cardinal-newman-oulessHowever important bright professors and eager students are for the establishment of a university Newman understood the moral dangers that arise in university life. In Historical Sketches he discussed what he considered necessary for the integrity of a university. He began by stating that the essence of a university is to teach universal knowledge, but that for its integrity it needs to provide students with colleges, ‘a home away from home’ which the Church had done so well for a long time.

In doing so he addressed a dispute on “whether a University should be conducted on the system of Professors, or on the system of Colleges and College Tutors.” By a College “It was taken to mean a place of residence for the University student, who would there find himself under the guidance and instruction of Superiors and Tutors, bound to attend to his personal interests, moral and intellectual.”  The University of Edinburgh advocated a Professorial system whereas Oxford and Cambridge advocated a Tutorial or collegiate system. Newman thought neither was complete by itself: “I admire the Professor, I venerate the College. The Professorial system fulfils the strict idea of a University, and is sufficient for its being, but it is not sufficient for its well-being. Colleges constitute the integrity of a University.”

Professors who establish a school and the students who first go to its classes live in any manner they can and in whatever quarter they can find and in the company of all sorts of men. “A man must either be a saint or an enthusiast to be affected in no degree by the disadvantages of such a mode of living. There are few people whose minds are not unsettled on being thrown out of habits of regularity; few who do not suffer, when withdrawn from the eye of those who know them, or from the scrutiny of public opinion.” Newman argued that if members of a religious community need order and tranquility for their spiritual life men who are not well formed in religious faith have an even greater need. “The excitement of novelty or emulation does not last long; and then the mind is commonly left a prey to its enemies, even when there is no disarrangement of daily life such as I have been describing.” Newman remarked that on his own the professor would be unable to do more for students than deliver lectures, and that matters would not be much different even if the professors and students had adequate living conditions.

Another disorder mentioned by Newman is that of the learned and popular professor who carried away by his ideas teaches heresy. A gifted orator exerts great power of influence by means of his lectures: “The Professor is the science or subject, vitalized and humanized in the student’s presence. He sees him kindle into his subject; he sees reflected and exhibited in him, his manner, and his earnestness, the general power of the science to engage, delight, and absorb a human intelligence. His natural sympathy and admiration attract or impel his tastes and feelings and wishes for the moment into the same currents of feeling, and his mind is naturally and rapidly and insensibly strung and attuned to the strain of truth which is offered to him.”

Newman enumerated a third set of dangers at universities, namely quarrels, disputes and brawls between students from different nationalities. Townspeople and police would naturally respond to these disorders, giving rise to the “town-and-gown rows” of the medieval universities.

With this list of dangers Newman wished to point out that given fallen human nature, a desire for knowledge is not sufficient for the integrity of a university. A university’s integrity requires that its members exercise faith, chastity and love to combat the evil contrary to these virtues: unbelief or heresy, impurity, and enmity. At the risk of simplification Newman put his finger on the primary moral disorders of university life.

The Church provides colleges where “regularity, rule, respect for others, the eye of friends and acquaintances, the absence from temptation, external restraints generally” help the boy who has left his home or the peasant the country and finds himself exposed to the danger of the world and strangers. They need a home within the university. “Small communities must be set up within its precincts, where his better thoughts will find countenance, and his good resolutions support; where his waywardness will be restrained, his heedlessness forewarned, and his prospective deviations anticipated.” There his enthusiasm will be maintained and his progress will be measured. In addition national or provincial feelings and rivalries are given a safe channel through organized groups or smaller societies.

This was not just a theory for Newman, who from his experience as Tutor at Oriel College (Oxford), was convinced of the practical consequences for students of the individual mentoring and supervision provided by a tutor. He also understood the importance of learning from one’s peers within a healthy environment of respect and friendship. Drawing on his experience and from the Catholic Church’s tradition in the formation of the moral and intellectual life of young men he opened a few colleges at the Catholic University of Ireland. These colleges constituted for them ‘a home away from home.’

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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)

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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