People ask me about my conversion to the Catholic Church, I tend to avoid talking about simply because it was a long and complex process, it was not one thing but many, not one moment but many. Two keys to it were connected to Newman, one was an etching of the young John Henry Newman languishing in his cabin becalmed in the Mediterranean. I am not quite sure what happened to it, but as an adolescent the torpid Newman resonated with me. The second key was reading his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. To me as a fifteen year old Newman's analysis of the Church of England in 1864 echoed and increased my own growing difficulties with its various claims to being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic almost a hundred years later. I did not understood fully what Newman was saying but the very fact that someone with Newman's integrity and intelligence had these difficulties sewed serious doubts in my mind.
My difficulties were that the Catholic Church of the late 60s and 70s was in flux, it seemed visibly breaking from its past, casting off much that marked it out as being "the" Church. For a rather confused adolescent I could see Newman's difficulty and doubts about Anglicanism but not his solution in the Catholic Church. For me the acorn was not recognisable in the mature tree.
Newman was one of my youthful heroes, now, with what I hope will be his imminent beatification, I have to learn to make him the object of my devotion. To let his heart speak to my heart as I suppose it did in my youth.
There is a very good piece on Newman by Dr Ian Kerr in the Herald.