To mark the occasion of the canonisation of John Henry Newman on Sunday 13 October, Irish Messenger Publications has issued a compact life of the English saint, written by Dublin diocesan priest Michael Collins. Newman: A short biography » serves as a fine introduction to Newman’s milieu and the culture of London, Oxford, Birmingham, and the other places which played a role in his life. Newman’s development from his early-life Anglicanism (with a strongly evangelical flavour) to his High-Church years in Oxford and then to his eventual Catholicism are well described.
Few candidates for sainthood in the Catholic Church over recent decades have inspired the interest, even fascination, that Newman has. He was a towering figure in the intellectual landscape of Victorian Britain, and ever since his own conversion in 1845 he has – right up to our own day – been credited by a great number of converts with giving them the depth and breadth of vision which made it possible for them to enter the Church. Also, even during his Anglican years he exerted an immense influence on his co-religionists as they developed their sense of their own catholicity. His sermons, controversial works, and correspondence show no sign of losing their power to impress and to change the lives of their readers.
As a brief overview of Newman’s extraordinary life, complete with some photographic illustrations, Fr Collins’s book is a valuable resource for the present time.