Beatification Report - Bl. John Henry Newman Shrine at Oxford Oratory
The Oxford Oratory is the third of the English Oratories and the only one not established within John Henry Newman's life though it is close to the heart of the city in which he spent a significant part of his life. During Newman's lifetime Bishop Ullathorne attempted three times to bring the Oratorians to Oxford but despite considerable efforts it was not be. It was not until 1990 when the Birmingham Oratory realised Newman's dream when it responded to an invitation to take over the running of The Church of St Aloysius, which in 1993 became an independent congregation.
Newman's Shrine at Oxford is temporary feature. It is made up of a painting by William Ouless, aedicule and altarino by Timothy Newbery and achievement of arms by Tom Meek. Located at the back of the right hand aisle it clearly lacks the impact of those at both Birmingham and London. However, the Oratory is in the process of a major building project which will see a permanent chapel to Newman, the descriptions of which are most impressive. A substantial fundraising appeal is in progress and I look forward to seeing the chapel once complete. Founded in 1875, the Church of St Aloysius was originally served by Jesuit Fathers. It was designed by Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1802-1888), incidentally also designer of the Handom Cab and Birmingham Town Hall, and was inspired by French Gothic. Originally decorated in Italianate style in the fifties it then became two tone grey which has been superseded by more colourful refurbishment. Whilst impressive throughout the most striking feature is undoubtedly the 52 statues of saints and angels and two saints heads behind the altar which dominate the Church.
Newman spent a considerable portion of this life in Oxford, as student at Trinity College, a Fellow of Oriel College and an Anglican Minister. It was here he formed many of the ideas that he built on during his time in Dublin and in his 'Idea of a University' and indeed he is credited with establishing the tutorial system common throughout university education today.
Leaving Oxford soon after his conversion, Newman lived in effective exile from Oxford and its academic life until in 1878 he was made the first Honourary Fellow by Trinity College. I was struck by the words in Father Jerome Bertram's Book Newman's Oxford, "So it came about that it was the Observatory that he was to leave on the morning of the 23rd, not to see Oxford again for many years, save only its spires as they are seen from the railway." But to quote Newman's own words, "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to change often."
Born: 8 May 1861, Received into the Catholic Church: 21 December 1896, Received into the Sodality of Our Lady: 22 December 1896, Entered Society of Jesus: 7 September 1900, Ordained Priest: 28 July 1900, Died 19 February 1933.