Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Captivating John Newman

People move intellectually according to John Newman between the human and the inhuman. Either they develop their intellectual potential or they corrupt it. Either they move toward the Catholic Christian religious human or toward the atheist/nihilist human and so inhuman. John Newman developed his human intellectual potential by becoming Catholic.

His journey had stages. He started as a biblical ecclesial Christian. At age 15 he experienced a religious Christian biblical conversion as an evangelical. At age 23 he experienced a further patristic ecclesial sacramental conversion as an Anglican. Lastly at age 44 he experienced a final Catholic conversion.

The movement of his journey was paced by his conscience. He met Jesus, Judge and Savior, in his conscience and so he made the decision to say yes to Him. He was touched by the grace and the gospel and the gathering and the going of the followers of Jesus. He viewed Jesus as the wonderful realization of our human hope and the wonderful fulfillment of the promise of the Lord in the Old Testament. He viewed Jesus of the New Testament as a wonder of truth and mercy in His mission and identity. He viewed Jesus in His followers together and single throughout history, especially in the early martyrs, as our Savior full of wonder. This is the grammar of his assent to Jesus and his Catholic Church.

In the Bible and in Church history he encountered two key disciples of Jesus. They are Peter and Mary. Peter represents the Church apostolic. Mary represents the Church holy. Peter stands for the truth of Jesus. Mary stands for the grace of Jesus. Peter is the universal shepherd. Mary is the universal mother.

The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin,
where Newman preached during his time at Oxford.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
To John Newman, the Catholic Church stands out among Christian churches. She is the fullness of the Church of Jesus. She is apostolic and holy, catholic and one. She is filled with His truth and grace, she is guided in the development of His truth and grace by the successors of His apostles with and under the successor of His Peter. She develops the same gospel of Jesus for people of different times and places and needs. Her gospel is ever ancient, ever new. Theologians of the academy have a charism of doctrine. People and priests of parishes, the faithful, have a charism of devotion. Bishops with and under the pope have a charism of decision for guiding the development of the doctrine of the theologians and the devotion of the faithful.

John Newman urges the full flowering of our personality. There is a merely human maturity and a Catholic Christian maturity. They are best found together for full flourishing. Art and science, insight into people and nature, enhance the saint. Philosophy and theology with their wisdoms make more attractive the saint wise with faith and love. John Newman himself is cultured and holy. He is a Catholic follower of Jesus in the England of his day.

John Newman preached at the university and the parish. He was at home on the level of scholars and on the level of ordinary people. He was a brilliant tutor and conversationalist, he was a teacher, and he was a shepherd, whether one-on-one or to a group.

John Newman was an affectionate and faithful friend. His motto as a cardinal was cor ad cor loquitur, "heart speaks to heart." His heart was the heart of a friend. John Newman is a man of the word and of the heart, a captivating Catholic follower of Christ.
Father Don

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