Catechetical Saints: Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Authored by Sr. M. Johanna Paruch in Issue #31.4 of The Sower

In September of this year [2010], during his Papal visit to England, Pope Benedict beatified Cardinal Newman. I realize that most people would not think of Newman as a catechetical saint, but I believe he is. First of all, we must remember that to be a catechetical saint, one must be a saint first, that is, be holy. The Church affirms Newman’s holiness in beatifying him.

I believe it is clear that he can be called ‘catechetical’. He is one of the most famous converts to Catholicism after St. Paul and St. Augustine. He was born in England when the Church of England was the state church, and had become for many a matter of form rather that a means of salvation. An evangelical revival was underway in the 1830’s. C.S. Dessain wrote that the Evangelicals’ ‘concentration on feelings of the heart led to a disparagement of the external and objective in religion, creeds, sacraments and visible Church. A man’s feelings were more important than his beliefs.’[i] This could be said of catechesis after Vatican II.

The depth and breadth of Newman’s life cannot be summarized in these few paragraphs, and I encourage everyone to read one of the many works on Newman’s life. Ultimately he entered the Catholic Church at Littlemore, outside of Oxford in 1845. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome in 1846 and joined the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri. He returned to England and settled first at Maryvale, the home of The Sower, and finally in Birmingham where he founded the Oratory there. Again, the breadth of his activities as a Catholic priest can in no way be quickly summarized here.

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