Page 8, 2nd June 1939

2nd June 1939
Page 8
Page 8, 2nd June 1939 — THE SECOND SPRING FLOWERED IN THE MIDLANDS Birmingham Province was home of Oxford Movement
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THE SECOND SPRING FLOWERED IN THE MIDLANDS Birmingham Province was home of Oxford Movement

N0 survey of Catholic history in the Birmingham province. can afford to pass over the Oxford Movement. In its consequences that movement affected all England, and further still; but it was on what is now Birmingham's diocesan territory tha it had its root, and many of its principal figures—John Henry Newman for chief—remained closely connected with the Midlands. In putting together the following brief accounts, the compiler has not hesitated to borrow from what has already appeared in A. Hundred Years of Catholic Progress, and to make use also of the Who's Who of the Oxford Movement by the late Sir Bertram C. A. Windle.

The beginning of the Oxford Movement has been put by Newman as far hack as 1833, when an Anglican clergyman, who later became famous, the Rev. John Keble,

preached a sermon on "National Apostasy." That sermon was a call to many earnest minds in the Established Church; it led, in time, to the formation of a band of young Oxford men who sought to prove that the Church of England was really " Catholic " though her teaching had become overladen with Proteetant doctrines. To support their views they wrote and published a serial of Tracts for the Times, and from that circumstance got the name of " Tractarians."

There came a day, in 1841, when ono of these tracts, Tract Ninety, caused an upheaval. Re author was Newman, and his case was that the Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church could and should be interpreted in harmony with Catholic teaching. To say that the Oxford Protestant Dons were upset by this boldness is to put it mildly. They were scandalised, outraged in their religious feelings. The tract was condemned.

W.G. Ward's Book

But there was worse to come. Another of the Tractarians, William George Ward„ wrote a hook, The Ideal of a Christian Church, which, as one Catholic. writer has expressed It " put the Church of England on its knees before Rome." The University took action against Ward by condemning his book and depriving him of his degrees.

Meanwhile, Newman, who was Vicar of St. Marys at Oxford, had retired from that church and city and had gone to live in the small village of Littlemore, a few miles away. There, as all know, ne was received into the Catholic Church by the saintly Passionlet missionary. Fr. Dominic, whose cause for beatification is now before the authorities in Rome.

So many Anglicans. among them men of considerable note, came into the Church from the Oxford Movement, that it will be best to give a separate article to the "Oxford converts," as they have been called. But of Cardinal Newman himself—for he became a priest and, in later life, a Prince of the Church—at must he added that thenceforth the story of his Catholic work belongs to the Birmingham Archdiocese.

From his later centre at Maryvale. Newman went, having established the Oratorian Fathers in England, to Birmingham itself. For a time he and hie brethren in religion were at St. Anne's, Alcester Street; afterwards they made a new home at Edgbaston.

The Oratorians founded, at Edgbaston

the famous Oratory School which is now at Caversham. In the well-known house

Mill occupied by the Fathers in Hagley Road the aged Cardinal died; and he is buried at Retinal. Practically all the

memories of Cardinal Newman, therefore, and of his great work for the Church as writer, preachers and lecturer, are associated with the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Some Fruits of the Movement

It has been remarked, in dealing with the Oxford Movement, that many conversions resulted from that stirring of religious opinion. A large number of those who studied church history, and Theology, in order to strengthen their faith in the Church of England as part of " Catholic " Christendom, found themselves instead being led not further towards but away from that belief. They realised where true Catholicity lay, and they made their submission to the Holy See.

These Oxford converts, either men from Oxford itself or others influenced, elsewhere, by what the Movement had brought about, came into the Church by scores. It would need a deal of space to attempt anything like a full list from the newspaper records of the time. There were many Anglican clergymen among them, but also many of the Anglican laity. The names now to be printed are only some of the converts who by work or benefactions deserve to be remembered for their part in the Catholic revival.

The First from Littlemore

It is customary to put Cardinal Newman at the head of the Oxford converts; and certainly that great figure is worthy of the place, for his influence was immense and his writings include some which are classics to this day, the celebrated Apologia being the most widelyknown. But long before Newman himself came into the Church, Littlemore had given us a convert in his friend William Lockhart, who became a Father of Charity and brought back to the Faith the ancient church of St. Etheldreda in Ely Place, London.

William George Ward, too, the father of Wilfrid Ward, the historian, whose daughter, Mrs Shead, is doing good work on the Catholic lecture platform to-day, was among those who preceded Newman. In the convert stream ' find —te give them their subsequent positions as Catholics—Fr. F. W. Faber and Fr. Edward Caswall, Oratorians and hymnwriters; Mgr. Robert Coffin, ceS.B.„ the third Bishop of Southwark; Mgr. J. L. Patterson, assistant Bishop in Westminster; Mgr. Thomas Wilkinson, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle; Abbot. Border, of Mount St. Bernard's; Fr. T. E. Bridgett, C.SS.R., renowned Redeinptorist acholer and writer; Mother Drane, 0.S.D., famous among Dominican writers; James Burns, a publisher whose name and connections remain in the house of Burns Oates and Washbourne.

Church Builders

Among a great number of benefactors in the converts during these fruitful years there is space to mention but few. Of direct interest to Birmingham itself is the memory of the Rev. Daniel Haigh, who built the beautiful church at Erdington, Sir George Bower founded the Church of St. John of Jerusalem now at St. John's Wood. Another generous convert, Robert Monteith, of Carstairs. gave to Lanark its fine church of St. Mary.

The early period of the Movement, if we may call 1833, as Newman did, its starting-point, saw the conversion of Thomas Chisholm Anstey, who fought valiantly in Parliament for Catholic rights, and of Augustus Welby Pergin, who did so much for church architecture; but most of the conversions came from 1840 onwards.

A whole company of well-l.nown writers, whose work can be found in the C.T.S. and other lists, or in records of Catholic journalism, can be included, in addition to any already mentioned, among the fruits of the Oxford Movement. Here are some of them

Workers with the Pen

Lady Georgina Fullerton, the novelist; T. W. Allies, author of the Formation of Christendom.; Frederick Capes, the founder of the Rambler, and his successors as editor, Richard Simpson and --for a time—James Spencer Northcote, a President of Oscott and Provost of the Birmingham Chapter; David Lewis, translator of the works of St. John of the Cross; Henry Wilberforce, of the Catholic Standard; Fr, Albany Christie, S.J., of Catholic Progress.

But such a list as this must end somewhere. One could go on much further still : Brother Foley of the Jesuit Records; Fr. John Morris, S.J.; Provost Wenham of Southwark; Fr. Bowden and Fr. Ambrose St. John, Oratorie.ns; Canon Oakeley, long at Islington; Miss Lockhart, who as an Anglican had founded the convent at Wantage; and many more.

Consoling, indeed, was the stream of Catholic faith, trickling, by conversions, between, say, Keble's assize sermon in 1833 and the year 1840, and in the following decade attaining force and volume.




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