Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, priest, and cardinal. Originally an Anglican priest, he converted to the Catholic Church in 1845. He was ordained a priest in 1847, and was made a cardinal in 1879.
His works are considered among the most important contributions to the thought of the Church in recent centuries. Among his writings are The Idea of a University, Loss and Gain, and a Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.
He founded in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri; the confederation now has three houses in the country, at Birmingham, London, and Oxford.
The novena highlights each day an aspect of Newman's character: an example of humility, child of Mary, priest of God's altar, man of prayer, guardian of conscience, counsellor of converts, educator of the laity, servant of the Church, and model of friendship.
Each day of the novena includes an intention, an extract from his writings, a decade of the rosary, and this prayer: "O God our heavenly Father, we offer you heartfelt thanks for the life and holiness of John Henry Newman. In him you give us an inspiring example of priest and teacher, heroic and humble in his labour for the salvation of souls and the pursuit of holiness. Through his intercession we ask you to lead us by the kindly light of the Holy Spirit, and so grant us peace and joy, in the one fold of the Redeemer. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen."
Father Ignatius Harrison, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, said that "Newman's lifelong success in bringing others to Christ shows us that the apostolate of Christian friendship achieves much more by attracting people to the Lord than by aggressive polemic. Newman's long and incremental spiritual pilgrimage shows us that God leads us to Himself step by step, in ways that He customises to our individual needs, and in His own good time."