Portrait, John Henry NewmanHaving painted a picture of the origins of universities and their reason for being and of the nature of colleges Newman turns to explain a dysfunction of university education in his alma mater, Oxford. First, he briefly distinguishes further between both the University as a body and its Colleges, and second, he notes that Colleges have abused their power viz a viz the authority of the University as a corporation.

A university is an educational institution shaped by a specific spirit and mission, and by a chancellor and his administration. It is a body composed of colleges, smaller units, where students learn the liberal arts in a setting in which close bonds are established between its members. Newman writes of the “mutual private services, and deep and lasting attachments” that arise among students and professors.

Newman continues: “The University is for theology, law, and medicine, for natural history, for physical science, and for the sciences generally and their promulgation; the College is for the formation of character, intellectual and moral, for the cultivation of the mind, for the improvement of the individual, for the study of literature, for the classics, and those rudimental sciences which strengthen and sharpen the intellect.” This description resembles a little the distinction today between undergraduate schools and graduate schools or professional schools. In universities in which students reside they often live in a dorm and study one or two majors in a given school. There they often are more open to the influence of peers and professors and form strong ties. When they continue with graduate studies, for example, in law school or medical school they are no longer part of the undergraduate student life or collegiate life.

More specifically, however, Newman refers to the ruling authority of the University of Oxford and other universities. Both elements, the university corporation and the individual colleges, are necessary. According to Newman the first exists by itself in Germany, while the second have taken supreme authority in England. He considers that in England the colleges were preserved but the universities were superseded. He compares this to the religious changes that followed the Protestant reformation; the office of bishops continued in England but the Anglican Church no longer had Convocations; the civil power did not allow it to exercise its authority.

Newman holds that the universities lost their authority whereas Colleges maintained a political power, representing the political community throughout England. Referring to the political reforms at the start of the 19th century he said, “Twenty years ago, when Reform was afloat, when boroughs were disfranchised, corporations created, sees united, dioceses rearranged, chapters remodelled, church property redistributed, and every parsonage perplexed with parliamentary papers of inquiry and tables of returns, the Colleges alone escaped.”

The reason for this is that the power of a College lies in its members throughout the country. “There is no political power in England like a College in the Universities; it is not a mere local body, as a corporation or London company; it has allies in every part of the country.”

A College is the place where students form friendships and which becomes “a second home.” Years later it holds memories of accomplishments as well as regrets. Former students send their children or friends to the same College. Moved by a sprit de corps they feel urged to support declarations, to vote, to protest what they are told.

After noting the allegiance to a College, Newman claims based on his own experience of Oxford that many Colleges lost their educational and moral purpose. “The Colleges, left to themselves, in the course of last century became shamefully indolent and inactive. They were in no sense any longer places of education; they were for the most part mere clubs, and sinecures, and almshouses, where the inmates did little but enjoy themselves. They did next to nothing for the youth confided to them; suffered them to follow their own ways and enjoy their own liberty, and often in their own persons set them a very bad example of using it.”

Oxford University was not in a position to do anything because of its limited authority. Newman extends this judgment to other English universities: “This seems to me the critical evil in the present state of the English Universities, not that the Colleges are strong, but that the University has no practical or real jurisdiction over them.”

Newman offers two instances of this: examinations for degrees and examinations for matriculation. At the beginning of the 19th c. some men succeeded in establishing examinations by Oxford University for the conferral of degrees. Before this the Colleges gave the examinations and students chose at will their own examiners. Prevailing over the Colleges in this matter was a difficult proposition. The University was, on the other hand, not successful in establishing an examination for matriculation to its future members. The College Heads in their Hebdomadal Board opposed this measure. Subsequently this Board was suppressed by an Act of the House of Commons although no real jurisdiction was given to the University over the Colleges.

Having extolled earlier the need for Colleges Newman now notes the abuse of College authorities at Oxford and other universities. His concern, however lay principally in the loss of the vision of the College Tutors as spiritual and moral guides of their students, and later on the loss of a true liberal arts education at the Colleges. At Oriel College he fought along with two younger Tutors, Robert Wilberforce and Hurrell Froude, to restore the role of the Tutors but was defeated by the College Provost, Edward Hawkins.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

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Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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