Monday, September 08, 2003

Gerard Serafin
reminds us that it is the anniversary of a difficult day in the life of the Venerable- September 8, 1843, the day he officially tendered his resignation from ministry in the Church of England. ( He continued to function as an Anglican clergyman for a short while afterward, preaching his last sermon in late September and conducting his last service in early October.)

He wrote this letter to his sister Harriett soon afterwards, to attempt to deal with her distress over his resignation.


September 29, 1843.
" I do so despair of the Church of England, and am so evidently cast off by her, and, on the other hand, I am so drawn to the Church of Rome, that I think it safer, as a matter of honesty, not to keep my living.

This is a very different thing from having any intention of joining the Church of Rome. However, to avow generally as much as I have said would be wrong for ten thousand reasons. People cannot understand a man being in a state of doubt, of misgiving, of being unequal to responsibilities, &c.; but they will conclude that he has clear views either one way or the other. All I know is, that I could not without hypocrisy profess myself any longer a teacher and a champion for our Church.

Very few persons know this - hardly one person, only one (I think) in Oxford, viz. James Mozley. I think it would be most cruel, most unkind, most unsettling to tell them.

My dear Harriett, you must learn patience, so must we all, and resignation to the will of God. "

It was another two full years before he came into the Catholic Church, and when that finally happened, it exacerbated his difficulties with his family rather than making things easier. While his relationships with his brothers had been strained for quite a while and his entering the Catholic Church did not affect them much, his sisters were deeply troubled. Harriett never spoke to him again. Jemima continued to write sporadically, and visited the Oratory a few times, but her husband, who had been a good friend of Newman's, refused to come, and they both would not let him have any contact whatsoever with their children. After the success of the Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Jemima's sons, now adults, turned up at the Birmingham Oratory to visit their famous uncle, whom they had not known at all as boys. On the day before the Venerable's death in 1890, Harriett's daughter visited him. The ancient Cardinal recalled that the last time he had seen her, she had been three years old. She was fifty.


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