The canonization of John Henry Newman in Rome on October 13 will be a triumph for the light of life and love amidst the gloom and darkness of the Culture of Death. It will signify the way in which the Church transcends and outlives the evil forces that assail her, whether such assailants are the enemies without or the traitors within. As for Newman himself, there are two ways of assessing and understanding his life and legacy. The first is to see the influence he had on his own times; the second, to see the influence he has had in the 130 years since his death.
Newman was born in 1801, at the beginning of a century that would see the rise of the British Empire, as well as the rise of skepticism in matters of religion. Yet, simultaneously, it was a century that would see a real revival of religious orthodoxy. With respect to the latter, Newman himself might be seen as the most important and influential figure.
As a child, Newman lived in a culture basking in the radiance of Romanticism, especially as manifested in the poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge—both of whom followed the call of beauty until it brought them to Christ. One fruit of this Romanticism was the rise of neo-medievalism, which found expression in the Gothic Revival and the Pre-Raphaelites, as well as the Oxford Movement, of which Newman emerged as the indubitable leader.