The Conversions of John Henry Newman and Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Ma. Anne Teresa S. Rivera
A study of the history of the Catholic Church naturally includes references to conversions of many men and women who have not only lived to attest to the greatness of Catholicism, but have also exercised their right to religious freedom, and their natural inclination to searching for religion amidst crises, controversies and changes throughout history.
Generations following the Reformation proved to be difficult times for the Catholic Church. Priests had to work in secret for fear of being imprisoned or persecuted (Core, 1995). Catholics were not sent to Oxford and Cambridge, and it was only in 1829 when Catholics were allowed to vote.
Perhaps a major factor to antagonistic measures against the Church was Pope Pius IX's seeming contribution to the restoration of the English hierarchy in 1850 (Core, 1995) so that the Catholics were publicly humiliated and abused. The mid-nineteenth century found the Catholics held in contempt and scorned by majority of the people (Core, 1995). Yet amidst all these, many people were converting to the faith. Their conversion despite the hardships that came with it, shows testament to the strength one may find in commitment to a religion.
Among the most controversial (and at the same time, most celebrated) conversions were that of John Henry Cardinal Newman and Gilbert Keith Chesterton. In fact, O'Brien comments that journalist G.K. Chesterton's conversion gathered as much attention ad did that of Cardinal Newman (1957). Among other things, what was common between the two was their evident affinity to spirituality which led them to explore their faiths, stray during a certain part of their lives, and despite difficulties, chose to retract and convert to Catholicism. Chesterton describes his conversion thus: "I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I... [continues]
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