Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was an English clergyman, who was leader of the Oxford movement, and cardinal after his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. He was an outstanding religious thinker and essayist. After distinguishing himself as a scholar, in 1828 Newman became the vicar of Saint Mary's, the church of the University of Oxford, where he exerted a pervasive influence on contemporary religious thought. Newman was profoundly influenced by the sermon "On the National Apostasy," preached at St. Mary's by John Keble. This sermon marked the inception of the Oxford movement, a movement within the Church of England directed against the growth of theological liberalism and advocating the return to the theology and ritual of the period following the Reformation. Newman soon became the leader of the Oxford Group. Anglican dignitaries almost universally declared against the movement.
After writing his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman became a Roman Catholic in 1845. A year later he went to Rome, where he was ordained as a priest and entered the Congregation of the Oratory. On his return to England he introduced the Oratorians there. In 1873 Newman published The Idea of a University Defined in which he defined the function of a university as the training of the mind rather than the diffusion of practical information. Newman in 1864 published his masterpiece, Apologia pro Vita Sua (Apology for His Life), a memorable account of his spiritual development. Pope Leo XIII created him a cardinal in 1879. Newman's other important writings include An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870) and The Dream of Gerontius (1865), a monologue in verse.
Pope John Paul II wrote on the centennial of his death that Newman urges us, to have the intellectual honesty and moral courage to accept the light of truth, no matter what personal sacrifice it may involve. It was Newman's devotion to scholarship and truth that makes him the namesake of Newman Centers on university campuses the world over.
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