lunedì, luglio 28, 2008

Book review

FAITH Magazine March - April 2008

John Henry Newman In his Time.
Edited by Philippe Lefebvre & Colin Mason. Foreword by Jean Cardinal Honoré. Family Publications, 271pp, £11.95

The fascination of John Henry Newman’s life and works does not wane with the passage of time. It may have its more intense years, followed by a less productive period, but invariably it continues like the waves on the sea shore. The present volume is another study of this renowned Oxford scholar who seems destined for further acclaim and attention, at least in Church circles.

This book is aimed at the general public but will also be of interest to scholars. It gives a portrait presentation of Newman, concentrating on five places associated with his life and on nine areas in which he excelled. An Introductionby Fr Keith Beaumont of the French Oratory offers a fine summary of all the chapters of the book.

The first place we associate with Newman is Oxford. It had a profound influence on him. Its University with its ancient traditions is essential to the understanding of his subsequent spiritual and intellectual evolution. Peter Nockles rightly asserts that the determining factor was its ‘catholic’ ethos which pervaded the education imparted there. Not only was intellectual information given but it traditionally combined sound belief and right conduct. All of Newman’s controversial stands in Oxford were linked to the defence of the moral and religious aspects of the University education as exemplified in the course of its history.

Littlemore then became his haven. Sr Mary-Brigid Dechant, FSO, who belongs to the Spiritual Family The Work (the present curators of the College at Littlemore) provides a brief but accurate account of Littlemore and its place in Newman’s journey.

Another member of The Work, Sr Brigitte Maria Hoegemann, has a very interesting chapter on Newman’s associations with Rome. She focuses on his first encounter with the city (in 1833) and on his subsequent stay there when preparing for the priesthood (1846-1847). On his first visit, his impressions and feelings were contradictory ones: admiration at “a fresh world of intellectual beauty, taste and imagination” yet repulsion at what he then saw as superstition and corruption(cf. pp. 62-63). In stark contrast is the feeling of serenity and peace of the years following on his reception into the Catholic Church.

Birmingham then became Newman’s home for a greater part of the second half of his life. Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonisation, gives a notable and well-informed account of Newman’s relations as an Oratorian with this city. Angelo Bottone, who lectures at the Dublin Business School, gives an account of Newman’s seven difficult years working for the establishment of the new Catholic University of Ireland.

The second section of this publication contains nine studies on various aspects and attributes of Newman’s life: his renowned talent as a gifted preacher (Paul Chavasse) and educator (Paul Shrimpton); his vocation as an Oratorian (Daniel Seward) and confessor (John Kirwan); his spirituality in relation to his conversion experiences (Robert Christie); his talent as a letter writer (Joyce Sugg), novelist (Michael Durand) and poet (Joseph Salvatore Pizza). A final unusual but welldocumented study examines what claim Newman would have to the title Doctor of the Church. Fr Drew Morgan of the Pittsburgh Oratory investigates the criteria used in the conferring of this title on St Thérèse of Lisieux. How Newman measures up to these Norms and Criteria is illustrated by words spoken or written about him by Pope John Paul II and by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later, Pope Benedict XVI). In an original study, Fr Morgan regards Newman’s contribution to the teaching of the Church in the realm of conscience and development as indicative of a charism of a Doctor Ecclesiaegiven by the Holy Spirit. Many would concur, but only the Church’s highest authority will decide on the existence of a particular charism of wisdom and its beneficial influence on the people of God.

The nature and limits of a short book review cannot do justice to the many fine studies and interesting insights throughout the pages of this volume. The publishers are to be congratulated on offering the public a compact and reasonably-priced volume which may well be very timely, if we consider the possible Beatification that could soon take place, provided the miraculous cure through his intercession, now being examined in Rome, proves to be genuine and acceptable.

+ Philip Boyce, OCD


At 11:54 AM, Blogger L'Uomo Vivo said...

Go raibh maith agat, Angelo, agus slainte!

Dia is Mhuire dhuit!


At 12:07 PM, Blogger Angelo said...

Marco, sei bravissimo! Dove hai imparato l'irlandese?


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