It is the 9th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Cardinal John Henry Newman is the Catholic Church’s most recent Saint (Francis canonized him in 2019) he was at one time the most famous Anglican in all of England and so you might suspect that the day he was received by the Catholic Church was the proverbial “lead story” of the day. And that day, was this day: the 9th of September in 1845. It was the almost exact midpoint of a man whose life spanned the Victorian century, from 1801 to 1890. Today on the Almanac we will look at a few of the things that made him Victorian England’s most famous and infamous Christian.
John Henry Newman first rose to prominence as one of the key members of the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church. The Oxford Movement was a reaction to the perceived radical protestant spirit in the Anglican Church. Newman, who was always looking to the church Fathers of the first five centuries sought to reconnect the Anglican Church to its Ancient and Patristic roots. Newman edited the movement’s “Tracts for the Times” which gave them their nickname “the Tractarians”.
While he was considered an ultra-Conservative Anglican, after his reception in the Catholic Church he had the reputation as a “liberal”. If he wanted to root the Anglicans in the past, he wanted to help the Catholics adapt to the present. His teachings on the development of doctrine have continued to help the Catholic Church maneuver new critical scholarship.
He wrote the Apologia Pro Vita Sua which means, literally, “A Defense of His Life”. Newman had become a persona non grata to many in England upon his entrance to the Catholic Church but this work of biography and theological justification gained him national prominence once again. And this was no small thing as the anti-Catholic bigotry would soften, in part, because of Protestant England’s re-acceptance of a liberal, English Catholic.
Newman was known for his lyrical poetry- the Dream of Gerontius from 1865 is a requiem that was put to music by Edward Elgar. His “Lead, kindly light” is his most popular poem, set to music as a hymn. And if you have ever had a relationship with a Christian college you are likely to be familiar with his essay “the Idea of a University”. This was occasioned by his being the founder and first rector of University College, Dublin. While Newman was setting up a Catholic University he stressed the importance of the liberal arts, of freedom of inquiry and conscience, and the role of the University in the public square. To be certain, theology was at the core of the entire endeavor but at that time, this was a given.
From the arts to the university, to the church John Henry Newman was a giant in Victorian England who made national news when he was received into the Catholic Church midway through his life on this, the 9th of September in 1845.
The last word for today is from 2 Corinthians 5:
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 9th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Tractarian is Jack Chick, he is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.