Newman. Pope. Feast Day.

David | Dah•veed has alterted me to something that I had not previously been aware of, which is that the intention is apparently to name 9 October as the Feast Day for John Henry Newman, which is the anniversary of his conversion from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. As has been pointed out politely elsewhere, this is does seem rather crass ecumenically.

Does anyone know of any other saints whose Feast Day is marked by the date of their joining of the Roman Catholic Church? I’m aware of the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, but that seems to me to be of another order entirely.

I’d be interested to know if there is any precident for the Newman decision. Anyone know?


  1. Scott Rennie says

    I know of none, but then I’m a Presby. haver to say though – are you surprised by this gesture?

  2. Yes.

  3. I suspect a few martyrs who died on the day of their conversion. Perhaps Constantine who was baptized on his death bed.

    The Episcopal Church in the US seems to celebrate on February 21 (Newman’s birthday).

  4. How odd, I think we only celebrate three birthdays. His, His Mother’s and His Cousin’s.

  5. Well I confess as a good atheist to taking only one of those birthdays off (and mostly because everyone else does). The American church may have had the same apparent justification as the Roman Catholics which is they wanted a feast day during the regular academic year. Admittedly I am somewhat baffled about some who are chosen as Anglican saints (e.g., Elizabeth Fry given that she was never baptized).

  6. David | Dah•veed says

    Erp, Anglicans do not create saints, that is the bailiwick of the Romans and the Orthodox. We only commemorate.

  7. Hmm, what about King Charles? I remember wondering if he was the only Anglican Saint and being corrected! Can we make our own saints in Scotland or is there some sort of wider Anglican saintmaking (or simply commemorative?) body? Tonight’s BBC2 programme on Newman was interesting, not least when Diarmid McCulloch said Newman clearly had a ‘gay identity’ irrespective of how much that fact might annoy the Vatican. And, given how many Saints his predecessor made, I don’t see what’s wrong with Benedict, strongly influenced by Newman, pushing for his canonisation for initially personal reasons. Perk of the job, surely?

  8. But to commemorate you have to decide which ones are saints and which ones aren’t especially since you seem to jump ahead of the Romans and the Orthodox. I was a bit fuzzy in my terminology but ‘create’ is a bit shorter than ‘determine who to commemorate as’ do please forgive me for my fuzziness.

    • Yes, there has to be some mechanism for deciding who goes into the Calendar and who doesn’t. In Scotland the Calendar can be modified by resolution of the General Synod. Bishops can also allow local celebrations within their dioceses.

      I remember Lucy Menzies going into the Calendar (my landlady at the time returning from synod saying, “So nice to have a saint in the Calendar whom one has actually met”). I was also present and voting when we included John Comper in the Calendar, who died, I was told, giving strawberries to the poor children in Duthie Park, Aberdeen.

      We tend to refer to people as Saints if they are pre-Reformation characters and speak of commemorating those included since. However its an inexact science. Some who are in the Scottish Episcopal Calendar were not ever recognised by any universal church and no doubt some made it by popular devotion rather than resolution of synod or elevation by pope.

  9. Graham Vahey says

    ‘Saints alive!’ I agree, we Episcopalians and indeed, also Anglicans do not make saints. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling confused by RC Saints and their ‘making’ by the Pope. I can name any number of folk whom I know that should be saints; or rather ARE saints in my book. I often feel that we should commemorate them in some way, but the Church remains steadfastly puzzled.

  10. Bryan says

    The feast day of a saint in the Catholic Church is usually kept on the day of their death. In the case of Blessed John Henry this would be the 11th of August, but could not be as this is already kept as the Feast day of St Clare.
    As for it being unecumenical to keep the day of his conversion, surely it was Bl John Henry who wrote in his Apologia, Chapter V..From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I had no further history of my religious opinions to narrate…it was like coming into port after a rough sea…”
    That whole chapter has been taken by the Church as the second reading in the Office of Readings for the feast.

  11. David | Dah•veed says

    Well, el Papa, gave us the Ratsfinger again. Twice in one trip.

    That has to be a record! Twice in four days.

    Kelvin, do the RCs lump everyone in the Encyclical? I ask because your orders are not really English orders are they?

  12. Thanks David | Dah•veed – I think that all Anglicans are lumped together. I am indeed not in English orders.

    Its worth reading Apostolicae Curae all the same. Much of the argument focuses on the actual form of the Anglican ordinal at the time.

  13. David | Dah•veed,
    In fairness to Benedict, it was a very nice stole. One wonders if he has two millenia of papal vestments to chose from – The Vatican must have the Mother of all Dressing Up Cupboards! 🙂

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