia, 189.

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