“Littlemore, October 8th, 1845. I am this night expecting Father Dominic, the Passionist, who, from his youth, has been led to have distinct and direct thoughts, first of the countries of the North, then of England. After thirty years’ (almost) of waiting, he was without his own act sent here. But he has had little to do with conversions. I saw him here a few minutes on St. John Baptist’s day last year.
"He is a simple, holy man; and withal gifted and remarkable powers. He does not know of my intention; but I mean to ask of him admission into the One Fold of Christ…”—John Henry Cardinal Newman, in a letter sent out to 30 friends, quoted in his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864)
The day after he wrote these words, John Henry Newman, a leading figure in the Church of England, was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Fr. Dominic Barberi, an Italian missionary of broken English but extraordinary faith.
For the last dozen years, as a major member of the Oxford Movement, Newman had challenged notions of the truth as completely subjective. More recently, he had come to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was, in fact, the closest link among churches to the one that Christ had established. Two years after his conversion, Newman became a Roman Catholic priest.
Newman’s conversion led to his ostracism by many family and friends, and for a while he was distrusted not just by Protestants but even many in the new Catholic faith he had embraced. But he continued on his path. Thirty-four years after his conversion, at age 78, Newman’s extraordinary witness to the faith was recognized when the Vatican named him a cardinal. He died in 1890.
Five years ago, the Roman Catholic Church beatified him. Long before that, he was recognized as one of the leading intellectuals of the Victorian Era and a master of English prose through his memoir Apologia pro Vita Sua, influential tracts such as The Idea of a University, and volumes of sermons and poems.