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NEWMAN STUDIES JOURNAL BOOK REVIEW PILGRIM JOURNEY: JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 1801-1845 BY VINCENT FERRER BLEHL, S.J. 109 Pilgrim Journey: John Henry Newman 1801-1845. By Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J. London: Burns & Oates; New York: Paulist Press, 2001. Pp: xii + 452. Cloth, £20.00; $24.95, ISBN 086012 -3-111; 0-8091-0547-0. Even though a person has already visited Oxford on various occasions, another visit can still be genuinely rewarding with the assistance of a knowledgeable guide—one who can point out details that a visitor overlooked on previous trips. Similarly,even though a person is quite familiar with Newman’sAnglican years (18011845 ),a re-reading of the development of what he described in his Apologia proVita Sua as his “religious opinions” is well worth the effort under the guidance of one of the world’s most authoritative writers on Newman—the late Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J. (1921-2001). This book’s title,Pilgrim Journey,appropriately recapitulates Newman’s spiritual life, as reflected in the 21st poem—“The Pilgrim”—in his Verses on Various Occasions (61), as well as his statement in the Apologia (119): “. . . for years I must have had something of an habitual notion,though it was latent,and had never led me to distrust my own convictions,that my mind had not found its ultimate rest,and that in some sense or other I was on journey.” Although it is comparatively easy to follow the development of Newman’s “theological opinions” in the Apologia, tracking his spiritual progress is much more challenging. Blehl, who sees these two dimensions—the theological and the spiritual—as intertwined, examines Newman’s writings from the viewpoint of a “call”—not only to a multi-faceted ministry but also to extraordinary holiness. In depicting the interaction of the doctrinal and the devotional, Pilgrim Journey relies on a wide range of sources, especially Newman’s sermons, which suggest that he both preached what he practiced and practiced what he preached. Blehl’s account begins by correcting a common misimpression about Newman’s family:“Although it is often said that he was raised in an Evangelical household, this is not true, as his brother Francis testified. Moreover, his parents loved to go to concerts, theatre and dances, all of which were frowned upon by Evangelicals. His parents were ordinary members of the Church, neither high nor low” (1). A similar correction is advanced in regard to Newman’s so-called “first conversion,” which—as he later came to realize—was “not an Evangelical one” (14). This conversion differed in at least two important aspects from the Evangelical prototype: first, it was not instantaneous nor dramatic, but a slow, months-long process (August 1 – December 21, 1816); second, while this conversion did provide Newman with a life-long awareness of the guidance of Divine Providence, it also resulted in a basic conviction:“I fell under the influences of a definite Creed, and NEWMAN STUDIES JOURNAL 110 received into my intellect impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy, have never been effaced or obscured”(Apologia,4).Not surprisingly,for the rest of his life: “Spirituality without a foundation in dogma was henceforth incomprehensible to him . . .” (10). This interconnection between doctrine and spirituality forms the leitmotiv of Blehl’s description of Newman’s Anglican life as“not only a journey into holiness and Truth, it was also a journey of self-discovery”; nonetheless, Blehl has “not tried to cover up or hide his [Newman’s] defects; for example, his cocksuredness up to 1839 and his rudeness in letters to Roman Catholics” (xi). Roman Catholicism,of course,turned out to be the final destination of Newman’s pilgrimage.Yet, like much of his journey, his decision to enter the Roman Catholic Church was painful; as he later reminisced in his Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England (191-92):“. . . his friends fight shy of him; gradually they drop him, if they do not disown him at once.” Simultaneously, Roman Catholic leaders sometimes treated him more like a prize-catch than a welcome family-member; as he stated in a letter to Sir Frederic Rogers on February 2, 1868:“I have found...


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pp. 109-110
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