John Henry Newman was born in London on February 21st, 1801. His father was a banker and John was the eldest of six children. When he was seven, Newman began to attend a private school where, at the age of fifteen, he was converted. ?I had no formed religious convictions till I was fifteen.? He speaks of the incident as being ?more certain than that I have hands or feet?. At the end of 1816 Newman began studies at Trinity College, Oxford. After a shaky beginning he was eventually elected to a fellowship at Oriel in 1822.
Newman was ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church on June 13th, 1824. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed curate of St. Clement?s, Oxford. In 1826 he became tutor of Oriel and a preacher at Whitehall in 1827. By 1830, Newman?s views had shifted from the Evangelicals and he eventually severed from the Low Church party. Newman reached his influential height at Oxford in 1839 at which time he first began to doubt concerning Anglican claims of authority. He retired to Littlemore in 1842 with a few followers. There, he wrote his Essay on the development of Christian doctrine.
Blessed Dominic Barberi formally received Newman into the Catholic Church on October 9th, 1845 and he was later ordained in the Roman rite. This was a devastating blow to the established Church of England as Newman was widely considered to be its brightest mind. Newman was, at the time, very popular and influential in the Anglican Church and at Oxford. He returned to England in 1847 as an Oratorian (an order of priests founded by Saint Philip Nieri in the 16th century). Newman spent four years in Ireland in the middle of the 1850?s at the Catholic University of Ireland. He served as rector and there he produced his famous series of lectures known as The Idea of a University.
In 1879 Newman was elevated to a cardinal in the Catholic Church by Pope Leo XIII. This was a special honor, as he was not previously a bishop, nor did he reside in Rome. He died on August 11th, 1890 and was proclaimed venerable in 1991. The cause for his beatification and canonization is ongoing.
In 1864 Charles Kingsley wrote an anonymous article in Macmillan?s Magazine in which he stated: ?Truth for its own sake has never been a virtue for the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not to be?? When Newman complained to the magazine, the author?s name was revealed. A correspondence then began between Newman and Kingsley which Newman later published as evidence that Kingsley?s opinions were unfounded. In response, Kingsley published the pamphlet What, Then, Does Doctor Newman Mean?, in which he defended his own statements and made further attacks upon Newman and Roman Catholicism. Newman?s epic defense was his work entitled Apologia Pro Vita Sua which he completed in three months. In it, Newman retraces his journey to Catholicism from when he was a child. The Apologia is interesting in that it shows the subjectivity involved in Newman?s, and anyone?s, path to Catholicism. Beautifully written, and theologically provocative, it was an immediate success and has been a classic in its genera ever since.