Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city! She hears no voice, accepts no correction; in the Lord she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near… For then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies…
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13
Born in 1801, John Henry Newman spoke no lies; even more, he passionately sought the truth and trusted that God would bring him to Truth himself. Born in London, Newman spent the first part of his life as an Anglican, studying at Oxford University’s Trinity College. There he became prominent in the Oxford Movement, a movement at Oxford College characterized by a study of the Church Fathers. The purpose was to bring back the Anglican Church to some of its Roman Catholic roots. This did not bring the two churches together, but it did bring about the establishment of religious orders in the Anglican Church and influenced its sacramental and liturgical practices.
John, however, had a life-changing realization as he delved deeper into the past to find out more about God and Christianity. He came to suspect that the Roman Catholic Church had, historically, the strongest continuity with the people who followed Jesus in humility and truth – a remnant, the church described in the Acts of the Apostles. So, in 1845 he chose to join the Catholic Church and two years later was ordained a priest. This was not an easy choice; his life changed dramatically. He lost most of his friends from the Church of England, could no longer be a fellow at Oxford, and was rejected by his family. Still, he surrendered in trust to Truth Himself.
After joining the Catholic Church, John Henry Newman continued to seek the Truth, publishing many works which guide the Church today. He also lived the Truth in love through his preaching and his care for the poor. He understood that many of us seek to understand our faith, to know more about God. We can have many doubts and questions. Newman understood, but he urged us to have a prayerful heart, to surrender to God’s will and, in humility, to pray for God’s help. He wrote:
“O my God, I confess that Thou canst enlighten my darkness. I confess that Thou alone canst. I wish my darkness to be enlightened. I do not know whether Thou wilt: but that Thou canst and that I wish, are sufficient reasons for me to ask, what Thou at least hast not forbidden my asking.
I hereby promise that by Thy grace which I am asking, I will embrace whatever I at length feel certain is the truth, if ever I come to be certain. And by Thy grace I will guard against all self-deceit which may lead me to take what nature would have, rather than what reason approves.”
Pope Francis canonized John Henry Newman in 2019, holding him as an example for us all – not because we hold all the truth but because we always need to seek Truth.
St. John Henry Newman is our seventeenth Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
Are you willing to sacrifice and study in order to find the truth?
Have you meditated on any other prayers by St. John Henry Newman?