Athens provided the intellectual genius for universities, and Roman West the practical character.  Christianity gave solidity to both these elements accomplishing the beautiful ideal of Athens as put forth by some of her famous orators.

Pericles called Athens the schoolmistress of Greece. Athens soon overtook Syracuse, where it is said that enslaved Athenians working in quarries were able to recite verses of Euripides and thus obtain their freedom. With the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek thinking spread throughout Asia. Wherever a Macedonian Phalanx triumphed, a school of philosophers followed suit. Soon “Asia Minor and Syria were covered with her schools, while in Alexandria her children, Theophrastus and Demetrius, became the life of the great literary undertakings which have immortalized the name of the Ptolemies.”

Athens’ “peculiar democracy” as dubbed by Pericles became politically weak, but she was according to Newman “the ecumenical teacher and civilizer.” In a famous Funeral Oration, Pericles extolled the Athenians. Newman paraphrases him: “The love of the Beautiful will not conquer the world, but, like the voice of Orpheus, it may for a while carry it away captive. Such is that “divine Philosophy,” in the poet’s words,

“Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
But musical, as is Apollo’s lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets,
Where no crude surfeit reigns.”

Pericles praises them for discovering the “art of living well and happily, without working for it.” He does not refer to the many slaves that worked for them. Although he calls the Athenians loyal, active, hardy, brave and munificent citizens, they lived a care-free life.

According to Pericles, Athenians obeyed the magistrates and laws, and held high the national interests. They held splendid feasts and spectacles without extravagance, made possible by crowds that they attracted and whom their laws did not exclude. In sum they were hospitable, but their feasting did not relax their discipline; they had natural warlike talents and “were only more gallant in the field, and more patient and enduring on the march.” At the same time Athenians cultivated the fine arts and sciences.

Newman, however, observes that Pericles’ panegyric did not accord with experience. In real life Athenians became morally corrupt: “One sees at once, that, taking men as they are, the love of the Beautiful would be nothing short of the love of the Sensual; nor was the anticipation falsified by the event: for in Athens genius and voluptuousness ever went hand in hand, and their literature, as it has come down to us, is no sample or measure of their actual mode of living.”

Although Athenian literature had a “serene and severe” beauty, later treasured the Church Fathers and considered a preparation for the Gospel, Athenians teachers failed in providing the moral bounds for the students: “She was of far too fine and dainty a nature for the wear and tear of life;—she needed to be “of sterner stuff,” if she was to aspire to the charge of the young and inexperienced. Not all the zeal of the teacher and devotion of the pupil, the thirst of giving and receiving, the exuberance of demand and supply, will avail for a University, unless some provision is made for the maintenance of authority and of discipline, unless the terrors of the Law are added to the persuasives of the Beautiful.”

Newman extols the democratic will and intellectual mind of the Greeks. Newman called the Greeks the civilizers of Europe. But he faults her for being proud, over-ambitious and ill suited to rule her empire. Acknowledging her weakness and pagan disorders he writes: “I think, then, her great orators have put to her credit a beautiful idea, which, though not really fulfilled in her, has literally and unequivocally been realized within the territory of Christianity.”

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Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

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We need to remember our mortality, so that we may be ready to meet Our Lord each and every day. Lent and lenten mortifications have a role in this preparation. We must die to self daily, so that we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. 

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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)

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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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