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HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL NEWMAN.
PART II. In the brief history of this eventful life we have now come to its turning point. The roads divide, the one turning to the left, the other to the right; the traveller followed the path to the right in his life's journey, the end thereof, which always seemed to him so near, was yet so far off, happily for us, and who shall not say, judging by its results, happily also for himself?
In 1845, as recorded in our last number, Mr. Newman withdrew his spiritual allegiance from the Church of England, and became an adopted son of the Church of Rome, exchanging his old home at Oxford for his new home at the Oratory in Birmingham.
Before following him in his new life in the Catholic Church, it is fitting to record the farewell words of sorrow and tenderness which he uttered at Oxford on leaving the Anglican Church :
“O my Mother, whence is this unto thee that thou hast good things poured upon thee, and canst not keep them, and barest children, yet darest not own them? Why hast thou not the skill to use their services, nor the heart to rejoice in their love? How is it that whatever is generous in purpose, and tender or deep in devotion, thy flower and thy promise, falls from thy bosom, and finds no home within thy arms ? Who hath put the note upon thee to have a miscarrying womb and dry breasts,' to be strange to thine own flesh, and thine eye cruel towards thy little one?
Thine own offspring, the fruit of thy womb, who love thee, and would toil" for thee, thou dost gaze upon them with fear as though a portent, or thou doth loathe as an offence —at best thou dost but endure, as if they had no claim but on thy patience, self-possession and vigilance, to be rid of them as casily as thou mayest. Thou makest them ‘stand all the day idle,' as the very condition of thy bearing with them, or thou biddest them to be gone where they will be more welcome, or thou sellest them for nought to the stranger that passess by. And what wilt thou do in the end thereof?”
How well do these words apply to himself in his relation to the Anglican Church, for, had he not during the four years he passed at Littlemore, "to stand all the day idle," as the very condition of her bearing with him? Well might he have pondered in fear over the future of the Church he was leaving for ever. But Mr. Newman had done his appointed work in the Anglican Church; he had sown the seed of a new religious life, which is still bearing, in every direction, fruit a hundredfold. Since the illustrious leader of the Tractarian movement found his new and last home in the Catholic Church, what changes have not occurred, not only in Oxford, but in the intellectual and religious life of England! How many have followed his example and found a life-giving faith ; how many, too, have fallen away into the intellectual unbelief, which now at Oxford, as in England itself, disputes the supremacy in English thought! If, on the one hand, during the last thirty-five years the character of religion in England has been changed, if over the length and breadth of the land they, who at Oxford were his disciples, or the heirs of the traditions and principles which survived the departure of the great Tractarian leader, are now preaching and teaching in Anglican churches so many Catholic doctrines to multitudes of devout Englishmen and women ; on the other hand, with what audacity and with what fatal success has not, during the same period, intellectual unbelief asserted itself, not only in the Universities but in the wider circles of English life and literature, until the very sources of religion are poisoned. It is difficult to imagine what would now be the state of English life, had it not been for the Tractarian movement, and the influence exercised at a critical juncture over the direction of English thought by Mr. Newman. It would have been simply impossible for popular Protestantism to have withstood the anti-christian current which has now set in ; its unction had already departed from the Evangelical school, and the old High and Dry section had lost its vitality, and would have survived as a mere fossil in the general wreck. The Latitudinarians, represented in the days of which we are speaking by Dr. Whateley, have now developed into fullblown Rationalists, or become Semi-Arians. Without the revival of Catholic faith effected by Mr. Newman in the Anglican Church and, since his secession, defended in its main principles by Dr. Pusey and the Ritualistic school, it would now have been a howling wilderness, and the last breakwater to infidelity would have been removed.
The succeeding scenes in Mr. Newman's life, the limited space at our command compels us to condense as much as possible. After studying Theology in the schools of Rome, the illustrious convert returned at the end of 1847 to England, and founded first at Birmingham, the English Oratory of S. Philip Neri, at the direction of the Pope. The almost cloistered seclusion and retirement of Littlemore has ever since been the chosen lot of Dr. Newman. After delivering in 1850 the series of lectures on “Anglican Difficulties," of which we have already spoken, hè seldom quitted his home at the Oratory, and the rare visits which he made to London, were chiefly to old and unforgotten friends of his Oxford days. The Oratory School, which is his own creation, called for much labour and more thought ; within its walls, under his guiding influence, the sons of the great English Catholic families (among them was the present Duke of Norfolk) are trained in the traditions of scholarship and conduct, prevalent in the great seats of English learning, modified by the principles of the Church of Rome. But in spite of his own peculiar work and his love of seclusion, whenever necessity arose for public action, Dr. Newman never failed to come to the aid of his harassed, or perplexed, or calumniated fellow Catholics.
On one occasion, when a notorious apostate monk from Italy, was trading in calumny, and exciting afresh by his vile accusations against the Catholic Church popular prejudices in England, Dr. Newman, confessing that vice may be concealed under a cowl, tore off the mask and exposed to public indignation the infamous life of the pretended Reformer. An action for libel was brought, and Dr. Newman with his old fearless courage, avowing himself the author of the incriminated article, main
tained the truth of its statements, and justified their publication on the grounds of public morality. None who heard Sir Frederick Thesiger, in the course of the trial, read in his fine and expressive voice Dr. Newman's graphic, powerful, and vivid description of the life and conduct of the apostate monk, and of his motives for pandering to the Elizabethan tradition against the Catholic Church, can ever forget the effect produced on the crowded assemblage, learned and lay, in court. Owing chiefly to Justice Campbell's impassioned prejudice in misdirecting the jury, occurred that miscarriage of justice which the late Lord Chief Justice Cockburn never ceased to lament and condemn. The exposure of his life was however fatal to the Apostate Achilli, for scouted by his Protestant patrons he soon disappeared, unhappily not before he had succeeded, to her after-confusion and sorrow, in marrying an English lady. A very large subscription was raised by the Catholics of England and Ireland to defray the expenses of the trial incurred on public grounds by Dr. Newman.
On another occasion when some intemperate writer, attached to an English Catholic newspaper, had the audacity in a letter from Rome, to cast a slur on the orthodoxy of Dr. Newman, the Catholics of England again with one voice, presented an address of reverent and loving confidence to the illustrious Oratorian.
In 1851 at the bidding of Rome, Dr. Newman quitted his own work at the Oratory, and the retirement which was the desire and the delight of his heart, to found a Catholic University in Ireland. With his wonted power and zeal he laboured for several years at this task, in the course of which he delivered a series of lectures on the idea and office of a University, unrivalled for profound thought, for varied knowledge, and for literary brilliance. As Rector of the Catholic University in Ireland he had many difficulties to encounter and overcome. His trustfulness and wide sympathies stood him in good stead. He was beloved by the students who soon came under his personal influeuce ; a word of disapproval from Dr. Newman was felt more than the severest reprimand and punishment from any one else. On one occasion a student was brought before him for making a sommersault in the lecture hall; addressing the too light-hearted and light-heeled culprit, Dr. Newman said “The fault is to be attributed to youth, and youth alas soon passes, and with it, Mr. -,” he continued
with a merry twinkle in his eye, “the pleasure of making sommersaults." The delinquent was put on his honour not to make in future sommersaults in the lecture hall; Dr. Newman laid special stress on the limitation, showing that he had no desire to put unnecessary restraints on the exuberant spirits of youth ; this limitation was so readily understood that under the Rector's very window a sommersault was cut in glee over the kindly issue of the dreaded interview.
At the urgent request of the Fathers of the Oratory at Birmingham, their Superior, after having laboured for many years in establishing the Catholic University in Dublin, resigned his office as Rector and returned home. In recognition of the great work he was carrying on in Ireland it was, at the time, proposed in Rome to raise Dr. Newman to the Episcopate; but owing to some obstacles the plan was not carried into effect. Speaking of his work in Ireland, in answer to an address of the Irish Catholic Members of Parliament, offered to him on his elevation to the Cardinalate in 1879, Cardinal Newman said :-“It is now nearly thirty years since, with a friend of mine, I first went over to Ireland with a view to that engagement which I afterwards formed there; and during the seven years through which that engagement lasted I had a continued experience of kindness from all classes of people, from the hierarchy, from the seculars and regulars, and from the laity, whether in Dublin or in the country. As their first act, they helped me in a great trouble in which I was involved. I had put my foot into an unusual legal embarrassment (the Achilli trial), and it required many thousand pounds to draw me out of it. They took a great share in that work. Nor did they show less kindness at the end of my time. I was obliged to leave Ireland by the necessities of my own congregation at Birmingham. Everybody can understand what a difficulty it is for a body to be without its head, and I had only engaged for seven years, because, otherwise, I could not fulfil the charge which the Holy Father had put upon me in the Oratory. Not a word of disappointment or unkindness was uttered, when there might have been a feeling that I was relinquishing a work which I had begun. And now I repeat that, to my surprise, at the end of twenty years I find a silent memory cherished of a person who can only be said to have meant well, though he did little. And now what return can I