Newman’s efforts for renewal in the Anglican Church led him to become Roman Catholic. His conversion contributed to the conversion of many Anglicans who read his works and admired his example. Today, Newman also serves as a guide for many, not only those who will eventually convert to the Roman Catholic Church, but to all who are seeking the Truth.
Newman’s influence extends from the 19th century to the 20th and 21st. He continues to offer contemporary men important ideas in apologetics (the defense and explanation of the Faith), fundamental theology (the study of revelation) and ecclesiology (the study of the nature of the Church).
In particular, Newman offers insightful and convincing explanations of the healthy relationship between faith and reason. In his Idea of a University, Newman explains how learning in the University should be an end in itself, learning which leads to soul formation, with the end result being a person who is well rounded, and closer to God. Newman believed that university learning which was merely a means to an end (for the sake of gaining work) would result in incomplete formation of a student, who would not understand his place in a world created by God.
In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, Newman defended the supreme role of the moral conscience, rightly ordered to revealed truth. This spirited defense has become ever more necessary in our current debates about conscience rights.
Newman also contributes today to an understanding of the history and growth of Catholic doctrine through his Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine. In this work Newman explains the differences between true and false developments in Christian doctrine. Although Newman’s notion of development is superficially invoked to promote liberal changes in Catholic doctrine, Newman actually identified various tests that serve to distinguish true development from corruption. From his youth to his death, Newman fought the spirit of Liberalism in religion.
Through his Parochial and Plain Sermons and other sermons, Newman urges men and women to a life of piety and the exercise of Christian virtues. He invites all to practice the virtues, aspiring to the Christian standard of holiness in daily life. Although there are more things that Newman teaches us in these sermons and his other works, few are as compelling as the awareness that lay men and women must improve their knowledge of the Faith and play an active role in the Christian shaping of our society.