Page 3, 2nd November 1962

2nd November 1962
Page 3
Page 3, 2nd November 1962 — THE GREATNESS OF NEWMAN

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Locations: Birmingham, Dublin, Oxford, Rome


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By Fr. Herbert Keldany

cewman: Light in Winter, by Meriol Trevor (Macmillan, 50s.). siewman's Letters and Diaries: 1847-8. Vol. XII. (Nelson, 63s.)

VIANY people have come to know and love John Henry Newman through reading Miss Trevor's first volume, vhich she called "Light in Winter". It carried the reader's nterest by reason of the abundant details culled from letters. nemoirs and other books as VVell as Newman's own down to 1853.

The closing chapter was headed "Newman passes into his Autumn". The striking thing about this second volume. which is slightly longer than the first. is its eventfulness. So far from being at the close of his life at the age of fifty-two, he was entering upon an arduous and even more influential new career.

There was the project for a atholic University in Dublin. to ehich he devoted some of the best \ cars of his life, as it must have seemed to him. in vain. And yet the "Idea of a University" and all t hat went with it inspires education n many lands to this day.

Growing Pains

Then there were the growing pains which split the earliest members of the Congregation of the Oratory. They underline the difficulties in\ olved in founding new patterns of religious life in any age, and bring out the special difficulty of dealing with the impetuous Father Faber.

This, and the many cross-purposes with Cardinal Manning. were fortunately compensated by the deep regard of his own bishop, Ullathorne. who said of him in his own lifetime "There is a saint in that man".

There there was the "Rambler" fiasco, in which Newman burnt his fingers badly by trying to help Acton and other laymen run an up-to-date journal. Next there was the founding of the Oratory School which was the prototype of a more modern Catholic education, and the troubles and joys which went with it.

All along there was what Miss Trevor aptly calls 'the Ghost of Oxford'. Newman had held sway there and felt that he could have inspired a whole new generation of young men by returning to the university in which he had spent thirty years of his life. No one else saw the point of giving Catholics a wider education until after his death. And then suddenly there came the success of his great book. "The Apologia", recognition and finally the red hat.

Walked Barefoot

To read the whole story is not only to enjoy the rare experience of witnessing in detail the mysterious way in which grace carries a great soul through difficulties, but also to learn much about Victorian England in both its religious and secular growth.

Perhaps the personal aspect is the most instructive. Thus it comes as something of a shock to read that when Newman went to Rome in great distress to,see the Pope in 1856 he walked barefoot from the terminus to St. Peter's, or again that at the height of his difference with Faber he worked solely to make things easier for him.


The second volume of letters to appear in the long series that is being edited by the Oratory Fathers deals only with two years of this eventful life, but this closeup (beautifully edited by Fr. Stephen Dessain. who succeeds Newman today at Birmingham) is a further justification. if one were needed, of this huge project.

Even at the end of this volume Newman has barely established himself, and the Oratory. in Birmingham. It largely explains his pioneer work. But even more Newman's humanity, naturalness, and thoroughness arc heightened by the variety and detail.

Only by printing everything and allowing it to speak for itself can the greatness of the man be irrefutably established. Twenty

unies of this kind will pro\ ide a more thorough test than even the most gruelling Devil's advocate could think up.


Both Fr. Dessain and Miss Trevor, who has worked closely with him, deserve the thanks of the ever-widening circle of Newman's admirers. The hard work and generous attention to the smallest detail that mark both their books will bring all kinds of people to see his significance in the larger fields, such as higher education and ecumenical encounter, but perhaps even more impressively in the more diffused yet recognisable role of a witness to the unseen world of God.

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