JHN, Richmond portraitWriting about colleges at universities Newman noted that there were as many as fifty at Paris, twenty-four at Oxford, and a similar number at Salamanca. Cambridge, Toulouse and Louvain had colleges although less.

He writes that beginning in the 15th c. political changes among nations altered the composition and life of universities. The collegiate system produced institutions within the university that had a local, political and “aristocratic” character that in the case of England made the University of Oxford, the center of national life.

“At first Universities were almost democracies: Colleges tended to break their anarchical spirit, introduced ranks and gave the example of laws, and trained up a set of students, who, as being morally and intellectually superior to other members of the academical body, became the depositaries of academical power and influence.”

Whereas before few members of the aristocracy went to universities  nobles began to send their children to universities, and colleges were then set up for them as in the past they had been set up for the poor.

“Many Colleges too, which had been originally for the poor, opened their gates to the rich, not as fellows or foundation-students, but as simple lodgers, or what are now called independent members, such as monasteries might have received in a former age.”

The influence of the aristocracy as well as other political parties was introduced into the academic cloisters or faculty. The colleges, each with own origins, further developed its characteristics, informally representing  various bodies within society.

“Some of its Colleges represent the talent of the nation, others its rank and fashion, others its wealth; others have been the organs of the government of the day; while others, and the majority, represent one or other division, chiefly local, of the country party.”

Newman remarks how the development of colleges as strong institutions with their own political power had both good and bad effects on the university. The good effect was to give the university stability and vigor. Whereas in the 13th and 14th century students had flocked from France, Germany and Italy to Oxford now students from various ranks and places in England did so, making Oxford the center of English political power.

Early on nobles went to Oxford with a retinue of servants. The nobles followed with interest the academic life and proceeding just as much as the clergy and townspeople did. Although travel was still difficult before the age of railroads there were many messengers carrying news back and forth far and wide between Oxford and the rest of the country. Oxford became a place of national and political importance.

“So intimate was this connection, that Oxford became a sort of selected arena for the conflicts of the various interests of the nation, and a serious University strife was received far and wide as the presage of civil war.”

“Chronica si penses, cum pugnant Oxonienses,

Post paucos menses, volat ira per Angligenenses.”

Despite the difference between colleges and university, the colleges favored what Newman called “the university principle.” However the college idea in English university gained an ascendancy over the university. According to Newman in later centuries the university principle would be lost when the university was sacrificed to the college.

It is likely that here Newman was referring to the political nature of colleges which did harm to the intellectual pursuit and moral formation of students. On the other hand the college system allowed for a personalized education of students by means of tutors. Surely Newman was not lamenting this.

He quotes Huber regarding his sad appraisal of university education: “”Those days never can return; for the plain reason that then men learned and taught by the living word, but now by the dead paper.” The colleges were “far more given to the study of the Arts than to the learned professions, or to any special class of pursuits at all.”

In the following chapter Newman will continue to discuss the differences between a university as a whole and its colleges. This distinction is no longer applicable to modern universities where “colleges” have been replaced by “schools” even though some retain the name “college” as in a given college of medicine or a college of law, etc. He will focus on the political abuse of the collegiate system to the detriment of the university.

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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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