Today most universities, especially in large cities, have foreign students and teachers, but the extent to which this happened in the Medieval Universities was remarkable given the mode of travel and economic circumstances of that period of history. Newman recounts how the desire and commitment to learning was the impetus for this exchange of students and teachers, verified in the case of the Universities of Oxford and Paris.

Newman praised the achievement of the medieval university in the field of knowledge: “The revival of letters by the energy of Christian ecclesiastics and laymen, when everything had to be done, reminds us of the birth of Christianity itself, as far as a work of man can resemble a work of God.”

He compared the birth of medieval universities with the earlier expansion of Christianity: the spread of Christianity from city to city, endurance of hardships by the Apostles; and use of the natural desire for happiness. As kings and nobles advanced the Christian faith they too became patrons of education. Newman writes: “we may enumerate with honour Charlemagne, Alfred, Henry the First of England, Joan of Navarre, and many others, as patrons of the schools of learning, without being obliged to allow that those schools could not have progressed without such countenance.”

However, at first the schools had to create interest; it was the “supply” of learning that brought students. Newman cites the example of Bec, a small monastery in Normandy. There Lanfranc, later Archbishop of Canterbury opened a school of logic to attract students who might support the needy monastery. Soon wealthy and poor, laymen and clerics flocked to Bec. A century later another Abbot from Bec whose name was Vacarius (Bacalareus) became renowned for his study of law.

Vacarius was from Bologna where a university had begun shortly after the monastery at Bec. Newman writes how Bologna “affords us an observable instance, first, of the self-originating, independent character of the scientific movement,—then, of the influence and attraction it exerted on the people,—and lastly, of the incidental difficulties through which it slowly advanced in the course of many years to its completion.”

At the end of the eleventh century it had a school of civil law. The following century it had one of canon law and in the thirteenth one of grammar and literature, followed some years later by one of theology and another of medicine. That same century it had ten thousands students, some coming across the sea from England.

Whereas some Englishmen came to Italy, Vacarius traveled to England, and in fact became Archbishop of Canterbury before later retiring to Bec. At Oxford Vacarius gave impulse to the study of law, and at about the same time Robert Pullus or Pulleyne went to Oxford where he gave a similar impulse to biblical learning. Newman describes his fame: “”Multitudes” are said to have come to hear him, and his fame spread to Rome, whither Pope Innocent the Second sent for him. Celestine the Second made him a Cardinal, and Lucius the Second his Chancellor. He was an intimate friend of St. Bernard’s, and his influence extended to Cambridge as well as to Paris.” In Cambridge a similar intellectual movement was taking place, prompted by Jeoffred, or Goisfred, Abbot of Croyland, who sent four French monks to teach in Cambridge. One monk taught sacred verse and the others philosophy. They were so knowledgeable that the barn in which they begun to teach became insufficient for the students. Newman notes that Scripture verse was taught; only in the 13th century would Theology, properly speaking, would be taught by the Dominican friars.

The teachers came from afar and did not depend so much on kings but on the enthusiasm they created with their classes. With regards to learning at Paris, Newman quotes the Church historian Fleury: “The reputation of the school of Paris (…) increased considerably at the commencement of the twelfth century under William of Champeaux and his disciples at St. Victor’s. At the same time Peter Abelard came thither and taught them with great éclat the humanities and the Aristotelic philosophy. Alberic of Rheims taught there also; and Peter Lombard, Hildebert, Robert Pullus, the Abbot Rupert, and Hugh of St. Victor; Albertus Magnus also, and the Angelic Doctor.” Something similar had happened three centuries earlier when Charlemagne brought men from Italy, England and Ireland to France. Newman commented on the daring quality of the Medieval Scholars and Masters who traveled far and wide across dangerous waters for the sake of learning and teaching. He offers the example of John of Salisbury who spent twelve years in various lands learning from other scholars, supporting himself by teaching the children of nobles.

The center of learning and talent, however, was in Paris and Oxford. Antony Wood, a 17th century Oxford historian, gives a list of thirty-two Oxford professors who taught for some time in Paris. Among these “were Alexander Hales, and the admirable St. Edmund, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.” There was an intimate connection between these two centers of learning. Bulaeus gives a list of important Englishmen who traveled to Paris to study: “St. Thomas of Canterbury, St. Richard, St. Gilbert of Sempringham, Giraldus Cambrensis, Gilbert the Universal, Haimo, Richard de Barry, Nicholas Breakspeare, afterwards Pope, Nekam, Morley, and Galfredus de Vinsalfe.” This continued until the time of Edward the Third and the wars with France.

Newman wrote that he could not tell the number of students at Paris in the 13th century, but records the following numbers for Oxford which he thought must have been similar to those for Paris: “We are told that there were in Oxford in 1209 three thousand members of the University, in 1231 thirty thousand, in 1263 fifteen thousand, in 1350 between three and four thousand, and in 1360 six thousand.” He understandably attributes the great change in numbers to wars that brought an end to “free intercourse of France and England” and was the beginning of a decline in the “ecumenical greatness of Universities.” He explains that they became national bodies with some advantages such as more order and comfort but lost the original international character they had (at least at the time when he wrote).

For those of us not familiar with this very close exchange between England and France the story of the intimate connection between Oxford and Paris is an inspiring story of Christian Medieval scholarship and teaching.

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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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