The Gentleman Saint
When London born, John Henry Newman, was canonised in Rome in October, 2019, he became the first English saint since Reformation times. Best known as ‘Cardinal Newman’, many people are familiar with at least one of his beautiful, soul-rendering meditations.
This eminent theologian, philosopher, educationalist and poet, doesn’t fit the usual model we have come to expect of saints, for he himself wrote that ‘academics don’t become saints’.
But St John Henry has broken that mould, for this academic has become a saint whose life presents a challenge to an age that has become immersed in consumerism and which bends the knee to the dogma of relativism.
‘He was a man whose whole life was a journey, a journey in which he allowed himself to be transformed by truth in a search marked by great sincerity and great openness …’ Pope Benedict XVI writes, providing the inspiration for our pilgrim journey in the footprints of St John Henry Newman.
We begin our journey with a cursory look at little John Henry’s childhood and the life of the Newman family. We then travel on through those soul-searching years at his beloved Oxford that ultimately led to his entry into what he termed, ‘The One Fold of Christ’ and the heartbreak of having to leave his beloved Oxford as a consequence.
We will then follow him on his many journeys across the Irish Sea - 56 in all - as he takes on the mammoth task of setting up a Catholic University in Dublin, now UCD, and building the beautiful church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. Ultimately we follow Newman’s intermittent four journeys to Rome that marked the major stepping stones in his life.
In writing The Gentleman Saint, Patricia O’ Leary has done a great service to those who admire Cardinal (now Saint) John Henry Newman, as well as those who simply know the name, but little else about him. A significant part of her book is devoted to his contribution to Irish education. This is as it should be for it is not an exaggeration to say that it was enormous. Dr Patricia Casey, Professor of Psychiatry, University College Dublin