Newman's Failures

When you become a Catholic, it may be that Mother Church gives you a spanking.  That is to say, you may find things difficult and not to your liking.  Many converts discover that things do not go their way.  They are disappointed and let down.  They are unappreciated.  The church is bigger and stranger and tougher than they thought.

If so, don't be discouraged.  It was so with the great Cardinal Newman.  Everything he tried to do was undermined or misunderstood.  He was suspected and ostracized and pushed to one side.

Father Peter Cornwell is an English Catholic priest who was once the vicar of the University Church in Oxford, as was Newman.  He writes here of Newman's struggles.

So if you are in a similar situation, and the Catholic Church doesn't give you all the love you thought you deserved, take heart.  If things are difficult and you feel 'far from home', dig out your hymnal and sing Newman's hymn Lead Kindly Light in a loud and hearty voice.  If the Catholic Church is not all that you wanted it to be, stop and ask yourself…

What did you want anyway — a bed of roses or a Crown of Thorns?

Author: Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA. Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome -- Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son -- a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian. Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code -- a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters -- and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty. His book The Romance of Religion will be published in 2012 along with a new edition of Adventures in Orthodoxy. In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted an invitation from the Bishop of Charleston to serve as Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible Belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He is now parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville. Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias.

9 thoughts on “Newman's Failures”

  1. I have a friend who, many years ago, left the Anglo-Catholic Church to go to Rome. When just a few weeks ago I told him how others from our former church were following his lead and that he would be there at the service where they were to be received, his reply was, Great! Now perhaps we can show them how to do it right.

    My unspoken response was, if you think the Roman church is not doing it right so much so that you think they need to be show how to do it right by you, what are you doing there exactly?

    It's a hard world for Anglo-Catholics today, and, apparently, yesterday and beyond as well.

  2. J.M.J.

    Bl. John Henry Newman never regretted the change, either.

    In his letter answering Mr. Gladstone, he was pretty clear:

    "February†26, 1875. Mr. Gladstone's new Pamphlet, which has just appeared, is only partially directed against the foregoing Letter, and, when he remarks on what I have written, he does so with a gentleness which may be thought to be unfair to his argument. Moreover he commences with some pages about me personally of so special a character, that, did I dare dwell upon them in their direct import, they would of course gratify me exceedingly. But I cannot do so, because I believe that, with that seriousness which is characteristic of him, he has wished to say what he felt to be true, not what was complimentary; and because, looking on beyond his words to what they imply, I see in them, though he did not mean it so himself, a grave, or almost severe question addressed to me, which effectually keeps me from taking pleasure in them, however great is the honour they do me.

    It is indeed a stern question which his words suggest, whether, now that I have come to the end of my days, I have used aright whatever talents God has given me, and as He would have had me use them, in building up religious truth, and not in pulling down, breaking up, and scattering abroad.

    All I can say in answer to it, is, that from the day I became a Catholic to this day, now close upon thirty years, I have never had a moment's misgiving that the communion of Rome is that Church which the Apostles set up at Pentecost, which alone has "the adoption of sons, and the glory, and the covenants, and the revealed law, and the service of God, and the promises, and in which the Anglican communion, whatever its merits and demerits, whatever the great excellence of individuals in it, has, as such, no part. Nor have I ever, since 1845, for a moment hesitated in my conviction that it was my clear duty to join, as I did then join, that Catholic Church, which in my own conscience I felt to be divine.

    Persons and places, incidents and circumstances of life, which belong to my first forty-four years, are deeply lodged in my memory and my affections; moreover, I have had more to try and afflict me in various ways as a Catholic than as an Anglican; but never for a moment have I wished myself back; never have I ceased to thank my Maker for His mercy in enabling me to make the great change, and never has He let me feel forsaken by Him, or in distress, or any kind of religious trouble.

    I do not know how to avoid thus meeting Mr. Gladstone's language about me: but I can say no more. The judgment must be left to a day to come."

    1. Not to belabor the point, but I cannot resist copying here the take-away part of the speech:
      Hitherto the civil Power has been Christian. Even in countries separated from the Church, as in my own, the dictum was in force, when I was young, that: "Christianity was the law of the land". Now, everywhere that goodly framework of society, which is the creation of Christianity, is throwing off Christianity. The dictum to which I have referred, with a hundred others which followed upon it, is gone, or is going everywhere; and, by the end of the century, unless {66} the Almighty interferes, it will be forgotten. Hitherto, it has been considered that religion alone, with its supernatural sanctions, was strong enough to secure submission of the masses of our population to law and order; now the Philosophers and Politicians are bent on satisfying this problem without the aid of Christianity. Instead of the Church's authority and teaching, they would substitute first of all a universal and a thoroughly secular education, calculated to bring home to every individual that to be orderly, industrious, and sober, is his personal interest. Then, for great working principles to take the place of religion, for the use of the masses thus carefully educated, it provides—the broad fundamental ethical truths, of justice, benevolence, veracity, and the like; proved experience; and those natural laws which exist and act spontaneously in society, and in social matters, whether physical or psychological; for instance, in government, trade, finance, sanitary experiments, and the intercourse of nations. As to Religion, it is a private luxury, which a man may have if he will; but which of course he must pay for, and which he must not {67} obtrude upon others, or indulge in to their annoyance.

      The general character of this great apostasia is one and the same everywhere; but in detail, and in character, it varies in different countries…"
      Note: the subsitution in the land of "common human values" for those inculcated by religion, and the privatizing of religion is "this great apostasia".

  3. Too true, and he is a saint (or blessed) not because of the notority of his conversion, but because of his heroic perserverance in the face of misunderstanding. May it be a lesson to us Roman Catholics today to be more hospitable, and to embrace the differences of expression and apostolate that made Newman so effective.

  4. Both Catholics and non-Catholics tend to think that the Oxford Movement was all about matters of doctrine and ritual but in fact it was very much an evangelical movement. One associates the word "evangelical" with "low" churchmanship, but one of the characteristics of the Anglo-Catholic revival in the CofE was the emphasis on bringing the Good News of Christ to whomever had ears to hear and particularly to the urban slums of the English cities.

    In the context of what may lie ahead with the establishment of the US Ordinariate, it may be helpful to have a read of this post Busy, busy….. on the Ancient Richborough blog:

    What is implicit both in the post by Father Barnes and in his sermon is that in England, at any rate, the Catholic laity have long had a tendency to be rather inward looking, thinking that evangelism is something best left to the clergy.

    What the Catholic Church in these isles is already gaining from the the establishment of the Ordinariate is an influx of both clergy and laity imbued with an understanding both of the importance of evangelism and of the many ways to go about it.

    Ordinariate Catholics may thus far be few in numbers – but I feel sure they are going to have much the same role in English Catholicism that yeast does in breadmaking.

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