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Apologia Pro Vita Sua (A Defense of One's Life)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,111 ratings  ·  86 reviews
A highly influential figure in the Church of England, John Henry Newman stunned the Anglican community in 1843, when he left his position as vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford, to join the Roman Catholic church. Perhaps no one took greater offense than Protestant clergyman Charles Kingsley, whose scathing attacks against Newman's faith and honor inspired this brilliant response. ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 17th 2005 by Dover Publications (first published 1864)
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4.11  · 
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 ·  1,111 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Pater Edmund

John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua is generally considered not only a great work of theology, but also one of the great classics of English literature. Often compared to Augustine’s Confessions, one of the first reviews (included in this Norton Critical Edition) goes so far as to call it “a far deeper revelation, and a far greater moral achievement” than even the Confessions. Even the Bloomsbury critic Lytton Strachey, who was not only vociferously opposed to Newman’s theology, but was al

I finished it, sort of. I finished the main text, not all the appendices and I cannot say I understood all I read. But what I understood stretched me. Currently I am rereading The One Thing Is Three: How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything (for the 3rd time I think) by Fr. Michael Gaitley and since I was also reading Newman, what Gaitley had to say about him clicked this time. Before I had no frame of reference.

Gaitley says that Newman, is a very personal author. By contrast, Thomas Aquina
Manuel Alfonseca
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impressive description of John Newman's way to Rome and his answers to an impertinent critic.
Jul 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
The word that came to mind while reading Apologia was: plodding. And that's okay. Newman's account of the seismic shift in his thinking that led eventually to reception into the Roman Catholic Church is not a fast read, nor a particularly enjoyable read. It is Newman as a Catholic, re-tracing the steps that brought him into the Catholic fold from the embrace of his mother English church. It is also a defense so he is addressing specific questions and concerns that might not at first be evident t ...more
Justin Evans
I suspect I would have been better served reading about Newman than reading him, though his prose is quite lovely (by eighteenth century standards, at least, which are rather low). This is an excellent edition, though.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
The hasty mspaint meme above is a rough approximation of the perception Cardinal Newman was trying to disabuse the British population of, indeed if you wanted an accurate but dull modern title for the work it would be "Why I am totally not a Catholic shill"[SPOILER ALERT - he wasn't]. A bit of context here even if it can be hard to believe given its contemporary place in British society, the Anglican-Catholic divide was still fairly serious at the time of Newman's life. Indeed for about the firs
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Take a long, slow walk through this masterpiece.

Newman's autobiography is "the only one that bears mentioning in the same sentence with Augustine's Confessions". In this opinion of Father Oakes SJ I do concur. To enter into the Apologia (hereafter APVS) is to draw near to the heart of one of the greatest figures in literature and Christianity. One can share this opinion without necessarily sharing his religious convictions; much of what is in dispute during Newman's conversion from Anglicanism t
Zack Clemmons

This was my "boss level" before walking the Canterbury Trail and hitching my wagon to the Anglican Communion.

It's my duty, no doubt, to write at length on the Apologia in the near future, but for now suffice it to say I was hugely underwhelmed. What has been hailed as one of the great confessional documents of Christian history, has even been compared with Augustine's Confessions, reads more as a tedious remembrance of things past, with long citations of correspondence and a whole lot of
Luke Langley
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
“A Defense of One's Life” is not a great work and I would not suggest it to anyone as a ‘must read’. However I don’t think the book is lacking because Newman is at fault, but because the book is misconstrued to be a classic when that isn’t what the author intended. Newman was obviously writing to specific people who thought the way he converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism was improper. He was wringing a defense (as stated in the title) to address specific accusations and not a true autobiogr ...more
Andrew Corrie
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I finished the actual Apologia, but have not read all of the appendices which shed light on aspects of the main work. Newman's sensitivity, his awareness and his insight is astonishing: things which to the ordinary soul would appear as mere trifles to his mind loom large. Not for him just sweeping things under the carpet.

I can't say I followed every twist and turn of the narrative - issues which, as suggested, are to my mind opaque, remain so - and his style is of that wordy Victorian kind whic
Dec 08, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by this book. Often it is mentioned as one of the great classics of spirituality; often it is compared to Augustine's Confessions.

But it is not a spiritual work in that sense. It is not intended to edify. It is, simply, a record of Newman's changing beliefs which led by a fairly direct route to Catholicism. It is a justification of his conversion as intellectually honest. It is not apologetic, as he is not primarily concerned with giving arguments, and those which appear are inc
Christina Solensten
Newman is food for thought for a Protestant. I find myself sympathetic towards certain aspects of his epistemology, yet remain unconvinced in other aspects. I sympathize with his fight against the "anti-dogmatic principle" (aka theological liberalism) yet I find his doctrinal development theory to be itself a form of liberalism that possibly concedes Catholic plausibility. Ironically, in his attempt to make Anglicanism more theologically conservative, he ended up liberalizing Catholicism (i.e. V ...more
Nicole Gervasio
Unless you get really titillated by ecclesiastical life-writing or you're absolutely desperate for yet another possible venue for helping you recover your lost faith in a Christian God, there really is no reason to subject yourself to this 400-page homily.

Most of the book consists of Newman defending himself and his conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism (which I guess was totally radical at the time, but now seems like practically a baby step between religious identifications). His defense
Capítulo IV
"Acometer la redacción de una obra en defensa de la propia vida es una tarea compleja; en el caso de Newman, no se trataba de una autobiografía al uso, sino del relato de una crisis profunda que sacudió los cimientos de su conciencia y le condujo, finalmente, a abandonar sus creencias anglicanas y ser recibido en la Iglesia católica". Más en
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though it can seem tedious at times, this is a work worth persevering through. It is entirely contemporary to modern difficulties with faith and reason. But I defer to Pater Edmund's excellent review:

Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Dense but rewarding and elegantly written. I almost filed this on my "Religion" shelf, but although John Henry Newman was a famously religious man, to understand his spiritual odyssey, you have to look at his whole biography.
Meg Hunter-Kilmer
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: saints-etc
I hate myself for saying this because I love Newman but this book was so caught up in minutiae and self-defense (think modern-day Nehemiah) that it was *very* difficult to get through. That said, Newman remains eminently quotable and he's got some real gems in here.
Nov 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Hated it in 1988, but I think I'd like it now. High ranking 19th Century Anglican clergyman decides to become a Catholic, explains why.
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of the most influential books I've ever read. Greatly affected me for years to come. An amazing man.
Bernard Norcott-mahany
Apologia pro Vita Sua by John Henry Cardinal Newman
I'll be spending 2013 reading biographical materials: autobiographies, biographies, diaries and letters. Over the course of the next twelve months, I'll be reading and discussing three items in each of those four categories. It isn't just that the people who are the focus are important, and that their stories are fascinating, but biographical material itself poses its own questions – how is the life of a real person constructed in narrative? Wha
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Didn’t read all the appendices and supplemental material, but the Apologia itself is an excellent text. Newman puts on display his tortured conscience and lonely soul. It’s a little hard going at the beginning but it really picks up as Newman struggles with whether he can faithfully stay in the Anglicanism. If you’re Anglican you’ll learn a lot of nerdy stuff about 19th century Anglican, if you’re Catholic you’ll know how to talk to an Anglican, and if you’re anyone you’ll have read one of the b ...more
Alessandro Giuliani
In seguito all'accusa infamante di aver ritardato i tempi della sua conversione dall'anglicanesimo al cattolicesimo per aver modo di trascinare con sé altri proseliti, John Henry Newman ricostruisce il suo sofferto itinerario spirituale con una lucidità ed un'onestà intellettuale entusiasmanti. Ne emerge il ritratto di un uomo innamorato della verità, di uno straordinario paladino della coscienza. Da rileggere.
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
So many beautifully written proses and quotes. One of such is this "That the Catholic Church allowed no image of any sort, material or immaterial, no dogmatic symbol, no rite, no sacrament, no saint, not even the Blessed Virgin herself to come between the soul and its creator. It is face to face, Solus cum Solo and all matters between man and his God. He alone creates, he alone has redeemed. Before his awful eyes we go in death and the vision of Him is our eternal beatitude."
Chris Reisor
Even with the (much appreciated) historical context provided, I was still not knowledgeable enough about mid-19th-century-Anglican-Oxford theology and personalities to get much out of this. Too much inside baseball (or should I say, cricket?).

Those few passages I did understand were beautifully written, however.
Gus Poh
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant work in many ways. The honesty and incisiveness of thought are powerful. Diction as beautiful and prose as elegant as Newman’s are probably not in fashion these days, but in my opinion should be made mandatory reading for (advanced) students of English.
Chad Bailey
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Great to read, but he really needed an editor. So many of his sentences are very very long. 1/2-2/3 a page at times.

I think it’s great to understand the history of his thoughts during his moving from the Anglican Church to the true one — the Catholic Church!
Robert Terry
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Listened to the audio version read by Greg Wagland. The prose style of JHN pushes this from 3 to 4 stars for me.
Maximilian Nightingale
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, english
Excellent book! Not for everyone, perhaps. More thoughts here:
Graeme Lauber
Sep 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: partly-read
I tried - I read about a third, but couldn't make it make sense. Too much on 19th century religious controversy.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
If you want to read which quite unknown 19th century scholars were all wrong, read this summary. If you don't see the relevance of that, you will notice that this was a waste of your time. As I did.
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Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman was an important figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He was known nationally by the mid-1830s.
Originally an evangelical Oxford University academic and priest in the Church of England, Newman then became drawn to the high-church tradition of Anglicanism. He became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for, the Oxford Movement, an
“Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.” 10 likes
“Living movements do not come of committees, nor are great ideas worked out through the post, even though it had been the penny post.” 4 likes
More quotes…