Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Last night and this morning I started to read again my biography of Newman. It is interesting how a biography can reveal aspects of character that you would never have realised. I always knew Newman was awkward and shy but I had never read the account of his illness in Sicily. Newman travelled in 1833 with the Froud’s to Italy. He separated from them to travel to Sicily alone. Sicily in the 1830s must have been like Africa today with a great deal of poverty and quite dangerous healthwise. Newman fell ill with what was most probably typhoid fever. His sole companion was his Italian guide - Gennaro. Whilst Newman lay ill for three weeks, having hallucinations, almost close to death, Gennaro looked after him patiently and nursed him back to health. When they parted Gennaro asked Newman for one thing - his blue robe but Newman refused. I can’t understand how he refused the man. He paid Gennaro £10, a large sum in those days but it is startling that Gennaro saved his life and yet he wouldn’t grant him one request.

When Newman returned from Italy it was almost immediately that he started the Oxford Movement. The Oxford Movement was one of my favourite events in church history. It was a revival of sorts. A revival which involved the Anglican church reacting against government trying to reduce the importance of the church. It also stresses the idea of ‘apostolic succession’ the idea that the Bishops of the church were given authority by the apostles and that this authority was held by the Church of England.

What is interesting is the gradual drift for Newman from the Anglican church to the Roman Catholic church. This drift is caused because Newman appears to favour the Roman Catholics too much, it is his drive for the authority of the church that actually strengthens the opposition towards him and forces him into converting into Roman Catholicism. Whilst in the Roman Catholic church he causes trouble too but I didn't get time to study this at school, I am looking forward to that.

The Oxford Movement was attempt by Newman to get back to the 'True' church ie the early church. When Newman talks about truth, he means the indestructible element of faith that manages to survive no-matter what the situation or the people entrusted with the truth. Newman likes this idea that 'the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not comprehended it'. The light shines but the darkness doesn't have the ability to understand it. It needs to be taught, it only reaches the people who the truth 'allows' to understand itself. This was the idea that fascinated (and confused) me at school and this is the idea that draws me to Newman. It still confuses me!

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