Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2009
John Henry Newman not only had much to say about faith in its many dimensions. He was above all a striking instance of the journey and the drama of a lived faith. The Psalmist praises the person who decides in his heart to go on the holy journey (Ps 84:5). This praise seems altogether appropriate in the case of the leader of the Oxford Movement who traced an itinerary that a recent pope described as 'the most toilsome, but also the greatest, the most meaningful, the most conclusive, that human thought ever travelled during the last [nineteenth] century, indeed one might say during the modern era'. That itinerary put Newman into a living contact with what Ian Ker calls 'the varieties of Christianity'. This ecumenical experience gives his theology of faith both a providential ecumenical flavour and a vividly Catholic tone since his was a sustained search for the fullness of 'the faith given once for all to the saints' (Jude 3) and so for catholicity. There is in his theology of faith a palpable tension between the devout Catholic and the dedicated ecumenist who could write that 'the absence of visible unity between . . . different communions is so great a triumph, and so great an advantage to the enemies of the cross'. However, the ecumenical dimension of Newman's own life of faith also identifies an important hermeneutical tool for the reading of his texts, namely, one has to pay attention to the precise context of his various works. 'Never was a mind so unceasingly in motion. But the motion was always growth, and never revolution.'