John Henry Newman, a 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism, was given another step towards his Canonization when he was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI while he was in Birmingham on Sunday, September 19, 2010. Newman was honored at an outdoor Mass in Cofton Park as a model to Christians for having followed his conscience despite great cost. Cardinal Newman spent most of his life in Birmingham and died there in 1890.
John Henry Newman was born in London in 1801 and was raised in the Anglican Church, in which he was later ordained a priest. During his priesthood, he became the leader of the Oxford Movement, comprised of a group of Anglicans who wished to return the Church of England to many Catholic beliefs and forms of worship. They wanted to combat the evils which threatened the Church of England – spiritual stagnation, interference from the state, and doctrinal unorthodoxy. Through the Oxford Movement, Newman exerted a profound spiritual influence on the Church of England.
Through his research and writings, he became drawn to the Catholic Church. He was received into the Church in 1845, and one year later was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome. A biographical account of Newman’s conversion is detailed in one of his major works, Apologia proVita Sua, written in 1864.
In 1854, Newman was requested by the Bishops of Ireland to become the rector of the Catholic University of Ireland in Dublin. From this period dates another major work, The Idea of a University, which dealt with the nature and scope of education and the role of the Church in the context of the university. Pope Leo XIII made John Henry Newman a Cardinal in 1879, the only time a simple priest was raised to the Cardinalate.
In order to be recognized as a saint within the Catholic Church, the proposed candidate must satisfy certain criteria with respect to the life which he has lived, which then leads to his being called Venerable. In 1991, Pope John Paul II announced that Cardinal Newman was to be known as Venerable. The second step towards sainthood is Beatification which requires that a miracle happens through the intercession of the candidate. The required miracle occurred in 2001, when an American Deacon, Jack Sullivan, claimed that it was his prayers to John Henry Newman that resulted in the miraculous healing of his serious spinal debility. Deacon Sullivan’s cure was recognized as a miracle by Pope Benedict in July 2009, which led to the beatification of the former Anglican priest during the Pope’s visit to Britain. One more miracle is now required to declare Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint.
It is fitting that Pope Benedict XVI declared the beatification of John Henry Newman on English soil where Newman spent the greater part of his life. The citizens of Birmingham recognize the great honor which has come to their city and to one of their citizens whom they have always recognized as a saint.
The Buffalo News, 9/20/2010