John Henry Newman and His Age

Owen F. Cummings.   John Henry Newman and His Age. Eugene, OR: 2019, p. xvi, 180.

Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, NM, describes Cardinal Newman in the Forward of Cummings’ book as “a man for all seasons”. Cummings speaks of Newman as a complex person who not only influenced the last quarter of the nineteenth century but also stood out as man of character and a saint who left a legacy for all time. C. describes the age, beginning with Pope Pius IX who was Pontiff for most of Newman’s life, and who called the First Vatican Ecumenical Council to react against European Liberalism, and to promote ultramontanism of the age. The unification of Italy was achieved by the victory of the revolutionary troops of Garibaldi’s soldiers at Porta Pieta in Rome. It also put an end to the First Vatican Ecumenical Council sine die and the end the Papal States. The Syllabus of Errors gave Pius IX the weapon he needed to oppose Gallicanism and Liberalism. The declaration of the infallibility of the Pope, at Vatican I awaited the precisions of Vatican II and its appreciation of the role of bishops in the Catholic Church rooted in episcopal ordination.

Newman is identified with the Oxford Movement. He was its heart and soul. He was a magnet who attracted friends, men and women, who were faithful friends and influential writers of the Oxford movement. They contributed to the conversion of outstanding clergy and laity in the Church of England and the Catholic Church. In chapter three of the book, C. gives a brief biographical sketch of John Henry Newman as a man of the university, a man of the Church and the man. C. wrote detailed biographical sketches of John Keble (1792-1866), Richard Hurrell Froude (1803-1882) and Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882).

Carinal Newman joined the Oratory founded by St. Philip Neri in 1875, and the Oratory at Birmingham, England. Among his friends and co-members of the Oratory were Ambrose St. John (1815—75), Frederick William Faber (1814-63) and Edward Caswall (1814-78). St. John was Newman’s closest friend, and Newman asked to be buried in St. John’s grave. Women were very much attracted to Newman, his family sisters, and Elizabeth Bowden, Maria Rosina Giberne and Maria Pusey.

Though Newman was invited to Rome for Vatican I, he did not attend it. He was a theologian who had a lasting influence through his writing on the consultation of the laity in matters of doctrine development published while he was an Anglican, and revised after his conversion to the Catholic Church and Vatican I. This work continues to enlighten theologians and was very influential in the discussions of Vatican II. Chapter seven of Cummings’ work also contains a commentary on Dei Filius and the promulgation of Pastor Aeternus.

Newman the Poet is the subject of chapter 8 of the book. “The Pillar of the Cloud” best known as “Lead Kindly Light”, the first verse of the poem, is studied extensively. C. studies “The Dream of Gerontius” as well. The music of Sir Edward Elgar, because of its importance as the music which usually accompanies the poetry with great effect, is also noted. Newman the Preacher is the title of chapter 9, developing the theology of preaching, Newman the preacher, and some aspects of his content.

Looking Back is the title of chapter ten. Quoting Nicholas Nash, Cummings points out that each of us is a complex and this is especially true of Newman. He retired in 1842 and lived 48 more years. He was retired and quiet though he continued to be the same man, living out his life and sharing his talents. An appendix titled Going Further lists the books that Cummings consulted and it introduces the seven pages of Bibliography that closes the book.

Author and deacon of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, AZ, Owen Cummings is no stranger to readers of Emmanuel. His regular contributions to issues are well known and enjoyed for their scholarly, literary and informative excellence. He is Regent’s Professor of Theology and church history at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon .

Ernest Falardeau, SSS

New York, NY