Monday, August 3, 2009


There are so many . . . I know. And I have been reading Newman and new books about Newman for the last forty years! Well, there is a new one that I heartily recommend. I took it with me to read on my travels to Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne and then back to Brisbane last week.

John Henry Newman: A Mind Alive, by Dr Roderick Strange, published last year by Darton, Longman & Todd, is really a study of the "temper" of Newman's personality as it affected his thinking. These words from the back cover of the book sum up Dr Strange's achievement:

"[Newman's] personality remains elusive and his legacy is still contested. Who was Newman and what is his significance for us today? . . . John Henry Newman: A Mind Alive paints a vivid and nuanced portrait of Newman as a thinker, a friend, and a priest, and shows us how he approached some of the controversial issues that still divide Christians. Those who want to come to know Newman better and to learn from him will be able to meet him in this concise and elegant new study."

Back in 1979 I attended a symposium at the University of Sydney to mark the centenary of Newman's becoming a Cardinal. Dr Strange presented two papers that even then succeeded in giving a vivid impression of the "wholeness" of Newman. This book is at the same time challenging and moving. A "must read"!

And, while I'm on the subject of Newman, have you signed up for the daily reflections from the Cause for the Canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman? This site is affiliated to the Birmingham Oratory. It provides up to date news on Newman's Cause, and if you sign up you will receive a daily email containing a "Thought for the Day" from Newman, with a link to the particular document from which it is taken.

It struck me the other day that many of the quotes are from Newman's Anglican days, and in particular the Parochial and Plain Sermons. Today's Thought, for example, is:

"There must be something wrong among us; when our defenders recommend the Church on the mere plea of its activity, its popularity, and its visible usefulness."

Check out the site. You could do a lot worse than ponder a sentence of Newman each time you turn your computer on!


The Welsh Jacobite said...

"It struck me the other day that many of the quotes are from Newman's Anglican days"

There is a particular reason for this. As an Anglican Newman wrote out his sermons in full and then read them (as was customary among Anglicans at that time). As a Roman Catholic, however, he preached from brief notes (as was customary among R.C.s).

Thus Newman's R.C. sermons do not survive as such, but his Anglican ones do and constitute a substantial part of the opera Newmaniana. It would be hard to produce a representative selection from his works without including much Anglican material.

Anonymous said...

What you say about the difference in preaching habits is certainly true; but so is the notion that the sermons of the Anglican Newman are of enormous intrinsic value (even) to the Catholic. Parochial and Plain Sermons was republished as a whole by W.J. Copeland in 1869, a tribute to their power twenty-five years after Newman became a Roman Catholic. Of course, a small handful of passages no longer reflected the fulness of his convictions, but he was encouraged by the Roman theologian Perrone not to make any changes if his own name was not too closely involved in the republication. (See Ker Newman pages 628 - 629) The Sermons sold well, even among Nonconformists. This pleased Newman, as he saw the creation of a "unity of heart between men of different communions" as laying the ground for the restoration of "visible unity."

In 1878, Copeland published a selection of 54 of the Sermons. In his preface, Copeland says: "In the short Preface to the eight volumes mention was made of the effect of the Sermons 'in bringing out the fundamental Articles of the Faith, and their bearing on the formation of the Christian character . . . [they] show, with deep study of our moral nature, and far-reaching sympathy, bow faith on the basis of exact and definite doctrine energizes in enlarged and expansive love."

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