Having just read Blessed John Henry Newman’s “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” and “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” back-to-back, I was delighted with the opportunity to review “John Henry Newman: A Prophet for Our Times” by Father Robert Barron. While the “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” is a defense of his life, it does not fill in hardly any biographical details. Mainly it is a review of his intellectual and theological development over time. The “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” makes for great reading, but it is nothing like spiritual biographies such as St. Augustine’s “Confessions” or St. Therese’s “Story of a Soul.”
“John Henry Newman: A Prophet for Our Times” is a 3-CD Set that contains a series of three lectures that Fr. Robert Barron gave. In it he covers the biographical aspects while concentrating on one of his writings for each CD. The three major books he covers is “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”, “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine”, the Grammar of Assent.” To a lesser degree he covers his other writings such as “An Idea of a University”, his writing on Justification, and his sermons.
Fr. Barron is most know for his speaking on the intersection with faith and culture, these lectures are slightly more scholarly while still be totally accessible. He is full of insights towards Newman and his writings and filled in some of the gaps for me in my own understanding of Blessed John Henry Newman. His discussion of the “Grammar of Assent” was the most interesting for me. Partly since I haven’t yet read it, but in the main because what he says about the book makes me want to read it all the more. The discussion of notational assent and real assent answers some questions I have and puts into words something I have reflected on, but have not fully hashed out. The subject of how we come to belief is of course I am very interested in as a convert, but really it is an area that applies to anybody.
Just listening to Fr. Barron is a joy. He is full of intellectual curiosity and he imparts it to the listener while expressing complex ideas without talking down to you.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on John Henry Newman: A Prophet for our Time (CD). They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.