John Henry Newman introduced the oratory to the English speaking world. After his conversion to the Roman Catholic Faith from Anglicanism, he was introduced to the Oratory during his stay in Rome. It became clear to him that the spirituality of St. Philip and the model of the Oratory was the home in which he and his companions could begin the journey forward in the Catholic faith.
Significant Dates in the life of
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, C.O.
as arranged by a calendar year
- January 1 (1888): preached his last sermon
- January 22 (1991): declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II
- February 2 (1848): Founder of the first English-speaking Oratory
- April 1 (1801): baptized
- May 12 (1879): created a Cardinal
- May 29 (1825): ordination in the Anglican Church
- June 1 (1847): ordination, as a Catholic
- June 5 (1847): First Mass (as a Catholic priest)
- August 11 (1890): died
- September 25 (1843): preached last sermon as Anglican
- October 9 (1845): Reception/First Communion in Catholic Church
- November 1 (1845): Confirmation, as a Catholic
- December 25 (1889): last Mass
During the height of his academic and ecclesiastical influence at Oxford University Newman was known primarily as a preacher. In the years that he held the important pastoral post of Vicar of the “University Church” of St. Mary the Virgin on the High Street in Oxford, Newman was in the habit of arduously preparing and captivatingly delivering a sermon every Sunday. From contemporary reports, however, we know that Newman was neither bombastic, nor particularly charismatic as he spoke. Rather, what seemed to attract a packed church every Sunday (packed, important to say, mostly with undergraduates!) was the care and precision of his speech.
Newman’s sermons absolutely drip with scriptural quotes and keen turns of phrase through which he seems to play with the materials to which he has turned his reflections. And often, if one wants to get a sense of what Newman thinks on a particular topic, it is better to search through the thousands of pages of his collected sermons before going to the more erudite theological or historical works. The sermons show Newman at his communicative best.
“The Christian has no keen expectations, no acute mortifications. He is fair, equitable, considerate towards all men, because he has no temptation to be otherwise. He has no violence, no animosity, no bigotry, no party feeling. He knows that his Lord and Saviour must triumph; he knows that He will one day come from heaven, no one can say how soon. Knowing then the end to which all things tend, he cares less for the road which is to lead to it …He knows what is truth and what is error, where is safety and where is danger; and all this clear knowledge enables him to make concessions, to own difficulties, to do justice to the erring, to acknowledge their good points, to be content with such countenance, greater or less, as he himself receives from others. He does not fear; fear it is that makes men bigots, tyrants, and zealots; but for the Christian, it is his privilege, as he is beyond hopes and fears, suspense and jealousy, so also to be patient, cool, discriminating, and impartial;—so much so, that this very fairness marks his character in the eyes of the world, is “known unto all men…” Joy and gladness are also characteristics of him… and this in spite of the fear and awe which the thought of the Last Day ought to produce in him. It is by means of these strong contrasts that Scripture brings out to us what is the real meaning of its separate portions. If we had been told merely to fear, we should have mistaken a slavish dread, or the gloom of despair, for godly fear; and if we had been told merely to rejoice, we should perhaps have mistaken a rude freedom and familiarity for joy; but when we are told both to fear and to rejoice, we gain thus much at first sight, that our joy is not to be irreverent, nor our fear to be desponding; that though both feelings are to remain, neither is to be what it would be by itself. This is what we gain at once by such contrasts… I am speaking about the duty of rejoicing, and I say, that whatever be the duty of fearing greatly and trembling greatly at the thought of the Day of Judgment, and of course it is a great duty, yet the command so to do cannot reverse the command to rejoice; it can only so far interfere with it as to explain what is meant by rejoicing. It is as clear a duty to rejoice in the prospect of Christ’s coming, as if we were not told to fear it. The duty of fearing does but perfect our joy; that joy alone is true Christian joy, which is informed and quickened by fear, and made thereby sober and reverent.”
From Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 5/no. 5 (Equanimity)
Preached on December 22nd, 1839
A Link in a Chain
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.
– John Henry Cardinal Newman, c.o.