The Making of a Saint: The Passionist who brought Cardinal Newman into the Fold

29th March 2019

He has been called one of the most significant figures of the 19th century, and over a century after his death the legacy of John Henry Newman lives on. In his life he was a priest, Cardinal, theologian and poet, and long after his passing his influence can be felt in institutions such as University College Dublin which he helped found and Newman University in his adopted city of Birmingham.

Cardinal Newman is to be made a saint later this year, after his canonization was approved by Pope Francis on 12th February following a confirmation of a second miracle attributed to him. This follows a path which began in 1958 when the cause for his sainthood was opened, after which he was declared Venerable in 1991 when his life of ‘heroic virtue’ was recognised, and beatified in 2011 after a decree approving his first miracle.

A lesser known fact about Cardinal Newman’s ministry was the important role a Passionist Priest played in his conversion. Dominic Barberi (1792-1849) was an Italian Passionist who brought the Order to these shores in 1841. A gentle man with a serene faith in the face of opposition and persecution, Barberi made quite an impression on Newman and it was not by chance that the latter was to choose the former to welcome into the Catholic church. An extract from a letter of 5th October 1845 states:

“Father Dominic the Passionist is passing this way on his way from Aston in Staffordshire to Belgium. He is to come to Littlemore for the night as a guest of one of us whom he has admitted at Aston. He does not know of my intentions, but I shall ask of him admission into the one true fold of the Redeemer.”

In commemoration of this, German Passionist Fr Gregor Lenzen CP has written an article on the relationship between the two and the story of Newman’s conversion. Click to see the article on a special blog dedicated to Barberi.

The photograph is a carving installed in a shrine in Littlemore, Oxfordshire, the site of Cardinal Newman’s reception into the Catholic Church, and depicts both he and Fr Dominic at the moment of conversion.