St. John Henry Newman, born in London in 1801, was Britain’s leading 19th-century Catholic and is still widely revered to this day.He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the UK in 2010 and on October 13th, 2019, became a saint, the first British individual to be canonised in more than three decades, and the first to have lived in the last 300 years.
As a boy, Newman took great delight in the novels of Sir Walter Scott but he probably never imagined that fate would lead him into a lifelong association with the writer’s descendants and with Abbotsford, the place where so many of Sir Walter’s books were written.
Newman was first ordained into the Anglican Church while a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, where he became a close friend of James Hope – who went on to marry Sir Walter’s granddaughter Charlotte in 1847. By this time, Newman had embraced Catholicism – to the scandal of Victorian society – and in 1851 James and Charlotte were received into the Roman Catholic Church.
James and Charlotte had only one child who survived to adulthood, Mary Monica Hope Scott. Newman had known Mary since her birth and over her lifetime they formed a close friendship. The exquisite vestment robes on display in Abbotsford’s Chapel were worn by Newman while celebrating masses here and he later gifted them to Mary, or ‘Mamo’, as she was known to her close friends. These robes – which were inspected by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Edinburgh – have taken on the status of second-class holy relics.
How did John Henry Newman become a Saint?
Born in 1801, baptised in the Church of England, Newman became a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford in 1822, an Anglican clergyman in 1825 and Vicar of the Oxford University Church in 1828.T
In 1845 Newman converted to Catholicism, a very controversial move at the time, and was ordained as a Catholic priest in Rome in 1847. Pope Leo XIII made Newman a Cardinal in 1879, when he was aged 78, and a year before he died.
In 2001 Jack Sullivan, who was studying to become a Deacon, a level below priesthood in the Catholic ministry, was suffering from a crippling spinal disease. Praying to Newman, Jack asked if he could help him walk again so that he could return to classes and be ordained. The next morning the pain had disappeared, allowing him to complete his religious education. On 3 July 2009, Pope Benedict XVI recognised this healing as a miracle resulting from the intercession of Newman, paving the way to beatification, the first step towards sainthood.
To become a Saint, Newman had to have another Vatican authenticated miracle attributed to him. In May 2013 a pregnant Chicago woman, Melissa Villalobos, was suffering from life threating internal bleeding when she prayed to Newman to make the bleeding stop. According to Melissa the healing was immediate and permanent. The miracle was finally approved by Pope Francis on 13 February 2019, paving the way for the canonisation of the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman to St John Henry Newman.
To celebrate Newman’s canonisation, Monsignor Roderick Strange, a Newman scholar, will give a talk at Abbotsford, entitled Newman at Abbotsford: A Spiritual Oasis on Wednesday November 6, at 7pm. This public event will include a visit to the Hope Scott Wing, where Newman stayed, and the chapel, where visitors can see the exhibition. Tickets are £8. Visit the event for more information and to book tickets.