Cardinal Newman’s Canonization

Several papers carry stories commemorating Cardinal John Henry Newman on the occasion of his canonization. This will take place tomorrow in Rome. One story, from the religious website Aleteia, mentions the first Newman Center for university students at Oxford that was founded:

… with the intention of supporting Catholic students attending the non-Catholic university […] Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was a founding member of the Newman Society. In the years that followed, nearly all of the Catholic literary giants of the 19th and 20th centuries would be involved with the Newman Society and gave lectures to the Catholic students at Oxford. This would include such prolific writers as J.R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, and Robert Hugh Benson. [Emphasis in original.]

According to the Newman Society’s website, they even were mentioned by Evelyn Waugh in his highly celebrated novel Brideshead Revisted.

“In 1945 the Newman was sufficiently established to merit two mentions in Waugh’s ‘Oxford novel,’ Brideshead Revisited. The first reference comes in the course of Lady Marchmain’s comments to Charles Ryder about her son, Sebastian: ‘I want Sebastian to have all sorts of friends, not just one. Monsignor Bell tells me he never mixes with the other Catholics, never goes to the Newman, very rarely goes to Mass even. Heaven forbid that he should only know Catholics, but he must know some.'”  [Penguin, p. 138]

The second Newman Society reference is not quoted on the website but comes a few paragraphs later in Sebastian’s response to his mother’s plans:

‘I shan’t come up. can you imagine me–serving mass twice a week, helping at tea parties for shy freshmen, dining with the visiting lecturer at the Newman, drinking a glass of port when we have guests, with Mgr Bell’s eye on me to see I don’t get too much…’ [Penguin, p. 139]

Waugh also put in another reference in the novel to the Cardinal himself. This is on the opening page of Chapter One: those days Oxford was a city of acquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had in Newman’s day…’ [Penguin, p. 23]

Whether Waugh ever wrote any extended consideration of Newman’s career is harder to say. The only reference in the Bibliography is to a 1961 review in the Sunday Times. In this, he considered a book by Ronald Chapman about Fr F W Faber, another High Anglican clergyman who also migrated to the Roman Church, following Newman. Faber was the founder of the Brompton Oratory and was, according to Waugh, a “more humanely heroic man” than Newman. The review continues,

…almost everything that [Newman] attempted failed while Faber almost always succeeded…[Faber] imposed the baroque on a generation of English Catholics who either traditionally shrank from all ostentation or regarded the pointed arch as a distinguishing mark of their faith. His emotional appeal in the pulpit is comparable to Wesley’s with the same concomitant of frenzied penitents. He found and formed countless souls. [“An Heroic Churchman: In the Shadow of Newman”, Sunday Times, 29 January 1961, p. 27.

Waugh offers no examples of what he deems to have been Newman’s failures.

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